Update: On the 30th of December 2010 I posted a follow up on this blog post, find it here.

I have often been wondering why monitors are like they are; why don’t they make square monitors.

Let’s have a look at previous/current monitors and why I think that wide screen monitors often are no good.

There does exist monitors with other resolutions than the below mentioned once, specially if you look at the notebooks, but the once below are the most common desktop monitor.

Past monitors

In the good old days we had monitors with low resolution, such as 1024×768 which is still very used. Actually, one of my flat screens is 1024×768 pixels and still in use today.

Then 1280×1024 got more normal, especially for 17″ and for some strange reason also 19″ screens. I only used 19″ monitor once and to be honest, it annoyed me. I was used to 17″ and then suddenly I had the SAME RESOLUTION but on a bigger area (19″) so this just meant bigger pixels; no good to me really.

Same resolution but bigger pixels does happen a good bit with the new big monitors also.

So finally things started to make sense, 20″ with 1600×1200, pretty high resolution even compared to our standards.

Wide screen madness

It seems the world went Wide Screen Crazy. Sure wide screen can be great for watching movies or playing games. But I never really saw the point for ‘normal’ use.

Let us have a look at the 20″, the standard resolution is 1600×1200 pixels, but the wide screen is 1680×1050 pixels. This is going from 1.920.000 pixels down to 1.747.200 pixels. For ‘normal’ use it must be great with the taller resolution, so you can view more of your Word or Excel data. The 80 pixels more in the width does not give you much really. Often the 22″ wide screen got the same resolution as the 20″

The 19″ wide is a joke if you ask me, 1440×900 pixels; sure the reduction of number of pixels is not as bad as with 20″ but still, 900 pixels in the height!!

The only reason for me to get a 20″ wide screen would be if it could be rotated 90 degrees.

Let us step up in resolution.

Currently I feel the best monitor is 24″, with 1920×1200 (Notice, same height as normal 20″). When I got my Dell 24″ I was SO shocked to start with, why I didn’t do that earlier (money issue of course). Since then we have seen 27″ (from Dell), also same resolution as the 24″.

Here I can actually see a reason to go from the 24″ to the 27″, IF you use it as extra screen in bed room or such; for movies. Just too bad that they are a lot more expensive, for Dell the 27″ cost around 140% MORE than the 24″. The prices for all monitors have dropped a lot during the last year and the 24″ one seems pretty alright now.

The current top monitor is the 30″ with 2560×1600 pixels. Main problem with the 30″ is of course the very high price and the requirement of special dual DVI linked graphics card. The graphics card issue is probably the smallest; the graphics card I got in my Mac Pro should be able to drive two times 30″ but I’m not sure if my VISA card could.

Multi monitor setup

Often people start out with a single monitor and later invest in a bigger one. Depending on desk space they often find them self using both monitors. For us programmers there is no going back; have you once used two monitors then going back to a single one is out of the questions.

As mentioned in an earlier post (Second graphics card for Apple Mac Pro with Boot Camp) I’m now using a setup with 3 monitors.

Multimonitor setup

From left to right: 17″ Sony SDM-S71 (1280×1024), 24″ Dell 2407WFP (Rotated 90 degrees, 1200×1920) and finally the old 15″ Philips 151AX (1024×768).

The 17″ screen works as main display; so all gaming happens on this monitor in normal screen mode. This is also great for programming as I have source code on the middle screen and can easy debug any game running on the left screen. The right screen is mainly used for MSN, ICQ, Skype and such.

This is a GREAT setup, it gives a great view when you work with source code, Word Documents, PDF files, blogs (surfing the web is a lot nicer). Excel documents are sometimes best viewed in 1920×1200, specially the old ones I have where I would place any chart to the right of the numbers.

Future (Give me a square monitor)

So what’s next? I already got a great setup but that does not make me happy (well, I’m not unhappy either).

I have been considering two ways of extending my current setup as it does allow for one more monitor to be connected.

  1. Get one more Dell 24″ of 100% the same type as mine, rotate it and place it next to the current one. Problem with this is that the very latest Dell 24″ does not support rotated display. So I might have to find one on eBay.
  2. Get another great 24″ monitor and place it none rotated to the left of the current 24″. This would be the new primary screen; great for gaming and for movies. The old 17″ would then be placed on top of the current 15″, just not sure how as none of them supports wall mounting.

