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What is a Widescreen Monitor?

By Ken Black
Updated May 16, 2024
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A widescreen monitor is a monitor that is often wider than the traditional monitor size that has generally been accepted for years as the main standard. The standard size for monitors has been 4:3, where it is slightly wider than it is tall. While there is no industry standard definition that fits, a widescreen monitor is one that is wider than this ratio.

The most common format for these monitors is set at a ratio of 16:9. This is a practical ratio that helps provide many of the benefits of a widescreen monitor in a way that is not as extreme as some formats. If a computer gets too wide in its display, it does lose some of its functionality. Some notebook computers are compressed slightly more, with a monitor that is 16:10. However, the difference is hardly noticeable.

The popularity of widescreen computer monitors coincides with the development of HDTV and that format's popularity. While the two do not necessarily share a direct relationship, the demand for widescreens seems to have crossed a couple of different genres. This may have something to do with DVDs and Blu-Ray® discs, which are increasingly only available for playback in widescreen formats and can be played on both televisions and computers.

Widescreen monitors offer several advantages for those who use their computers as entertainment machines. For those who want a truer picture of the way a movie was intended to be displayed, without the minimizing and annoying letterboxes, a widescreen-style monitor is essential. Further, many computer games are also shot in a widescreen format. While it may be possible to play these games on a monitor with a more traditional ratio, it is not the intention of the producer.

For those interested in a widescreen monitor, the choice will likely lead to an LCD screen. While it is possible to make a widescreen in a CRT format, it is generally not done. However, for those who want their monitor in the traditional CRT technology, there are a few on the market. One is the Trinitron® widescreen made by Sony.

Those who buy widescreen monitor in an LCD format may find there are some tradeoffs to the traditional CRT format. First, there will likely be a more limited viewing angle. Second, the LCD generally does not display colors as accurately and those colors can change slightly depending on viewing angle. Therefore, those who intend on working with color-intensive applications, such as videos and photographs, may want to take this into consideration when looking at widescreen monitors.

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Discussion Comments
By SkyWhisperer — On May 21, 2011

@digs - As with flat panel television sets, video quality is important. You will have to go to the store and compare how images from different monitors look to you. Always go for the highest resolution on the monitors. You can step down if you need to, although the reduced resolution doesn’t look as clear.

You may also notice that some monitors have more blurred images or richer blacks than others. I am told that these are usually a function of contrast ratio and response time. Also check the monitor stand. That may not sound like a glamorous feature, but believe me, when you’re sitting at a desk all day, it makes a big difference.

By hamje32 — On May 20, 2011

@digs - It depends on what you want to do. I recently bought a 24 inch Samsung LCD widescreen monitor and I love it. The reason I wanted that big of a screen is that I watch videos and movies on my computer. There’s not much difference in technology between the flat panel TVs and the monitors used for computers, so I took the plunge.

The Samsung unit I bought has a built in digital tuner and also plays high definition 1080p movies very smoothly. If you’re just planning to use the monitor for work only and not leisure, you could probably get by on less. My personal philosophy, however, is to go for the biggest bang that you can get for your buck.

By digs — On Apr 22, 2011

I've always used CRT monitors, but my next monitor will be an LCD one. I've been waiting for my current 19" one to break, but it doesn't seem to want to, but LCD ones have got so cheap now that I think I'm just going to take the plunge. Will a 22" widescreen monitor will be big enough for me (I'll be sat at a desk), or should I go for something even bigger?

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