Why it's time for PC makers to embrace 3:2 displays

Dell XPS 13 vs. Huawei MateBook X Pro
Dell XPS 13 vs. Huawei MateBook X Pro

One of the benefits of my job is that I get to handle a lot of laptops and PCs. Besides distilling the pros and cons of each, it affords me a bird's eye view of the entire industry – trends, problems, and what needs fixing. I've been bullish on the increased quality of PCs – especially from Dell and HP – with innovative designs, but there is still one area that bugs me: display aspect ratio.

Microsoft started the 3:2 aspect ratio trend with the Surface Pro 3, but few companies have revamped their PC lineup and followed Microsoft's lead. That's a shame, as I find 3:2 much more useful in 2018 in a web-focused world.

Display aspect ratios widely vary

The Acer Predator 21 X features a very wide 21:9 display aspect.

The Acer Predator 21 X features a very wide 21:9 display aspect.

Despite most laptops sporting a cinema-friendly 16:9 ratio, the industry has bounced between 4:3 in older desktop monitors to 16:10 in some laptops like the first Lenovo ThinkPad 700c. There was even a time where ultra-wide laptops were a thing, like the 2012 Toshiba Satellite U845W with a jaw-dropping 21:9 aspect.

While there are benefits for ultra-wide displays for Microsoft Excel fans or cinephiles who watch a lot of movies, as of 2012 16:9 has become the industry standard for consumer and business laptops.

Image courtesy of Hubpages.

Image courtesy of Hubpages.

Apple, meanwhile, has gravitated to something more neutral in its MacBook line landing on 16:10 (even though some still ask for 16:9 Macs (opens in new tab)).

Why Microsoft uses 3:2

Surface Pro 3 was the first Surface to use 3:2.

Surface Pro 3 was the first Surface to use 3:2.

It's worth revisiting why Microsoft went with 3:2 (2160 x 1440) in the Surface Pro 3. From my 2014 review:

Microsoft chose that aspect over the previously used 16:9 because they say it falls right in between 4:3 and 16:9, which are the two most common aspects in books and media. In other words, they're billing it as the best middle of the road solution. Movies aren't entirely cropped, but books, magazines and especially OneNote feel more like real paper. Making the Surface Pro feel like a digital legal pad, particularly with the new N-trig pen, was a primary design goal.

Microsoft's choice here is well thought out. We already know this design from real-world objects like books and magazines. That symmetry in technology is pervasive throughout the Surface line, including the rumored Andromeda device, which we believe will act as a digital notebook.

3:2 aspect (left) versus 16:9 (right) reveals different levels of content density.

It is interesting that smartphones are getting taller, like the rumored OnePlus 6's 19:9 aspect ratio, but the reasoning is the same. People like to read top-down on web pages and with data, for more visible text. Compare that experience to reading a web page on a squared-Treo 650 with copious amounts of scrolling, and it is not hard to see the benefits. In fact, both smartphones and Surface 3:2 ratios do the same thing: make the display taller to see more content (just with different orientations).

Huawei embraces 3:2

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It's hard to ignore the screen in the MateBook X Pro.

In 2018, I can think of only one brand besides Microsoft that is producing laptops with a 3:2 aspect, and it's Huawei. That's not too surprising as Huawei likes to borrow design inspirations from Microsoft and Apple.

The Huawei MateBook X and forthcoming MateBook X Pro both embrace the 3:2 display ratio, and those laptops are better for it. I've been using the MateBook X Pro, and that screen is outstanding. While I could argue that the HP Spectre 13t and Dell XPS 13 are better laptops (or at least, more original), that screen and ratio keep pulling me back. It's the same reason why I love the Surface Laptop and Surface Book 2.

I often let friends and family try out the laptops I'm reviewing, to hear their thoughts, complaints, and first-time experiences to improve my evaluation. Everyone prefers the Surface and MateBook screen design over the wide-angle laptops that are so common.

