Why 4:3 screens are better than widescreen for most laptop users

Discussion in 'MacBook Pro' started by eye.surgeon, Feb 1, 2008.

  1. eye.surgeon macrumors 6502

    Jul 12, 2007
    No doubt widescreen is superior for watching movies but for the way I use my laptop, 4:3 is superior. Internet, email, and word processing is all better with 4:3 on a laptop. I don't see a benefit for these applications in widescreen format until I get into 24 inch or great screens when it becomes possible to have two windows side-by-side on the screen. My 30 inch dell screen is great this way. but laptops??

    So I don't get it. Why did apple (and most windows manufacturers) bail on 4:3 screens for laptops? Just because widescreen is sexier or looks cooler? Can someone educate me here?
  2. OrangeSVTguy macrumors 601


    Sep 16, 2007
    Northeastern Ohio
    i went from a sony 15" matte laptop to a 15.4 glossy widescreen to my 12.1 ibook and i do miss the higher resolutions and widescreen but on a smaller screen, 4:3 is so much better then 16:9. although it would be cool to have a high resolution 12" widescreen:cool:

    but much like TVs, everything is moving to the widescreen format.
  3. Nermal Moderator


    Staff Member

    Dec 7, 2002
    New Zealand
    I like my 16:10 laptop. I can run Safari in a "4:3" window and have Adium or the WoW chat window off to the side. I feel constrained when trying to do the same with a 4:3 display.
  4. sammich macrumors 601


    Sep 26, 2006
    It might have something to do with the 'Golden/Divine Constant' (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_ratio)

    What is this 'golden ratio'? 1.6180339887 or 16:10, the standard ratio for widescreen's.

    Apart from that, widescreen's are simple better since our eyes are side by side, which mean we can take more information that is displayed horizontally, and 4:3 simply doesn't take advantage of that.
  5. jsw Moderator emeritus


    Mar 16, 2004
    Andover, MA
    Also, of course, widescreen laptops allow for wider keyboards and less wasted space at the bottom below the keys.
  6. cb474 macrumors newbie

    Oct 10, 2006
    Not really. Our eyes scan textual information vertically much more efficiently. That's why books are not formatted in 16:10. In fact, they are even narrower than 4:3. Or look at newspaper columns. They're very long and narrow, because it's easiest to read information quickly in that format. So for all of the things that people normally do on computers, as the first poster pointed out, i.e. wordprocessing, programming, surfing the internet, email, IM, for all these things 4:3 is better. You want as many lines of information as possible, not as long lines as possible.

    We do take non-textual visual information in horizontally better, because our peripheral vision contributes, which is why movies are shot in widescreen formats. But that's about it. You can't read with your peripheral vision.

    Obviously there is a cutoff point to the disadvantages of widescreen. At some point a widescreen monitor is large enough that there's plenty of vertical height to work with. But I think this point is in the 17" to 20" range. So for most laptops it makes no sense. Espeically the 12" widescreens. They're just rediculous.

    I think this is one point on which Apple really led the industry into a pointless fad. They chose widescreens because they're cool looking from a distance (but not for actual use) and because no one else was doing it at the time. Now everyone has followed suit. It is almost impossible to find a 4:3 laptop (are Thinkpads the only ones left?). And everyone has mindlessly followed, while ever more hunching over their computers and squinting harder.

    What's the point? What's the point of not at least having a choice?
  7. cohibadad macrumors 6502a


    Jul 21, 2007
    I think the switch to widescreens ties into multiple windows on a single screen and why apple has the green + button instead of a fill screen button like Windows. Having multiple windows open is much easier to navigate with widescreen than 4:3 IMO. Also, as has been said, the width of a full size keyboard requires a certain amount of screen width (ie MBA) which if 4:3 would add a lot of space below the keyboard making the notebook larger.
  8. joshysquashy macrumors 6502a

    May 13, 2005
    As far as portability is concerened, 16:10 is a better ratio.
    As someone mentioned previously, this is great for the keyboard and trackpad to fit in, whereas a 4:3 has less space for the keyboard, and more than needed for the trackpad.

    I find it easy to see the whole screen on, and now that most apps have several panes (think iTunes), you really need the extra width.

    In the horizontal, you scroll, but never in the vertical, so this is why 16:10 works.

