Image showing the difference between 16:9 vs 4:3 ratio.

16:9 vs 4:3 Aspect Ratio: What’s The Best for LED Screens?

We always hear the aspect ratio when buying a new television, monitor, or device. We see it on brochures and product descriptions. However, the aspect ratio is an important factor to consider when buying an LED screen. It is our goal to get the best viewing experience on our media devices. That’s why aspect ratio is a crucial specification that you should not skip when making your buying decision.

In this article, we’ll discuss the difference between a 16:9 vs 4:3 aspect ratios. We’ll define each aspect ratio and perform a quick comparison of its usefulness, advantages, and limitations in certain factors like screen real estate, gaming, productivity, videos & films, and photos. Finally, we’ll discuss how this applies in LED displays, especially which aspect ratio is best for LEDs.

Aspect Ratio Definition

The aspect ratio is the ratio of two numbers, the image’s height and width. It is common for the width to be larger than the height. However, with the advent of smartphone technology, aspect ratios became narrower and longer. For instance, some smartphones have a 9:16 ratio.

Aspect ratios are relative descriptions of how big a picture or video appears on the screen without mentioning the actual size of the device. For example, if you say that the screen has a 16:9 aspect ratio, you can easily assume that the device may be a TV or display screen because it is wide. Whereas if you say 9:16 aspect ratio, it must be a phone because it’s narrower and taller.

However, aspect ratios aren’t a measure of the screen’s physical dimensions. If a monitor has a width of 25 inches and a height of 17 inches, we don’t say the aspect ratio is 25 by 17. The aspect ratio is the size of the content displayed on the screen. It may be the dimensions of the photo or video. Hence, if the video or photo’s aspect ratio doesn’t match the screen’s resolution, it’s possible that the video will appear larger or smaller, depending on the screen size.

16:9 Aspect Ratio

The 16:9 aspect ratio for LED displays means that the screen width is 16 and the height is nine. To play or view 16:9 content on an LED screen, the aspect ratio must be the same as the screen resolution to have the best viewing experience. However, if that’s not the case, the content remains playable, but there may be black boxes on the sides or on top. 

Most 16:9 displays have a 1920×1080 resolution, totaling 2,073,600 pixels. A resolution of 1920×1080 is also called full high-definition (FHD). Nowadays, FHD screens are ideal if you want the best picture quality without shelling out a huge amount of cash. However, not all 16:9 screens have this exact pixel count due to factors like packaging technology and pixel pitch. So, choosing the right brand is also a factor in getting the best 16:9 FHD screen.

The 16:9 aspect ratio can also be represented as a decimal, approximately 1.78, when you divide the width by the height. You’ll see 1.78:1 in some product specifications and descriptions. So, if you don’t see 16:9 in the description, try to find the equivalent decimal number of 1.78 by 1 to immediately know that it’s a 16:9 screen.

To sum it up, 16:9 is the standard for most screens today. Most video content is shot and edited for a 16:9 screen because it is flexible to multiple devices. If you have a flatscreen TV at home, it can play 16:9 content. Smartphones can do that as well in landscape mode.

4:3 Aspect Ratio

The 4:3 aspect ratio was the most common screen size when television sets became a regular part of most households. Most TVs back then have a 4:3 aspect ratio. The quality of content for most TVs in the early 1980s to 2000s is 720 pixels by 480 pixels at max or standard definition (SD). During that time, 720p was already clear and of high quality. But if you compare it to today’s standards, 720p is something you’d frown upon.

In today’s world, there are not a lot of screens with 4:3 aspect ratios. If you still have an old CRT computer monitor (the one with a huge back), that probably has a 4:3 ratio. Most LED monitors and television screens today are larger than the 4:3 ratio, so you might have trouble finding a monitor with that aspect ratio.

16:9 vs 4:3 Aspect Ratio Quick Comparison

The image below shows the comparison of a fullscreen resolution at a 4:3 aspect ratio and a widescreen resolution at a 16:9 aspect ratio.

