Is now the time to step up to color? (includes related article on laptop chip technology) (Compute's Getting Started with Portable Computing)
by David English
Every week or two another manufacturer announces a new color laptop. Is it time to take the plunge and move to color?
At this point, you'll have to pay an extra $1000-$1500 for a passive-matrix color LCD screen or $2500-$4000 for an active-matrix color LCD screen.
The passive-matrix color screens use the same technology as the black-and-white screens on most laptops. They're usually capable of producing all the VGA modes--including 320 x 200 with 256 colors and 640 x 480 with 16 colors.
A few of the active-matrix color screens are VGA, but an increasing number of models offer Supr VGA, allowing you to display an impressive 640 x 480 with 256 colors (usually from a somewhat limited palette of 4096 colors).
When viewed side-by-side, the active-matrix screens have much brighter colors and are considerably easier to read than passive-matrix screens.
This latest generation of active-matrix screens is actually sharper in picture quality than standard cathoderay monitors. However, on the downside, these screens add additional weight and size to a laptop, as well as a significant decrease in battery life.
AST, Dell, and Leading Edge have announced passive-matrix color notebooks selling for $4,000-$5,000.
Epson and Sharp will soon be shipping battery-powered active-matrix color notebooks starting at about $6,500, while Toshiba, NEC, and Compaq are already shipping AC-powered active-matrix color laptops with 486SX or 486DX processors and one or more expansion slots for the princely sum of $7,000-$10,000.
With increased competition, expect street prices on color laptops and notebooks to drop quickly by the end of 1992 and into the beginning of 1993. Also, be aware that many industry analysts expect passive-matrix color screens to fade in popularity as the superior active-matrix technology becomes more affordable.