UMPC and sub-notebooks screen-size, resolution: the trend


ScreenresIt’s interesting to watch the trend of screen size and resolution in the UMPC and sub-notebook market. Every initial UMPC in 2006 that I can think of had a 7-inch display, which was the standard size defined the Origami Project. Over the next one to two years, designers learned that 800 x 480 wasn’t optimal so we’ve witnessed resolution bumps to a more useful 1024 x 600. The trend-setting Asus Eee PC started at the less than optimal screen size and res, but the next-gen model is already at 8.9-inches and the higher res. The HP Mini is an outlier with an even higher resolution on the 8.9-inch display.I don’t know what’s the “optimal” size and res for an ultra-portable device, and quite frankly, that varies for each individual. Still, I’m excited to see that some manufacturers are going just a wee bigger on the display: 10-inches. We’ve heard of Asus bringing a 10-inch Eee PC to market this year and it wouldn’t surprise me to see others follow; Dell and HP come to mind. 10-inches is a nice compromise between usability and portability. Perhaps not as much as an 8.9-inch screen, but certainly more than a lower-res 7-inch screen. I expect that by next year, 7-inch displays are relegated only to UMPCs while sub-notebooks gravitate towards the 8.9- and 10-inch sizes. Some LCD panel manufacturers are already shifting their production lines in this direction and one even expects to manufacture 1.5-million small displays this year. Not a lot when relatively compared to the mainstream 13- and 15-inch market, but quite a bit for a market that was practically unheard of two short years ago.Going back to the optimal size and resolution preference, I’m torn between 8.9- and 10-inches myself. I’d use either of these at WXGA and probably be happy and productive. How about you? What’s the ideal screen-size and resolution on your “dream device”?



My job means that I attend a lot of meetings, give a lot of presentations and write a few documents. Ideally, I need a convertible PC.

Specifically, I am looking for something with an A5-size active digitiser touch screen (i.e. and old-style paper organiser). A5 is (strictly) 5.23″ x 8.27″ – i.e. a total screen size of about 9.78″. Therefore, provided that the aspect ratio of the 10″ screen is about the same, I will be pretty happy. Now, bring on the active digitiser!

Anton P. Nym

7″ screen at 1024×600 would do me fine, I think. Maybe 1280×720, but that gets a bit dinky for reading without mass DPI surgery in my opinion. I like the size of the Q1’s 7″ screen, and I have several jackets with pockets that would accept a device with a bezel-less screen of that size.

I do like the clarity and readability of the Q1’s screen at 800×480, but alas the low resolution does interfere with some programs.

— Steve


From 12″ to 7″, definitely 1024×600

I think general population prefer bigger text over bigger desktop area, while the general niche (geek) market prefer bigger desktop area over bigger text.

8.9″ would be optimal, but in order for a good sized keyboard to work, and minimal bezel for screen, perhaps 10 or 11″.

Jon M

I would have to say 7 inches, at 1280×768 (or 1280×800) just like my trusty Toshiba Libretto U105.

Eddie W.

My perfect device so far is still the HTC Advantage. I can’t believe I’ve been using it for over 6 months now and haven’t really lusted after any other device. Weird, especially considering I’m such a gadget-whore. In the office, I have the standard 18″ (19″?) Dell monitor at 1280×1024. At home, I have the IBM X60 at 1400×1050. Both are nice for multiple windows and switching between documents. I find, though, that unless I’m doing some hardcore file editing or PDF creating, I use the HTC much more than I thought I would. (I’ve even used the HTC for briefings and presentations in the office, where otherwise I’d have to lug around one of the laptops.) Now if they could just get Google Docs to work on the HTC…..

Mike Cane

jk again caught not reading my blog. MSI was the first to announce a 10″ screen, for its Wind.

And let’s not forget the Foleo was to have a 10″ screen.


Oh, and this is another reason for you to send me that Mini to fondle. Aside from the kb, I need to know I can read sites on that screen! (Knowing YOU, once you agreed to lend it to me, you’d put Vista back on it! Fieeeeeend!)

Mike H.

The much overlooked Flipstart got it right with 5.6″ 1024×600 screen. It is pretty much the perfect size/scale for a small device. Easy and big enough to read without strain.

OQO can be frustrating in default resolution, but the ability to zoom helps web browsing, but zoomed is a hard way to get real work done.

Dave P

For portability, I want something about the size of a 3″x5″ index card which is why I bought my OQO. I run it at 800×480 and it’s large enough to ink on and large enough to read (if I take my glasses off). At the same time, it’s small enough to put in my pocket or hang on my belt.

Once I sit down, I want a big monitor. Even if I had a UMPC/ULCPC with a 10″ screen I’d want a bigger screen when I sit at my desk. Given that, I don’t see the need to lug it around when I’m on the move.

