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Widescreen vs Standard Monitors

Updated on September 30, 2014

About LCD Monitor Aspect Ratios

When buying a new LCD monitor for your computer, it's pretty much impossible to find a newly made non-widescreen one. Widescreen displays are very popular these days, but are they really better than the 4:3 monitors which were popular back in the day? Some people who still own older standard aspect ratio screens are reluctant to switch to 16:9 or 16:10 for various reasons.

Find out more about widescreen and standard monitor pros and cons on the page below. Please join in the discussion and voice your own opinion about the best resolutions and ratios of PC monitors, too. And if want to learn about the standard monitor resolutions, scroll down to the monitor size chart.

Widescreen versus Standard Display Comparison

It's a bit silly to call 4:3 "standard" when widescreen is the new standard, but for the sake of simplicity, please bear with it. It can also be called "fullscreen", but that's confusing in its own way. Perhaps we should just go with "square" and "rectangular"...

Widescreen computer monitor pros and cons

Widescreen advantages:

  • Best for watching DVD format movies
  • Good for gaming
  • Easy to work with two windows side-by-side

Widescreen drawbacks:

  • Less vertical space for reading
  • Extra white space on websites
  • Less overall pixels, given the same size in inches

Standard monitor pros and cons

4:3 monitor pros:

  • Great for surfing the internet
  • Excellent for reading and working with text
  • More pixels (given the same diagonal size)

4:3 monitor cons:

  • Bad for watching 16:9 format movies
  • Smaller horizontal field of view in games
  • Can't work with 2 windows side-by-side

Proponents of widescreen often argue that 16:9 is closer to the golden ratio and as such, is more pleasing and natural to the eye. However, it does not necessarily match the human field of view.

One of the main reasons for the huge push from "square" to widescreen is cost. LCD panel manufacturers can save a lot of money if they use the same parts for both computer monitors and HDTVs. In addition, wider monitors have less pixels compared to former standard 4:3 ones if the diagonal size is the same.

Widescreen vs Fullscreen Aspect Ratio Discussion

Are wide (16:9 and 16:10) or standard ratio (4:3 and 5:4) monitors better?

Widescreen PC monitors are better!

Widescreen PC monitors are better!

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    • anonymous 4 years ago

      Movie watching, gaming, multitasking... everything works better using widescreen if the resolution is high enough. Not to mention wide screens go well with wide keyboards to make my laptop smaller.

    • anonymous 4 years ago

      Widescreen PC monitors are better

    • anonymous 6 years ago

      I used to have an old 5:4 ratio 19" TFT for ages and swore it was the best, but upgraded to a 24" 16:9 ratio last year out of need of a hybrid TV + TFT in the bedroom. I have to say the the new widescreen is much better overall for several reasons:-

      1. Looks *much* better for gaming

      2. High definition 1080p compatible

      3. Can fit two pages side by side in Word / Adobe Acrobat reader with enough room for the Styles panel

      4. Can view two web pages side by side / one web page plus a note taker

      5. Can fit full A to AC column widths in Excel - FAR better for wide spreadsheets

      6. Awesome for web authoring - can fit HTML source code and real-time preview side by side

      7. Can fit source & preview output video's side by side in video editor (needs at least 1500 pixel width just for standard definition video)

      8. Much more space for photo editing, especially with side toolbars open

      9. More space for calendar "year views" in PIM applications

      10. Larger horizontal scale for editing audio files means less zooming out / 50% more displayed without scrolling

      I honestly believed I'd never use all the extra width, but you'd be surprised at just how useful 50% extra width can be, and how quickly you get used to making the most of it.

    • hotbrain 6 years ago from Tacoma, WA

      I like my widescreen, although it would be better if I had a stand to rotate it vertically for webpages. Maybe someday I will buy one!

    • anonymous 6 years ago

      Embrace the future! If you buy a new monitor ,anything less than full HD is a waste.

    Standard PC monitors are better!

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      • anonymous 4 years ago

        I can still see widescreen stuff on a standard ratio screen as anamorphic widescreen. I can live with horizontal bars above and below the picture. Plus, older games which can't push more than 1024x768 or other 4:3 resolutions still look as it was supposed to be. I'm a gamer so it's one of my top concerns. And I love retro games more than modern ones thank you.

        On widescreens, try to run a 4:3 retro game and either you get pictures where everybody looks disturbingly fat or you get those intolerable vertical bars on both sides of the screen. Horizontal bars are pleasant to watch. Vertical bars sucks.

        Plus vertical readability is so much better on 4:3 / 5:4. I develop webpages. So it's optimal. If I wanna watch a movie in HD i will just pop in the DVD in the DVD player and watch it on my TV which is widescreen anyway.

