Understanding 16:9 vs 21:9 vs 32:9 Aspect Ratios: The Battle of Gaming Monitors

One of the most important factors hardcore gamers consider is the aspect ratio. Until a few years ago, the 16:9 and 21:9 aspect ratios have been most popular. But there’s a new kid on the block- the super ultrawide 32:9.

In this blog post, we’ll go through everything you need to know about these monitors.

16:9 Aspect Ratio

This is the most common aspect ratio for gaming. Its history dates back to the 1980s and is the standard for most media formats, including TV shows and movies.

When it comes to measurements 16:9 screens measure 16 units in width and 9 units in height. The units measured depend on the device. It could be in pixels, millimeters, inches, and so forth.

Some of its other features include a high-definition HD display, rectangular widescreen display, and high-quality display for various resolutions. 

The 16:9 aspect ratio supports 720p x 576p, 1366p x 768p, 1280p x 720p, and 1920p x 1080p screen resolutions. 

The 1920 x 1080 pixels screen resolution is the most common widescreen aspect ratio for Full HD, while 1280 x 720 (also known as 720p) is the standard for high-definition display.

Pros of 16:9 Monitors

So, why should you consider investing in a 16:9 gaming monitor? Here are some advantages for you to consider:

Affordability

16:9 Gaming monitors are more cost-effective than monitors that use less common aspect ratios. They make a good affordable option for gamers who may not have a huge initial investment budget.

What may across as more surprising is that even a dual monitor setup with 16:9 gaming monitors may be cheaper than an ultrawide monitor using 21:9 or 32:9 aspect ratios.

For example, two 27” gaming monitors with 16:9 aspect ratios are cheaper than one 49” gaming monitor and certainly cost way less than the less common 55” monitor.

This advantage makes it a popular choice for gamers who are seeking a balance between price and performance.

Compatibility

Many gaming consoles, TV shows, movies, videos, and even websites are created with the 16:9 aspect ratio in mind. This makes 16:9 monitors compatible with most applications without having to worry about letterboxing.

Letterboxing refers to the practice of scaling down a wide image or display to make it fit a smaller screen with a smaller aspect ratio.

With a 16:9 monitor, you can easily plug and play with various devices, games, and videos. Connection is easy with minimal compatibility issues. 

Widely Supported

As mentioned earlier, the 16:9 aspect ratio is the accepted international standard for most modern content, including videos, websites, and games. This means that most of the content you’ll come across is designed to be viewed on a 16:9 monitor.

You won’t experience any black bars on the sides when viewing most modern content on a 16:9 monitor.

Dual Monitor Setup

For gamers who need more screen real estate, you can easily buy two 16:9 monitors and have a dual monitor setup. 

A dual monitor setup is versatile and each monitor functions independently. You can play games on one monitor and stream, browse, or work on the other.

And since you get more screen space with a dual monitor setup, you can efficiently carry out tasks that require multitasking.

Cons of 16:9 Monitors

As with everything with good benefits, there are some potential downsides to be aware of. Some cons of 16:9 monitors include:

Less Immersive Experience

16:9 monitors have a narrow field of view. This can be a bit limiting when playing games that require ultrawide resolutions. 

When playing such games, especially open-world or first-person games, you’re likely to experience a less immersive experience. 

You also don’t experience curved display that enhances gaming and multimedia experience. 

Less Screen Real Estate

A single 16:9 monitor offers you less screen space than an ultrawide monitor. This comes with its limitations especially when you need to carry out tasks that need multitasking or productivity. 

If you need a larger workspace or a wider aspect ratio for content creation, you might have to go for a screen with 21:9 or 32:9 aspect ratios.

Limitations with Dual Monitor Setups

While you might decide to go for a dual monitor setup to curb most of the 16:9 monitor downsides, the gap in the middle between the two screens will disrupt the gaming experience. This can be especially limiting if you’re playing a game that spans across both monitors.

With a dual monitor setup, you also need more desk space and a powerful graphics card that’s robust enough to run both monitors effectively.

21:9 Aspect Ratio

Here are some potential downsides of 21:9 monitors that you should know about:

Less Vertical Screen Space

Also known as ultrawide screens, 21:9 monitors are growing in popularity in the gaming community. 21:9 content is cinematic and made to fit. Music videos or movies with black bars at the top and bottom are made in a 21:9 aspect ratio.

The first 21:9 computer monitor was made by LG in 2012. Over the next years, the technology underwent refining and various advancements leading to the ultrawide 21:9 monitors we know now.

While 21:9 TVs were discontinued around 2017, their monitor counterparts have stuck around.

Ultrawide gaming monitors with 21:9 aspect ratios can have 2560p x 1080p or 3440p x 1440p resolutions.

However, 2K and WQHD monitors have a 2560p x 1440p resolution, which is similar to a 3440p x 1440p resolution on a 21:9 monitor.

Most of the ultrawide monitors are curved since more pixels are spread out horizontally than vertically.

