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The Chromebook Pixel’s best feature (shayelk.in)
72 points by snotrockets 1701 days ago | hide | past | web | 91 comments | favorite

I feel like I'm taking crazy pills when I talk about aspect ratios with average consumers. Most people really do believe--probably through HDTV marketing--that wider screens are better. The lion's share of most people's time on the Internet is spent reading and scolling vertically, yet our devices are optimized for watching little sixty second movie clips at a time. Why wouldn't you want to make the 95% case more pleasurable at the expense of a few black bars on the top and bottom of your movie? Besides, most Internet videos need to be upscaled to fill the screen anyways, the detail is mostly interpolated anyhow.

... that wider screens are better.

That might kinda sorta almost even be true, except that 1080p (1920x1080) is not wider than WUXGA (1920x1200).

It's just shorter.

But "wide screen" just sound so much nicer than "short screen."

well from the marketing perspective you could call it, tall screen.

The author dismisses the possibility of side-by-side windows on a small screen, but I no problems using multiple windows on my 1080p 15" laptop screen. Therefore i find a wider screen much more productive--it's much harder to intelligently fill a screen with a narrower aspect ratio

I have a 13" Macbook Air with a reasonable 1440x900 resolution, and I can fit about 1 1/3 windows on screen, at best: a narrower-than-usual browser window and TweetBot.

Laptop screens are generally not wide enough to fit two windows side by side. Even the ones that are, such as your 1080p 15" laptop, are unusable for most of us due to tiny text and so on.

My 15" MBP at 1400x900x2 is wide enough to fit a split editor, or an editor and part of a terminal (I find that having part of a background window visible makes it less jarring to switch to it). I wouldn't mind it being physically taller, but I wouldn't want it to be any narrower.

1440x900 is just enough for me to use Sublime Text 2 in two column mode, or Xcode with the assistant editor. I do have to hide any sidebars for both to be usable.

I stand by earlier post for, say, a web browser or email client.

I can fit two windows on a 1280x800 13" screen just fine. You need applications with little chrome to make it work, though.

I'm guessing most of the wide screen "haters" are windows users that are used to the "one maximized app at the time" workflow.

I'd disagree with that based on the stereotype of windows users not caring about UI or not noticing the lack of things like smooth animations and awkward sizing.

I say that as a windows user and fan (I have a mac, but it's far from my favorite machine).

I also don't feel that mac is any better at managing two windows than Windows.

Microsoft has tried to improve the side-by-side window set-up with their hot spots, but I feel it is a fairly weak implementation, and even though they advertised the feature heavily in Windows 7, I doubt many people use it regularly.

I didn't mean to say that all windows users do this, or that users of other OSes don't do that, but based on my experience most of the people who work with just one maximized window are windows users.

I don't want to start an OS flamewar though, so I'm going to restate my guess as:

I'm guessing most of the wide screen "haters" are people who are used to the "one maximized app at the time" workflow.

I cant use an OS without the Window snap functionality of Windows 7/8. Just throw the windows into opposite corners and go. Every time I show people that feature I get a positive reaction but I guess I really have no idea how much they use it.

I suggest you try a tiling window manager, that automates the process.


I use Windows and OS X on most days of the week, and Windows has never been that well suited for wide screen use, whereas OS X's window management makes it much easier to put screens side by side. I'm often doing this, and it's one of the biggest reasons I'm more productive on OS X. The idea that an app would take up my entire screen, unless it was something like a video editing app, is crazy to me.

A widescreen laptop monitor allows me to copy and paste data from an email into a spreadsheet for instance. Doing that on a 3:2 monitor would be maddening. I agree that for single window use, 3:2 is better for many things, but we don't really like in a single window model anymore.

This is weird.

I use both Windows 7 and OSX everyday. Windows 7's window management is so much better that, it makes me realize how much time I lose managing windows on OSX. The only logical explanation I can come up is that you don't know about snapping windows on Windows 7. Dragging a window to the left or right side of the screen (or with keyboard: Win+Left/Right) will tile it to that part of the screen.

Aero-snap-like utilites have existed on OSX for several years now (and bettersnaptool is free and very powerful).

