The Best Screen Aspect Ratio For You
We’ve already talked about how 16:9 is the best aspect ratio to buy for your projector screen. But there are a lot of different types of users out there. Some of them may be able to have more than one screen. Some may only watch certain content on certain screens. So, what type of user are you? Because we have a screen aspect ratio that is best for YOU!
Best Screen Aspect Ratio For Movie Lovers
Hey cinephile! You love movies. But not just any movies, the BEST movies. Those sweeping historical epics. The fantastic science fiction explosion-fests. The Marvel/DC superpowered slugouts! You love them all. Most importantly, you want to see them as the director intended! No black bars for you! You want that full cinematic experience!
Best Screen Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Often called cinemascope, 2.35:1 (and 2.39:1 and 2.4:1) is historically the preferred aspect ratio for those epic movies that you love so much. This allows the director to capture those sweeping vistas, the massive fight scenes, the epic dogfights they want. It allows them to incorporate as much of the background as possible. Now, if you really want to make sure you NEVER have black bars on the top/bottom of the screen, you’ll opt for the harder to find 2.4:1 aspect ratio. But with 2.35:1, you’ll very rarely have black bars on the top and bottom of your screen.
The Downsides of 2.35:1
Be prepared to deal with black bars on the sides of your image for all other content. Do you also watch regular tv or stream shows? Those are all in 16:9. That content will be smaller on your screen. But that just adds to the cinematic feeling of your movies right? Sure, you may need to invest in an anamorphic lens setup or deal with missing out on subtitles that were placed in the black bars of the image assuming that you’d have the more common 16:9 aspect ratio screen, but that’s the price you pay for the TRUE cinematic experience. Now, if we can get “auteur” directors like Christopher Nolan to stop putting 16:9 scenes in the middle of their 2.35:1 movies, that would be great.
Best Screen Aspect Ratio For Streamers
Are you addicted to streaming? Do you have Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max accounts? Are you paying almost as much for streaming services as you did for cable? Streaming services give you access to libraries of content like never before. Did you completely miss the 24 craze when it was out? Binge watch it at your leisure! Infinite content at your fingertips!
Best Screen Aspect Ratio: 16:9
16:9 (sometimes call IMAX or HDTV) is the most common screen size. Nearly every direct-view display is 16:9. The cheapest projector screens are 16:9. Heck, most computer monitors are 16:9. TV shows have been shot in 16:9 for years and that is why it is the most common ratio on the market. This is great for you as you have the most options, leading to the lowest prices.
On top of that, many movies and TV shows assume you will have a 16:9 screen. They take advantage of the black bars on the bottom to make their subtitles more legible in their 2.35:1 movies. Some movies will actually change their aspect ratio during the movie to create different effects. With a 16:9 screen, you have the screen real estate to take advantage of all these different formats.
The Downsides of 16:9
Be prepared to deal with black bars on top and bottom for movies. The cinephile crowd will tell you that the 16:9 content should be smaller than the 2.35:1 content, not the other way around. By opting for a 16:9 screen, you’ll make those big movies seem smaller in comparison. You’ll have black bars on the sides for older, 4:3 content but, honestly, so will everyone else. And, of all the screen aspect ratios, 16:9 is the most compatible which is why it is the one we most commonly recommend.
Best Screen Aspect Ratio For Console Gamers
With the release of the Playstation 5 and the XBox Series X, the console wars have started anew. When shopping for a screen for your shiny new console, you have a lot to think about. Does your new display do 4k? Can it handle HDR (High Dynamic Range)? Can it adjust to VRR (Variable Refresh Rate)? But none of these are screen aspect ratios. That’s because console manufacturers assume you’ll have a regular TV.
Best Screen Aspect Ratio: 16:9
We can’t think of a game that isn’t 16:9 native. They may have 2.35:1 cutscenes, but these are the exception, not the rule. If you are a serious gamer, you are going to want a screen that will show you everything the game is displaying.
The Downside of 16:9 For Console Gamers
All consoles released in the last decade or more can play movies. Whether it is through a streaming service or directly from a disc, you can enjoy movies and other content through your console. When you run into those 2.35:1 movies, you will have to deal with the black bars on the top and bottom. But if gaming is what you are most worried about, 16:9 is the easy choice.
Best Screen Aspect Ratio For PC Gamers/Twitch Streamers
“Consoles are for Casuals” is practically your motto. You are into Gaming with a capital G. You got gud and beat Demon Souls before it was cool. Created a Twitch channel and now you are cultivating a community through your chat. You don’t play consoles unless you have to. And even then, by emulator if possible.
Best Screen Aspect Ratio: 21:9
Wait? 21:9? Yes, the Ultra Wide Screen format isn’t very common, but it does exist. We like the 21:9 for online gaming as you can have the entire 16:9 game screen open while maintaining some space for chat or other programs (like OBS). While many streamers opt for multiple monitors (each probably 16:9), starting with a single 21:9 screen (like this LG 34 Inch 21:9 UltraWide Display) is a great option.
The Downsides of 21:9 for PC Gamers
Many, if not most at the time of writing, 21:9 displays are curved. Don’t be suckered into buying one of the curved models. They “promise” an immersive experience, but this only works if your head is in the perfect spot so that the image doesn’t look distorted. You know what else does that without having to hold your head in a vice? A flat screen. Get one of those.
What About 4:3? 2:1?
Listen, weirdo, you may love reruns of early Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes but no one buys a 4:3 screen for that. If you want to see old shows as they were “meant” to be seen, go scrounge up an old Sony Trinitron monitor from a garage sale.
As for 2:1 – yes, we are aware that some filmmakers like this format. They see it as a happy medium between 16:9 and 2.35:1. They may be right. I’m no filmmaker. But I’ve been in this industry for decades and I can tell you right now that 2:1 is never going to be a thing. 16:9 is just too entrenched. Display manufacturers would have to completely reconfigure their manufacturing plants just to get a slightly wider image? I don’t see that happening.
But if you are looking for a reason to get a 2:1 screen, we’ve got one – your room can’t take a taller screen and you want a bigger image. If the image at your seated distance is not big enough, but you can’t get a taller screen and still fit your center channel, 2:1 aspect ratio may give you what you want. Your 16:9 content won’t be any larger, but your 2.35:1 content can be slightly wider. You’ll need a projector with lens memory, but there are plenty of those on the market.