Monitors: Standard or Wide Screen?


Choosing between a standard-sized computer monitor or a widescreen can be a dilemma. Many people enjoy the extra horizontal space for watching wide-aspect movies, playing games or arranging multiple windows on the screen. Others prefer the standard 4:3 ratio to the widescreen 16:9 ratio because for them the widescreen just feels shorter than a standard monitor. When shopping for a new monitor, consider what you will be using it for most and compare the advantages and disadvantages of each before making a decision.

Comparing Sizes

  • Most monitor sizes are described in terms of their diagonal measurements. As a result, comparing a widescreen monitor with a standard monitor of the same diagonal size can be misleading. For example, a 19-inch standard monitor would be 15.2 inches wide and 11.4 inches tall. A 19-inch widescreen monitor would be 16.56 inches wide and 9.32 inches tall. The widescreen monitor is not only wider, it is also shorter. A 24-inch widescreen is 20.92 inches wide and 11.76 inches tall. In terms of height, this compares more closely to the 19-inch standard monitor. While widescreen and standard monitors with the same diagonal size tend to cost about the same, make sure you take height into account when comparing prices.

Widescreen Advantages

  • Widescreen monitors have a distinct advantage when you're watching widescreen movies or playing some video games. They can also be useful and aid in your productivity depending on the types of programs you run. Widescreen monitors can also aid productivity, depending on the type of work you do. If you work on wide spreadsheets, or often have multiple documents open side-by-side, widescreen may be a good fit. Programming software, or software like Adobe Dreamweaver can also benefit from widescreen monitors, as they use multiple panels that can sometimes get in the way of the workspace on a standard monitor. If you are currently using two standard-sized monitors for a two-part display of your computer screen, replacing them with a single widescreen monitor will certainly free up some real estate on your desk.

Standard Monitor Advantages

  • While widescreen monitors do offer advantages with many programs, many others make better use of standard monitors. Web pages and Microsoft Word documents, for example, are designed to scroll downward, not from side to side. While video-game play is often enhanced with widescreen monitors, some games are more easily played with a standard monitor. For instance, in a flying game where you need to see action at the top or bottom of the screen, a player with a standard screen may be able to see an opponent before someone with a widescreen monitor. Because standard monitors are narrower than widescreen models, their compact size can be an advantage when physical space is limited on top of a desk.


  • Most modern operating systems, such as Microsoft Windows 7 or Mac OS X, are compatible with both widescreen and standard monitors. However, not all software programs are compatible with widescreen formats. When used in full-screen mode, some programs may appear distorted. It is also important to ensure your computer video card is compatible with a widescreen resolution before investing in a new widescreen monitor. The older your computer and software are, the greater the likelihood that they will not work properly with a widescreen monitor.

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