I'd rather have a built-in unix shell (OSX) and install an aero-snap-alike than deal with Windows+putty+cygwin+...

One can say that he'd rather have a tiling window manager and an environment similar to the one he'll deploy in rather than dealing with various incompatible build systems and the strange mix of BSD environment presented in Mac OS X.

That is to say, all OS suck; and we should not compare dick sizes, as we would all lose.

Windows key + (left or right arrow)

Works fine in Windows, I use it all the time.

window management is indeed better designed on windows (since 7) which makes your parent poster's claim a bit unsubstantiated, but thinking about it a little more there is something to it: Windows applications, especially since the ribbon UI pattern has emerged, are often specifically designed such that you need them to run in fullscreen. Try using office on 950px width and you know what I mean - you simply can't get to lots of control elements comfortably without the full screen width. Mac software on the other hand has always been optimized for multiple non modal panels, still carried over in the prominent info window even in consumer apps. You can place that thing wherever you want. For power users this is very good because they can position these windows as close as possible to the content they want to edit, scroll the window behind without loosing focus (still not a standard windows feature) and do a series of operations minimizing mouse movement and clicks, since a panel of similar operations as their last one stays open. This as well as the always accessible main menu is what allows users to play around width the width of windows.

If only window management and multi screen support were as good as the one on windows - it would pretty much be a perfect classic desktop environment.

I think 16:10 is a great aspect ratio. In OS X on a 13" screen, it's perfect for two 80x25 emacs buffers side by side.

Now extend the screen vertically until it becomes a 4:3 screen. Now you can fit two 80x30 emacs buffers side by side.

But then it's a bigger screen. To maintain the same screen size, you need to extend vertically while narrowing horizontally. Now you can't fit 2 80 column buffers side by side without reducing font size. A 16:10 screen can be treated as two side-by-side 8:10 windows, or basically the same ratio as a piece of letter-sized paper. A 4:3 screen is two side-by-side 2:3 windows, which is substantially narrower than paper size.

Yeah, I think there's a certain width you need to meet before growing vertically is comfortable. A 16:10 12.5" screen I have is wide enough. A 4:3 14" screen I had was barely wide enough.

Once you hit that threshold, going taller is better. And if you're going to be below that threshold anyway, going taller is better, I think.

Of course, this changes from application to application -- when I used an IDE like Visual Studio, there was no hope of putting buffers side by side, and vertical space was all that mattered.

I don't tile web browser windows, either. I'm using a 12.5" 1280x800 screen right now, and it's maximized, with the Windows taskbar on the right side. Using half the screen would be kind of pointless (I'm not reading two documents at once) and I often would like to have a taller screen when web browsing.

(author here) I find a 15" laptop to big to be useable as a laptop. My current one has a 13.3", and that's not enough to open two side-by-side documents showing 80 chars per line each, without having the fonts ridiculously small. remember that font size should be the same regardless the dpi, so having more pixels won't help if the physical size remain the same.

I think you are missing the point of using multiple windows. You don't need to have N number of symmetrical windows all the time. You can have e.g. a small IM window on the side and a twitter client underneath, a terminal at the bottom, etc.

Personally I even like partially overlapping windows, e.g. I can only have part of a terminal visible if I'm tailing a file, I just need to see if something comes and then I can bring it on the front.

So instead of having an aspect ratio that fits computing, you prefer to work around a movie-fitting aspect ratio.

Why do you say that it doesn't fit computing? Perhaps I'm not very OCD, but I don't see why you always need to see the whole window of an app to work efficiently.

But that's just me, even if you prefer tiling windows, you can have many more configurations than the split screen.

I like wider screens 'cause I can have multiple editor/terminal/etc windows wide-by-side... I find things usually just fit together "better" on wide-format screens than on 4:3 screens.

So yes, I believe wider screens are better. :]

[Needless to say, I also find the constant bloviating on places like HN from people that think 4:3 screens are better for dev work pretty silly...]

The reason wider screens are preferred is because of human's field of view. We see 180 degrees horizontally yet only 135 degrees vertically.

