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Is Widescreen Aspect Ratio or Standard Aspect Monitor Best for You
Buying the right computer monitor for your desktop or docked laptop is an important choice. You’ll work long hours on it, and maybe even stream content for your entertainment needs. You may also use it side-by-side with your laptop as a dual monitor. Making the right choice now will definitely impact your daily life in lots of ways.
The short answer is that 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio is the most common option for computer monitors and TVs today. That’s because it fits best with most modern movie and video content, and also because it makes the typical modern work day easier. You’re doing less clicking and dragging on this aspect monitor, allowing for a more efficient workflow.
In this article, you’ll learn about the different monitor layouts so you can choose the best aspect ratio for you. You’ll also see how monitor size interacts with aspect ratio, and get a quick list of HP’s best widescreen monitors. Finally, you’ll learn how to find your display’s current aspect ratio, as well as other monitor specs to consider.
What is a widescreen aspect ratio?
A widescreen aspect ratio is the standard 16:9 ratio of most high-definition computer monitors and televisions today. The “16” represents the top and bottom, and the “9” represents the sides. The numbers separated by a colon are the ratio of width to height in any monitor or TV.
A 23-inch by 13-inch monitor (known simply as “27 inch” measured diagonally) has a 16:9 ratio. This is the most common ratio for shooting movies and TV shows.
Most viewers prefer widescreen TVs in the home, and widescreen monitors are also the most popular choice for desktop PCs and external laptop displays. That’s because the wider screen lets you keep more than one window front and center at a time. Plus, it’s easy on the eyes.
What is a standard aspect monitor?
The term, “standard aspect monitor” used to refer to computer displays with the old-style 4:3 aspect ratio more common in TVs before the 2010s. “Standard aspect ratio” is a bit of a misnomer, though, because the wider 16:9 aspect ratio is the new standard for PC monitors.
The first widescreen monitors appeared in the early 1990s, but it took time to supplant their “taller” counterparts in offices around the world.
16:9 aspect ratio vs 4:3 aspect ratio
The difference between the 16:9 and 4:3 aspect ratio is that the monitor on your desk today most likely has a 16:9 ratio, where the bottom and top are almost twice as long as the sides. By contrast, the 4:3 aspect ratio was the common shape of older TVs and CRT computer monitors, you know, the ones with the big fat tubes.
In simple terms, a widescreen monitor looks more like a rectangle, and a “standard aspect” monitor is similar to a square. Put another way, the traditional standard aspect monitors look old-school, and widescreen TVs and monitors look more modern and, these days, more familiar.
Other aspect ratios to know
Although 16:9 is the most common aspect ratio, and 4:3 is more of an archaic standard, there are a few other aspect ratios you may come across. This is particularly true for gaming and design aficionados, and also anyone who likes a little more breathing room on-screen.
Here’s a breakdown of the different aspect ratios:
- 16:9 aspect ratio: (modern standard) 1366 x 768, 1600 x 900, 1920 × 1080, 3840 × 2160, 2560 × 1440
- 4:3 aspect ratio: (old standard) 1400 × 1050, 1440 × 1080, 1920 × 1440
- 21:9 aspect ratio: (ultrawide) 2560 × 1080, 3440 × 1440
- 32:9 aspect ratio: (superwide) 3840 × 1080
The 5:4 aspect ratio is a mostly discontinued layout that was common before the early 2000s.
What aspect ratio do I need?
Selecting the right aspect ratio is an easy choice for most, because most monitors today use a widescreen 16:9 format. As a result, most software developers and content producers cater to that format. But there are certain times when a different monitor aspect ratio is best, such as ultrawide or superwide.
16:9 is best for most
Today, most computer users (gamers, film buffs, and office warriors alike) use 16:9 widescreen monitors. That’s because most streaming shows and movies like Ozark and Toy Story 4 are shot natively in 16:9 aspect ratio.
Also, most workflows do just fine with a widescreen monitor setup that lets you use a split-screen layout with, say, a web browser in one window and a word document or Codespaces window in another.
For gamers, the widescreen aspect ratio is common because most modern games like Minecraft and Doom Eternal were designed with that screen layout in mind.
When 21:9 or 32:9 is best
If you find yourself doing lots of mousing and clicking at work even with a widescreen monitor, or you really want to see more of your game world during off time, you may get a lot of wow-factor from an ultrawide or superwide monitor. A 21:9 monitor is known as an “ultrawide.” Instead of comfortably fitting two browser tabs side-by-side, it fits three.
