16:9 Screens. Why the hate?


I like 16:9 screens. There, I said it. It feels like an increasingly unpopular position, though. I like them, because I can window what I’m working with, and have a chat window, music controls, or other item off to the side. I feel like with a 4:3 or 16:10 screen I can only monotask, there’s only one thing on the screen I can realistically work with, and so I’m continually going back and forth between apps. I can just glance over on a slightly wider screen without having to do so.

But it feels like I’m going against popular opinion here. Am I just wrong? Or are there other 16:9 aspect ratio lovers out there being drowned out by popular opinion?

Comments (14)

14 responses to “16:9 Screens. Why the hate?”

  1. 2

    The way Microsoft described this to me is that 16:9 is ideal for content consumption (movies, games, etc.) while 3:2 is better for content creation/productivity work. I think a few people here are noting the same.

    Consider the HP Spectre x360: In that exact same bezel, they could fit a 3:2 screen, which would be a huge benefit, and it wouldn't impact the device size/shape. I would love to see that option, because I use a PC for work.

  2. 7143

    Hate is a strong term for a screen ratio. I think the move to 16:9 seemed like a cool idea because of video content generated at those HD resolutions. However when talking about screen working area one has to take into account resolution and screen size. The traditional 4:3 screen was very popular because it have the ability to view documents at full height while having room for other things on the screen at the same time.

    With new larger higher resolution monitors screen real estate is no longer as big an issue. However, the 4:3 or 3:2 aspect ratios make full use of your visual field with minimal eye/head movement. The 16:9, or even 16:10 ratios on really large monitors mean more head and eye movement from side to side.

    I think when 16:9 started becoming popular a lot of people complained about the fact that they were losing vertical real estate. Meaning they had to decide where to place Docks and Menus and putting them off to the side always felt a bit awkward as the eye is more naturally drawn to the top or bottom of the screen. In large part I think the emergence (re-emergence really) of the 4:3/3:2 ratios is because people really did prefer that form factor and are rediscovering how comfortable it is.

    • 1377

      In reply to smartin:

      On laptops 16:10 usually meant 1280x800, 16:9 usually means 1366x768. At least on most laptops, screen shrank in one dimension.

      Desktop monitors didn't shrink. The fairly common 5:4 1280x1024 was replaced by 16:9 1920x1080, growth in height and width.

      It's laptops where 16:9 alone sucks.

      • 289

        In reply to hrlngrv:

        Yeah, i use a 2560x1440 main monitor and a 1280x1024 second monitor.  Both are good, and I like the flexibility to move windows or programs to the one where they best fit.

        On a laptop, I don't want 1920x1080. I mostly use Office and it feels like there's wasted horizontal space; but not so much extra horizontal space that I can usefully have a second split window. I'd rather just have extra vertical space to see more of the main document. And with only a 12"-14" screen I'm more inclined to just focus on a single window at a time.

        What really kills me are the 1920x1080 2-in-1's. No thanks.

  3. 1377

    I can tell you what I hate: LACK OF CHOICE. I have no problem whatsoever with you or anyone else having 16:9 or even less square screens if you want them. What I can't stand is having NO 3:2, 8:5, 4:3 or 5:4 choices other than refurbished devices maufactured years ago. 16:9 isn't going away, but it'd be refreshing at the very least to have more OEM alternatives with squarer aspect ratios.

    It is amusing to see 16:9 lauded but 16:10 (8:5) castigated. If there were the same number of horizontal pixels, 16:10 is just 16:9 with more vertical pixels. The last 16:10 laptop I had was 1280x800. That compares to 1366x768. FOR ME the loss of the 32 vertical pixels was much worse than the gain of 86 horizontal pixels. Subjective; however, I can't think of much which is useful FOR ME that could squeeze into the extra 86 horizontal pixels.

    If you're feeling alone & abused because you believe most people scorn 16:9, you're sharing the experience many of us had when 16:9 became the standard. We can both file those experiences under CHANGE SUCKS. The one way change doesn't suck is when change is from ONE CHOICE ONLY to many choices. That's all I want.