Note that the OQO replaced an old Motion slate so I have worked with a screen that comparable to your 10″. To my mind, I’d rather shed the weight and inches with my OQO. Now if I could only do the same with my waist.


I agree very much about an instant-on OS. I’ll buy anything, a Foleo, whatever, if it has good battery life, nice keyboard, and an instant-on OS.

Vista crawling to life in a minute or so is not the mark of a mobile system. It’s for a desktop that stays on all the time.

borax99 (Alain C.)

nomo, I agree 100% with you about the UX. I got to handle one for a few minutes, and I would go nuts trying to use it. The OQO, on the other hand, looks like a nice compromise – now if only I could get my hands on one !!!


Joe: I agree completely with your comment regarding instant on functionality. Vista sleep recovery is my top issue when using a portable PC for PDA applications. If device makers want to penetrate the business market, ultraportables need to wake up as quickly as smartphones.


I agree with the specs posted by James above. The optimal size for me is a ten inch display with 1280×800 resolution (which correlates to ~0.18mm dot pitch). The Fujitsu 8.9″ display (which I use daily) has a 0.15mm pitch and is on the lower limit of usability. I often zoom the text for proofreading, but sometimes the display driver gets a little twitchy. Smaller devices like the Sony UX induce headaches every time I’ve tried using them.


I have to say a 10″ screen would be nice.
I’ve owned a Fuju P1610, Samsung Q1, and recently an HP Mini-Note.

I have the opinion that you can get away with less than 10 inches when using slate devices. With a slate you can pull it in closer to read. When it comes to a standard laptop style, manufacturers would appeal to a much broader audience with a 10 inch screen.

Oh and by the way, something I wish more manufactures than Asus were pushing for is INSTANT ON! I think Jeff Hawkins got it right when he trumpeted the shift that occurs with an instant on OS.

borax99 (Alain C.)

Kevin and Eric, I have experimented with DPI settings as well as IE text size, but usually fall back, because it plays havoc with pop-up windows and the like, and with some websites. The only UI customization that is a must for me was widening the scroll bars (think I saw that here, actually) to make stylus navigation a bit easier.

On another note, despite the P1610’s excellent integration of touch, my next device *must* have either an active or capacitive touch digitizer. Active preferred, I find I really miss cursor tracking and hover pop-ups. Guess that’s another story for another day.

Ricky B.

7″ at 1920×1200…?

I like the sound of that. ;) It’d be too much for most people, though, I think — while that hasn’t happened so far, it’s bound to sooner or later, which is a trend I wholeheartedly support.

Eric Link

Kevin – right on. You know, it would be really cool if you did a post (or maybe a series) on resolution and DPI, how to set them up what they are why they are important, screenshots etc. It’s a kind of abstract topic that causes a lot of confusion and many people don’t know how to set things up in ways that would work best for them.


I care much less about screen size than I do about resolution. To me, anything less than 1024×768 is maddening to use — scroll, scroll, scroll…or some dialog boxes don’t even fit. If you could give me a 7″ screen at 1440×1050, I think that’d be perfect for me.

Now, we’re not talking touchscreens, right? If so, that’s a whole ‘nother enchilada.

Kevin C. Tofel

Eric, that’s exactly what I do as needed and as mentioned in my comment above. I always use my devices in their native resolution (for optimal clarity), but often bump up the DPI.


As an EEE PC user, I kinda like the 7 inch screen with the 800×480 resolution, though I do miss those extra 120 lines when I encounter a menu that disappears past my taskbar. High rez might be good for viewing pictures and high quality video, but I find the lower res screen of the EEEPC more forgiving when viewing highly compressed or low res video, whilst also keeping font sizes easy to read.

Eric Link

Actually, don’t confuse screen resolution with size; they are actually different and depend on DPI (dots per inch) settings. For example, windows used 72dpi font settings for years, and as high res screens came along, defaulted to 120dpi. DPI is really just a scaling factor for the fonts you see; you can set it higher if stuff is too small. I have a super high res screen, but bump my dpi up to 160dpi so I can read stuff. For other tasks like image editing or word processing I use the zoom feature in the software programs to make things large enough. The reason to do this is that high resolution makes everything sharper and easier to see / read while adjusting DPI and zooming makes the stuff large enough. I would love to hear your thoughts on this guys?

Kevin C. Tofel

I completely understand as my four-eyes are getting older by the day. Have you increased the DPI to help compensate? I find myself doing that more and more as screens get smaller but offer higher resolution.

borax99 (Alain C.)

I’ve been using the Fuji P1610 for about a year now, at 1280 x 768 on an 8.9-inch screen and, for me, that’s turning out to be way to small (aging eyes).

I find this screen size would work better for me at 1024 x 600. Otherwise, I’d have to vote for a larger screen.

Comments are closed.