    Plus it is better for video, and it does "look cooler"!
  9. valvehead macrumors regular

    Mar 1, 2008
    It depends on what you do with your computer. I agree that for text, widescreen doesn't make much sense. Besides web browsing, I use my computer for multitrack audio recording and mastering, video editing, CAD and photo editing. These apps benefit greatly from widescreen. With toolbars, timelines, mixer windows and video previews, my need for horizontal space is nearly insatiable.

    If I had to make a guess, I'd say the whole widescreen craze has its origin in the film industry. Movies used to be a lot more square than they are now. Even as wider formats became more common, TVs remained 4:3. They cropped the movies for broadcast and video tapes. Then letterboxing started to appear. Now you could see the film in the original aspect ratio (or at least closer to it). Oh no, now we've got wasted screen space! Well, just make the TVs wider! It was only a matter of time before widescreen displays became common for computers, too. That's my theory, anyway.
  10. Mord macrumors G4


    Aug 24, 2003
    IME not having enough space on the horizontal is more of a PITA than the vertical.
  11. Joko macrumors 6502


    Jan 30, 2008
    Completely disagree. Everything I do so far on my MBP requires more horizontal than vertical space, particularly multiple documents. I couldn't imagine it any other way.
  12. Bootsie macrumors 6502a


    Jan 23, 2008
    I love wide screen! Maybe it is because the 4:3 screens that I used didn't have very high resolution so I had to do a lot of horizontal scrolling, but I love the widescreen, it fits what I use my computer for very well.
  13. burningrave101 macrumors 6502

    Mar 4, 2008
    I've used standard 4:3 aspect displays recently in the Lenovo ThinkPad T61 line and I don't care for them at all. For me widescreen is much easier to view and browse web pages with compared to viewing the same page in standard aspect. And regardless of what some of you are saying widescreen IS a more natural aspect for the human eye. That's something that's been stated time and time again in reviews done against the benefits of having a widescreen display. Yes you loose a measure of vertical screen estate but you can only read so many lines of text at a time and it's easier to scroll vertically than it is to scroll horizontally. Most windows are layed out horizontally, not vertically. When you have multiple tabs open in a web browser like FireFox the tabs run horizontally across the page. With a widescreen aspect you have room for more tabs across the screen. This holds true in nearly every application. You loose some of your vertical workspace but you have the extra horizontal space to have everything spread out and easy to work with. With 4:3 everything is more cramped together.

    MacBook Pro's are also geared towards primarily multimedia. Video content editing is one of the biggest markets for multimedia. Widescreen is much better suited for multimedia than standard apsect. And the biggest selling point to me for a widescreen laptop is that it's more portable. When you start messing with 15.4" and larger laptops a standard 4:3 is more awkward to carry and fit into a notebook bag.
  14. Michael CM1 macrumors 603

    Feb 4, 2008
    Until humans read top-to-bottom instead of left-to-right (or right-to-left for our Arab pals), 16:9ish will always be preferable to 4:3. Widescreen matches our natural vision more, which is why HD went that way. Try stacking two Safari windows on top of each other, then stack them side-by-side. It's much easier to read the side-by-side.
  15. burningrave101 macrumors 6502

    Mar 4, 2008
    Exactly. The human eyes naturally want to look at something left to right when you first glance at it instead of looking top to bottom. The only time the eyes want to naturally look top to bottom is if your a guy and your checking out a girl lol.
  16. Hls811 macrumors 6502a


    Apr 19, 2004
    New Jersey

    If thats the case then why not just use 2 side-by-side windows on widescreen and make the screens half-size? You'd still get more on a 16:9 that way.
  17. cb474 macrumors newbie

    Oct 10, 2006
    I agree that 4:3 is better for almost everything people use computers for, except watching movies shot in a widescreen format.

    Most of what people do on computers is basically oriented around reading: word processing, coding, web surfing. Texts that we read are all oriented to use vertical space. It's incorrect to say wide is better, because we read left to right. Although we read left to right, we scan up and down. Our eyes can only take in so wide a line of text at once. Notice that pretty much all books, newspaper columns, magazines, and printed matter are formated with a much larger vertical dimension.

