Do we need 21:9 monitors
Do we really need 21:9 PC monitors?

18 Sep 2012 | Rasmus Larsen |

Philips recently discontinued their 21:9 TVs but also launched a 21:9-format PC monitor. LG did the same and Toshiba has a 21:9- laptop planned. But do we really need PC monitors in the extra wide 21:9 aspect ratio? FlatpanelsHD tried the 21:9 new monitors at IFA in Berlin. Here is our impressions.

Do we really need 21:9 PC monitors?

LG and Philips both unveiled a new extra-side 21:9 PC monitor at IFA. They told us how great it was for watching Hollywood movies without black bars at the top and bottom and how users could split the screen into two or four segments while working.

A 21:9 PC monitor is wide – but do we really need them?

OK, so far so good. But the following questions arise:
  1. Do we really need PC monitors in the 21:9 format?
  2. Who wants to watch movies on a PC screen?
  3. Is it a real alternative to multi-screen setups on a desktop?

We tried all of the monitors at IFA and our experience is somewhat mixed. We fully understand the advantage of having a wider panel to overcome black bars at the top and bottom of the screen when watching movies but can it justify moving entirely to the 21:9 aspect ratio? Even for work, internet surfing, gaming etc?

Hands-on with 21:9 PC monitors
Do you really want a 21:9 PC monitor just to watch movies when it also affects everything else you do on the monitor

The real question is probably; who is actually interested in watching movies on the PC monitor? Is movie watching on a PC monitor not just a necessary evil caused by space limitations or the unwillingness to invest in a real TV? A sort of transitional phenomenon and a need that products such as tablets solve better. Most consumers also watch TV shows and documentaries which are most often shot in the 16:9 format so you have to be a pretty big movie fan to buy a 21:9 PC monitor solely for movie watching.

You have to be a pretty big movie fan to buy a 21:9 PC monitor solely for movie watching

Is a 21:9 PC monitor an alternative to multi-screen setups, then? I am a big fan of multi-screen setups and I normally work in front of two 24-inch monitors side-by-side, as it provides a natural split between the working spaces. On the first monitor I can read while at the same time write on the second monitor.

Hands-on with 21:9 PC monitors
Or you can use it for picture-in-picture where you have your PC on one side and a Blu-ray movie on the other side

The primary problem with large-size PC monitors, in my view, is that you lack something to divide the screen real estate into segments. Yes, you can have two documents side-by-side on a 27-inch monitor or have the Internet browser run next to your Word document but you end up trying to constantly resize windows to make them fit the full screen size. It is not optimal - but sure, it works. This was one of LG and Philips’ take-away points and they had both incorporated a feature to let you automatically resize windows or arrange them side-by-side or in a grid as seen below.

Hands-on with 21:9 PC monitors
When you divide the extra wide monitor into segments it actually becomes quite useful

This actually makes sense. It feels more natural this way. And because the panel is wide and fairly large it has enough desktop space to make multiple windows work. So, could 21:9 PC monitors serve as a viable alternative to multi-screen setups? Maybe yes. It might be the right choice for you if you often work with multi-window applications – or with many applications at the same time. Perhaps it could even work in gaming but that would require that developers included support for the extra wide format.

So, that leaves us with the following conclusion:
  1. Perhaps, but only for specific tasks.
  2. Not us, and we do not believe in the 21:9 PC format just to support movie watching
  3. Yes, it is a real alternative to multi-screen setups

So what about 21:9 laptops? Well, they are kind of… too big. It defeats the purpose of a portable PC. The 21:9 format is just too wide for a laptop. Forget about it, Toshiba.

Learn more about Philips’ 21:9 PC monitor here and LG’ 21:9 PC monitor here.

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