Largest-ever notebook screen

For an extra $300, you can have a whopping 15.4in screen on your Dell notebook

Despite the ongoing LCD panels shortage, notebook screens are getting bigger.

Dell will announce the largest-yet notebook display next week. The company's Inspiron 7500 notebook will be equipped with an optional 15.4in screen, which it says gives users an extra 7.5 percent viewing area.

To view what? Dell believes the increased screen size will be important for users that are replacing their desktop systems with a notebook. So, the premium is slightly more than the cost of a moderately priced desktop with a 15in flat-panel display.

"Fifteen inch really struck a chord in the marketplace," said Greg Nakagawa, Dell's Inspiron brand director. "I think its because the screen is approaching what people have on their desks. Why do you need an external display, when you have a monitor that's fifteen inches?"

The 15.4in screen, manufactured by Samsung, offers 1280 by 1024 pixel resolution. It will command a $300 (£183)premium over a 15in Insprion 7500, whose base configuration with an Intel Celeron processor starts at about $2,099.

Most notebooks today come with 12.1in, 13.3in, 14.1in or 15in displays. Right now, 14.1in is the most popular. Gateway and IBM also offer 15in displays on their notebook lines. Gateway's Solo 9300 offers a 15in display as does IBM's ThinkPad 390. They are priced at about $2,670 and $2,999, respectively.

"I think the market beams more niche once you get beyond fifteen inches," Nakagawa said. But that doesn't mean the company isn't evaluating larger sizes," he added. The next notebook screen size expected to be produced after 15.4 inches is 15.7 inches. Following that will be a 16.5in size, due in the latter half of next year, and a 17in size after that, according to industry sources.

Despite a shortage on displays, which Dell sees continuing at least until the second or third quarter of next year, the company says it has managed to lock up adequate supply. A recent investment in Samsung helps Dell secure adequate supply. Samsung is the provider of the new 15.4in display. An effort is also under way to help alleviate the supply problem to some extent. Dell and other notebook vendors are participating in an effort to devise a standard mechanical interface for notebook displays. This would eliminate the need to partner with a specific supplier for a standard-sized screen. Dell, and other vendors, would be able to utilize screens from several manufacturers.

The Inspiron 7500, along with Dell's Inspiron 3700 model, will support Intel's forthcoming mobile Pentium III when they ship.