LED tubes show promise for PowerBooks

LED tubes show promise for PowerBooks

Summary: 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.

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TOPICS: Laptops
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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.

Topic: Laptops

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7 comments
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  • LED Density

    There is one thing that most portable users, who want denser screens, don't consider. The population is getting older. This means that denser screens make it harder to read and see detail.

    More pixels on a screen don't give you more detail it only lets you see more like going from a telephoto view to a wide angle view of a landscape. You see more but smaller

    Also LED screens don't scale as well as CRT screens meaning the if you change the resolution the image is not as sharp.

    So before you ask for something think about what it means to others.
    REM in Baltimore
    • Apple knows that already

      Denser screens do not necessarily mean lower readability. By
      that logic, it should be impossible to read a printed magazine,
      because they're often printed at 2540 dots per inch. But you can
      read a 2540dpi page, because the additional dots are not used
      to make things smaller, but to add detail at the same size.

      Apple knows this. They know that you can use higher dot
      density for increased detail instead of smaller type and graphics.
      So Apple already has a technology in OS X 10.4 to take
      advantage of this, called Resolution Independent UI. Of course, it
      isn't fully used by developers yet, but Apple is clearly on top of
      what higher resolution really means.

      Click the following link and scroll down to Scalable User
      Interface.
      http://arstechnica.com/reviews/os/macosx-10.4.ars/20
      boomer_z
      • Spots and dots, redux

        When "desktop" prepress took off in the nineties, users had to
        avoid confusing halftone DOTS with laser SPOTS. I believe you're
        talking about a similar thing: mapping multiple LCD pixels to a
        single (readable!) UI pixel. Unfortuntely, unlike prepress, there
        aren't, as yet, separate terms for each.

        Resolution Independent UI seems very cool (thanks for bringing
        it to my attention), but sounds like it is still under development.
        As Mr. Siracusa writes, "Some applications will look strange (or
        downright broken) when scaled in Tiger. Most remain usable,
        however." Wouldn't a commercially shipping UI have to do better
        than that?

        Whatever the case, I hope Apple will avoid shipping product on
        which the objects on screen are so tiny that you can't see them,
        while, at the same time, increase on-screen readability by
        increasing the underlying pixel grid. My tired eyes would
        welcome this!
        bjustin
    • I agree with this reply

      A few years ago, a friend bought a Dell laptop with a fairly large
      LCD whose native resolution was 1600x1200. Text was, for all
      practical purposes, unreadable. My friend has to run the
      machine at 800x600, which is the only lower resolution that
      looks somewhat decent (being exactly half the native resolution),
      and it looks pretty silly on that big panel.

      I've used one of the new, higher-resolution 17-inch PowerBooks,
      and the display is quite readble. However, to increase the
      resolution even more could be disastrous. Mr. O'Grady, please
      think through the consequences of what you advocate.
      bjustin
  • I suggested some time ago 300MHz powerpc603 plus flash and OS9 superthinnie

    mac OS9 is so small and runs so fast on a 603 (at 300Mhz the PowerPC doesn't even need a heatsink!).

    And the carbon libraries would allow compilation for this platform from the same projects as for OSX.

    A one gig Compact Flash card is now about $40 or so, probably a lot less in bulk to apple, and OS9 would take a miniscule part of this.

    Organic LED display of 1024x768 would do me. That's what a wallstreet has. So basically a wallstreet superlight superthinnie, with a few USB ports, a WiFi option, and maybe Bluetooth option would be staggeringly good.
    Knock them out ultracheap, and they'll sell like .. well iPods!
    hipparchus2001
  • Message has been deleted.

    sigmaman1
  • dokwzed 22 opp

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