The standard widescreen size for an HDTV is 16:9. However the term widescreen is actually applicable to any image that is shorter and wider than 4:3. This rule applies to widescreen for TV, film and computer monitors.
Widescreen on TV
The typical dimensions of US TV has been 4:3. This ratio was chosen because early Hollywood movies used this ratio. TVs in Europe employ the PAL format. This allows for more viewing room (576 vs. 480 for the US NTSC standard).
Because of this difference, widescreen films can be shown on European TV without the need for cropping. That’s also the reason why the cropped widescreen size DVD is scarcely available in Europe. PALplus gives viewers full 16:9.
However the 16:9 ratios are becoming more popular thanks to HDTV. HDTVs use 16:9, and their growing popularity means more TV sets are now using the widescreen format.
Widescreen on Computer Monitors
The term widescreen is applicable to computer monitors. This has come about as computer monitor sizes have grown so that films can be watched on them. Most computer widescreen dimensions are set to 1.6 (8:5).
You’ll see this expressed as 16:10. However there are also monitors that adhere to the real widescreen size (16:9). These are on monitors with the following resolutions: 1280 x 720, 1920 x 1080 and 1600 x 900.
A few computer monitors are still available in 4:3 ratios. However they are quickly becoming obsolete. 16:10 is currently the norm, although 16:9 sizes are becoming very popular.
Assessing Widescreen Dimensions of Monitors
Before buying widescreen computer monitors, there are a few things you need to know. The sizes stated in the ads refer to the diagonal, not vertical measurement. This means a 16:10 monitor will be vertically smaller compared with a 4:3 of the same dimension.
To obtain the diagonal dimensions of a widescreen size monitor that would have equal vertical size as a 4:3, multiply the 4:3 diagonal by 1.173. You can use the same calculations for converting a 5:4 diagonal to that of a 16:9 with similar vertical dimensions.
You only need to change the value to 1.177. For a 16:10 widescreen monitor to have equal vertical size as a 4:3 19” monitor, its dimensions must be 22.285 (19 x 1.173).
If you’re having trouble determining its resolution, check the monitor manufacturer’s website. Or you can ask someone at the store.
Before buying a widescreen TV, several factors need to be assessed. This includes where it will be placed, the viewing distance, the room size etc. Again, you should remember that you’ll get to see 16:9 content on programs specifically designed for it.
If you’re watching old TV shows or films, they’ll still be using the old 4:3 aspect ratio. Needless to say, there are many types of TV out there. Do some homework before making a purchase. Widescreen TVs are not the same.
Widescreen sizes can be confusing for first time buyers. When you’re getting a TV or monitor, look over the exact specs mentioned.