So why on earth would you build a screen that requires people to expend more energy to use ?

While it is true that our eyes' horizontal field of view is close to 180 degrees, we can't really "see" that much at once, especially if we are talking about reading.

Watching and reading are inherently different processes.

While reading, you will actually be focused to a very limited area at once. You will constantly move your eyes as you keep reading the text, regardless of how wide the screen is. A longer line requires more eye movement to reach the end of the line and makes it easier to lose track of which line you were at.

While watching, you don't have to make out every little detail in every single frame, so it is a good idea to make the aspect ratio of movies more like the way we see real life.

In summary, a widescreen movie is able to better utilize our "wide eyes", whereas wide text not only fails to better utilize them, but it actually makes text harder to read.

You might have to move your eyes left/right to read.

But it sure beats having to move your head.

If that were true, people would have Preferred landscape books to portrait books. They don't.

Holding and flipping pages on a landscape book is harder; furthermore, books are usually smaller as a whole.

When you open the book the two page spread is often landscape.

Do you actually read both sides? On a textbook, magazine or encylopedia, perhaps - mainly because a physical book doesn't have search features.

On a novel, it's portrait - you need paragraphs of context as you scan forwards and backwards to follow the information stream.

On a computer with text search facilities, it's more convenient to have vertical text results and paragraphs - as long as the width is acceptable.

Of course, TVs look better in a widescreen format, and computer screens have been forced to orbit TV display sizing for the past decade... and this is why we're stuck with useless 16:9 screens with not enough vertical pixels.

Absolutely. I hated when everyone started making 16:9 monitors. The 16:10 ones weren't quite as bad, but seriously, give me some vertical pixels. Especially true for coding where it's useful to see as many lines of code on the screen at possible.

Get a monitor stand that swivels, so you can use the 16:9 ratio to your advantage. The only catch is that you start noticing when people write long lines over 120 chars, though they shouldn't do that in the first place.

Edit: It's also really awesome for reading/editing documents, since you can fit the full page onscreen.

I'm doing this right now @ work with 2x16:9 monitors. Coworkers are amazed and amused, but if you don't do this with IPS panels, the vertical viewing angles (now horizontal) are pretty bad on most non-IPS monitors... so it's sometimes hard to share your screen.

I do this, however I feel my 16:9 monitor is just a touch too thin, whereas 16:10 gives a perfect width.

> Especially true for coding where it's useful to see as many lines of code on the screen at possible.

Have to disagree here.

For Java and iOS development widescreen is far better because it allows project tree on the left, code in the middle and outline/inspector on the right.

I wrote more Java than I'd like to admit, all without an outline window: my setup for the last ~7 years is two emacs windows (emacs calls windows what the rest of the world call panes. it is strange like that) side by side.

3:2 used to be the standard screen ratio. just look at your 15 inch CRT monitor.

the industry then went for 16:10 the so called "WIDESCREEN" at that time, and now 16:9

Actually the old-school CRT monitors were much narrower even than 3:2 (1.5) - they were 4:3 (1.33), just like NTSC television, and very close to the very-old-school "Academy Ratio" in the movies.

Which is the reason the movie business invented wide-screen: To make their movies darn near unwatchable on standard television. HDTV went wide-screen to chase the movie business, which has in response pursued ever more extreme ultra-wide ratios (12:5 or 2.40 in not-insane notation) for their blockbusters, so even with a brand new wide-screen HDTV, you get letter-boxing and only partial vertical resolution when you watch the latest Batman movie or whatever.

Now there are some small movements in the direction of ultra-ultra wide-screen in the computer business, and it doesn't bode well. [1]

So it's Hollywood's fault that your computer screen has a stupid shape, just as its Hollywood's fault that it has a stupid interface (HDMI/HDCP), too.

[1] http://www.cnet.com/laptops/toshiba-satellite-u845w-s410/450...

Eh, wide ratios aren't a new creation.


That's around when Hollywood's widescreen response to television happened.

I don't remember seeing 3:2 in widespread use. What you used to have was 4:3, a vastly superior aspect ratio especially on laptops.

I agree.

