The Chromebook Pixel’s Best Feature

(This post was discussed on Hacker News)

I shouldn’t care much about the just announced Chromebook Pixel as it isn’t being sold where I live, and I don’t expect it would be.

But I do hope very much it’d become a success, as it has a most outstanding feature. While most hype and press is about the browser OS and the build quality, I myself am utterly excited by the screen’s 3:2 aspect ratio. I’ll explain:

Owning to historical reasons, PC screens mimic the proportions of TV screens, which, in the recent decade, shifted to a wide aspect ratio. While it might fit movies, using it for computers is a boneheaded decision, as it is a poor fit for reading text (long lines are harder to read than short,) a popular use for computer monitors.

When I use my large desktop monitor, I can work around the aspect ratio by opening two side-by-side windows, or rotating the screen 90 degrees, making it taller than it is wide. But modern laptops are also fit with wide screens, and those screens can’t be rotated, and are too small too show two side-by-side windows comfortably.

A 3:2 aspect ratio is a much better fit for laptop computers, and I do hope it’ll get widely adopted (if not, I’ll have to see about importing a Chromebook Pixel and replacing the userspace with a Linux distro).


  1. Freddy says:

    Chromebook’s biggest mistake is to include touch screen. I can imagine the line goes like: “Hey stop touching my beautiful retina display!!!”

    I wonder how thinner will it get without touchscreen.

  2. Western Infidels says:

    I’d agree that a less-wide aspect ratio is better, but I’d go further: what’s wrong with the old 4:3 ratio? Generations of perfectly serviceable laptops were built that way.

    And while i’m dreaming, wouldn’t it be great if we referred to aspect ratios in a more sensible way? 1.77 is obviously wider than 1.5 which is obviously wider than 1.33. But 16:9, 3:2, and 4:3 don’t make that so clear.

    • Shay Elkin says:

      But less and less laptops are, which is why I hope the Chromebook to counter the trend, and make non-wide screen a popular option again.

  3. I have to disagree on the screen ratio, though the touch screen is indeed awesome. I’m a big fan of wider screens, and I primarily use the 15″ MacBook Pro. I think it depends on what you use it for, but for coding I like being able to see long filenames in my IDE, a good-sized editing interface for my code, and my IM client on the side, which is the perfect use case for any Chromebook. Sometimes I like being able to look at my code and a browser or technical requirement document side-by-side, which makes a wider screen nice. Being accustomed to reading horizontally, I think it’s a lot natural to scan left and right rather than having windows vertically stacked. That said, aside from the touchscreen and built-in 4G LTE, we’re mostly getting sold an operating system — there’s not anything else that Google is doing that Apple isn’t on the hardware level.

  4. Josh says:

    The problem with adding height to a laptop screen is that you have to add height to the laptop body.

    The whole thing becomes sort of clunky to carry around the closer it gets to a square.

  5. Epicuro says:

    You look like a decomposing zombie in that head shot in the sidebar; drop the HDR.

  6. wnsnw says:

    *too small to show

  7. I have to strongly agree with this article; having a 16:9 screen was one of the poorest choices ever.

  8. Totally agree. For software development and image processing I would even go further like when I wrote about truly square displays.

    See, a creator’s workflow is very different from that of a consumer. A consumer wants a pristine presentation of the media, without any distractions. For that, a natural form-factor is indeed close to 16:9. A creator often works with plenty of palettes, tools and other supporting instrumentation which is beneficial to be close by. Very often the final product’s form may be very different than the source of it, like a landscape animations’ code is better presented as a portrait-oriented scroll of text. And creators often do not need that “pristine” media enjoyment experience where they work – but need a space for infrastructure.

    When was the last time you saw an artist’s studio neat as a gallery where their works are presented?

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