(To be fair, HP and Dell both make excellent Surface Pro-like devices like the Spectre x2 that use 3:2 aspect ratios, just not in clamshell laptops).

Hopping into Microsoft Edge, the comparison is obvious. You see much more content with the 3:2 aspect over the traditional 16:9.

3:2 aspect (left) versus 16:9 (right) on a standard web page.

Why PC manufacturers aren't on board (yet)

Most laptop manufacturers don't make their displays. Like every other tech company, they must source from Samsung, Sharp, LG, or some lower-cost company. Mass-producing a new display design, or custom aspect ratio, can be cost-prohibitive.

Even Lenovo did not splurge for its ThinkPad 25th Anniversary Edition laptop due to the expense. There is now a very modern 16:9 screen in a computer that was initially 16:10, resulting in a somewhat ungainly bottom bezel.

Additionally, many companies like Dell merely recycle the laptop chassis from year to year. Switching the display aspect can have enormous ramifications for the laptop's overall design since the top half needs to match the bottom. Redesigning your flagship product with such a radical shift is risky.

Alternatively, launching a whole new laptop line featuring a 3:2 aspect to see how it fares is also an expensive experiment.

It's time to switch

The HP Spectre 13t is an amazing laptop, but still uses a dated 16:9 display.

The HP Spectre 13t is an amazing laptop, but still uses a dated 16:9 display.

Will PC makers embrace 3:2 or will it be left to Microsoft's Surface line and Huawei to carry to the torch? Ultimately, it comes down to consumers voting with their wallets and giving companies feedback.

I think flagship laptops like Dell's XPS and HP's Spectre line would be even better with a more modern screen ratio that reflects our web-focused world.

Even Google gets it, as its 2017 Pixelbook sports 3:2. Indeed, many Chromebooks, like the Samsung Chromebook Plus, are 3:2 for an excellent reason – it's the modern trend.

None of this is to say that all 16:9 laptops need to go away. Far from it. Those in business and gamers may still want that ratio, so it makes sense to keep both on the market. But that competition starts by giving consumers a real choice. So far, we don't have that.

Daniel Rubino
Editor-in-chief

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been here covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics and ran the projectors at movie theaters, which has done absolutely nothing for his career.