When I sit here and look at the big monitor I just don’t understand why they don’t make square monitors; why do they have to be wide screen. Give me a square monitor with 1920×1920 (or why not 2048×2048) pixels. Make sure pixels are square also of course. Let the size be 52x52cm (20.4×20.4″), given a total of 28″. I’m pretty sure the graphics cards could handle that, it is after all the same number of pixels as a 30″ (4MP). Now I would be happy.

Having two 24″ monitors next to each other (or on top of each other) would give this resolution but with 4cm between each half.

As far as I remember I once read about one company who produced custom designed monitors; they took two ‘normal’ monitors apart and was able to place each display without any distance between them. They didn’t use 24″ but still not a bad idea. I was not able to find the company again, so if someone knows then let me know.

I searched the net and was not able to find any such screens; I wonder why, there must be a market for them.

This Post Has 44 Comments

  1. Michael

    Great post wish I had read it earlier, got a wide screen to attached to my laptop, still weird and I might switch it out for the 17 inch on my desktop.

  2. Damn Brit

    Monitors are typically wider than higher as it suits our eyes – it’s more natural and comfortable to scan horizontally than vertically.

  3. Sam Nova

    Very good point; but if you ever tried to use a 24″ rotated 90 degrees for work then you would love it and probably also ask for a square monitor :-)

  4. Damn Brit

    I’d probably also be asking for painkillers to help with the RSI in my neck ;)

  5. highstakesliving

    Nice setup Sam, I’m guessing you play a little online poker due to the poker chips next to your mouse. I’m always shuffling chips while playing :D

  6. Sam Nova

    Damn Brit: (Ian, we need to use your real name now, as you are not THAT damed..hehe): When I started to use the 24″ yes, it was strange and I felt I was moving the head a lot, then changing to rotated display it was all the same again, head up/down. But you just need to find the right distance.

    Highstakesliving: Yup, I do play a bit online poker and always shuffles the chips, also do it from time to time when I work. Didn’t play any poker for awhile, got to change that.

  7. Cromely

    I like the widescreen displays for multitasking. I’m often in two or three different applications and it’s nice to see them side-by-side.

    The new side bar on Vista also takes more advantage of widescreen.

    Of course, the wide screen setup does leave a bunch of empty space on the the sides of various blogs.

  8. Henrik

    I’d go for a 4:3 any day if you ask me. That also goes for normal TV. I hate that they’ve started to broadcast news and such in 16:9 here in Denmark, especially since they just don’t add a black bar at the top or bottom, no they add a black section around the picture most of the time since not all clips and shot in 16:9. RETARDS!

    Back to pc monitors… I kinda understand why you think 19″ are crap compared to 17″ because you can’t set it to a higher resolution but I diagree with you there. Having 19″ allows me to sit a bit further away from my monitors and still enjoy the quality. And that way I feel my overview of my two screens is better.
    Atm I’m using two Samsung SyncMaster 913N (19″) and I love it. I would feel handicapped if I had to go down to one screen again.

  9. SEO Rob

    I currently have three Lacie monitors running on two different computers and I used Synergy networking software so that I just use one keyboard and mouse with all three. It’s a sweet setup.

    I would never run any of them landscape mode though. I have to agree with Damn Brit. One day, you are going to wake up with a very stiff neck that won’t go away.

  10. Carl

    I found your article while trying to find a square monitor myself. 2k x 2k would be perfect.
    I, like you, could not find a manufacturer, but I support that there must be a demand, 2 people anyway.
    I came upon this after looking at my old 6×6 negatives from my old medium format camera, I always preferred that format and found that not worrying about orientation was neat. I don’t buy the wide screen or golden ratio stuff, I want square.

  11. Carl

    PS.
    I currently run 3 19″ monitors in portrait mode side by side. Its nice.

  12. Roberto

    I agree, I hate wide screen and would love a 2k x 2k (or 1200 x 1200 at least) square monitor.
    I am an amateur photographer, I shoot more vertical than horizontal images for portrait and architecture, and they are forced to appear smaller than the horizontal ones. At present I’m using two crt’s, one of them in portrait mode, but I need to split my slideshows in two.

  13. Malcolm

    I have been looking for a screen monitor for ages, I have a 20″ screen but would like to upsize, BUt NOWHERE can I find a screen, which is far better the these wide screen jobs.

