Written by James McLean
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Laptop screens are notoriously variable, which is why a number of consumers find themselves quickly growing dizzy from all the acronyms on the market. Should you get SVGA or UXGA? And what is this talk of active matrix versus that other kind, which until a moment ago you were able to remember with minimal difficulty?

Let's make it simple. There is a widely adopted hierarchy of screen technologies, and the computing industry is essentially unanimous on the relative quality of each. Easily the most important thing to remember is that so-called passive matrix screens (DSTN/HPA) are widely regarded as an obsolete technology, and therefore not worth your purchase.

The Good Ones

Of the remaining active matrix (TFT) screens, what matters most is refresh rate and pixel size. That alphabet soup you get into when buying is more a matter of overall resolution than it is anything about the quality of the screen. As you get larger, you move from SVGA to XGA, and from there to SXGA and UXGA. These can each be translated into inches, with SVGA representing the lower end at 12 inches, and UXGA referring to 14 and above.

If you want to buy a bright, sharp screen that won't ghost, streak or distort when you're watching that Matrix DVD, you may want to check out the benchmarks for each type. Different manufacturers get their screens from different places, so a little background research can help you discover who makes which screen and what to expect. The right choice will be as rewarding in bright sunlight as it is in a darkened room, so you may want to take care with the choice you make.

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