McLaren MP4-12C: Portrait 7-inch LCD


McLaren Supercar I’m sitting at a Barnes and Noble’s reading EVO (issue 136). I like cars, sports cars, and reading about them. Unfortunately, reading is about all I will be doing when it comes to sports cars. For quite some time. The feature of EVO is the new supercar from McLaren, the MP4-12C. The MP4 part of the name comes from the chassis designation for all McLaren Formula 1 cars since 1981. The 12 represents an internal vehicle performance index taking into consideration power, weight, emissions, aerodynamic efficiency, etc.: 12 = extreme performance. The C stands for carbon–the carbon fiber ‘MonoCell’ tub, specifically. No official performance numbers have been announced but the 3.8-liter twin-turbo V8 good for 600bhp and 442lb-ft of torque is expected to reach 60mph in about 3 seconds, 100mph in 6 seconds with a top speed of over 200mph. But what does the MP4-12 have to do with displays?

Close Together Remember the carbon fiber MonoCell tub? It has incredible strength, stiffness but weighs just 80kg. McLaren designed the MonoCell with the driver and passenger positioned closer to the center of the car for several reasons: good visibility so the driver sees directly over the center line of the front wheels and because, “The closer you are to the center of the car, the better the perception you have of the extremities,” according to Antony Sheriff, managing director of McLaren Automotive.

Portrait LCD Because of the closeness between driver and passenger, the center console is rather narrow. So McLaren fitted a 7-inch LCD in an unique position: portrait. But that brings up some questions:

  • Viewing Angles To my knowledge (or the lack thereof!) there is no 7-inch LCD that has been produced for portrait-oriented duty. The main problem is viewing angles: a landscape-oriented LCD used in portrait-mode will have less-than-ideal viewing angles.
  • Polarization Because LCDs use polarized light polarized sunglasses can be a problem. Take your polarized sunglasses and tilt it around in front of your LCD TV, monitor or notebook, at a certain angle the display will seem black. One way to overcome this limitation is to use a circular polarizer but that also means a bit less brightness. Since power is not too much of a concern in automobiles (compared to mobile devices) the backlight unit could have easily been enhanced for more brightness.
  • Response Time With the way driver ICs are positioned the refresh performance of a landscape LCD used in portrait mode can be downright slow. Row drivers are much faster than column drivers and that’s why you don’t have a problem watching video on your landscape-oriented LCD. Rotate that into portrait mode and you’ll see the performance drop off dramatically.
  • Horizontal A squished display might provide a less-than-ideal viewing experience. This is obvious: we have two eyes on a horizontal axis. This is less obvious: because of the way our eyes are oriented it is much easier for us to perceive left and right and more difficult to do that vertically. I hope McLaren didn’t pack too much information into its portrait-mode 7-inch display.

I’m sure someone at McLaren thought of all of these questions and worked with a LCD manufacturer to develop an exceptional portrait-only McLaren-only 7-inch touch LCD that provides the right type of information. If any of you know more details about the exact 7-inch LCD that McLaren is using, let me know.

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