      • anonymous 6 years ago

        The old 5:4 ratio is better than widescreen.

        Most of the time you are NOT watching a Movie or playing a first person perspective shooter game.

        Most of the time you are doing something that favors 5:4

      • carny 6 years ago

        Maybe it's because I'm so used to my 5:4 1280x1024 resolution Samsung LCD, but I think standard aspect ratio is better for using the internet, reading and writing.

        Vertical space is really important in these cases, and to get the same or more v. space from a widescreen monitor I'd need to buy a really huge one.

        For example to get the same vertical resolution as my1280x1024 19" monitor you would have to get a full HD 22" or larger monitor with 1920 x 1080 resolution. Smaller widescreens like 1440x900 will actually have LESS vertical space, so I don't see how that can be considered an "upgrade".

      Monitor Resolution Chart


      PC monitors with aspect ratios wider than the 4:3 standard are considered "widescreen". You can see all the common display resolutions and aspect ratios in this monitor resolution list. A new trend not shown on this chart is ultrawide 21:9 "cinema" type computer displays and TVs. These screens use a 2560x1080 resolution.

      16:9 vs 16:10 Aspect Ratio

      Pretty much the only choice a buyer has these days

      No matter how much I prefer 4:3 over widescreen, the fact is that the absolute majority of new computer displays on the market come in wide resolutions. The only real choice one has is between 16:9 aspect ratio (with resolutions like 1920x1080 and 2560x1440) and 16:10 aspect ratio (1920x1200 and 2560x1600). This is commonly known as 1080p, 1440p, 1200p, and 1600p among computer enthusiasts.

      Unsurprisingly, I think 16:10 is better in most cases, as it gives you more vertical space and more pixels to work with. If you do video editing, a 1920x1200 monitor will let you watch a 1080p video and have a toolbox and a timeline visible at the bottom of the screen. If you work with text, you'll be able to have several documents or websites open at the same time, and you will also have more vertical space compared to a 16:9 monitor.

      The only time I'd go with a 16:9 screen is if it was primarily used to watch movies. Those black bars can be annoying. Gaming is another issue. Most video games will work beautifully in 16:10, but you have to keep in mind that your graphics card will have to render more pixels as compared to a 16:9 monitor of the same width, so you will get slightly lower FPS.

      Computer Monitor Aspect Ratio Poll

      What is the aspect ratio of your computer monitor?

      See results

      Non-Widescreen, LED-Backlit Monitor

      Acer 19-Inch Screen LED-Lit Monitor - V196L b - UM.CV6AA.005
      Acer 19-Inch Screen LED-Lit Monitor - V196L b - UM.CV6AA.005

      The market might have turned to widescreen, but it's still possible to acquire good square monitors like this 1280 x 1024 resolution, 5:4 aspect ratio Acer with LED back-lighting.



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          anonymous 3 years ago

          @anonymous: Why?

          3:2 = A widescreen aspect ratio close to 16:10, in which it's also known as 15:10 (3x5=15, 2x5=10).

          16:9 = HD ratio best for gaming, and is an aspect ratio used in YouTube (640x360 in small view and 854x480 in expanded view, both are 16:9).

          Thanks, everybody.

        • profile image

          anonymous 3 years ago

          3:2 and 16:9 are the BEST!!!

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          anonymous 4 years ago

          4:3 is much better for computing. Web pages don't use that standard width, let alone widescreen. The problem is worse for laptops because widescreen is too short (too much scrolling), while the width is a waste of size and weight of your portable device. Please sign this petition to return to the 4:3 display aspect ratio standard for laptops:

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          Tony Payne 5 years ago from Southampton, UK

          Widescreen is nice for watching movies and playing games, but for trying to program or write articles, the loss of vertical space means a lot of scrolling, and it's hard to program when you can't see as much on the screen.

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          PhyllisCOliver 5 years ago

          Thanks a lot for this very wonderful information, since i really have no idea when it comes to widescreen and standard screen differential.

          pc tune up

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          Tonie Cook 6 years ago from USA

          Good topic. You are right about the standard monitors being easier to read, and the wide screen monitors being better for viewing graphics. My wide screen acer is an odd bird, but has what it takes to view multiple windows with tv running at the same time.

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          anonymous 6 years ago

          Maybe it's just me being used to "non-widescreen" (or w/e they're really called) monitors, but widescreen feels weird and unnatural to me. I mean sure they're great for movies, but when I'm sitting right next to it the dimensions of the screen seem pretty weird. Well when you sit back and watch a movie they're great, sure.

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