Why Did 1366×768 Common Screen Resolution For Laptops?

I’ve been asked this question a number of times, so I thought I’d take the time to answer it here.

The 1366×768 resolution is not actually the most common laptop resolution anymore – that would be 1280×800 by specific metrics, though of course it depends on whether you count tablets and phones as specific metrics! But the 1366×768 resolution has been around for quite some time in various incarnations, so I think it’s worth talking about.

Let me start with some history. Back when PCs were young there were two primary screen size standards: CGA (Color Graphics Adapter) at 320×200 pixels and EGA (Enhanced Graphics Adapter) at 640×350 pixels in 16 colors or 640×480 pixels in 256 colors. But then several things happened that set the stage for what was to come: 1) 1984 saw the introduction of the Mac with its whopping 512×342 pixels in black and white, 2) 1985 put IBM’s VGA (Video Graphics Adapter) on the PC at 640×350 in 16 colors, 3) Compaq came out with an EGA laptop called “Compal” which worked pretty well but didn’t catch on much beyond enterprise users since it ran off 6 AA batteries for almost 4 hours, and 4) IBM introduced VGA-compatible video hardware … so other manufacturers were free to use it also.

Of course Compal did manage to get into some retail channels eventually; one key opportunity was bundling them into Gateway’s “2000” line of PCs. The 2000 series was one of the first mainstream desktop PCs to use a VGA display, and it helped pave the way for 1366×768 to become so popular on laptops.

But I’m getting ahead of myself! Let’s back up a bit.

In 1987, IBM increased the resolution on their ThinkPad 700 laptop from 640×400 to 640×480. This was possible because they used an LCD panel rather than an CRT (cathode ray tube) monitor. IBM also introduced “Super VGA” at 800×600 pixels later that year.

The big jump in popularity for 1366×768 came in the early 2000s, when laptop displays started using LCD panels instead of CRTs. This allowed for much higher resolutions since an LCD panel has more pixels in the same physical area as a CRT. With VGA, manufacturers were stuck with a choice between two resolutions: 640×480 or 800×600. But with LCD panels they could use any resolution they wanted, and 1366×768 quickly became the most popular choice.

This is also around the time that DVDs started to become popular, and 16:9 aspect ratio displays (1366×768 being one of them) began to outsell 4:3 aspect ratio displays. So it was really a perfect storm that led to 1366×768 becoming the dominant laptop resolution.

There are a few other reasons that 1366×768 became so popular. For one, it’s a “Goldilocks” resolution – not too high, not too low. It’s also a good compromise between image quality and performance. And finally, most software is designed to work in resolutions of 640×480 or higher, so 1366×768 is the perfect resolution for laptops that don’t have the highest-end graphics hardware.

So there you have it – that’s why 1366×768 became such a common screen resolution for laptops! I hope this article was helpful. If you have any questions or comments, please let me know. Thanks for reading!

Saad is a professional web developer and WordPress speed expert. He is a tech guy and you will find him on popular resources like PCgamer and tomshardware.com.