Image showing a side-by-side comparison of 16:9 vs 4:3 aspect ratio.
Side-by-side Comparison of 4:3 and 16:9 Aspect Ratio (Source: Eksposure)

First, 4:3 is taller than the 16:9 aspect ratio. If you pay attention to the height, you’ll see that 16:9 is shorter by only a few units. Second, notice that 4:3 is more like a square or box while 16:9 is clearly a rectangle. The difference in width gives us already a clue of what 16:9 or widescreen can do. It gives us a wider viewing experience and enables filmmakers and videographers to shoot and edit videos at a wider resolution.

Screen Real Estate

The size of the screen affects how many windows you see and monitor at the same time. By resizing windows into sections, you can efficiently track multiple windows without the need to switch, minimize, maximize, and close windows constantly. Hence, the screen real estate is important to have the best possible experience without compromising accessibility and ergonomics.

The 16:9 aspect ratio champions screen real estate. Its widescreen display can effectively handle multiple open windows and maintain a comfortable reading and viewing experience for the user. Having a wider width means a more immersive experience and gives users a sense of control in active applications and browsers. For creative and power users, wider screens give them more space to design and edit content with ease. Widescreen displays are perfect for showing most videos because they’re set up in the 16:9 aspect ratio.

Alternatively, a 4:3 aspect ratio has worked in the past. Most applications and content before are designed for a 4:3 screen resolution. If we go back in time, having a 4:3 screen resolution is already optimal. You’ll do most of the tasks and remain efficient. However, a 4:3 aspect ratio has limited compatibility and accessibility with content today. Since most content is already released for widescreens, you’ll be missing a lot in terms of viewing and immersive experience. Document and image viewing benefits most in a 4:3 display, while some videos also use this ratio. However, this doesn’t mean that a 4:3 LED display can’t show as wide a variety of content.

Gaming

Gaming has expanded to a variety of platforms. However, one thing they have in common is the display screen. PC games always require a monitor, while some console games have built-in screens that can be displayed on a larger screen to be more immersive. The aspect ratio of the screen can heavily impact the game experience.

Gaming in a 16:9 aspect ratio is the most ideal and practical choice. Most games today are designed for 16:9 screen resolution. You’ll never go wrong with a 16:9 aspect ratio monitor when making a buying decision. You’ll get your money’s worth because most games are already for widescreen use, and they’ll be future-proof.

In the case of the 4:3 aspect ratio, it worked for games before. In the year 2000s, most games were designed for a 4:3 screen solution, so there’s no problem with that. However, as TV screens and monitors got wider, games in the 4:3 aspect ratio became obsolete since game developers preferred a wider screen. Using a 4:3 monitor for gaming today isn’t recommended, given that most games today also need high refresh rates and response times.

Productivity

Modern display systems have a cool feature: multitasking. It means you can do lots of stuff at once on one screen. However, how well you multitask depends on the screen’s aspect ratio. A 16:9 ratio is better for multitasking than a 4:3.

Monitors and screens with 16:9 resolutions are the most recommended picks for productivity tasks. If you require multiple windows open at the same time, 16:9 monitors won’t disappoint. Aside from having more screen real estate, larger and broader screens can provide split-screen views without significantly affecting the readability of the text. It will feel as if the split screen is almost equivalent to a 15-inch laptop screen.

For 4:3 monitors, we don’t just recommend them for productivity. They’re great only if you have one window running. You’ll have smaller windows if in split screen mode and might have difficulty reading the text. Having a 4:3 aspect ratio also feels tight and cramped and can be counterproductive. Another disadvantage of 4:3 screens is their low resolution, which translates to lower screen quality. 

Videos, Films & Photos

Displays should match the content they show to maximize the viewing experience. For instance, a movie must have a 16:9 resolution to play in full widescreen on a 16:9 monitor. This is important because incompatibility might decrease the viewing experience.

The 16:9 aspect ratio is the standard for video content production because of the variety of devices using a 16:9 screen resolution. This aspect ratio offers a balanced and cinematic viewing experience and high video resolutions that can range from 1080p to 4K. Widescreen displays use available screen real estate to play videos in their full size without unintentional crops and distortion just to fit the video content. This ensures that viewers can enjoy the content and enhance their viewing experience through high-quality pictures and viewing angles.

In contrast, most images and documents are designed with a 4:3 aspect ratio. That’s why most documents and images are perfect for a 4:3 screen; they don’t really benefit much from widescreens. While some videos can also be in a 4:3 aspect ratio, it has become less common nowadays due to the popularity of widescreen TVs and monitors.

Screens with a 4:3 aspect ratio are limited in terms of the content that can be displayed. The reason behind this is that most video content is already in 16:9 format, and there’s little demand for 4:3 screens nowadays. While the 4:3 aspect ratio displays certain types of content, such as presentations or documents, excellently, it may not be as suitable for showcasing widescreen videos or multimedia content.

Fitting Content into Different Aspect Ratios

It’s normal for most people to experience a different screen resolution and monitor aspect ratio. However, that doesn’t make the device unusable or unplayable. When this happens, most media players adjust content by adding black bars on the content’s top and bottom or sides. Media players do this in two ways: letterboxing and pillarboxing.

Letterboxing

Letterboxing means fitting widescreen or 16:9 content into a standard definition display for 4:3 aspect ratio. It squeezes the content so that it fits in a 4:3 screen. This method adds black bars at the top and bottom of the content. So when you watch 16:9 content, there will be black bars on the screen, and you’ll not be able to utilize the whole screen.

When a film is letterboxed, it will look smaller on a 4:3 screen. However, the shape won’t be distorted, cropped, or stretched. The quality is still the same except for the size. Letterboxing preserves the content’s original aspect ratio, so it doesn’t affect the user’s viewing experience.

Pillarboxing

Pillarboxing is another technique that’s the opposite way of letterboxing. When you need to fit small content onto a bigger screen, pillarboxing comes to the rescue. In pillarboxing, the black bars are on both sides. Since you need to increase small content size without distorting or cropping, black bars serve as the filler.

Imagine you have an old 4:3 video from an old VCD or DVD but want to watch it on your modern widescreen 16:9 LED display. Pillarboxing adjusts the video to fit the screen without stretching or cutting anything off. It may look off on the sides and pixelated, but that’s just it. Videos in 4:3 format are not built for high-resolution displays. 

Are 4:3 Screens Still Worth It Today?

The popularity of 16:9 aspect ratio and screens is undisputable nowadays. Wherever you go, you’ll see widescreen monitors and TVs. If you’re considering 4:3 screens, it depends on various factors, preferences, and needs. 

An advantage of a 4:3 screen is its compatibility with older content like vintage films, classic television shows, or retro video games. Suppose there’s a film that is still on VHS, and you may want to play it on a 4:3 screen unless you can digitalize it so that it can be played on a laptop. Using a 4:3 screen to play the classics doesn’t result in letterboxing, so you’ll get the intended viewing experience, especially if you’re into old films.

Another reason why you’re opting for a 4:3 screen is budget. You can find very cheap 4:3 screens in online marketplaces. However, it’s not worth buying a cheap 4:3 screen because of budget problems. There are lots of affordable widescreens out there that you can buy. If you’re on a tight budget, you don’t have to buy the branded screens, and you can find a lot of affordable options.

Consider that 4:3 screens are becoming increasingly less common today. Screen manufacturers are now shifting to 16:9 screens because many people already prefer a widescreen experience. So, if we’re talking about practicality, a 16:9 screen is ideal. But if you’re opting for novelty, perhaps a 4:3 screen is worth the penny.

Conclusion

Choosing between a 16:9 or 4:3 aspect ratio should not be a difficult decision today. Most content and programs are already designed to maximize the screen real estate. Games and media content are already utilizing 16:9 screen resolutions for optimum experience. However, a 4:3 screen might be a good choice if you’re into vintage and classic films. For practicality, we urge you to give a 16:9 screen instead. But if you just want to experience vintage watching, get yourself a 4:3 screen.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *