Is 1440p resolution missing from your laptop? Here’s what happened

1440p resolution
Over the last several months, we’ve noticed a trend in a few recently reviewed notebooks. Certain laptops have shipped with 1440p resolution missing, when we’d expect to be present. This resolution, which boasts 2,560 × 1,440 pixels, used to be the best PC owners could expect.

When we benchmark laptops — especially those with a discrete, stand-alone graphics chip — we rely on 1080p and 1440p resolutions to gauge performance.

Yet in recent reviews, we noticed that the 1440p display setting was missing on certain laptops. Its a odd oversight, because it means the laptop might be hard to use with an external monitor. Or, when a laptop has a native 4K display, the lack of 1440p eliminates an attractive second-best resolution if the laptop can’t handle 4K resolution when gaming.

It’s an unusual turn of events, so we dug into why it’s happening.

Easier use means fewer options

When we asked HP about the lack of a 1440p resolution in its ZBook Studio G4 mobile workstation, a representative said the company wanted to simplify the built-in screen’s Extended Display Identification Data. In other words, although we discovered that the panel does in fact support 1440p resolution, HP merely wanted to shorten the resolution list you see in Windows 10 (Settings/System/Display).

“It’s worth noting that pro applications from HP’s software vendors have been optimized for FHD and are now transitioning to UHD (3,840 × 2,160),” the representative said. “The company’s goal is to simply provide the best UHD display possible for its users.”

We also reached out to EVGA regarding its SC17 1080 laptop, which doesn’t list 1440p resolution, although its 4K screen is clearly capable of supporting that specific level of visual fidelity. A representative said that the panel used in the laptop doesn’t officially support 1440p due to hardware limitations. The representative could not, however, tell us exactly why that’s the case — as of his writing, EVGA is still investigating the issue.

If you don’t see a 1440p option, you might be able to force it

EVGA’s response was interesting, given the SC17 1080’s screen could clearly handle 1440p without any problems whatsoever. We managed to benchmark this resolution by going into Nvidia’s control panel and forcing the setting.

You can do this by right-clicking on the desktop, select “Nvidia Control Panel” on the list, and click on the “Change resolution” link listed in the “Display” section, as shown below.

1440p resolution

On this page, you’ll see a section called “Choose the resolution,” followed by a “Customize” button. Click on that, and a new window will emerge with a button to create a custom resolution. Another window will appear where you can manually supply 2,560 as the number for the horizontal pixels, and 1,440 as the number of vertical pixels.

You can also manually enter the desired refresh rate, choose the scan type, and adjust the timing via presets or manually. Because creating a custom resolution can be a guessing game, this panel only provides a “Test” button to see if your selected settings work.

On AMD-based machines, right-click on the desktop and open “AMD Radeon Settings.” After that, click on the “Preferences” button on the bottom toolbar, which expands upwards to present a button called “Radeon Additional Settings.” Click on that, and a new window will appear with a link to “Custom Resolutions” listed under “My Digital Flat Panels.”

As with Nvidia’s custom resolution method, you’ll see a warning accepting the risks of running unofficial resolutions. Stop here if you’re worried about damaging the panel over time, or move on to clicking the “New” button to create the 1440p resolution. Again, set the desired horizontal and vertical numbers, the refresh rate, the scanning, and the timing method. You’ll see a “Verify” button at the bottom to test the resolution settings.

Custom resolutions aren’t without risk

Even if you still want to push an unlisted resolution, the laptop manufacturer may not provide the means to do so. In the case of HP’s ZBook Studio G4 with the Nvidia Quadro discrete graphics chip, we jumped into Nvidia’s Control Panel only to discover that most of the customizable settings were gone, including the option to create a custom resolution. We then dove into Intel’s software managing the integrated graphics, but Intel’s  resolution creation option was gone, as well.

That sent us digging into the laptop’s BIOS, the embedded “operating system” that controls all hardware, input, and output operations. Here we discovered that you can set the laptop to use one of the two graphics options by default — Intel’s integrated component, or Nvidia’s discrete Quadro chip. By default, the laptop was set to rely on Intel, but once we switched over to the Quadro chip and rebooted, Nvidia’s control panel unlocked its full suite of settings, allowing us to create a custom 1440p resolution for testing.

Pour one out for 1440p

Cutting 1440p resolution is a strange turn of events, but it seems to fit into how laptop manufacturers are starting to think about their laptops. As with HDTVs, the most common and well-known resolutions are 1080p (also know as Full HD) and 4K (also known as Ultra HD).

2,560 × 1,440 resolution is known as WQHD — a term which, if you’re not a PC gamer looking for the best laptop or a hardware enthusiast in general, you’ve likely never heard of. Throw in the fact that 4K panels are now widely available, and you’ve the making for a new era of laptop displays, one in which 1080p and 4K become the standard options — with everything else falling by the wayside.

HP ZBook Studio G4 screen
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

That doesn’t mean the loss of 1440p is acceptable, however. We think laptop owners should have the option to choose from a variety of resolutions, and past models haven’t had problem offering it. We simply assumed that any modern laptop can handle it without problem — until we started to run into laptops that, mysteriously, couldn’t.

Given all the hype over Ultra HD and its new push in the laptop market, we’ll likely soon forget about 1440p anyway. Still, if you purchase a lapatop and don’t see your favorite resolution you use on a desktop setup, chances are there’s a limitation in the panel, or the OEM just doesn’t want to officially support it.

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