Which Laptop Screen Size Is Right For You?

Which Laptop Screen Size Is Right For You?
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One of the best things about the current generation of laptops is that there’s a device to suit almost every price tag. Along with that, there’s almost unparalleled choice when it comes to screen sizes. What’s the right display size for you?

Pixels Matter – Not Just Inches

Before diving in and buying a device purely on the size of the display, it’s important to note that there can be a mountain of difference between different displays.

For example, the 15-inch MacBook Pro I’m testing at the moment has a native display resolution of 2880 by 1800. In contrast, an MSI 15.5-inch workstation laptop runs at 1920 by 1080. In practical terms, that means you see a lot more content on the MacBook Pro than on the MSI option.

It’s also important to look at a display. There can be a world of difference between high quality displays and cheaply made ones, even if they look the same on a spec sheet.

Subnotebooks – Smaller Than 13 inches

If portability is your prime concern then smaller units will be on your radar.

There are lots of options around the 11- and 12-inch sizes that offer enough computing muscle without weighing you down.

After a few months of using an older 11-inch MacBook Air, I could see the attraction of a smaller device as a secondary system that complements a larger system. But there’s also a good case to be made for smaller systems for students who need a system that’s easy to carry.

The Middle Child – Smaller Than 15-inches

The most congested part of the laptop market is for devices with displays of around 13 to 14 inches. Laptops at this size represent solid compromise when you need desktop-like performance as well as portability.

At this size, the biggest difference in the screens between premium and low-cost models is display resolution. For example, at under $400, the Lenovo IdeaPad 120s has a display resolution of 1366 by 768. In comparison, the Lenovo IdeaPad 520s bumps that up to 1920 by 1080.

Laptops at around 13-inches are small and light so they won’t weigh your backpack or satchel down and offer enough screen real estate and computing power to meet the needs of most users. They’re also small enough to be usable on a tray table in a cramped economy class cabin, as long as the person in front of you doesn’t fully recline their seat.

They’re also a great option for students as they aren’t too heavy .

In short, they represent the best compromise between portability, power and display size.

Desktop Replacements – Bigger Than 15-inches

I have to admit that, although I’ve had a few 15-inch laptops in the past, larger laptops haven’t really worked well for me. But over the last month, I’ve been road-testing a 15-inch MacBook Pro and I can see the attraction of such a system.

If space is at a premium in your home, or you work in a small number of locations, a 15-inch or larger system that is easy to transport is an option worth considering.

The same caveats about display resolution apply with lower-cost units sometimes skimping on display quality. But, at larger sizes, you can find systems that sport full-size keyboards with numeric keypads. Many larger systems are optimised for specific applications. For example, the MSI GT62VR 7RD-405AU boasts a 16.6-inch display and is optimised for gamers. And you can even get to 18.4-inch display with the MSI GT83 Titan.

As well as gamers, creative professionals and developers relish larger displays and the computing grunt that is often packed into larger systems.


  • I’ll throw in my two cents. A few years ago I got a 13″ Dell XPS before a long trip. I thought the size would be easier to travel with. Great laptop, loved it and have used it plenty in the years since.
    However, I honestly don’t think it made much of a difference than if I had a 15″ laptop. You’re still sticking it in the same laptop pocked in your backpack. So what is saved when moving around? A little bit of weight that you wouldn’t notice.
    I really did not notice a single benefit than on previous trips with 15″ laptops. Besides aspects of that laptop that were better. So when I want to upgrade, I’ll just go for a 15 inch. The sacrifice in computing power just wasn’t worth the basically no noticeable difference in ease of travelling.

  • Of of these days, you’ll be able to wear decent spectacles with a built in display. When that happen, screen size [as currently presented] will become meaningless. Instead, you’ll have the option to customise the size, distance, and even surroundings.
    Couple that with noise cancelling headphones, and your flight seat in crowded economy becomes the only seat in a huge theatre. Hell, you won’t even notice when the person in front reclines their seat. That’s where I see laptops headed, anyway.

    Mind you, you’ll be startled when the flight attendant taps you on the shoulder to offer you a meal – or a fellow passenger needs to get past you to reach the toilet.

  • Ive found 15inch to be perfect for me. Its a good size for daily use such and internet and movies. While not being to large to lug around. I spent a year using a 17inch gaming laptop and while it was awesome being able to game anywhere. Lugging it around was a pain.

  • My favourite was a 23″ laptop I had a few years ago. It was perfect. Being heavy, I got a good free workout whenever I took it with me.

    Alas, nothing over 17″ is avaialble these days 🙁

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