WUXGA LCD stretch

I’ve been needing a notebook refresh for awhile and was planning to get a HP dv1000 (1280×768 display, ~5.2 pounds, under $1000, good Linux compatibility, and Nathan seemed to like his similar model).

Then I realized that I could get a laptop with a 1920×1200 () display. I had to have one. I missed the 1600×1200 21″ CRT I used for years and there’s reasonable sounding research that more screen is an easy productivity boost.

I bought a Dell Inspiron 6000 (my first choice was a Dell Latitude D810, for its , but I couldn’t justify a several hundred dollar premimum for an otherwise similarly equipped machine).

A number of people told me that 1920×1200 on a 15 inch widescreen would be impossible to read. Not true at all. Some people also told me that a nearly 7 pound laptop would be a major drag. So far it hasn’t been. Apart from a tiny Inspiron 2100 I used temporarily for several months this one is about the weight I’m accustomed to (and I walk or bicycle 5 to 15 miles on days I don’t telecommute–I vastly prefer this to “working out”).

I think the large monitor productivity study is right. I feel more productive than I have since giving up my desktop and 21″ CRT. If you spend most of the day doing “knowledge work” in front of a computer, especially programming, get yourself a super high resolution display pronto.

I encountered a couple of oddities regarding the WUXGA display after installing Ubuntu Linux on the new machine.

First, Ubuntu’s installer correctly detected the 1920×1200 display and Intel 915 (GMA900) graphics. The generated /etc/X11/xorg.conf only had modelines for 1920×1200. However, the driver was unaware of the 915′s support for 1920×1200, so ran at 1600×1200. I’m surprised it ran at all, given that xorg.conf contained no configuration for that resolution.

The other odd thing is that the entire screen was used to display 1600×1200 pixels–everything was stretched horizontally by 20 percent. I would’ve strongly expected 1600×1200 running on a 1920×1200 LCD screen to not use the screen’s full width–320 horizontal pixels should’ve been unused. Every description of screens that I’ve (very casually) read says something about each (discrete) pixel being controlled by an individual transistor. There’s no tweaking display size or orienting the display with an LCD like there is with a CRT. My uneducated guess is that X was using or some similar method to stretch 1600 virtual pixels onto 1920 real pixels. [Update 20051122: As Brian suggests in a comment below the stretching is done by hardware and controlled by BIOS settings--"LCD Panel Expansion" on the Inspiron 6000, enabled by default.]

The problem was fixed by running 915resolution, following this example:

  • Download 915resolution
  • make install (or just copy the binary provided)
  • Create /etc/init.d/rc.local with a single line:

    /usr/sbin/915resolution 49 1920 1200

  • sudo chmod +x /etc/init.d/rc.local
  • sudo update-rc.d rc.local start 80 S .

After rebooting X ran beautifully at 1920×1200.

11 Responses

  1. Brian Heung says:

    On my IBM Thinkpad T20, built into the hardware was a “stretching” algorithm that automatically stretched any resolution that was less that 1024×768 to use all the pixels on the screen. I was able to toggle that behavior in the BIOS.

  2. Jorge Kobeh says:

    Mike:

    I have the same machine as yours, but running Debian. I have used the 915resolution program, and have compiled the latest X.org distribution, but I can’t get my system to display 1920 pixels, it always displays 1600. Could you please send me your xorg.conf file, so that I can see if there is something wrong with mine?

    Thanks in advance!

    Sincerely, Jorge Kobeh

  3. Max Waterman says:

    So, where does one find a 1920×1200 ~15″ notebook these days? All the displays with that resolution seem to be at 17″ now, and I find that too big. The ~15″ displays (that I can find) are all lower resolution.

  4. Max, it looks like Dell no longer sells an Insprion (“home”/cheap) 15.4″ WUXGA notebook. The Latitude D820 is available with 15.4″ WUXGA.

  5. [...] Update 20060926: In comments below Villa points out system76, which approaches what I want, excpet that their prices are mediocre and they don’t offer high resolution displays, which I will never do without again. David points out olpcnews.com, which looks like reasonable independent reporting on OLPC. I asked on the OLPC wiki about other manufacturers’ use of the design. [...]

  6. Leon says:

    Alienware Area-51® m5750 laptop has custom option for
    15.4″ UWXGA screen for total cost of $1200

  7. [...] initially installed Ubuntu Linux 5.10 on my new Dell Inspiron 6000 in November, 2005. I fully expect it to begin having assorted hardware problems this year with the [...]

  8. Hi Mike – Thanks for posting your experiences with using a WUXGA panel on your Intel 915 chip. I’ve been wanting to upgrade the panel in my z60m Ubuntu machine for a while now, but was worried when I saw that the Intel specs that seem to indicate that 1600×1200 was the highest supported LCD resolution:

    http://tinyurl.com/6bra37 (Intel 915 specs)

    Is your chip a 915GM?

    Cheers,
    Kieran

  9. Kieran, I’m not sure how to tell. lshw is not very specific:

         *-pci
              description: Host bridge
              product: Mobile 915GM/PM/GMS/910GML Express Processor to DRAM Controller
              vendor: Intel Corporation
              physical id: 100
              bus info: pci@0000:00:00.0
              version: 03
              width: 32 bits
              clock: 33MHz
              configuration: driver=agpgart-intel module=intel_agp
            *-display:0 UNCLAIMED
                 description: VGA compatible controller
                 product: Mobile 915GM/GMS/910GML Express Graphics Controller
                 vendor: Intel Corporation
                 physical id: 2
                 bus info: pci@0000:00:02.0
                 version: 03
                 width: 32 bits
                 clock: 33MHz
                 capabilities: pm vga_controller bus_master cap_list
                 configuration: latency=0
            *-display:1 UNCLAIMED
                 description: Display controller
                 product: Mobile 915GM/GMS/910GML Express Graphics Controller
                 vendor: Intel Corporation
                 physical id: 2.1
                 bus info: pci@0000:00:02.1
                 version: 03
                 width: 32 bits
                 clock: 33MHz
                 capabilities: pm bus_master cap_list
                 configuration: latency=0
    
  10. Vaibhav says:

    Mike,
    Thanks for sharing the experience. Thinking of getting a 15″ dell studio with WUXGA also plan to install linux on it. wondering if this max resolution issue is fixed in latest linux drivers.

    -Vaibhav

  11. [...] to pile up hundreds of open tabs, and bizarrely my laptop screens have fewer pixels than they did in 2005, so I don’t have an urge to use up horizontal [...]

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