For gaming, certain games will give you a wider field of view with an ultrawide monitor. That means less chance of someone sneaking up on your blind side in Overwatch. For even more of a view into your work or gaming world, consider a superwide monitor with a 32:9 aspect ratio.
Ultrawide and superwide don’t matter for video
If you’re mostly into streaming shows and movies and don’t care about the extra room for digital documents or PC games, stick with a 16:9 display. No matter how wide the screen is, What We Do in the Shadows and Avengers: Endgame won’t look any better with a wider screen.
Ultrawide vs dual monitor
One last thing to consider in the ultrawide vs superwide debate is dual monitors. Today’s laptops (like the super-popular HP ENVY 13) offer easy-to-manage dual-monitor support. That’s a smart choice for most computer users, because buying two 27-inch monitors costs a lot less than a single superwide display.
Plus, two monitors with a 16:9 aspect ratio gives you a setup with a 32:9 ratio. That’s a whole lot of screen real estate for about half the cost – not to mention increased manageability on your desk surface. The only drawback is the double-bezel in the middle of the screen, but most office workers and gamers won’t even notice it.
Best widescreen monitors
Choosing the best widescreen monitor comes down to image quality, functionality, and price. The monitors below offer broad appeal for their long lists of features, high resolutions, and crisp image quality.
1. HP OMEN 27i monitor
This standout mixed-use monitor works just as well for office and multimedia use. The HP OMEN 27i’s 27-inch screen and 2560 x 1440 Wide Quad High Definition (WQHD) resolution pair with a lightning-fast twisted-nematic (TN) panel for superb motion handling.
2. HP OMEN 27c curved gaming monitor
Shop HP OMEN 27c curved gaming monitor
The HP OMEN 27c monitor packs 2560 x 1440 QHD resolution in a 1000R curved display that delivers a realistic experience.
3. HP 24fw monitor
This budget-friendly widescreen monitor delivers a crisp 1920 x 1080 Full High Definition (FHD) resolution in an almost 24-inch screen with an always-on blue light filter. The HP 24fw display will soothe both your wallet and your eyes.
How to find aspect ratio
How can you check your monitor’s aspect ratio? It’s easy, and you don’t need an aspect ratio calculator. Just look at the screen resolution in your specs.
- On a Windows machine, open Start > Settings > Display.
- Scroll down to Display resolution.
- Use the Recommended resolution, and divide the big number by the small number.
For instance, if the recommended resolution is 1920 x 1080, just divide 1920 by 1080. You should get 1.77777777. That’s because 16 divided by 9 is 1.7777777. So if you divide your monitor’s default pixel width by its height, you’ll always get about 1.78 if you have a 16:9 widescreen display.
Other monitor specs to consider
Choosing your monitor’s aspect ratio is important, but it’s not the only factor to consider. Take the following key specs into account before you trade your hard-earned money for a monitor.
Monitors come in different resolutions like HD (1280 x 720), FHD (1920 x 1080), and UHD (3840 x 2160 – 4K resolution dimensions). The more pixels, the sharper the image quality. For example, ultra high resolution 4K TVs have around 4000 horizontal pixels.
The image on your monitor will refresh a certain number of times per second. For streaming video, 60 Hz is fine, but for games, 120 Hz keeps you more on-pace with the action.
For monitor size comparison, most desktop displays are 27-inch models (measured diagonally). But some gamers and remote workers prefer a larger size, or two 27-inch displays side-by-side.
Response time differs from refresh rate, because it’s how long it takes to switch from one color to another, measured in milliseconds. The lower the response time, the better the image for both gaming and streaming shows and movies.
Monitors come in different types, like LCD, LED, OLED, or AMOLED. All LED monitors are lit by LEDs, but OLED panels use organic films to deliver brighter, more efficient operation. AMOLED screens add touch capability.
The 16:9 widescreen monitor is the most popular choice for several excellent reasons. It’s best for work because the wide profile allows you to keep more than one window open at a time to work with spreadsheets, web applications, video editing, and design apps. It’s best for play, too, because it fits the 16:9 format that most TV shows and movies are shot in.
Widescreen is also best for most gamers because it fits the layout of most modern PC and console games. The only exception is that if you prefer an ultrawide monitor, then you should look for a display with a 21:9 aspect ratio – or simply use a dual-monitor setup.
About the Author: Tom Gerencer is a contributing writer for HP Tech Takes. Tom is an ASJA journalist, career expert at Zety.com, and a regular contributor to Boys' Life and Scouting magazines. His work is featured in Costco Connection, FastCompany, and many more.