  14. BOB RUSSELL

    wide screens suck. a squre screen is perfect for any type of autocad operation. have you ever seen the cruddy view of a building or ductwork on a wide screen?
    it sux. The only reason to ever go wide was for entrepreneurs to make a buck off of the blithering idiots of the world. you see next they will sell square screened monitors for more than the wide screens. All just a marketing ploy for blitherings. I still have my 24″ square flat screen, and it can view wide screen with the correct resolution.

  15. jaffamuffin

    Nice setup.
    I have a 1600×1200 in portrait, giving 1220×1600, and a 24″ CRT giving 1920×1200. It’s pretty sweet aswell. Much more useable, I have portrait for documents and landscape for photo editing / film / games etc.

    Anything above 1200/1280 in width just results in wasted space at the side as most web pages aren’t designed for that width.

    A 30″ 2560×1200 with 2x portrait 1200×1600 at each side would be sweet as well.

    I await a widescreen monitor with 1920 height to allow 2x 24″ portarit at each side. :)

  16. Nelly

    my lcd monitor just died, it was a square one, I’ve been looking for one on the Internet and several stores, manufacturers, etc… Unbelieveble, I cannot find a square one, all I find is widescreens, we had them at work and they sux, where did the old good days go? :(

  17. JoWo

    I have in mind a square touchscreen, about 24″ x 24″. This would be used as a board to be laid flat on a coffee table. There would be a plethora of available board games such as Monopoly, Scrabble, Risk, Clue/Cluedo etc. It would come with plastic devices that could be laid over “your” section of the board to hide such things as your letters in Scrabble, your clues in Cluedo. I think it would be a winner!

  18. Bill

    We use AutoCAD where it is very important to see cirles as circles. these wide sreen jobs just can not be brought into a square resolution. I am looking for a square monitor so I see circles not elipses.

  19. Sam Nova

    Bill, even with widescreens it should be possible to show the circles correct.. IF the pixels are square, if the resolution is widescreen or not should not matter, as long as the resolution selected gives square pixels (native pixel size on the tft panels). But to be honest, I don’t know if the pixels are square or not :(

  20. Titch

    I hate wide screen monitors, I’m an avid gamer and find that when you go full screen all that happens is the image is just deformed – stretched (eg the charaters just look fatter) and is of putting, so I have the play in window modes to keep everything in shape, hence it feels like viewing on a smaller monitor.

    Give Me A Square Monitor any day.

  21. Sam Nova

    Titch: Most newer games would (should) work correctly with widescreen but yeah, it is an issue with some games.

  22. Suzi

    My square Dell monitor died in just two years so I”m afraid to buy another one. I hate these wide screens so much. Photo shopping is a nightmare on these.

  23. Michael

    I am also in agreement with why is there no square monitors bigger than 17″-19″ with decent specs. I for one am a “gamer” (mmo’s) and i do not like the widescreen look. For years it has been people looking down at work then back at the monitor, so saying looking up and down “hurts” your neck…MAN-UP! Lol. I want a monitor that i can see everything like in looking out of a window(most are square or taller than wider). I don’t like having to look left to see this then right to see that and having to focus on the center of the screen at all times now that is NOT natural! But i wish you the best of luck in your quest for a great monitor. Like Titch said things just get FAT with a wide screen. You cant see more than whats there all you can do is make it short and fat! Try stretching a square picture you cant see more than whats there.

  24. chris

    I also have been searching for a square screen for some time now.
    Widescreen not for me.
    When [year] did they stop making them?
    If I come across a used one, will I need an install disc to make it work properly? In other words, if I find a used one, should I keep going because of no software?
    thoughts, please!
    chris
    [ using 19″ crt now, works great, need a second monitor, preferably something not quite so heavy.]

  25. betmatrho

    As a graphic artist, my work requires as near square as possible. I use a 17″ lcd and want to buy another one just in case we will soon not be able to locate them any longer. We also have two wide screens sitting on the shelf – they distort the images so much I render them useless for art work.

  26. DR.A.C.JHA

    I am desperately looking for a square type lcd monitor.I know after surfing the net that because of movies /gaming every manufac. switced over to wide screen.
    It really looks dirty.Every character look fat and deformed.

  27. Arlene

    I,too, found this site while in search of a square monitor. Not only does it bother me to look side to side, it makes one look fat in photos.
    Where do we file into a picket line?

