About three years ago (end of 2007) I wrote about monitors and square monitors (See here). I received a good few comments on that (Sorry people, first got some of them approved recently). Instead of giving feedback on the comments directly in the comment section I decided to write a new blog post, as things have changed a bit since then and I thought it would be fair to give feedback and some updates. My monitor setup and future wishes have changed from back in 2007. Lot’s have also happened on the monitor market but still no real square monitor available.
To be Square or not to be
I want to clear one issue, when I talked about square monitors I talk about same number of pixels on both X and Y, spread over the same distance. So let’s say I want a 2048 by 2048 pixel monitor then this would have to be around 50cm by 50cm. This would be a ratio of 1:1. What most people are considering square monitors are monitors with resolution of 1024×768 or 1280×1024, so either 4:3 or 5:4. Even my 24″ screen of 1920×1200 got a different ratio of 8:5. All these might seem pretty square compared to the “HD” monitors of 1920×1080 which is 16:9. So when people complain about not been able to find a square monitor then they often want a 4:3, 5:4 or even 8:5 but not a widescreen of 16:9.
When talking about ratio I do prefer to talk about the Ratio to One, so width divided by height. Let’s look at some of the normal monitor resolutions:
1024 by 768 pixels: 1.3333 to 1
1280 by 1024 pixels: 1.25 to 1
1920 by 1200 pixels: 1.6 to 1
1920 by 1080 pixels: 1.77 to 1
The smaller the value is the more “square” it is. Here we can see that the widescreen monitors that offers Full HD is the worst.
Other resolutions I found:
1440 by 900 pixels: 1.6 to 1 (seen on a 19″)
1366 by 768 pixels: 1.778 to 1 (seen on a 19″)
1600 by 900 pixels: 1.77 to 1 (seen on a 20″)
1680 by 1050 pixels: 1.66 to 1 (see on a 21″)
2560 by 1600 pixels: 1.6 to 1 (30″)
2560 by 1440 pixels: 1.778 to 1 (Apple LED Cinema Display 27″)
1024 by 600 pixels: 1.70 to 1 (netbook 10″)
So nothing really comes close to square. I’m no longer that shocked about the different ratios but I’m surprised about the low resolutions that people often get offered, such as 1440 by 900 pixels. Most of the widescreen monitors that are not Full HD (1080) got a really bad resolution. Try to work with Excel sheets with 768 pixels in the height, no fun really.
Problems reported by users
These issues are mainly a summary of the comments I got on my previous blog post about monitors (Thanks for those comments). Often the issues reported are either related to bad software or wrong source data.
Image been stretched on widescreen
This happens very easy, if you take a picture done with a camera that doesnâ€™t create widescreen images, the image will then have to be stretched to fit the whole screen. Solution would be to crop the image to get a portion of the image that fits the screen, or re-size based on the height and crop the sides off. Perfect solution would always to use source images with same ratio as the display. So this is not really a widescreen issue.
Games look bad
Most games that have developed within the last few years should support widescreen by default. Even if they have to add some black bars (border) around the play-field it should work. Older games might switch the resolution to something like 800 by 600 and yes, this would look bad. I doubt this is an issue any more really!
User selects wrong resolution
When circles turns into eclipse or other such distortions then the first thing to do would be to check the resolution set under Windows (or whatever OS is been used). If the OS has been setup to run a resolution with another ratio than the display then yes, the distortions will show up in all software (AutoCad!). I just tried on my 24″ to change to 1280 by 1024 and yes, it looked very bad. Text got stretched and was hard to read.
1080 killed 1200, damn movies..
So why do we see so many 1920 by 1080 pixel monitors? The one to blame must be Blu-ray, as they set the resolution to max 1920 by 1080, this might work very good when you sit in-front of your 46″ flat LED display in the living room and is enjoying a movie but tell me, WHY do we have to go down that road with monitors? Of course, if you use your PC to watch movies, maybe even with a Blu-ray player connected as second source then MAYBE it makes sense. If you do this 10% of the time, then would you not be happy to have some black bars at the top/bottom and have more work area when you use the PC for something constructive? I never watch movies (only trailers) on my PC, so 1080 would not make sense to me really. Yet I still see this resolution becoming the norm!
My current setup
Let’s have a look at how my monitor setup have changed since I wrote about monitors. To be honest, not a hell lot have changed.
In 2007 I worked from a home office, so my work and home setup was the same:
This was (from left to right) a 17″ 1280×1024 monitor, then a 24″ with resolution of 1920×1200 but rotated 90 degrees (1200×1920) , finally my very old 15″ running 1024×768 pixels.
The main reason for the rotated monitor was not to freak people out but for editing source code, work on Word documents and excel sheets this layout is perfect. I had my 19″ as main screen in the beginning, so I was able to work with the code while watching the game run on the other monitor. This was not optimal for when I played games (Such as Lord of the Rings Online), so here I changed the main display to be the 24″ but this resulted in that I had to rotate the monitor all the time.
Too much hassle really so I ended up rotating it back to normal.
End of 2010, home monitor setup
Now I’m no longer working 100% from my home office but around 20% (Plus spare time projects). Not much have changed with my home setup really. I’m using the same old 17″ (1280×1024) to the left, then the 24″ in the center (1920×1200) and to the very right a new 17″ (1280×1024). I got the last 17″ when my ex upgraded from 17″ to 21″. I did try running with all 4 monitors, having the 15″ to the very right but that didn’t make any sense really. Too much turning the head to be able to see what was happening on that final screen. This might be an idea if I watched some online TV while sitting at the PC.
End of 2010, work monitor setup
Here we again have a 19″ (old one with bad colors, should get that upgraded soon) with 1280×1024 and a 24″ rotated by 90 degrees. At work this is perfect (it does freak people out) as I’m either working with source code or with Word documents. The setup here difference from my old home one as the main display is the 19″ monitor, so when I launch our Atlas (that I’m writing new code for) then the atlas will show up on the 19″ and I’m still able to debug/view the code on the big monitor.
The setup I would like
I would like to change my setup here at home at some stage, since I will not be able to get any square monitors (1:1, not even sure I want that anymore really) I would probably choose the new Apple 27″ Cinema Display and 1 (or 2) 24″ monitors, the 24″ should then be rotated and be on left/right side. This is not going to happen for a long time (due to costs). This would not have high priority for me anyway, as I’m pretty happy with the current setup and it suits my needs.
Lot’s have happened with monitors during the last few years, quality have gone up and price have gone down. If we ignore the crazyness with 1080 then I would say things are going forward, just not fast enough. I would like to see Quad HD, so around 3980 by 2180 in the near future (these do exists as prototypes).
Several companies (NEC and Alienware) have demonstrated curved displays. These basically gives the resolution of 2 or 3 normal monitors but combined into one unit that curves nicely.
Ostendo have also developed a nice setup Ostendo CRVD This setup offers a 43″ curved display but only with a resolution of 2880 by 900 (but I would still like to test such a monitor), the price for this is a big issue as it currently sells for around $6500.
I’m sure such systems already exist but probably too expensive. What I have in mind here would be 3 displays connected together, but without any bezels (border) between the displays, maybe a thin line would be visible but nothing more, please.Â If the 3 displays were then connected so that the two side displays were shifted a bit towards the viewer (as I have it with my system) then this would be a possible replacement of the curved displays. Having ONE big display, behaving as one BIG display would be the perfect solution in my opinion.
I need to touch this subject (pun intended). We all seen it in the movies (Minority Report is a prefect example): Big semi transparent displays that is controlled by either touch or gesture. But did we ever see anyone use these setups for anything involving detailed work? Or do they ever use them for anything long term? Nope. We seen them movie images around, zoom on images and so forth (all could be done on my iPhone). Now we do have the possibility to buy touch screens that can be connected to our PCs. But do tell me: WHY?
Sure if you use the PC in a multimedia setup then it can be nice to do some operations without using the mouse. But what about normal usage of the PC? Just try to sit and read this article and each time you had to scroll down, or click a link: then you would have to life the arm, touch the screen and then back with the arm. Or if you do a lot of work with pictures, imaging 3 hours work with your arms stretched out in front of you. Welcome pain :-)
So what will happen!
I don’t know, I’m sure we will see quad HD resolutions at some stage (when there is a real need for it.. or when movies are in that resolution!). I doubt we will see bigger displays really (30″ should be enough normally). Technology will advance to give us better quality, use less power and generate less heat. Dear readers, if you have ideas for what the future will bring us in connection with visuals (maybe beyond monitors) then please leave some comments.