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Is a Wider Monitor Harder to See?

If your company is like most, most of your PCs have “square” LCD monitors. (They’re actually not square. They have a 4:3 aspect ratio, which means that, for every four inches of width, they have three inches of height.) A few employees probably have laptops with the newer “widescreen” (16:10) monitors attached, and maybe a few desktops have them as well.

With this shift in monitor aspect ratios we have to re-learn monitor sizes. It used to be that a 15-inch monitor was standard, a 17-inch was better on the eyes, and a 19-inch was pretty big. A laptop with a 17-inch monitor used to be the envy of the office because it was so much easier to read than most. Buy a laptop with a 17-inch screen now, and you may be disappointed. A 17-inch widescreen has the same height as a 14-inch standard screen.

That’s because computer monitors, like TV screens, are measured diagonally. I won’t bring you back to geometry class now, but suffice it to say, it has to do with the Pythagorean Theorem. A widescreen monitor of a given size has more overall area than a standard screen of the same size, but it is quite a bit shorter.

I find that height makes much more difference than width for my daily tasks. Most documents are formatted vertically. Most programs have their toolbars and menus on the top of the screen. The Windows taskbar is on the bottom (usually). With so much real estate taken up at the top and bottom of the screen, the last thing I need is a screen that’s shorter.

I use a 19-inch standard monitor on my office PC. (Actually, I use two, but that’s a topic for another post.) If I were looking for a new widescreen monitor, I would have to get a 22-inch model just to keep the same vertical size.

Because comparing the heights of monitors with different aspect ratios involves a lot of math (with square roots and stuff), I’ve done your homework for you. Below, you will find a chart that shows monitors with similar heights. Since this also works for TVs, I’ve gone up to 40 inches with the chart.

A note about aspect ratios. Standard (“square”) screens are 4:3. Widescreen PC monitors are 16:10. HDTV screens are 16:9. (An HDTV will work as a monitor, but you get multiple inputs and TV tuning capability as a bonus.) Some of the sizes listed in this chart may not be available in every aspect ratio.

All values are in inches and are approximate.

4:3 (Standard)

16:10 (Widescreen PC)

16:9 (HDTV)

Height

14

16

17

8.4

15

17

18

9.0

16

18

20

9.6

17

19

21

10.2

18

20

22

10.8

19

22

23

11.4

20

23

24

12.0

21

24

26

12.6

22

25

27

13.2

23

26

28

13.8

24

27

29

14.4

25

28

31

15.0

26

29

32

15.6

27

31

33

16.2

28

32

34

16.8

29

33

35

17.4

30

34

37

18.0

31

35

38

18.6

32

36

39

19.2

33

37

40

19.8

34

38

42

20.4

35

40

43

21.0

36

41

44

21.6

37

42

45

22.2

38

43

47

22.8

39

44

48

23.4

40

45

49

24.0

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Home PCs and Laptops Is a Wider Monitor Harder to See?
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