Google, describing the new and mildly controversial high-end Chromebook Pixel, says this of its screen:

“The 12.85” screen has the highest pixel density of any laptop, and a 3:2 photographic format designed for the web puts every one of those pixels to good use.”

OK, so it’s on the small side but has lots and lots of pixels per inch. But the second part made me pause, “and a 3:2 photographic format designed for the web puts every one of those pixels to good use.” A laptop screen with a “photographic” 3:2 format? Is that news?  Is it retro? Is it really “designed for the web”? What does that even mean?

Let’s review prior limeduck art on matters aspect ratio.

  • In which I note that then-newfangled wide format laptop screens deliver less area for a given diagonal measurement
  • In which I make a contrarian move from 4:3 digital and 3:2 film formats to 1:1 digital. (a move, by the way, that’s since been solidified on many a smart phone by instagram, aping the format of several now quaint or deceased film types)

So this Chromebook is bucking the wide trend in laptops and (non-ipad) tablets, that’s fair enough, it’s a valid design choice, but it seems rich to call the 3:2 format “photographic” – arguable, if you think photography is all 35mm film and digital formats that emulate it – and also “designed for the web” – hard to define but I’m pretty sure that the web would demand even more vertical space if it could speak in a monolithic voice.

Am I shocked shocked that marketers are making shit up? Surely not.  Just taking a moment to observe that everything old is new again.

For those who must know, here are the screen ratios of visitors to this blog in the prior 12 months:

12.7% Portrait formats
7.1% 1.25:1 (same format as 8x10 film)
9.3% 1.33:1 (aka 4:3, TV and digital camera formats, good ol' 1024x768)
45.2% 1.6:1 (common MacBook formats like 1280x800 and 1440x900)
25.8% 1.78:1 (aka 16:9)

No sign of the Chromebook Pixel’s 1.5:1 yet, but we’ll keep an eye out for it.