I really dislike 16:9 on productivity machines. It's not wide enough for 2 windows side by side, and too short for a single window.

Even Lenovo has recently switched to 16:9 (probably from the incentives of Microsoft Windows 8), leaving Apple as the last one standing making 16:10 laptops.

16:10 is the maximum wideness I can accept, but 3:2 (i.e. 15:10) would probably be slightly better.

The Pixel's best feature is the touchscreen. The first time you tap a tiny onscreen link with your finger, instead of trying to aim for it with the trackpad, or the first time you pinch to zoom out on Google Maps, you'll never want to use a non-touchscreen laptop again.

My understanding (source: most recent verge podcast) was that the touch screen doesn't support pinch to zoom - is that incorrect? I'd love to be wrong

It does, and it's spectacular.

Unless Google has done a lot of work with WebKit then it is going to be a pretty awful experience. You only have to compare the native Google Maps with the web version to know that "touch" is poorly handled by browsers. It is an order of magnitude slower that apps which like it or not are the benchmark Google needs to compete against.

Actually Google Maps in IE10 with touch screen pretty well and I am assuming Chrome will handle it well if not better...

Chrome and Safari both use WebKit and it handles it terribly.

So again. Unless Google has added something magical in recent builds of WebKit that hasn't yet made it to the iPad then it will equally be terrible.

Chrome on Android handles it just fine, though I'm not sure what specifically you're referring to (Chrome on iOS is just a wrapper around UIWebView so it doesn't really count).

Also, on iOS there is a ~300ms delay between taps and the "click" event (see for example https://github.com/ftlabs/fastclick) which is not present on non-iOS browsers. Perhaps that could explain why it appears so slow for you?

its not even a fair comparison they both use different javascript engines. I won't comment on Apple's treatment with javascript on their mobile browser.

This blog entry presents a single argument: aspect ratios should favor a more narrow width because they should aspire to the readability of a page.

That's a single bullet point in a long pro/con list and you'll never reach consensus on the definitively correct aspect ratio. Plenty of people watch movies on their computer screens, others like having an IDE with frames on the side, others want games to spread across their horizontal field of view and some just think it looks modern. Why on earth does that make the screen ratio 'boneheaded?'

Be excited for your preference, argue the use cases that it suits, that's all fine. Maybe toss the prescriptive attitude that your opinion is categorically correct for everyone else who has not yet discovered it.

(author here) I would have written that as a one line, but to quote Pascal, "that I had not the leisure to make it shorter then it is." Thank you for doing that for me.

I don't call for a single aspect ratio: I just call for more variety: there is a good use case for more squarish laptop screens, but they are gone from the market, the main reason for that mistake being copying TV designs.

I find the aspect ratio an interesting choice. And I agree that 'wide' isn't necessarily "good" with laptops. Although, as the Ubuntu for Tablets demo showed, you can do some interesting things with the extra space to the right of a 4:3 (or 3:2) chunk.

I would really like to see some interesting really wide and short touch screens as the 21st century replacement for 'function' keys along the top of the keyboard. Sure there are keyboards with LCD screens on every key but a nice 1920 x 480 bar that was as wide as the top of my keyboard, three rows of 12 "160 x 160" 'super tiles' I could put status in, or touch to activate, or what not, but below the screen where its easy to press my finger. Won't happen for a while though I'm afraid.

Google should make Android tablets 3:2, too, if they aren't going to make them 4:3 like Apple. It should be a bit better than 16:10, which I think still turns a lot of people off from using Android tablets vs iPads, knowing they can't really use them in vertical mode.

I think the 16:10 works very well for the Nexus 7 which is primarily used in portrait mode.

The Nexus 7 viewport feels very book-like as portrait. The iPad is the one that looks "wrong", too fat.

Reading in portrait on the iPad feels like US Letter sized paper; reading in portrait on my Kindle Fire HD feels like a paperback.

Meh. You get used to either one extremely quickly.

This is a matter of opinion, and I imagine probably highly correlated with which device you own.

"book-like" seemed spot on, maybe it's also correlated with how much time you've spent holding print books in your hand?

How big of a difference is this though? 16:10 is 3.2:2.

