Another Low Quality TN Panel

I recently enjoyed a meeting with Toshiba reps to discuss their upcoming back-to-school lineup. When asked what my biggest pet peeves were when reviewing notebooks and what bothered me the most, it'll surprise no one to say lousy monitor quality was at the top of my list.

Each time I write about a notebook with a crappy display, more and more people get irate in comments, and many of you simply write off the review. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that hardware like this is still what's prevalent in the marketplace, and that Joe Consumer either doesn't seem to care that much about screen quality or just doesn't know to ask for better. That tide may change with the rise of tablets, but there are people who see text on a high resolution screen, see that it's "too small," and just assume the screen quality is poor. So this problem persists.

Writers here have the unique luxury of being able to interact directly with representatives from the vendors producing these notebooks, and "stop giving us crappy panels" is a banner we continue to wave. In the meantime, though, understand that if we stopped reviewing notebooks with bad panels we'd be down to maybe one notebook review a month, and then you'd just wonder why we're not reviewing laptops.

With that spiel out of the way, it should come as no surprise that the Toshiba Portege R835's display is, once again, pretty bad.

LCD Analysis - Contrast

LCD Analysis - White

LCD Analysis - Black

LCD Analysis - Delta E

LCD Analysis - Color Gamut

There you have it. Apart from the Vaio Z2's stunning 1080p display (still TN and still suffering from middling viewing angles), what you see above is what the Toshiba Portege R835 has to compete with. It's a broad, industry wide issue. The R835's display isn't really any better or worse than anything else out there that doesn't command a price premium. The 1366x768 display resolution isn't necessarily that bad on a 13.3" screen, but the dire viewing angles, poor contrast, and poor color will always be.

When Apple can stuff a 2048x1536 LCD into the new iPad 2012 for just $499, it's obvious that all we really need is more volume on quality displays and pricing can come down. For that matter, we're not even looking at crazy prices for a decent bump in display quality right now. The stock 1366x768 display in the R835 can be purchased online for just $75, whereas the nicer panel in the Samsung Series 9 appears to go for around $90. Assuming that's the actual panel I've seen in a Series 9 laptop (it's far better than the low-contrast TN panels found elsewhere), $15 extra is a pittance for the improved contrast and brightness. Or how about Apple's vaunted MacBook Air 1440x900 LCD: $100 for a replacement, just $25 more than what we currently have foisted on us.

What it would take is for ASUS, Acer, Dell, HP, Toshiba, etc. to simply start shipping better quality displays for a small bump in price, and we could get rid of the "save $15 for garbage quality" mentality that we're currently living with. Many consumers may not immediately recognize the difference, but the race to the bottom is not doing them any real favors. It's another reason we're frequently inclined to recommend business laptops that cost several hundred dollars more, as the added cost comes with often overlooked items like superior build quality—or in other words, you get what you pay for.

Battery, Noise, and Heat Conclusion: Time for a Change
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  • rudolphna - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    You guys are really down on laptops with HDDs. Yes, you are enthusiasts, but apparently you are forgetting that 99% of laptops sold come with a 5,400RPM HDD. I personally have a $380 Lenovo Z565 (Upgraded slightly) with a WD Scorpio 320GB that is perfectly sufficient for my needs (I have a Crucial m4 in my desktop). No, it isn't as fast booting up or starting programs as an SSD would be, but it's not horrible either, and it's perfectly usable.

    I think you guys pay too much attention to the high end. Maybe you should start doing reviews on more mainstream models that people actually BUY. Go into your local Best Buy, and take your pick of laptop hardware from $400-$700. There are plenty of them, and those are the volume sellers, that most consumer actually BUY. They don't come with SSDs, or lots of bells and whistles. But anandtech reviews $1000+ unit after $1000+ unit. I don't NEED a laptop that price, that's what I have my 2500k based desktop for.
  • cknobman - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    Sorry but I am with AnandTech on this one.