Pros of 21:9 Monitors

Here are some reasons why a gamer may choose to go for a 21:9 monitor instead of a 16:9 monitor

Increased Field of View

The ultrawide 21:9 aspect ratio offers a wider field of view compared to the standard 16:9 aspect ratio. This increased field of view offers a more panoramic and immersive experience.

Gamers are likely to enjoy 21:9 screens more, especially for games with ultrawide resolutions.

This includes games like open-world games where an increased field of view also increases the gaming experience.

Cinematic Experience

21:9 monitors offer a cinematic experience since their aspect ratio is closer to the aspect ratio for many games, movies, and videos today. Many games, videos, and movies are nowadays produced in ultrawide format.

This means that you get to enjoy your game or movie without black bars at the top or bottom of the screen. You benefit from the added screen space.

This is important for gamers looking for a seamless and uninterrupted gaming experience. Due to the ultrawide format, you don’t need a dual monitor setup. This eliminates the bezel in the middle of the dual monitors and gives you an undisrupted view.

Improved Multitasking

An ultrawide screen with a 21:9 aspect ratio has an expanded horizontal space that boosts productivity. You can have two windows open on a 21:9 monitor and it still won’t look crowded.

Ultrawide monitors are easy to work on, especially if curved. It fills up more of the user’s peripheral vision and allows your eyes to take in more information simultaneously.

This comes in handy for content creators and professionals carrying out tasks such as video editing. 

For gamers, you can have multiple windows open, say one for streaming and others for browsing.

Cons of 21:9 Monitors

While monitors with a 21:9 aspect ratio have more horizontal screen space, the same can’t be said about vertical screen space. A 16:9 monitor of the same diagonal measurement may have more vertical screen space.

This can be a limitation, especially when carrying out tasks that need more vertical screen space, such as coding and working on long documents.

Reduced Compatibility

Not all games and applications support the 21:9 aspect ratio. Most older games and videos will result in stretched images or black bars on the sides of the screen.

While its popularity has been growing, the 21:9 aspect ratio is yet to become common or the norm in the gaming community.

Higher Price

When it comes to the price monitors with a 21:9 aspect ratio are more expensive than the conventional 16:9 screens. The larger screen size and advanced aspect ratio contribute to the higher price tag.

The cost is quite high so it might even be cheaper to invest in a dual 16:9 monitor setup.

If you have a lower budget and can’t afford to spend a lot of money, it might make more sense to invest in 16:9 monitors.

Power Hungry

21:9 monitors have increased pixels by up to 50%. To have good performance when playing 3D games, you’ll have to push your graphics card a lot harder.

If you don’t have a powerful and up-to-date graphics and power system, you might have to step down on the resolution and visual quality of the games you play to maintain a good performance.

If you’re into multiplayer online games, you might have to consider the power and graphics needs of a 21:9 monitor before buying one.

32:9 Aspect Ratio

32:9 monitors have been around longer than 21:9 screens. They were first produced in 2008. They’re also known as super ultrawide monitors.

To date, the 32:9 aspect ratio is still a non-standard format as we’re yet to have any movies, videos, and TV shows that are specifically produced in such a wide size.

As for computer usage, it’s practical since it’s similar to having two 16:9 screens side by side. Mathematically, a 32:9 monitor is twice as wide as a 16:9 screen. 

It’s synonymous with stitching two 16:9 monitors by their sides, just that now you don’t have a bezel disrupting your view or multiple cables cluttering your desk or workspace.

Due to this, these monitors are slowly picking up in popularity within the gaming community. This can be attributed to the balance of versatility, convenience, and magnificence that they offer.

The standard resolutions for these monitors are 5120p x 1440p, which almost matches the pixel count for a 4K monitor.

Here are some pros and cons of investing in a 32:9 aspect ratio monitor:

Pros of 32:9 Monitors

Here are some reasons why you may consider investing in a 32:9 monitor:

Immersive Experience

A 32:9 monitor offers the widest field of view. The field of view provides an incredibly immersive gaming experience, especially for games that involve a lot of horizontal movements, such as first-person shooters, racing, and flight simulators.

This might be the reason why most monitors with a 32:9 aspect ratio are marketed for gaming. 

The experience of playing a game on a 16:9 or 21:9 screen can never be compared to playing on a 32:9 monitor. 

For example, if you’re playing a flight simulation game, you actually feel as if you’re inside the plane, with the sides of the screen showing you a better view of the interior cockpit.

Cinematic Viewing

The 32:9 aspect ratio is also closely similar to the aspect ratio of many movies. You don’t have to worry about letterboxing when watching videos or movies.

Most 32:9 screens have better resolution than monitors with other aspect ratios. You’ll enjoy better cinematic viewing on a 32:9 screen than a 1080p display.

Perhaps one underrated advantage of using 32:9 screens is the uniformity in color and display. Most dual monitor setups struggle with accuracy and uniformity, even with identical software and hardware settings.

With a 32:9 monitor, you’ll never have to worry about contrast, brightness, and color uniformity. This is greatly beneficial for photography and video professionals who count on color accuracy. 