Better put: 3:2 is 15:10. 4:3 (my favorite) is 13.33:10

Most modern monitors are 16:9 to match HD movie aspect ratios. If it was 16:9 it would be only 1440 pixels tall, a reduction of 15%.

Interesting observation. I don't particularly care if the Chromebook succeeds or not, but I wholeheartedly agree that the trend towards wider and wider (i.e. shorter and shorter) screens was terrible. In addition to all the valid points I'm seeing other people make here, it's also worth noting that the move to widescreens has enabled manufacturers to ship displays that, based on their diagonal measurement, a customer would think are larger than their non-widescreens when they're actually the same size or even smaller. For example, a 47" 4:3 screen has the same area as a 50" 16:9 screen.

http://tvcalculator.com/ has been around forever and is good for comparing these things.

The 13" retina Macbook Pro is 2560 x 1600 at 229 ppi - about the same.

They use 16:10 screens. The 13" rMBP has 2560x1600 resolution while Pixel has 2560x1700, 100 pixels taller.

That's a very interesting point. I remember when we had 15 and 17" LCDs back in the day that were always nearly square. Now it seems rare to find a computer screen even remotely square.

I find this (oddly) most pronounced on the iPhone 5. On previous models, landscape browsing was a valid option, but once you get the extra length vertically in portrait, the limited landscape view feels completely uselessly constrained.

Personally, my preference for aspect ratio varies by screen size and how I'll likely divide it up.

On a small laptop screen like a Chromebook, I agree with the author that a wide aspect ratio can be annoying because a maximized window often feels to short.

On a large monitor (ie 27+ inches) though, I think wide aspect ratio is good because a common use case is multiple side by side windows, and it's also a good fit for full screen video.

Use xmonad, reclaim your space.

I held onto my 3:2 thinkpad until it died for exactly this reason. You literally couldn't buy a new 3:2 laptop. Especially on small screens it is so much better.

Who makes the panel, is it custom?

It is a great machine crippled with 32gb hard drive.

Well, obviously it's marketed as a device that is supposed to have the lion share of its data in the cloud. In that regard, 32GB is plenty.

I like to think of it as something that could make a pretty neat remote desktop workstation. I've actually thought about putting my main linux workstation on the LAN, somewhere else (it's a bit noisy) and logging into it from a thin client. The Chromebook Pixel does make a rather attractive option for that.

Of course, you'd have to slap a proper OS on it, but that may be an intentional hidden option. I'm also not up to date on how well modern day RFB/X11 performs in terms of i/o latency, so I have all this marked as "potential weekend project".

Actually it would be a pointless to use it for the purpose you describe.

What truly separates Pixel from a $250 laptop is the retina, touchscreen display which is wasted if you are exclusively using it for VNC.

The touchscreen maybe, but why the high resolution?

anyone knows if i can just replace it with a custom ssd and put on a random linux distro? i have a feeling the answer is no.

also 4 gb? not for me ;/

The oculus rift is going to be an unbounded monitor. It has no screen size!

Currently they say the battery comes upto 5hrs. If they could double it up, it will be great,

Really. The only thing not making it a 'great' device is the battery life ?

You do realise that ALL it does is surf the web ? I don't understand why anybody would buy it over an iPad or a refurbished MacBook Pro. I personally think it is one of the most pointless devices released in the last few years.

It can boot Linux. In that regard, it has the potential to be a general purpose laptop. Although you have to keep your files in the "cloud" because it only has 32gb of storage.

It can boot Linux but the trackpad and touchscreen doesn't work.

Again. Why wouldn't you buy a MacBook Pro that is usable out of the box ?

I ran into warranty issues with the last Mac I owned, and swore never to buy one again.

But even if I did, I'm not sure it would run a sane Linux distribution out of the box (from what I'm reading, it's a bit touch and go,) and I don't consider a computer usable unless it can run the setup I need, which depends heavily on Linux -- developing on Mac OS X and deploying to Linux never worked for me: I could never keep a "sane" environment with the former.

It can boot linux just fine https://lkml.org/lkml/2013/2/21/378

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