The latest laptop to cross my review desk (it's just my regular desk, I don't have two desks) is the Chromebook Pixel, Google's ultra-premium new laptop, just released this week, which is a very curious device indeed. It's beautiful and well-made, but it runs Chrome OS, which, while surprisingly capable, is really nothing more than a web browser. It is a difficult thing to review because it's great, but wildly overpriced given its capabilities--the reviews of the Pixel tend to be glowing, until the last sentence, which is "Oh, and nobody should buy this laptop, because it costs $1,300 and can only run one program."
I'm not going to buy a Chromebook Pixel, but I absolutely hope that laptop manufacturers start taking a cue from one of the more unheralded innovations the Pixel brings to the table: its aspect ratio.
The standard aspect ratio for laptops these days is 16:9. (MacBooks are 16:10.) And that makes no sense, because 16:9 displays are exclusively designed for watching video.
Until 2009, personal displays were more square, with ratios around 4:3; wide displays could really only be found in movie theaters. But then came the dominance of digital video. DVDs were standardized at a 16:9 ratio. HDTVs soon followed, as did high-def television, streaming video, and Blu-ray. And our portable devices mimicked this, wanting to show off beautiful video now that it was available. Laptops, then smartphones and tablets all went 16:9. (Major exceptions being the iPhone, which until recently was 3:2, and the iPad, which is 4:3).
It makes sense that your HDTV has a 16:9 display. But your phone? When was the last time you watched a movie on your phone? I think a more square screen, like the Chromebook Pixel's 3:2, is a superior aspect ratio for laptops.
There was a time when we needed to use laptops to watch all of the online video content that's quickly taking over, like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, YouTube, and HBO Go. But not anymore! Now it's easy and cheap to beam that stuff up to a real TV--you can pick up a Roku for $50, and get access to all of that video content on the kind of screen that can really do it justice. And it's not like a squarer screen can't play video. Sam Biddle over at Gizmodo, though he makes other nice points, calls out the Pixel's screen's aspect ratio--but his only complaint is that videos will look "bad." And in fact they don't! There's a slight letterbox, sure, but it's hardly unwatchable, and it's not even unsightly. It's also not smaller; the Chromebook Pixel has just about the same display width as a 13-inch laptop, so videos aren't chopped smaller.
And don't forget what you gain here: video is a very minor part of what we do on our laptops. Web browsing, for example, is a far more common activity, and the taller display on the Pixel works perfectly with web pages--because they scroll up and down. You get 18 percent more vertical space in a 3:2 display than you would in a comparably wide 16:9 display. That means you can see more of the internet. You scroll less. It just makes sense. This holds true for editing documents and spreadsheets, viewing photos, and all kinds of other non-video-related things you do with your computer. Why are we designing our laptops around a relatively minor feature?
So, laptop makers: bring back the squarer screen. 16:9 is designed for watching videos, so let's keep that aspect ratio on those displays where we primarily watch videos. For our laptops, let's make sure the screen is designed to handle what we actually do with laptops.
I think having a 16:9 aspect ratio on my phone makes sense because then it reaches between my ear and mouth. I don't think a square would work that well.
This article is a subjective slap in my face ^^
1."When was the last time you watched a movie on your phone?"
Yesterday and the day before, F u. If you re not doing it doesnt mean other arent doing it neither...
2."a relatively minor feature(videos)"
F u here too. Videos AND Video games, and the least isnt that of a minor economical ecosystem.
3.Even though i do agree that 16:10 are a great set of screen that i used for a long time (for programming and such), 16:9 are less restrictive in the pereferal views and photoshop work... a BIG 16:9 screen wont bother you at all if you are just browsing POPSCI or viewing photos
(parallel black stripes are more unconftable for longer periods as you wished to have the full aspect ratio for your movie, than vertical black stripes for a few sec vertical photo...)
4. EFFF U KINDLY for making decisions for us ^^
PS: but yeah well noted that now you can just beam stuff to your TV and stuff, but i as many am a cable-cutter so i dont own one ^^
No facts, No response...
The reason I prefer a 16:9 ratio is because laptops don't come with two display screens yet so the wider the screen the better i'm able to work with two simultaneous windows open. With a "square" display I am left with two windows that are horribly impracticle. And I hate constantly switching between screens so no, that is not an option. I half-heartedly endorse the EFFF U's from above. I also watch content on my phone regularly and most of my games would be horrible on a "square screen."
I actually think that you have a point- I DO watch videos on my laptop, sometimes quite a lot if I'm in the right mood, but I do a lot more web surfing than video-watching. But what about gaming? I think that gaming is more fun/immersive/visually appealing when played in widescreen- 16:9 or 16:10, for me. Also, a laptop that is the usual 12-14 inches, but is also rather taller than the usual, is not going to fit into a bookbag or even most laptop bags. But for many uses, yeah, I would prefer a 3:2 display. I guess I'll just have to wait for Sony's extensible OLED laptop screens...
I fully disagree. YouTube videos, which people watch all the time would look awkward on a square display, with ugly side bars. I want my video to fill the entire screen. That goes for my laptop and phone, as well as my TV. I don't watch movies on my phone, but I watch videos all the time, and I don't want obnoxious black bars ruining the experience. I take pictures in 16:9, I take videos in 16:9.
Web pages look bad on 16:9 resolutions, because they're not designed for it. Phones and laptops don't need to be redesigned; websites need to be redesigned to accommodate 16:9 resolutions.
I frequently have two programs running on my laptop. Two webpages, a web page and a text document, a webpage and [insert any software I'm trying to figure out how to do something in], a full screen MS Office documents, which are designed with 16:9 resolutions in mind (ie: MS Word displays two full pages, side-by-side on a 16:9 resolution, etc.
There are plenty of everyday reasons that necessitate a 16:9 resolution on phones and laptops for the average consumer.
I disagree for 2 reasons.
1. Your examples of the popsci page on various ratios ignores the fact that many people (like those on a mac) do not use "full screen" browser windows. On a wider display I can easily have a fully-wide-enough browser window AND another window in the background for reference.
2. Again, I'm on a mac, and I use Safari. I don't know how much has changed, but I used to comment about how dumb IE and other Windows based browsers were, since they had SO MUCH stuff at the top of the window. Not just a URL bar and book mark bar, but a google bar, a yahoo bar a this bar and a that bar -- it used to eat up over 50% of the vertical space. So really, that argument should be aimed at making browsers more simple, rather than display taller.
(ANd I guess, 3, I just prefer a wider aspect ratio. It looks nicer, aesthetically.)
You're always going to get more viewable area out of a 16:9 or 16:10 display unless you make the 4:3 device so enormous that it's cumbersome and awkward. Think about it. A keyboard is a wide thing, and laptops have keyboards. Put a 4:3 display on it, and it has to be a pretty small laptop, like those of days past. If you want similar viewable areas to today's laptops, you'd have to make the thing gi-huge-ically normous.
On phones, as Fear The Wabbit pointed out, you can't really hold a stupid, square thing to your face comfortably.
This article is baffling. Why on EARTH would not want something that routinely displays video to be optimized for video?
I completely disagree.
raalic made half of my point for me.. wider screens allow for full-sized keyboards... If you want a baby keyboard, get a phone.
Also, a larger screen means more room in the PC part of the laptop for batteries and heat dissipation.
4:3 laptops are more cumbersome to carry, even if the screen isn't huge. If you carry the computer with the hinge-side in your palm and the latch facing up, the wider 16:9 screened laptops are more stable laterally because they have more leveraged weight (and/or lower center of gravity or some such nonsense... but they are more stable)
16:9 and other horizontally-biased aspect ratios are preferred for a pretty simple physiological reason:
The human eye.
We're terrestrial creatures. We evolved vision that scans a landscape well, but is not as good at looking up or down. Our visual field is wider horizontally than vertically. Our peripheral vision is primarily horizontal.
We see in widescreen. That's why widescreen aspect ratios are dominant.
There are other bonuses, like the distance between mouth and ear favoring a widescreen phone, but those are incidental.
I agree with the author. I have a 4:3 laptop. Looking at web pages at full screen with a 16:9 ratio creates a serious case of tunnel-vision that drives me nuts. As for video, which I watch all the time, I'm fine with a bit of letter-boxing. Laptop width is generally set by the keyboard width, and is similar on most laptops. So he video will be about the same physical size on the screen no matter the aspect ratio. 3:2 isn't a bad compromise, but 4:3 rocks.
I agree with Iz0 completely, square ratios are impractical to us. This article was highly informal in the use of subjective analysis, rather than SCIENTIFIC fact.
16:9 is much better suited for working and having multiples windows open at a time. I've had both dimensions at my disposal at the office and NEVER used the square screen unless it was a must.
Not to mention I enjoy having a full-sized keyboard on my widescreen laptop.
The only pain? Finding the appropriate bag for the laptop. Otherwise, no complaints.
Even though a lot of people disagree with what Dan has to say in this article it is still a lot better than before. I'm so happy that you've changed your writing style.
As for the content, I have never watched a movie on my phone. I don't see the point of wasting my time staring at this pointless little screen when I can watch it on my 46 inch LCD screen in HD.
The letter box issue is annoying though it is essentially the same issue when browsing in 16:9 you just get the letter box on the left and right not the top and bottom. I always browse in full screen, again, why would I bother looking at something half its size when I can look at the full thing.
I wholeheartedly disagree with 4:3 being a superior aspect ratio for doing anything other than viewing photos, which are natively 4:3. And the reason for this is very, very simple:
If I divide 16:9 in half, I get two 8:9 boxes, or almost perfect squares. This is perfect for using two applications that are not video next to each other, because many applications are laid out to fit into roughly a square window (because most have some type of editor, which will likely have an aspect ratio close to a piece of paper, which if you then add a little bit to the sides/top for UI elements gets you pretty much to a square).
If I divide 4:3 in half I get two 2:3 boxes, which are nothing like squares and are in fact an iPhone in portate mode in terms of aspect ratio. 3:2 is absolutely terrible for doing just about anything other than reading a list. Which hey! thanks to the iPhone a lot of web-pages are now formatted for! But pretty much nothing else is. Trying to have two applications open on a 4:3 screen and use up all of the screen space is an exercise in futility. I can do 4 things at once really well, because then we get back to the magic box ratio, but unless I have a massive screen at that point everything is WAAAY too small.
Finally, you're completely ignoring the fact that the human eye, as others have pointed out, is biologically designed to have a wider Field of View in the horizontal than the vertical. We can actually see MUCH more data when it's presented in a wide aspect ratio than when it's in a tall one.
So.. basically... none of your points are valid. Except the part about optimizing a display around something we don't do very much. Because most people aren't looking at photos the majority of the time. And that's the only thing a 4:3 aspect ratio is optimized for.
I'd rather have my screen even wider. I'm sure quite a few people who actually use their laptops for something productive would too. I often do things side by side and often times 16:9 is just a smidge too small in terms of width. Get it juuuussst a bit wider and I would be happy.
Rather than have all laptop screens the same aspect ratio we need a choice!
Manufacturers have moved over to 16:9 and have totally ignored the wishes and requirements of the many people that love 4:3.
It's still possible to have two windows open side by side on a 4:3 screen - all you need are enough pixels. A popular resolution on 15.6" 16:9 screens is 1366 x 768. So if your 4:3 screen is the same width and the same resolution, your two windows will be just as easy to look at.
I suspect that the people who are complaining about their window sizes on 4:3 screens are probably using older tech which didn't have the pixel densities that we enjoy now.
Of course the laptop will be bigger which might not be to everyone's taste, but that's why we should have a choice.
And think of the massive battery you could get in a 4:3 laptop!
Umm, actually I hate 4:3 screens. 16:9 or 16:10 make way more sense. It's easier to glance side to side than it is up and down. And as others have pointed out, have you ever tried to view two windows at once on a 4:3 screen? Let's just say it doesn't work so well. Not to mention that 4:3 laptops are really bulky...
Ouch, how depressing! Practically all commenters seem to prefer 16:9. To me 4:3 or 3:2 make so much more sense for text/coding and photo editing. 16:9 is a trick to advertise a bigger screen with smaller surface area (cheaper to produce). Most art (paintings, drawings) is also closer to 3:2 or 2:3 in aspect ratio.
I think what people need to remember here is that a 4:3 screen would not be any thinner (width-wise) than a normal 16:9 one. The article mentioned that. That means that everything will still fit that ALREADY fits on your laptop screen, you'll just have EVEN MORE room.
He knows that it's March, not April, 1st right? Why the hell do you think movies are widescreen? Hint: they weren't made that way to fit modern laptop screens.
Every time I read a terrible, thinly veiled opinion passing as an article here it's by this guy.
I like dinosaurs too!!! (But I would not ride them to work everyday....)
I get the impression that Mr. Nosowitz has not been overly concerned with the writing of this article. To give him the credit - the article seems to be written from a journalists point of view - in my opinion a non-computer-user-perspective(if you don´t consider word for a minute).
I think for the regular computer-user the 16:9 ratio has the advantage of storing open palettes at the sides of the screen without obstructing the document view.
Mr. Nosowitz seems to be less skilled in visual communication. SInce we tend to read from left to write and this is widely culturally accepted in the western world, we tend to scan pictures from left to right as well (old habbits die hard). The 16:9 aspect ratio gives the visual narrator the possibility to tell longer stories due to more information.
What do you think?
How good this article is.
friv1.co | friv3.co
Yeah, why would I want a 16:9 (well I have a MacBook, so 16:10) screen? Its not like I have 40GB of widescreen movies, or happen to be a video editor, or happen to play games where 16:9 works and looks better.
Seriously. Im so happy that pretty much all content is based around 16:9 displays. I remember when they started making movies 16:9 only and I still only had a 4:3 TV. Now that its standardized, just leave it.
I agree completely. The 16:9 aspect of most LED monitors makes no sense and a lot of scrolling is required which is why portrait rotating makes sense a lot of the time but even that isn't perfect. A perfect monitor should be square then there is no need to rotate it!!
As i can see, public likes different things, AND IM FINE WITH THAT!
What i dont like is forced points of views... and systematic hate and extermination of other screens...
Its like linux distros, for each person his own shit!
No facts, No response...
I just signed up only to comment on this article.
First of all: I COMPLETELY AGREE 16:9 IS DUMB!
We live in a vertical society. When was the last time you guys wrote a paper horizontally? How many web scrolling is done horizontally? Since ancient times, scrolls have been vertical not horizontal. Play games? magic scrolls are also vertical.. start to see a pattern here?
Dont you guys realize that the actual physical width of the 4:3, 3:2, 16:9, 16:10 or anyothers is basically the same? You are only getting robbed of vertical space!
You can watch a movie or play a game on a 4:3 just the same, having those black stripes on top/bottom of the screen makes much more sense than losing 30% of screen height.
I assume that since you guys "only" play video games and watch movies on your laptops you're merely kids. People that actually "work" on/with their devices will easily do with the black stripes for gaming & watching movies. Plus, people that work have the means, resources & right mind to not watch a movie or play a game on a laptop unless completely bored. Have you heard of "large screen tv's?". A real player or cinephile would laugh at doing that kind of stuff on a <15" laptop (if you have a larger laptop then it really misses the point of beeing a laptop).
In short: laptops/computers are meant for a multitude of tasks that require more vertical space than horizontal. 16:9 screens are meant for 2 things: gaming and movies : kids. So in the name of all non-laptop-4-entertainment people & decent people in the world. Stop cursing & start thinking.
I agree, because 4:3 fits my needs better. But I know others need the widescreen more. Better yet, why don't we just let manufacturers offer both, and give people a choice. :-)
last time I bought a laptop (4 years ago), widescreen was pretty much the only option. Glad to see that's not the case now.
How sad that so many outcry against an opinion. It seems like many here prefer 16:9 displays.
Guys, it's an opinion. If you like 16:9, GOOD FOR YOU! But why is it that *every single screen* out there is 16:9? You hate the prospect of getting rid of 16:9 screens completely, and I understand. But for people who need to write, code, do photo editing or anything that involves text or bitmaps, 4:3, 3:2, and 16:10 are superior.
Since you 16:9 fans hate the idea that 16:9 screens should be abolished compeletely, how do you think us "tall-screen" fans feel? For people that do real work and not watch por-- er, I mean movies -- all day long, 4:3 and 3:2 are superior. But there is only ONE laptop that has a 3:2 screen, and it's an insulting $1299 and only runs a browser.
Let there be some choice. If you don't like tall aspect ratios, then don't buy them, but do not needlessly and unfairly squander those who prefer taller displays and encourage OEMs to offer more choices.
One size doesn't fit all.
I really can't understand why Pop Sci continues to allow this whiny, opinionated jackass to write "articles" for them. This time he didn't even bother to copy-paste anything from an actual scientific article to whine about and just offered up some thoughtless opinion alone. This "writer" is almost single-handedly lowering Pop Sci to rag status.