Everywhere you’ll see ads inviting you to buy ultrawide monitors. They’re shiny and attractive, but should you succumb to this siren song?
Ultrawide monitors have a lot going for them, but there are also negatives to these products. Let’s have a look at the good and bad before you put any money down.
How Wide is Ultrawide?
Before I go over the pros and cons, let’s first clear up what an “ultrawide” monitor is. In general, ultrawide monitors are ones that are even wider than 16:9 monitors that are pretty much standard now.
The “16:9” bit refers to the vertical and horizontal picture ratio. In this case, for every 16 pixels in width, there are 9 pixels in height. Substitute pixels for inches or centimeters and the basic idea still stands.
Ultrawide monitors change it to a wider aspect ratio, most commonly 21:9. This makes them much wider, which has a few effects on the viewing experience.
There are many reasons ultrawide monitors are becoming popular. Although they are still pretty expensive it may just be worth it if you’re the right customer.
You’ll be More Productive
Dual-monitor systems have become very popular over the last few years as people have found it boosts their productivity. Many people who buy ultrawide monitors do it because it’s a more elegant solution to the productivity problem.
An ultrawide monitor can usually accommodate to full application windows side by side and some even work well with a four-way split. Since they actually have more horizontal pixels than 16:9 monitors, you actually do get more room to work.
An ultrawide doesn’t take up much less horizontal space than two monitors side-by-side, but the lack of a central bezel means you can have one continuous picture. Also, since the screen only has one foot-stand, you can save space on your desk by shifting some of the screen’s width over the desk’s edge.
More Immersive Gaming
By far, gamers are the ones who want to buy ultrawide monitors. The additional width improves the field of view in games, which is not only an advantage but way more immersive.
If you’re a serious gamer then an ultrawide monitor has to at least be on your wishlist.
It’s for Movie Buffs
You may have noticed that modern films have taken to the 21:9 aspect ratio like a fish to water. Cinemas and the film industry always move on when home viewers get the same experience they could at the movies. That’s why we got 16:9 widescreen to begin with.
Unless you fork out for a massively expensive 21:9 TV, an ultrawide monitor is the only way to watch these movies without any black bars.
The Specs are Better
Generally speaking, ultrawide screens have better specifications than your typical monitor. If you are still using a 60Hz TN panel upgrading to an IPS 144Hz 1440p monitor is a revelation on many levels.
Basically, people who buy ultrawide monitors are getting a lot more than just a wider screen. These are flagship products and usually, are specified as such.
As great as these monitors can be, they come with a few negative aspects that may make them the wrong choice for many people. Some of which you wouldn’t even think of normally.
The big one is obviously cost. These monitors carry a price premium that will stay with them until they replace 16:9 monitors as the norm. If that ever happens.
When you buy ultrawide monitors you’ll have to carefully look at the features you really need in order to get the best deal. For example, if you don’t really need a refresh rate above 60Hz there’s no point in paying for the privilege.
A 27″ ultrawide screen has less viewable screen surface than a 27″ 16:9 monitor. That’s a byproduct of the geometry at work here, which means you should be swapping your 27″ monitor for at least a 29″ ultrawide to keep the actual square inches comparable.
More pixels means more work for your GPU to do in graphics-intensive applications.
If you’re a PC gamer this is a huge consideration. Unless you’re running a top-end card, you’ll take a noticeable hit to your frame rates when you buy ultrawide monitors.
1440p ultrawide monitors offer a good compromise between resolution and performance, but 2560×1080 screens may be even better if you don’t want to splurge on a GTX 1070.
If you are only using it for productivity that does not involve high-end 3D graphics, then this is a non-issue.
Software and Content Support
We already went through this with the shift from 4:3 to 16:9 monitors, but a lot of current software just doesn’t support the ultrawide format.
Some professional packages may not scale well and plenty of game just plain won’t work.
In the case of games that need full-screen access, most ultrawide monitors have a mode that will display the game correctly, but with black bars on the left and right of the picture.
The same goes for 16:9 and 4:3 videos, which will also have some sort of letterboxing going on so as not to distort. When buying ultrawide monitors you have to think about the content that you’ll want to play on it and make sure you’re happy with any compromises.
So Do We Buy Ultrawide Monitors?
On balance I would have to say my answer is yes. Although they have their fair share of negatives, most of these will become a non-issue the more popular these monitors become.
GPUs are quickly getting powerful enough to handle these resolutions and more software will support ultrawide resolutions out of the box shortly.
If you buy ultrawide monitors, you may find that your PC graphics settings in games need tweaking, so here’s a guide for that. On the other hand, if you don’t have space, but do need extra screen real estate you can have a look here.
Lead Image via LG Official Flickr CC BY
PNY GTX 1070 image via PNY Official Press Images