  28. Catman

    Two points: Regarding the neck pain: Do neck stretches, turn far in to it several times a day, then far away – or live with a twisted and sore neck after retirement.
    Square monitors: I just returned a couple of wide screen monitors. I have two 19″ squares, I need 24″ squares. I design web images, edit photos, enter data. Wide screen monitors make circles elipses (read earlier texts), distort images, type, etc. Isn’t there enough business office demand to continue to build new SQUARE MONITORS? I’m now shopping the used monitor stores. Oh, joy.

  29. Cherry

    I HATE WIDESCREEN!!! I need a new monitor! First off, I hate the gell screens! My old style glass monitor is easy to keep clean and I do not have to worry about my cats messing with it!! When my glass monitor finally died, after ten years, all I could find were these flat screen monitors with smushy gell type screens so that is what I had to get!! I hate them! Now this most hated gell screen monitor has some issue and I need a new monitor. All I can find are widescreens!! I hate them!!!! I do not like a widescreen tv and I do not want a friggin widescreen monitor and it appears I have no choice in the matter! I HATE TODAY’S TECHNOLOGY AND IDEAS!!!!!

  30. Amit

    Hi,
    You boost my confidance to pick up a square moniter.
    Very good and researchful article.
    I searched in my city alot and finally i got a dell 17” the perfect one.
    Thank you very much ..

  31. Sam Nova

    Thanks all for the comments, sorry that I first approved them now. I’m planning a follow up post very soon as I agree and disagree with some of the comments here :-)

  32. Pingback: Monitors on My Mind, I need a Square Monitor, part 2

  33. Loucille

    I just purchased a 19″ Acer square format monitor on Jaunuary 14, 2011. The model was V193Djb. I paid a little over $190 with sales tax. It was purchased at Altex. They have a store in Addison and Arlington, Texas. May have other stores, but these are the two I know about.

    The resolution isn’t as sharp at the ViewSonic I owned, but I wanted to stay with the square format. I hate the wide screen, so this was my only option. I know when these are gone – then I will be out of luck.

    Hope this helps those of you that want to stay with the square screen.

  34. Sam Nova

    Thanks for the comment Loucille. It is not hard to find these monitors really, at least not here in Switzerland, but this is still not what I mean with square monitor :-) Do check out the follow up post I did recently http://www.samuelnova.com/2010/12/31/monitors-on-my-mind-i-need-a-square-monitor-part-2/ Main thing is of course that the monitor you bought fill the needs you have.

  35. Tenz Minz

    I do graphics on computer.. On widescreen u can’t happily work on one project.. I always have to drag up & down alot!

  36. DerekBez

    TV is great in widescreen. Computer screens don’t need to be though. Photographers who shoot portrait, occasionally even, loose out on widescreens.

    And what about digital photo frames. Why the heck are some of them 16:9? A square format would be much, much more sensible. Ok, so you’d see black borders on every image, but at least portrait-orientated photos won’t suffer.

    I work with data – database tables and spreadsheets. I scroll a lot on my widescreen laptop.

    Wide is good, but so is height.

  37. Adrian Fogarty

    I too cannot understand the obsession with widescreens. Good for movies but little else (and why watch a movie on your PC anyway?). Most serious work is displayed in portrait format: most webpages scroll up and down, most spreadsheets scroll the same way, and most Word documents or PDFs are in portrait A4 format. Similarly PowerPoint defaults to a 4:3 image (as do most digital cameras).

    My current laptop has a widescreen but for much of the time there is a large amount of blank space on the right half of the screen while most of the actual work is hidden below.

    Surely there must be a market – at least within the business, scientific and academic community – for 4:3 screens?

  38. Rezo Kaishauri

    @ Adrian and other widescreen opponents:

    “why watch a movie on your PC, anyway?”

    Because it looks better than the crappy TV sets most of us can afford?

    And maybe because not everyone has expensive DVD players, and DVD-ROMs are a cheaper and better (IMO) alternative for someone who spends a lot of time on PC?

    As for “little less,” there are many PC gamers out there, who can appreciate the superiority of widescreen gaming. Please don’t count them off just because gaming may not seem “serious enough” for you.

    Also, working in Photoshop, CorelDRAW and many similar graphics software is way more convenient in widescreen. Take it from a graphics designer with more than 15 years of working experience.

    Also, there’s Excel. When I had a 4:3 monitor, I had to scroll horizontally a lot while working with tables. Now I don’t have to anymore, because I see all my data at once. Yes, I still need to scroll vertically, but that’s a lot more comfortable, provided your mouse has a scroll wheel.

