Display aspect ratio

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Some common aspect ratios for displays
5:4 (1.25:1)
Made common with 1280×1024 displays
4:3 (1.33:1)
Old computer monitor standard
16:10 (1.6:1)
Made common with 1280×800, 1680×1050, and 1920×1200 displays
16:9 (1.78:1)
Became most common aspect ratio for computer displays in 2012

The aspect ratio of a computer display is the proportional relationship between its width and its height.[1]

It is expressed as two numbers separated by a colon (x:y). Current common aspect ratios for displays are 5:4, 4:3, 16:10 and 16:9.

Computer displays[edit]

Computer displays with aspect ratio wider than 4:3 are also called widescreen. Widescreen computer displays are typically of the 16:9 or 16:10 aspect ratio; in 2008, the computer industry started to move over from 4:3 and 16:10 to 16:9. Many 16:9 computer displays can be found in resolutions of 1024×576, 1152×648, 1280×720, 1600×900, 1920×1080, 2560×1440 and 3840×2160, while 1366×768 is an approximate ratio to 16:9 with its true ratio of 683:384.


4:3 and 16:10[edit]

A 4:3 monitor

Until about 2003, most computer monitors had a 4:3 aspect ratio and some had 5:4. Between 2003 and 2006, monitors with 16:10 aspect ratio became commonly available, first in laptops and later also in standalone computer monitors. Reasons for this transition was productive uses for such monitors, i.e. besides widescreen movie viewing and computer game play, are the word processor display of two standard letter pages side by side, as well as CAD displays of large-size drawings and CAD application menus at the same time.[2][3] 16:10 became the most common sold aspect ratio for widescreen computer monitors until 2008.


In 2008, the computer industry started to move from 4:3 and 16:10 to 16:9 as the standard aspect ratio for monitors and laptops. A 2008 report by DisplaySearch cited a number of reasons for this shift, including the ability for PC and monitor manufacturers to expand their product ranges by offering products with wider screens and higher resolutions, helping consumers to more easily adopt such products and "stimulating the growth of the notebook PC and LCD monitor market".[4]

By 2010, virtually all computer monitor and laptop manufacturers had also moved to the 16:9 aspect ratio, and the availability of 16:10 aspect ratio in mass market had become very limited; in 2011, non-widescreen displays with 4:3 aspect ratios still were being manufactured, but in small quantities. The reasons for this according to Bennie Budler, product manager of IT products at Samsung South Africa was that the "demand for the old 'Square monitors' has decreased rapidly over the last couple of years", he also predicted that "by the end of 2011, production on all 4:3 or similar panels will be halted due to a lack of demand."[5]

In March 2011, the 16:9 resolution of 1920×1080 became the most commonly used resolution among Steam users; the previous most common resolution was 1680×1050 (16:10).[6] In April 2012, the 16:9 resolution of 1366×768 became the most commonly used resolution worldwide; the previous most common resolution was 1024×768 (4:3). The third most common resolution at the time was 1280×800 (16:10).[7]


Since 2011, several monitors complying with the Digital Cinema Initiatives 4K standard have been produced, the standard specifies a resolution of 4096×2160 and an aspect ratio of almost 1.9:1.

Suitability for applications[edit]


Since 2005 most video games are mainly made for the 16:9 aspect ratio and 16:9 computer displays therefore offer the best compatibility.[8] 16:9 video games are letterboxed on a 16:10 or 4:3 display or have reduced field of view.[9] 4:3 monitors have the best compatibility with older games released prior to 2005 when that aspect ratio was the mainstream standard for computer displays.[9]


Movies usually are in 2.39:1, 16:9 or 1.85:1. 16:9 computer displays have the best compatibility.


During the 2000s, DVDs and TV broadcasts shifted from 4:3 to 16:9. Today the TV and DVDs are in 16:9 (1.77:1) or 1.85:1 format; 16:9 displays are optimal for their playback on a computer. 16:9 material on a 16:10 or 4:3 display will be letterboxed. In data processing or viewing 4:3 material such as older films, older TV broadcasts or older digital photographs, the widescreen (16:9, 16:10) will be pillarboxed.[10]


Microsoft recommends a 16:9 display for tablet computers running Windows 8.[11]

Productivity applications[edit]

Microsoft recommends a 16:9 display for Office 2013,[12] for viewing documents in A4 paper size (which has a 1.41:1 aspect ratio), whether in portrait mode or two side-by-side in landscape mode, 4:3 or 16:10 fits best. For photographs in the standard 135 film and print size (with a 3:2 aspect ratio), 16:10 fits best; for photographs taken with consumer-level digital cameras, 4:3 fits perfectly.

Diagonal and area[edit]

When displays are marketed the quoted size usually is the diagonal measurement of the display area, because of the different ratio, a 16:9 computer monitor will have a smaller area than a 4:3 computer monitor of the same advertised size.

Comparison between monitors with a diagonal of 23 inches (58 cm)[13]
DAR Image dimensions Display area Image area 4:3 content Image area 16:9 content Image area 2.35:1 content
4:3 (16:12) 18.4 in × 13.8 in (47 cm × 35 cm) 254.0 sq in (1,639 cm2) 254.0 sq in (1,639 cm2) 189.9 sq in (1,225 cm2) 143.7 sq in (927 cm2)
16:10 19.5 in × 12.2 in (50 cm × 31 cm) 237.7 sq in (1,534 cm2) 197.6 sq in (1,275 cm2) 213.7 sq in (1,379 cm2) 161.6 sq in (1,043 cm2)
16:9 20.1 in × 11.3 in (51 cm × 29 cm) 226.0 sq in (1,458 cm2) 168.9 sq in (1,090 cm2) 226.0 sq in (1,458 cm2) 171.2 sq in (1,105 cm2)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "What is aspect ratio? Definition from WhatIs.com". Whatis.techtarget.com. 2005-09-21. Retrieved 2012-04-15. 
  2. ^ NEMATech Computer Display Standards "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-03-02. Retrieved 2011-04-29. 
  3. ^ "Introduction—Monitor Technology Guide". necdisplay.com. Archived from the original on 2007-03-15.  (currently offline)
  4. ^ "Product Planners and Marketers Must Act Before 16:9 Panels Replace Mainstream 16:10 Notebook PC and Monitor LCD Panels, New DisplaySearch Topical Report Advises". DisplaySearch. 2008-07-01. Retrieved 2012-04-15. 
  5. ^ "Widescreen monitors: Where did 1920×1200 go? « Hardware « MyBroadband Tech and IT News". Mybroadband.co.za. 2011-01-10. Retrieved 2012-04-15. 
  6. ^ "Steam Hardware & Software Survey". Store.steampowered.com. Retrieved 2012-04-15. 
  7. ^ "Most popular screen resolution online now 1366x768". Electronista. Retrieved 2012-04-15. 
  8. ^ "The Witcher 2 Updated FAQ – Voodoo Extreme". Ve3d.ign.com. Retrieved 2012-04-15. 
  9. ^ a b "Master Game List". Widescreen Gaming Forum. Archived from the original on 2011-06-23. Retrieved 2012-04-15. 
  10. ^ Productivity, Screens and Aspect Ratio Archived January 2, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  11. ^ Nguyen, Chuong (2011-02-06). "Microsoft Details Stringent Specs Required of Windows 8 Tablets". Gotta Be Mobile. Retrieved 2012-07-11. 
  12. ^ Bisson, Simon (2012-07-16). "Office 2013: a pleasant surprise". ZDNet. Retrieved 2012-10-24. 
  13. ^ "TV Calculator". TV Calculator. Retrieved 2012-04-15.