Are widescreen monitors better?

I may be in the market for an LCD, currently this one has my eye because I can get a really good deal on it locally.

The native resolution is 1440x900, 16 to 10.

I’ve never had anything but a 4:3 monitor. To those of you who have a widescreen monitor, do you like it? What do you feel the advantages are, and the disadvantages?

It seems like everything, from web pages to application interfaces, are probably designed for 4:3 aspects. Do you find that it leaves a lot of empty space to the sides, or perhaps some applications just seem oddly stretched?

A lot of older games don’t have screen modes for wide screen resolutions, what do you do in that case?

Any general advice on buying an LCD would be fine, too… I’m not totally sold on LCDs yet. I don’t like the inflexibility of native resolutions, input lag (and not knowing how to calculate it) concerns me, persistance of vision effects which blur motion, and I also tend to run at lower resolutions in desktop mode because I don’t need a ton of screen real estate but I like my text to be bigger. But it seems like I don’t really have any options except to buy used… they don’t even really make CRTs anymore.

I like the widescreen for World of Warcraft, and for spreadsheets, but for general applications, not so much.

Years ago, we had “portrait displays,” which were wonderful for people like me that spend most of our time working on documents that end up shaped like a printed page (taller than they are wide). I miss my old full-page display.

That resolution seems a little low for a 19", but not excessively so.

The widescreen fad originated with the idea that people would be using their computers more for multimedia, and that movies look better on widescreens. As you note, most document-based things are based around a paper-based page, which is taller than it is wide. (I have been known to use a pivotable wide-screen monitor in “tallscreen” mode for document work.).

That said, the vertical resolution of these things is usually pretty close to that of the equivalent 4:3m, so they’re no worse than a 4:3 for tall documents. And some computer things (the Mac Dock, the Windows task bar, applications with lots of palettes/tool windows, and applications where having multiple windows open is an advantage) are more useful on widescreens.

Don’t worry too much about the refresh issues: all but the cheapest LCD’s are pretty good nowadays. The ability to change resolution comfortably is a big loss, though, so make sure you get a LOOK at a monitor of the resolution you’re picking before you buy; some people like superfine small dots, others like their pixels larger, and aside from generalizations based on age, it’s a personal preference thing.

Color is a big downfall of LCD’s. They’ve gotten better, but they’re still MUCH harder to calibrate and get accurate color on than a CRT. On the other hand, if accuraccy is less important to you than brightness and vibrance, the LCD’s are a better choice.

Ultimately, though, the steadiness of the LCD image is what sells me on them, and why I no longer have CRT’s around, even for color work – I can look at an LCD for much longer, and with much more comfort, than even the best-tuned CRT.

With that aspect ratio and resolution you can view a 720p video without distortion.

As for LCDs vs CRT, I ditched my 22" CRT and went to 2x 19" LCDs. The CRT was basically immobile, it was so heavy, and ate a lot of desk space.

Wide screen panels are getting very common because wide screen LCD TVs are getting common, so the same or similar panels can be used, and they get cheaper on a similar curve to LCD TVs.

I agree, until you get to really big panels (I have a 30"), documents tend to be shaped tall and thin, not short and wide, and don’t really fit wide screen. But they didn’t really fit 4:3 either. There are panels that can actually be swiveled either direction, for portrait or landscape aspect; my old HP2335 LCD does this, and you could flip the orientation in software to match the screen position.

I have two 20" non-widescreen LCDs. I’ve noticed that the equivalent-model widescreen sacrifices a lot of pixels (like 200) on the height. Since I don’t watch video on my computer very often, it seems like the non-widescreen are better.

“Pretty good” is relative. Even the fastest LCD screens still have blurriness because of the way persistance of vision works. With CRTs, you get a briefly illuminated part of the screen where the tube just lit, and it quickly fades to black, before the next cycle lights it up again. This period of black helps to reset the persistance of vision so that when the next strobe comes, your brain views it as a fresh image.

With LCDs, there’s no black stage - the pixel stays how it was until it’s changed, so you don’t get a cool off period in your vision and it appears to blur into the next frame.

Even the fastest 2ms response time monitors have the issue… it’s not big obvious streak across the screen ghosting, but it makes everything seem mushy… games that are running at 100 fps actually look like they’re doing 20 or 30. It’s not crisp.

They’re actually working on a technology that turns off different sections of the backlight for a tiny amount of time in a cycle to emulate the way CRTs work in this regard.
That doesn’t address input lag which is the time it takes the LCD to form a coherent frame after receiving the input, which puts the delay slightly behind real time.

I was pretty much stuck with semi-widescreen (1280x800) when I got my Dell Inspiron laptop. It’s not bad, but it’s also slightly closer to 4:3 than any other widescreen format, which makes me ask “what’s the point”?

Also, DirectX has a problem with announcing this resolution to full-screen games (or the games don’t know how to handle it) - which is pretty annoying when starting them up for the first time. With most games, I tend to have to switch resolution to 800x600, start the game, choose windowed mode, quit the game, switch back to 1280x800, then start the game to play it.

Games that throw a fit if they can’t play full-screen in the standard aspect ratio (I’m looking at you, Civ III) can be pretty ugly with this resolution.

Say… what? I’ve never heard of any black period for CRT phosphors. If anything, they’re more persistent than LCDs, since the even and then the odd lines (fields) on the screen are refreshed alternately every 59.94th of a second (for NTSC video). And does projected film have a “black” period, and is it desirable or unavoidable because of the shutter mechanism? And how would a ‘black’ period in any way mimic continuous light that you see out your window? I’m not trying to be pushy or offensive, really, but I’m just not seeing how what you say is true. Please enlighten.

Under “Response Time of Monitors and Eyes”

It depends on how you use your monitor.

On a traditional 4:3 monitor, I currently have 4 windows open and viewable. They overlap a bit in the middle. If I had a widescreen monitor, I could space them out a bit more, side to side. Because of the way I use my computer, the total area is a big deal for me.

The downside? You may need to size up a widescreen monitor, to get the same top-to-bottom size as your 4:3 monitor. When a screen size is given, it’s giving the diagonal measurement. So a 19" 4:3 monitor is about 15.2"x11.4" in size. A 22" 16:9 ration screen will be about 19.2"x10.8". Lots more horizontal space, 5% less height, about 16% more square inches.

Thank you. Hmm… the gentleman speaks knowledgeably, but I don’t see anything that supports his statement about black somehow resetting your peepers. Why wouldn’t black persist for 10ms, making things seem slower or flickery-er, rather than seemingly faster, as he asserts? It sounds like he posits a buffer-overflow for your eyeballs, that’s somehow alleviated by magic black being displayed. Anyway, I’m thoroughly skeptical, but that’s probably a thread for another day. Carry on.[/hijack]

ETA: The summary somewhat dismisses the issue, so maybe its not worth head-scratching about:

When I used 4x3 I used to maximise my windows. I liked it better that way than having the messy placement of other windows behind what I was working on. Less distraction, neater and more organised.

But maximising on a higher resolution widescreen monitor isn’t as good. Too many webpages are still in low width settings, as narrow as 800 pixels, which is far too much whitespace on the centered columns, and when it’s a page that uses left-alignment the jump from one to the other is too large. So I keep my browser, and most other applications, at approximately a 4x3 scale to keep that behaviour at a more reasonable level.

What this means, though, is free space on either side of the windows to access icons, to place narrow applications like instant messengers and media players, and a second way to find the window I want to get to next without going through the taskbar.

I got used to it pretty quickly, and I like it. I do miss the maximisation tidiness, but it’s not as great a loss as I’d feared. And I do still maximise dominant, busy applications, like Photoshop and Lightwave, when I’m working on some art.

I recently bought a laptop and discovered that I could comfortably use a smaller display at a widescreen aspect ratio than at Academy (4:3). Most of what I do involves reading text that’s formatted to be read on a computer screen, not on a printed page. I find it’s more convenient for me to get wider lines than it is to get more lines per screen, if’n you follow. Some websites are still substantially narrower than the screen, but that just leaves me some free real estate to have AIM or the TV tuner window running without obscuring any of my browsing.

Movies tend to look better, but that’s secondary. I was fine with letterboxing when I had a 4:3 TFT panel, and if laptops came in 4:3 I’d have been happy with letterboxing on that screen, too.

Like Quartz & Beowolff, I have a dual-monitor system (2 17" LCDs). I’m very pleased with it. It gives me more screen space than a wide screen LCD, and it cost much less.

Me too. I used to have a 5620 (commercial version of the BLIT - Bell Labs Intelligent Terminal) which was portrait sized. I loved it.

i have one on my laptop 1920x1200 and its so so purdy i could never go back.

I’ve got a 24" 1920x1200, and if I want to play a game that has no widescreen resolution options I can just tell the monitor to display the 4:3 signal pixel for pixel in the centre of the screen with no resampling for aspect ratio or size. This leaves black bars on the sides of the monitor (top and bottom too if it’s lower res than 1600x1200), but I’ve never found that distracting. Well, barring the teeny tiny 640x480 image I got when I fired up MOO2 last night, but twas no big deal to play that game stretched.

No idea if the monitor in the OP has that option, though.

I have a wide screen and I like it. However, if you computer is very old, the video card may not be compatible. Ours wasn’t. Once we upgraded, it was peachy keen.

I like widescreen. If you have a 1280x1024 monitor now, you are giving up a little vertical space. But with widescreen you can do stuff like view 2 web pages side by side, or a web page and a video. Plus it’s good for gaming and movies.