We are familiar with size numbers for shoes, hats, dresses and so on. Ronnie Cohen looks at the convention for screen sizes based on inches and asks if this really makes sense.
I recently came across an article with the title “The new lap of luxury” in the London Life section of the London Evening Standard. This article about laptops appeared on page 35 of the paper and was published on Thursday 13 July 2017. It is an article about Microsoft Surface laptops that aims to challenge Apple’s popular MacBook. The subtitle of the article, at the top of the article, says “Slimmed down, speedy and supercharged – the Microsoft Surface is here to challenge Apple’s computers”.
It followed the convention of giving width, height and depth in centimetres and screen sizes in inches. As the screen size of a folded laptop has a width and height that is almost the width and height of the laptop, one would think that it made more sense to express screen sizes in centimetres for consistency. However, screen sizes are expressed in the UK as so many inches from one corner of the screen to the opposite corner.
One feature of the printed version that does not appear in the online version is the specifications of “The Winning Laps” as the article describes them. Two laptops are shown with their specifications in that part of the printed article, one Microsoft Surface laptop and one MacBook Pro laptop.
The size of the Microsoft Surface laptop is given as 30.8 cm x 22.3 cm x 1.45 cm. The screen size of this laptop is given 13.5 inches.
The size of the MacBook Pro laptop is given as 30.4 cm x 21.2 cm x 1.49 cm. The screen size of this laptop is given as 13.3 inches.
The Evening Standard followed the accepted UK convention of giving laptop sizes in centimetres and screen sizes in inches. Apparently, since the appearance of monitors, laptops, tablets, mobile phones and digital cameras over the past 30 years, few have asked why two incompatible systems are often used for describing the dimensions of the device and its screen size. Size is one physical phenomenon. Using one system would make comparisons easier by letting us just compare the numbers rather than think about conversions from centimetres to inches or inches to centimetres.
Of course, globally there are many countries where inches mean nothing. The screen size in inches is merely a number, its derivation lost in the mists of time, as with sizes of clothing and shoes. But this system of screen sizes, whether inches or centimetres, is consistent around the world thanks to ISO, and for this we should be thankful, even if we have to check the product description or specification to find out how big it really is.
You can read the online version of this article at: