16:9 LCDs: Movies On Your Desk!
Until now PC monitors in 16:9 format have been only a niche market. The format was widespread on laptop computers, but consumers seemed to be unenthusiastic about desktop monitors in "Wide" format. And until now we've agreed with them. Aside from the fact that video games are rarely designed for movie format, performance frankly wasn't up to snuff. And prices were clearly an obstacle. But we've had the pleasant surprise of finding a few monitors that aren't bad at all. And for once, we've found two from Sony that are well worth taking a look at.
Overall, the performance of PC monitors in movie format is improving. But the arrival of the Xbox 360 also proves that game publishers are ready to design their creations in wide format. And if you're a regular reader, you'll know that the new console from Microsoft is HDTV-compatible via VGA or YUV interfaces. That means you can connect it to your new movie-format flat-panel PC display and get the most out of games in 1280 x 720. It's a good alternative for those who already have a good CRT TV set and want to change computer monitors.
16:9 Or 16:10?
Predictably, total confusion still reigns where picture format is concerned. The 16:9 standard says that LCD TVs should have 1280 x 720 or 1366 x 768 resolution. But if you've been in the computer game for any length of time, you know that, first of all, the numbers 720 and 1366 don't really sound right, and second, manufacturers just don't give a damn about standards. As a result, the monitors we tested rarely have the right format. Often you find 1280 x 768, which actually corresponds roughly to a 16:10 aspect ratio. Larger panels offer a 1920 x 1200 picture, which also works out to a 16:10 format.
But what are the consequences for the user? If you have content in 16:9 format and you want to project it onto a 16:10 display, your image won't be able to fill the whole screen. You'll see two black bands above and below the picture. They are relatively thin compared to what you see on 4:3 screens, but they're just as useless. You can choose to distort your picture, or else zoom in a little to fill up the entire space, but those aren't very satisfactory workarounds.