    So widescreen is fine if you have a huge 20" or greater desktop monitor, because then you can have reasonable sized documents side by side and use the extra desktop space effectively. But on a laptop it makes no sense. A 15" widescreen, to say nothing of the 13.3" inch that is so popular now, minimizes overall screen space. Indeed, as simple matter of geometry, you get a lesser overall area of screen space for an equivalent diagonal dimension. The illusion of greater space on a widescreen is just that, an illusion.

    The reality is, I think, that long ago Apple introduced the widescreen and it just looked so cool. Everyone started copying it. It's a pure fad. People have fooled themselves into think it's better, but really they just like it for the looks, not the functionality. I just don't believe the people who say widescreen is more useful on a small laptop monitor.

    And it makes absolutely no sense that there are no 4:3 laptops left. Can anyone name one? As far as I know the Thinkpad X61 is the only one and Lenovo will probably phase it out soon.

    Why are laptop manufacturers doing this? Not because everyone likes widescreen better. But because it's the fad and they don't want to have to make so many different models. It's a business decision which has nothing to do with functionality or user preferences.

    Frankly, I don't know what I'm going to do the next time I get a new laptop. I don't want a heavy laptop with a 15" or larger widescreen. But 14" and under widescreens are just ridiculously not useful, in terms of vertical space.
  18. cb474 macrumors newbie

    Oct 10, 2006
    From "Mobile Computer" magazine:

    "While widescreens are undoubtedly superior for movies, they're not everyone's cup of tea for use as a workspace. Laptop makers like them because they make it easier to have a full size keyboard and - cunningly - fewer pixels are needed to make up those headline grabbing screen sizes."

    Again, this fad has nothing to do with what's actually functional for most users.
  19. jmmtn4aj macrumors member

    Feb 29, 2008
    Personally I find the biggest advantage of widescreens for laptop to have nothing to do with resolution or visual 'ergonomics' at all, but rather the form factor of the whole laptop. Squarish laptops, i.e the IBM T60s, just don't look as good, and don't seem to fit bags as well. But yeah, 900/800 pixels vertical res is too little for me.
  20. chrono1081 macrumors 604


    Jan 26, 2008
    Isla Nublar
    Lol I love arguments based on personal preference.

    I was an early adopter of widescreen and havent looked back. For what I use it for (coding, design, 3d modeling, etc) widescreen is just easier to work on because of the extra screen real estate. When on my laptop I have it always set in extended desktop mode set up with a 26inch lcd and it works out great. I still have to use spaces cause I am a program whore but I realy like wide screen. Oh ya, and with my monitor, I can flip it vertical if I like :)

    My office mate on the other hand hates widescreen and snatched my work monitor from me when I got my other one because it was one of the few standard screen monitors we have left. He likes it better for whatever reason.
  21. masse macrumors 6502a


    May 4, 2007
    It has to do with the field of vision of the human eye, and the way we learn to use it.


    widescreen looks cooler.
  22. shakenmartini macrumors 6502

    Apr 29, 2008
    ++ for widescreen

    I prefer 4:3 for low resolution where you focus only on one maximized document at a time.

    However at high resolution I prefer wide screen because I can have multiple full page documents open side by side.

    On a 17" MBP-HR I can have two documents open side-by-side or two browswer windows at 100-150% magnificantion.

    If I need to do gross comparison of multiple documents I can easily scale down a word document to 80-90% and compare 3 documents.

    Very hand for technical writing where it is useful to have reference material on your display instead of printed out and sitting on the desk.
  23. stevedave50 macrumors newbie

    Aug 2, 2007
    I found it much better writing my dissertation on my widescreen MBP than on my old Toshiba 4:3. Having the widescreen means you can have two documents open side by side. This meant i could have academic papers infront of me to refer to while typing at the same time.
  24. shakenmartini macrumors 6502

    Apr 29, 2008
    This is exactly what I do, or have and EndNote window open.

    I wrote my dissertation on a 4:3 windows laptop and spent all my time Alt-tabbing between documents.

    Now I can write side-by-side and I LOVE Spaces. Keeps everything nice and tidy!
  25. InLikeALion macrumors 6502a

    Jul 18, 2007
    Greener places than I used to live
    Also, a big reason is that lcd manufacturers found that it was a lot more efficient to cut 16:10 ratio panels out of the full substrate sheets than 4:3. There was less unused excess and they could get a higher number of panels per sheet.

Share This Page