    I loath any laptop (or desktop) with a HDD boot drive now and would never consider buying a new computer that did not have an SSD.

    In fact with todays HDD and SSD price I really see no reason (especially in a laptop) to use and HDD as a primary boot drive. You can buy a fantastic 120GB SSD for <=$120.

    For me I dont need 300+ GB of storage in my laptop, that is what I have desktops and servers for at home. All I need on a laptop is enough storage to install my OS, important programs, a few games, and then as needed transfer over any large data files from my server/desktop.

    The user experience from and HDD to SSD really is a big leap and it does in fact change the perception of a laptop and its usability. I went from never using my laptop, due to loathing 5+ minute startup times, to it being my "go to" machine as I can have it up and running in seconds(literally).
  • rudolphna - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    Then you are doing it wrong. My $380 laptop with HDD starts up in a minute to a fully usable desktop. While I'm not disagreeing with anand on the benefits of SSD (Remember, I have one in my desktop), what most people fail to remember ist hat the laptops MOST consumers buy are in the $350-$700 price range. Firstly, people aren't going to understand the benefits of SSD, they are going to see "Oh it only has a 64GB Harddrive? Pass" Secondly, they aren't going to want to pay more for it. I spent 18 months selling computers to people, and on both of these points I can garuntee.
  • lewisl9029 - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    Personally I would much rather buy a laptop that comes with an HDD and decide which SSD to upgrade to on my own rather than to pay premium for one with an unknown brand/controller that the manufacturer decides to shove in there for the sake of having an SSD.
  • Loberts91 - Monday, April 2, 2012 - link

    I agree with this. I wouldn't buy a laptop that has an SSD simply because it could be bundled with CRAP. I have an Agility 3 and know what a crap SSD is really like. I plan on buying a laptop with a HDD and buying a Samsung 830 60GB for it, least that way I know that it has a quality SSD.

    Besides, the HDDs are selling second hand like hot cakes on ebay, allowing you to make some money back on the ordeal.
  • cknobman - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    Oh so you have a laptop with a factory image (not a hdd that you wiped and performed your own custom install and disabled everything) that starts in 1 minute? I call bs.

    Not only have I sold laptops/desktops (at BestBuy) before but I have also been building my own systems (and for family) for over a decade.

    Customers will buy from the options they are given, take a look at ultrabooks as plenty of them come with smaller SSDs.

    I dont know a single person who does not despise their slow performing laptop when it comes to system startup/shutdown/app startup. All of this would be remedied with an SSD.

    I have a pretty good grasp of different user bases as I am a applications developer in a corporate environment so not only do I (and fellow developers) deal with slow hard drives in our laptops but I am also interfacing (on a regular basis) with business users in who feel the same.
  • Chubblez - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    Not really.

    Lenovo X120e
    AMD E350
    4GB DDR3 (1 DIMM)
    Stock 320GB 7MM Hitachi (5400RPM)

    Cold to desktop in 51sec.

    Lenovo W520
    Intel i7 2760QM
    16GB DDR3
    Seagate 500GB 7200RPM

    Cold to desktop in 45 sec.

    AMD FX4 3150 (I think. The cheap quad-core)
    16GB DDR3
    2x Seagate 1TB SATA 6 in RAID 0

    Cold to desktop in 48 sec.
  • MrSpadge - Saturday, March 31, 2012 - link

    Lenovo X121e
    AMD E350
    4GB DDR3 (1 DIMM)
    Stock 320GB 7MM Hitachi (5400RPM)

    A very nice machine.. unless you want it to do anything HDD-related. That's so dog-slow, even my GF notices! (having seen alternatives around the house..)
  • ExarKun333 - Saturday, March 31, 2012 - link

    You sound clueless. Just click 'no' on those banner adds from now on...;)
  • cknobman - Monday, April 2, 2012 - link

    Snide remark with no relevant input on the subject at hand and your calling me clueless???? LOL.

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