  4. 6852

    I see both sides of it and personally think 16:10 is probably where it's at but wanted to register my general agreement. It's much more important to me to have enough space to have two things side by side than to have extra vertical space. The 3:2 screens on the Surface line have always seemed like a great idea for touch use but less than I'd want in a laptop.

    There's also the fact that 16:9 screens frequently add space horizontally compared to their 16:10 counterparts rather than subtracting vertical space. A 16:10 MacBook Pro for a long time had a 2880x1800 screen, where laptops like the Yoga 3 had a 3200x1800 screen (or similarly older MacBooks had 1440x900 where the Yoga 1 and others were using 1600x900). In those cases the 16:10 screen was demonstrably inferior in terms of usable screen real estate despite all the hate 16:9 gets.

    • 1377

      In reply to ecumenical:

      the fact that 16:9 screens frequently add space horizontally compared to their 16:10 counterparts rather than subtracting vertical space.

      If only that were true on Windows laptops. 16:10 usually meant 1280x800. 16:9 still more often than not means 1366x768. 16:10 -> 16:9 on laptops did mean reducing vertical pixels. OEMs were too cheap to make 1424x800 the 16:9 baseline.

      Were there ever that many 16:10 desktop monitors? My impression is that most enterprises went from 5:4 1280x1024 to 16:9 1920x1080.

      • 6852

        In reply to hrlngrv:

        There have always been a subset of desktop monitors in 16:10 at 1920x1200 resolution. Personally I'm using a Dell U2415 right now.

        Yeah, the majority of 16:9 laptop monitors in Windows machines were 1366x768, but as I pointed out it was definitely possible to find models with a resolution where going with the equivalent 16:10 panel would have resulted in only having the same vertical space and less horizontal space. My point was just that choosing based only on aspect ratio, without regard to the actual space provided by the physical pixels, doesn't always make sense.

  5. 2181

    2:3 or 4:3 is preferred for smaller screens (13 inch and down) personally. But 16:9 or 16:10 is my personal preference for bigger screens that is used at home or at work.


    Tablets (touch and/or pen input), even those sits at a desktop and very big in size looks better if it is 2:3 or 4:3 personally, pure appearance, functionally I think 16:9 or 16:10 large screen tablet may even be more capable (in some situations at least).

  6. 5577

    What I don't like, as others have said, is lack of choice. And that's not lack of choice in the hardware (although relevant), but also lack of choice in the software. So Microsoft gives us a taskbar along the bottom, which further reduces vertical space. And you can (and I do) move it to the left side to maximize vertical space. 

    But that's not all... Microsoft now has the ribbon interface! And that ribbon takes away FURTHER vertical space. In fact, it's a lot more pixels thick than the task bar! So does Microsoft give us the option to move the ribbon to a side? NO! That's not an option at all.

    So if you take Microsoft's defaults, you have a wide but vertically limited screen, with a taskbar that further limits the vertical space, with a ribbon (should you be working in Word or Excel as an example) that even much FURTHER limits the vertical space. 

  7. 5664

    I'm just pissed off at the lack of choice. If I want a 4:3 screen, it costs more and is usually stuck at something weak like 1280x1024 or worse. The truth is that PC displays have just straight up sucked for a long time. OEMs have always hated good screens. It's why I have a still quite decent quad-core AMD notebook from HP that I've upgraded to have a 512MB SSD and 8GB of RAM... That's saddled with a POS glossy 1280x800 widescreen and pitiful Synaptics trackpad that refuses to work right.

    Oh yeah, they hate quality trackpads too.

  8. 2

    Also, I should add: 16:9 is terrible on tablets/2-in-1s because they look terrible in portrait mode. It creates a weird, super-tall-looking stretched look. 

  9. 3216

    I sort of agree.  They are good for wide spreadsheets and for having two programs side-by-side.  They are a bit less of an attraction for a laptop because they end up being too wide and reduce the vertical area for the keyboard.  But a laptop can still plug into a large monitor which works well for me.