Why is 1366 x 768 one of the most popular resolutions for laptops? It confuses me. Why not use a more standard TV resolution, such as 1280 x 720? It’s not that much different.
This is an excellent question, and one that has a more complicated answer than it really should. 16:10 (8:5) has long been a popular aspect ratio for widescreen monitors. The truth is that 16:10 is a fading aspect ratio because of your point that 16:9 is a popular choice for media consumption. As of right now, laptops being made with a 16:10 native aspect ratio are being phased out of the market. It was extremely popular for a while, and the reason for this comes down to history.
16:10 is the closest monitors come to the “Golden Ratio,” which is roughly 1.618. This ratio has significance in the artistic, financial, and natural world. It’s a significant player in the world of geometry, and the natural presence of the ratio in numerous critical mathematical systems makes it an important (and curious) part of our scientific and artistic history.
I don’t know enough about the Golden Ratio to really break down why it’s a natural choice for monitors made in an era where computers were only beginning to see regular use as primary media consumption devices, but the correlation between this ratio and human aesthetic senses is a point that has baffled scientists for thousands of years.
1280 x 720 is a relatively new resolution for downloaded media content. Televisions were almost all 4:3 until very recently. Only in the past five years are most homes with televisions taking advantage of HD resolutions like 720p. It’s because of this change that computer monitors adopted the lower 720p resolution over the slightly higher 1366 x 728.
I could be wrong, however. There are forces at play in the market that make decisions on resolutions based on a number of other factors. Cost to make a panel of a specific resolution, extra wiggle room for the dock/taskbar, or even some crazy math having to do with scan lines and refresh rates might very well be the reason for this initial design decision.
I’d like to think that 16:10 was just considered better on the eyes than 16:9 by the folks who designed early widescreen monitors.