Notebook screen sizes will soon be a lot closer to those of desktop PCs next, according to industry executives at the LCD/PDP International 2002 in Yokohama, Japan.

Samsung Electronics will be among the first companies to manufacture wide-screen LCDs with screen sizes larger size than 15 inches for notebook PCs, said James Woo, assistant manager of LCD Strategic Marketing Team at Samsung.

It will introduce a 15.4-inch WXGA (1,280 pixel x 800 pixel) TFT (thin film transistor) LCD and a 17-inch WXGA TFT LCD for notebook PCs in January.

Hitachi will follow soon afterwards with a 15.4-inch WXGA TFT LCD set to ship early next year.

"Wide screen in 15.4 inches will become the mainstream for notebook PCs," said Samsing's Woo.

One of the factors driving this shift to wide-screen LCDs is the popularity of DVD-ROM drives, which allow users to watch DVD movies on their notebooks, and the ability to keep multiple windows open at the same time. Another factor is the increasing use of notebooks as stationary desktop computers, rather than as principally mobile machines.

To help meet growing demand for wider screens, LG Philips LCD is mass producing custom-ordered 17.1-inch WXGA TFT LCDs, with a resolution of 1,440 pixels by 900 pixels for the North American market, said Tae-Kyoung Kwark, deputy general manager of technical sales at LG. Philips.

"Notebook PC LCDs started with a 14.5-inch size. A 15-inch XGA LCD is the mainstream in the current large-size notebook PC market, and now it's shifting to a 16-inch and 17-inch class," said Sharp Corp.'s Toru Imanishi, assistant supervisor at the AVC Liquid Crystal Display Division.

To meet the demand of users who want better quality displays for notebook PCs, Sharp has unveiled two high-end LCD prototypes: a 15-inch UXGA (1,600 pixel x 1,200 pixel) TFT LCD with improved colour quality and a 16-inch SXGA (1,280 pixel x 1,024 pixel) TFT LCD with a wider 170-degree viewing angle.

Currently, LCDs offering UXGA resolution are mostly found in high-end notebooks designed for specialised applications, such as CAD (computer-aided design) and graphic design, where higher resolutions are required. Adoption of these displays in mainstream laptops is held back by higher display costs and lack of software support.

"UXGA (displays) cost around $30 to $40 more compared to XGA, so I think it is still only for high-end professionals," Woo said.

However, with LCD prices dropping dramatically, UXGA displays could soon be affordable enough to used in mainstream notebooks and display makers are pushing resolution even higher.