Yesterday I discussed how a PowerBook could be improved using flash memory technology in place of fixed disks. Today I want to look at ways to improve the display.
One obvious way to improve the screens of Apple's PowerBooks and iBooks would be to further increase the available screen resolution. Apple took a step in the right direction with the October PowerBook speed-bumps: the new 15-inch PowerBook sports a 1440-by-960 pixel display with 26 percent more pixels than its predecessor and the new 17-inch PowerBook has a 1680-by-1050 pixel display with 36 percent more space.
Unfortunately this doesn't hold a candle to the displays available on PC notebooks. High-resolution LCDs available on PC notebooks can display resolutions as high as 1920-by-1200 (WUXGA) on a 15.4-inch screen (Dell Inspiron 6000) and on a 17-inch screen (Sony VAIO VGN-A190). The NEC LaVie G notebook (only available in Japan) sports a 15-inch screen with native 2048-by-1536 (QXGA) resolution. At that resolution it should ship with a magnifying glass.
Another display technology that shows real promise for Apple's professional portables is an experimental backlight technology called LED tubes. LED tubes are very similar to fluorescent tubes found in the backlights of today's PowerBooks and iBooks except that they have numerous LEDs radially arranged on the tube to send brighter, more even light across the screen.
Fluorescent backlight tubes have a lifespan of between 2,000 and 4,000 hours and are a common item to fail. The DC inverter that supplies power to the backlight also fails fairly frequently in notebooks. LED tubes promise a much longer lifespan and battery savings are significant because of their lower current draw.
At this stage of development price dictates that LED tubes will only appear in high end notebooks (PowerBooks) and not in consumer portables (iBooks). Let's hope that Apple is keeping a close eye on this promising new display technology.