Productivity and Multitasking

A single 32:9 monitor can significantly boost your productivity by supporting tasks that need multitasking. You can effectively have multiple tabs open on one screen and not feel cramped up. This is ideal for tasks that need a lot of screen space.

For example, you can have one photography editing tab open and another graphics app running on the side.

Cons of 32:9 Monitors

Here are some potential cons of investing in a 32:9 monitor:

Most Expensive

Monitors with a 32:9 aspect ratio come with all the bells and whistles but at an extremely high price. Don’t be surprised to see them crossing the $1,000 mark, especially for the ones with Quad HD (QHD).

With a wide screen size, specialized resolution, and advanced technology compacted into one unit, it’s easy to see why you’ll have to pay premium fees to acquire one.

This factor may prove to be a disqualifying consideration for users with a budget. Even when you have a huge investment, it makes sense to invest in one when you’ll be using it for multi-purpose applications.

Think about it this way- how will you use all the extra screen space once your gaming session is over? It makes sense to take advantage of the screen real estate and do something constructive with it.

If that’s not the case, you might find yourself with a large screen that was not worth the high initial cost.

Limited Content Support

While support and compatibility for the 32:9 aspect ratio have been growing, it’s yet to become the standard for most videos, applications, and games. This can lead to black bars on the sides of the screen, distorted displays, and stretched images.

Newer games may adapt well to a 32:9 screen, but older ones may require third-party tools or mods to avoid glaring issues.

For computer usage, 32:9 monitors might be more than you need. Most computer applications and websites will look awkward if stretched to fit a full 32:9 screen.

Space and Hardware Demands

32:9 Gaming monitors are quite large and heavy by nature. They can easily take up more space than two 16:9 monitors. As such, they need more desk space which can impact the viewing distance. Due to this, they may not be suitable for users who have limited space.

Also, keep in mind that 32:9 monitors are quite demanding when it comes to support hardware and power. For example, you need to invest in a powerful GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) to support high-quality resolution. 

If you’re jumping from 16:9 to 32:9, you’ll have to make graphics card adjustments as this is a huge jump in quality.

Also, if you don’t have a large desk that’s strong enough to hold a 32:9 monitor’s weight, you might not be in a position to fit a super ultrawide screen into your workflow.

16:9 vs 21:9 vs 32:9: Which Is the Best Monitor for You?

With what we know now, would it make more sense to invest in the conventional 16:9, the reliable 21:9, or the trendy 32:9?

Essentially, there’s no one-size-fits-all recommendation. It all boils down to your personal preference and specific needs.

It’s important to consider your multitasking needs, the type of games you’ll play, and your budget when considering which screen to go for. 

Some important considerations to make include:

Gaming Genre

Different game genres have different aspect ratio demands. If you mainly play first-person shooter games, a monitor with a 16:9 aspect ratio might be more beneficial.

On the other hand, if you play open-world games with stunning visual experiences, going for ultrawide 21:9 and super ultrawide 32:9 monitors will provide you with a cinematic and immersive experience.

Compatibility

You need to ensure that your choice of aspect ratio is compatible with the applications. You don’t want to realize that your favorite game stretches or has black bars on your monitor after buying it.

Most modern games are compatible across various aspect ratios. For the older games, you might have to make some adjustments since they have limited support or display issues with some aspect ratios. 

Field of View

Ask yourself whether an ultrawide or super ultrawide field of view is a priority to you. If a wider view gives you a competitive advantage, a 21:9 or 32:9 monitor might make more sense.

On the other hand, if your priorities are balanced display and clarity, a 16:9 monitor might suit you more.

Budget & Personal Preferences

You also want to invest in a screen that won’t leave a huge dent in your wallet. Ordinarily, ultrawide and super ultrawide monitors come with a higher price tag. Besides, you’ll also have to invest in powerful hardware, such as graphics cards, to meet their needs.

Also, consider what applications you’ll be using the monitor for. Is it competitive gaming? Or do you want a multi-purpose monitor for work and recreational use, such as movies and soft gaming?

For example, if you’re looking for a monitor for multiple uses, both for work and gaming and you don’t have that big of a budget, it might make more sense to invest in a dual monitor setup with 16:9 screens.

On the other hand, let’s say you’re into heavy gaming and streaming, you’ve already experienced what other screens have to offer, and budget isn’t that much of a problem for you, then you can buy a 32:9 screen.

If you’re looking for a perfect balance between multitasking, gaming performance, immersive experience, compatibility, and budget, then a 21:9 aspect ratio monitor is the sweet spot.

Ultimately, each screen offers a different gaming experience that can affect your performance and immersion differently.

Conclusion

We hope that we’ve covered everything you need to make a wise decision in regards to choosing between a 16:9, 21:9, and 32:9 monitor. Each of them has its own unique advantages and potential disadvantages. 

Choosing the best monitor for you ultimately comes down to your preference and display needs.

Before making the big decision, make sure you consult with experts to guide you on the best display for your needs. NSE LED will hold your hand and walk with you through your multitasking and gaming journey.

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