Why are some UMPC screen bezels so wide?

This guest article was submitted by Robert A. Anson.

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Not only are many readers, but also some “experts” (who should know better) have been complaining lately about the “very wide bezels” on the sides of the screens of some new clamshell devices.

To prevent my blood pressure from going any higher than it already has because of the frustration I feel every time I read a comment like, “Oh my God, why are the bezels around the screen so W I D E?”, I wrote this article to explain what I believe is the rationale for the wide bezels.

The Design/Thinking Process

  • A decision is made to manufacture a small clamshell device.
  • The width of the keyboard is postulated. An effort is made to make it as small as possible, but still be functional.
  • The keys are drawn on paper or a mock-up is made to determine their placement and usefulness. Are the keys too small?
  • The width of the keyboard and base is adjusted to achieve a balance between the size of the device and keyboard function. Obviously, a full-size keyboard (as found on a 13.3″ diagonal laptop) is the most functional for typing, but this is a “pocketable” device, so some compromises must be made.
  • The width of the keyboard and a bezel around it (for structural support, hinges, LEDs, mouse buttons, pointing sticks, an on/off button, and connections on the side of the device) are determined after much compromise.

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  • To have a clamshell device of minimal size and to protect the screen and keyboard, the width and height of the lid are made the same as that of the base (the keyboard and surrounding bezel).

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  • Some extra space (a bezel) must be lost to provide structural integrity and room for hinges, a webcam, rubber projections to protect the screen and lid when the lid is closed, etc.
  • The lid’s surface area that remains (after subtracting the bezel) is available for the screen’s width and height.
  • The screen is placed within the confines of the lid, usually in the center.
  • The area could be completely filled, but this would require fabrication of a custom screen, which would significantly add to the cost of the device. Or off-the-shelf screens (standard sizes) could be used to keep the cost lower.
  • As wide screens are the new standard, one is selected that will fit in the remaining space. The screen choices are:
    • 4.8″ diagonal, 800 x 480 resolution, width = 4.1″, height = 2.5″
    • 4.8″ diagonal, 1024 x 600 resolution, width = 4.1″, height = 2.4″
    • 5.6″ diagonal, 1024 x 600 resolution, width = 4.8″, height = 2.8″
    • 5.6″ diagonal, 1280 x 800 resolution, width = 4.7″, height = 3.0″

I will use the Fujitsu UH900 as an example: Fujitsu chose to use a stock (off-the-shelf) screen with a high resolution. A 5.6″ diagonal, 1280 x 800-resolution screen has a width of 4.7″; the device has a width of 8.3″. Allowing for a 0.5″ bezel on both sides (a minimal amount for structural support, a webcam, and opening the screen without getting an oily thumb print on it), this leaves 7.3″ for the screen. Subtracting the width of the screen from the available space leaves an excess of 2.6″. Centering the screen on the lid allows 1.3″ of excess on each side of the screen. Adding the 0.5″ bezel (for support) gives a total bezel width of 1.8″ on each side of the screen.

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“1.8 inches of bezel?” you might be saying. “What were they thinking?”

Fujitsu chose to reduce their costs and the price you would have to pay for the device by using stock screens rather than fabricating custom screens that would completely fill the space within the required (for support) screen bezels. It wasn’t ignorance or stupidity; an economic and practical decision was made. Fabricating a custom-size screen is not only very costly, but it also has some risks. Will it work properly? Will manufacturing problems delay the release of the device? Will it wind up costing more than anticipated? Will the customer accept the increased cost of the custom-size screen?

I think Fujitsu (and others) made the right choice in going with an off-the–shelf screen. And that’s why the bezels are as wide as they are.

Bob Anson is a retired Pediatric Dentist who has nothing better to do than to write an article about the size of the bezels around the very small screens of new clamshell devices. When not doing that, he is calculating the size of their very small pixels.

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Guest Contributor

Pocketables is a US-based online tech magazine that brings news, insights, opinions, and comprehensive reviews on various mobile computing devices, portable technology, and related topics to a global audience. We focus on devices that fit into pockets of all sizes, from jeans and jackets to backpacks and purses. The gadget experts that comprise our staff produce high quality articles and original features colored with real-life use of products over weeks and months, not first-impression opinions formed within hours or days.

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