Wide-open spaces


Issue: "Public-school reform," July 26, 2003

The smallest laptop isn't always the coolest. New widescreen laptops are all the rage, promising more desktop room-and a bigger screen for watching DVDs. Apple started this movement with one of its PowerBooks earlier this year. Now Dell, HP, Toshiba, and even discounters like eMachines and Best Buy's house brand have followed suit.

Fans say the wide screen is more natural to the eyes than the standard rectangle that was inspired by the dimensions of household TVs. Plus dealers like having a new look to show customers.

"See more, do more, and carry less" is HP's boast about a new widescreen notebook with a 15.4-inch width that sells for around $1,400. This Presario model's display is said to be 20 percent brighter, with a 33 percent wider viewing angle and better contrast than traditional models.

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Since big 17-inch widescreens are more cumbersome for travel, they may still work fine for those who work mostly in one place. They might not fit in a conventional laptop case or on those airplane tray tables.

Widescreen notebooks represent the high end of the market, but they don't cost much more than comparable models. (Some claim that wider screens will soon be cheaper to make than traditional screens.)

As laptops have caught up with-and even passed-desktops in sales, the computer industry is out looking for new bells and whistles. Many laptop buyers today want something more than a traveling companion; they want to replace the beige box sitting in the office. A wide screen might push someone into making the jump.


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