Widescreen laptop computers
My veteran laptop PC is a (less than 1 GHz) Pentium 3 powered Compaq Presario 1800, which has a mere 320MB of RAM and a 30GB hard disk, and it even needs an expansion card to enable it to talk to a wireless network. The real reason that I bought it around 5 years ago was the quality and size of its LCD screen; it has a 15 inch LCD screen which comfortably runs at 1400 by 1050 pixels (16 bits per pixel).
The LCD screen makes heavy duty technical wordprocessing relatively painless to do, especially as I use Publicon to do my technical writing. So, despite being an old and underpowered laptop PC, it creates worthwhile results because it is well-matched to the needs of the software that I run on it.
However, it would be nice to upgrade my laptop PC now that its processor is two generations out of date, having been overtaken by the Pentium 4 and the Core 2 Duo. A new laptop PC would also have a much larger RAM and hard disk, which would make the computer more generally useful to me.
So off I went to PC World to do some window-shopping, and I was really disappointed with what I discovered there (and at various other places that I also visited). Every laptop PC on display had a widescreen format. That would be fine if the height of the screen was as good as what I already have on my 5 year old laptop PC, and some extra width had been added to give it a widescreen format. However, none of the screens used the full height that was available in its clamshell lid housing. Instead, they had a thick plastic border area both above and below the screen to act a "filler" for a missing area of screen, so that the overall effect was to make the screen have a widescreen format (i.e. more like a letter box than a window).
It seems that the laptop PC manufacturers think that the aspect ratio of the screen itself is more important than fitting the largest possible screen in the clamshell lid housing, even in their top-of-the-range laptop PCs. The only reason that I can think for doing this is that it is fashionable to have a widescreen format LCD screen, and that the laptop PC will sell only if its LCD screen satisfies this criterion, even if there is room in the clamshell lid to fit a larger (i.e. higher) LCD screen.
I will never buy a laptop PC that doesn't allow me to do heavy duty technical wordprocessing with maximum facility. Currently, I have 1050 pixels of screen height on my 5 year old laptop PC, and I will not settle for fewer pixels than this. There was not a single laptop PC on display at PC World that satisfied this criterion; I also looked in various other places with a similar lack of success, so this comment is not a criticism of PC World. Later, I checked on-line and I found a few models of laptop PC that were OK for my purposes, but they were in a tiny minority.
Another thing I noticed at PC World was that all of the laptop PCs on display had highly reflective LCD screens, whereas I am used to using LCD screens that are not very reflective. I checked how easy it would be to use these LCD screens when there was a lot of light coming from behind me. My conclusion is that this sort of highly reflective LCD screen is unusable, unless the lighting conditions are of the sort that you would get in an ergonomically designed office. You certainly couldn't use it if there was a significant amount of light coming from behind you. Worse still, you certainly couldn't use it outdoors on a sunny day, especially if you were wearing a light-coloured shirt.
I'm glad that I went on my window-shopping expedition to PC World. My interest in upgrading my laptop PC has now definitely been put on hold until the manufacturers get the ergonomics of their laptop PC designs sorted out.
I didn't even try to put to serious use any of the laptop PCs that were on display; no doubt I would have found other things to moan about if I had tried them out. I'll leave it for 6 months before I do another window-shopping expedition, and hope that things have improved by then.
Update: 6 weeks have now passed by, and I could not resist trying out Windows Vista on some of the laptop PCs - the ones with 2 Gbyte of RAM. Superficially, there is a lot of "eye candy", but I hoped that I would find it was more interesting underneath. Sadly, I didn't get very far, because I was astounded at how slow Windows Vista is, even on a fairly powerful laptop PC (e.g. the ones costing around £1000 from Sony and HP). I deliberately booted from cold to see how long it took to start up, and I thought something had gone wrong because nothing seemed to happen for a long time. The whole booting process took at least a couple of minutes! This sluggishness was not limited to booting the PC; the whole user experience was that you were being held back by a PC that was unable to keep up with you. I now have even more reasons (see my complaints above about the latest types of LCD display) to stay with my old 2001 vintage 1GHz Pentium 3 laptop running Windows XP in a paltry 320MB of RAM.