Widescreen laptops, yay or nay

Published: March 18, 2020

Is your laptop computer a daily workhorse for your job or the portal to your entertainment universe? There are pros and cons of going wide or square-ish when it comes to screen real estate – allow us to explain.  

Why widescreen? 

Widescreen laptops surged in popularity as television and cinematic content moved to a wider format, from the early 2000s. They followed suit to DVD, and most TVs and computer monitors, moving to 16:9 screen ratios or similar.  

16:9 laptops 

Today it’s very common to see computer screens with a widescreen 16:9 ratio, where the screen is almost twice as wide as it is tall. You’ll find this format in Apple iMacs and almost every laptop made by popular brands like Acer, Dell and HP. There are some exceptions, such as Apple MacBooks, which are 16:10.  

Making images look their best 

Many people use their laptops as a portable TV, and a 16:9 screen is well suited to watching YouTube or Netflix – otherwise your viewing will resemble a letterbox effect with black bars on the top and bottom. The widescreen format is better for gaming too, providing a wider field of vision and adding to the realism of the game. Many 16:9 laptops have a glossy screen, rather than matte. This allows for better contrast and vivid colours, which most people think is worth it, even if it’s prone to reflections and screen glare. 

Multi-tasking made easier on laptops 

Widescreen laptops allow space to stack multiple application windows side by side. For example, you can have a document and email visibly next to each other, instead of having to switch between them constantly. Some people believe this boosts their productivity at work.  

3:2 laptops 

While 16:9 widescreen laptops dominate today’s market, it seems the 3:2 offerings by Google and Microsoft are also very popular. 3:2 displays, found on the Pixelbook and Surface Pro, are only slightly wider than they are tall. They look more similar in shape to 4:3 tablets or the old laptops and TVs of yesteryear – which does have some noteworthy advantages.  

Making work apps efficient 

With many menu bars sitting along the bottom or top of the screen, you may find the 3:2 layout a little more roomy for some applications than 16:9. Also, if you are working within a document with a lot of text, or a spreadsheet with a lot of rows, you might scroll a little less from top to bottom with the extra vertical real estate.  

Web surfing made easier on laptops 

Websites, just like good old fashioned paper, are generally designed for portrait use. The 3:2 ratio has an edge when browsing the web. Less scrolling is needed, and 3:2 is a little more amenable to annoying pop-ups hogging the bottom of the screen. You can even view more when scrolling vertically on a social media desktop feed, especially on Twitter and Facebook. 

Ultimately, your choice to go for a widescreen laptop or not depends on personal preferences and what you’d like to use it for. Whatever you decide, our techs are Aussie based and on standby 362 days a year to help you with any tech issues if you ever need help!  

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