it is possible that there is something wrong with your hardware
configuration, but I guess that your X configuration contains the
wrong sort order of display resolutions.
If you look at /usr/X11R6/lib/X11/xorg.conf you'll find a Section
"screen" somewhere. This is were the resolutions are configured your
laptop (and desktop) is capable to display.
Important for your situation are the Subsection "Display" lines, which
look like this:
Modes "1280x1024" "800x600" "640x480"
Now, in your case I guess that the line listing all the modes starts
with the lowest resolution possible. Just change the order, so that
the highest resolution is at the beginning, and you should be fine.
Restart X after you edited the file, and you should have a resolution
that suites your needs. You might want to look at the parameter
"DefaultDepth", too. If it is set to 8 (8 bit = 256 colors) you might
want to set it to an higher "Depth" value.
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