    Speaking of scrolling: you still need to do a lot of vertical scrolling in both 4:3 and square formats, and plus some occasional horizontal scrolling, which is more cumbersome, since it’s generally not supported by mouse wheels. Widescreen format pretty much kills the need of horizontal scrolling, which is another plus.

    Bottomline: Yes, people often tend to follow “fashion trends” in hardware mindlessly, but IMO the mentioned “widescreen madness” is incorrectly regarded as one of these silly trends. Many people really find widescreen more appealing and useful, that’s all. And for those who prefer working in other formats, including squares and portraits, the industry still leaves a lot of options, so I really don’t see a problem here.

  39. Saurav

    Completely agree with the author. I had to change my entire PC setup at home recently, and I was appalled and aghast at the fact that the only monitors to be found are widescreens! I mean, I am so used to working on my 17″ Viewsonic (square) and it worked like a dream. The new 22″ Samsung wide that got installed with the new setup is ridiculous. I mean, itz great for watching movies and stuff, but certainly not for real work, or image editing etc. Wonder what this widescreen craze is all about. And WHY? Why do we need widescreens in the first place?

  40. anl

    Who ever designed the widescreen is stupid. Everything on it looks either fat or skinny. I can only use it for only 30 minutes. It is causing me more eye and head problems. Why do I want to watch movie on my computer if I have a wide screen tv. Not all people like to play games on the computer. Computer is for office, school works, facebooking, surfing the net and listening to music. The square monitor is best for everything. Widescreen is taking too much space with little work to do.

  41. Capt Ahab

    Widescreens are cheap to manufacture and that is the problem,for now.I can’t profess to understand the limitations of current monitor technology but I think the lack of a product for this consumer group has been greatly overlooked.I predict that this product will come to pass,but it will expensive,but still cheaper then having 3 thin bezel super widescreen monitors rotated 90 degrees which seems to be the fad these days.Bottom line is Monitor producers know the can lose money if people have an option like a 30 inch monitor at a 5:4 aspect ratio and high resolution…I’ll hang on to my 19 lcd at 1280 by 1024
    for now,might be worth money if nothing changes!

    p.s.
    Try flying a jet in Bf3 on a 1980 by 1024 widescreen,you can only see left and right unless you use the free-look options which further complicates everything.I’m sorry if I am being harsh but I blame it all on the console@$%!Why? Because they use the big wide-screen to play games so all the format has been changed to suit them.Wide-screen is the bane of PC-Gamers!

    p.s.
    The video card companies are complacent by charging huge money for products that support multi-screen technology when it wouldn’t be necessary for a lot of peeps if the product was out there, I could be wrong so don’t shoot me:)

  42. PJ

    I hate widescreen. Both monitors & tvs. It is NOT natural. As an artist I’m very sensitive to the visual. The lack of visual height is awful. I have to constantly scroll to view things. I know the difference well since my work monitor is square & I have a wide one at home. Its hard on the eyes. I think the world went nutty with widescreen too. I dont like it for viewing tv either. I wouldnt mind a big screen as long as its square. I could tolerate a little extra width in TV viewing but not in computer use where I need a lot more vertical space. Wish I could get a square monitor.

  43. PJ

    Yes I also noticed how the wide screens distort the images. And I think the touch screen monitors are just plain silly. We are not primative apes that need to point ith fingers…. I prefer the use of a finer point(cursor/mouse). Leaning forward to touch the screen can trigger some back issues etc. And imagine the germs left on the screen by people touching it.

  44. Meh

    I gave up at 42in anything bigger is silly :)

    I would say 42in (yes that’s 42 not 24) is probably the best giant sized tv monitor. I also have a 24in LG since both are LED and both do 1080p, the transition from a monitor to tv wasn’t as hard as I expected. With the right tweaks and settings even the crappiest tv makes a nice monitor. You also don’t lose picture fidelity that’s just an old wives tale.

    The perks you ask?

    No need to bother with dual monitor setups, on one hand you can use Task View in Win10 and on the other hand you can play with the tv’s inputs. So you can in theory split the screen since a tv can have more than one HDMI input. If your on Linux using Qemu you can run two oses at the same time using just inputs and nothing else to flip between environments.

    It can be slower than having two separate physical screens obviously but heck it works and you get more screen real estate. And makes a hell of a gaming setup if your into the whole 4k delusion.

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