Why did 1366 x 768 become such a common laptop screen resolution?Phillip Remaker:
In the beginning of the Video Graphics Array era, common resolutions of the 4:3 aspect ratio screen included 640 x 480, 800 x 600, and 1024 x 768. If you were really hardcore, you might have 1280 x 1024 and 1600 x 1200 monitor, which called for a more sophisticated video card.
In the early days of LCD panel production, 1024 x 768 panels seemed to be the sweet spot for price to resolution value, representing a good tradeoff between profit and risk of possible manufacturing defects ruining the screen. As a bonus, just about all modern-at-that-time video hardware would support that resolution.
When you expand a 768 pixel tall screen to be a 16:9 widescreen, it becomes 1366 x 768.
So my theory is that when a lot of LCD manufacturers needed to produce TV screens for a wide aspect ratio, they drew on the experience chain of the 1024 x 768 PC market since the 768-pixel tall form factor was the one with the most installed base.
Since 1366 x 768 displays widescreen video content well, those panels are heavily produced since video watching is an important PC use case. The 1080 pixel tall screens are becoming common now, to represent the 1080 pixel standard of high-definition television. This is actually a step backwards from the 1200 pixel standard found in high-end 4:3 VGA monitors of yesteryear. xkcd expressed frustration on this point in the strip HDTV.
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