What's up with 18-inch laptops?

You may (or may not) have heard some buzz lately about new laptop sizes.

An 18-inch Acer next to a 17-inch Gateway.

You may (or may not) have heard some buzz lately about new laptop sizes, as models with 16- and 18-inch screens join the traditional 12-, 13-, 14-, 15-, and 17-inch party (plus all those 7- and 9-inch mininotebooks).

That may seem a little like overkill, but there is at least some method to the madness when it comes to the new 18-inch screen size (and these new sizes may eventually replace more traditional 15- and 17-inch displays). Take, for example, the very first 18-inch laptop we've gotten our hands on, the 18.4-inch Acer Aspire 8920.

The new screen sizes allow for true 16:9 aspect-ratio displays, which means Blu-ray or other HD content will fit the screen better. The native resolution of our 18-inch screen was 1,920x1080-pixel resolution (you know, like Blu-ray), while a high-end 17-inch laptop is usually 1,920x1200. To fit a lower, wider panel, the Acer Aspire 8920 is about 1.5-inches wider overall than a 17-inch Gateway P-172. Even though both of these laptops were equally deep (11.9-inches), the Acer has a hinge that pivots the entire lid back, making it about .75-inch shorter when you've got the screen open at a 90-degree angle (as pictured).

The upshot is you're trading a little tabletop footprint space for a more cinematic experience in a marginally larger chassis, and we've seen some not-yet-announced 18-inch laptops that are hardly larger than their current 17-inch versions. However, we also think the laptop industry could get swamped with too many screen sizes, causing consumer confusion--so maybe we should all agree to pick a handful and stick to them. So, the question to you is: What laptop sizes should we keep, and which ones should be retired to the great wire box in the sky?

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