117 Comments
  • 100 percent on! Hey, why stop with laptops screens? After the Surface Studio, other AIO Manufacturers should follow suit there too!
  • Speaking on a purely personal basis, 3:2 doesn't cut it when it comes to content creation, You need a wider screen because most of your pallets\tools are to the sides (having them at the top means you'd get RSI constantly moving from one side of the screen to the other). 3:2 means you'd lack the horizontal space that you need to do things comfortable. I'd have to plug in a traditional screen to create content and just use the 3:2 for low level things like surfing the web or reading email. Which I have a phone for.
  • As you can see from the photo, both laptops are the same width, but the 3:2 Surfacebook gives much more vertical space.
  • If you really need a wider screen 16:9 will not help. At least in the notebook world you only loose height. Today I too ran in to the HP Spectre 13t. It may be an amazing laptop, but its display is silly: It has a big unused bezel at the bottom, because it had to be "wide". My current notebook has the Microsoft 3:2 display too and is as small as comparable wider screen models. But it has far more height. Which I always need for browsing or writing.
  • 3:2=1.5 and 16:10=1.6, i.e. from any practical point of view Apple and Microsoft are on the same "page". I totally agree with this trend. Most programs are designed in such way that all menus are forming several lines on the top, leaving very little space for the context, is it Word, Excel or anything of this sort of programs. It is kind of a nightmare, to do constant up and down scrolling. Same with browsers, just look open you GMail in Firefox, top line tabs, below address bar, then Favorites, then goes GMail with all several lines which could be located easily on the left side. Same other browsers. It is even worse on most of the smartphone if you think that opulent touch keyboard will show up on the bottom taking half of the screen. Sometimes, I do not see the place where I am supposed to be typing......
  • This trend for ever more top menu lines eating up the effective usabel height made my changing on my desktop to use my 24 inch 4 K display in Portrait mode. Of course I had to put the task bar to the top and had to enlarge it to 10cm or so because otherwise you would have to look upwards and not downwards. But with this setup I can easily display a DIN A4 page in 100% and have to scroll far less then on those pesky 19:9 landscape Displays.
    And typing on a smartphone display is a no go for me in landscape mode as I too very often do not see enymore where I am.
  • That's a good point, especially if your application doesn't allow you to customize your tools. But if it does allow for that, it just may take time to get used to a new more vertical layout of your tools other than that of a traditional horizontal. Besides most professional media pros seem to have multiple screens and swap between them as needed. But adapting to a new layout can be a pain, but we all need to keep in mind if the industry standard changes we might be handicapped if we don't make the effort to keep up. I have found myself on the wrong end of that before, maybe more than once... :P
  • Completely agree, ever since Apple ditched 3:2 screens in favour of 16:10 in 2006 I've been wishing another company would bring them back. I've never understood 16:9 screens (aside from the lower cost), I've always found them too short and awkward to use for things like browsing the web and editing documents, which benefit more from additional vertical space.
  • You know what, 99% of consumers won't even check the ration before they buy. Very few people will even consider that screen ratio might be important until after they've started playing their first 16:9 movie and seen that it looks different from the way that it looks on their TV. And before anybody says anything, the users on this website probably represent the 1% who would check the ratio, on the grounds that most people here are significantly more tech savy than the average user, whom is more likely to be our grandmother than a fellow website user.
  • True, but when you see a 3:2 MateBook X Pro next to a 16:9 XPS 13, the choice to me is obvious which one I want.
  • The choice to you is obvious, you want the 3:2 display. The choice to me is obvious as well, I want the 16:9 display. I love the 3:2 display of my Surface Pro, but when it comes to a larger screen laptop, or my gaming rig, I still want 16:9. Now part of that may be because I won't use a laptop with less than a 17 inch screen and a desktop or gaming rig less than 27 inches. I'm curious if the screen size is part of it and I wonder if you still feel the same on larger screens. I'm curious how you and others feel when using a larger screen, does it change your opinion any or do you still prefer the 3:2?
  • I have a Surface Studio (3:2) and loooove the display. Totally fine working on it. I'll say the benefit decreases with screen size though. That is, I'm basically fine with 16:9 on desktop cause it's much larger, not as scrunched as a 13 or 15-inch display.
    "The choice to you is obvious, you want the 3:2 display. The choice to me is obvious as well, I want the 16:9 display. "
    Right, my point is there's barely any 3:2 PCs on the market besides Surface, so not really a choice for the user. I also specifically say at the end 16:9 need not go away.
  • That's what I was wondering. And it's funny that you mention the Surface Studio as I love that screen. At the same time, I see the high end HP AIO with the large 16:9 monitor and that looks perfect too. It's almost as if I'm in this mental state where I feel Surface devices should be 3:2 and everything else should be 16:9, which is even stranger. Anyway, I knew you said they shouldn't go away, I was just genuinely curious if your opinion changed based on screen size. It was just a thinking out loud kind of thing as I'm trying to wrap my head around why I like it on some devices and sizes and not others. It seems for me at least, it simply depends on what I using the device for.
  • While I agree with you somewhat, it seems you're missing the point here. The article is (mainly) about small form factor/thin-and-light laptops. 17" laptops don't qualify here, so if you don't use anything smaller than that, you're not really part of the intended audience. What I agree with you on is that screen size is part of it - I'm very happy with my 27" 16:9 desktop monitor, but will likely be moving to a ~34" 21:9 display when it eventually fails. Why? Because the vertical height is perfect for me, but I could use more width for gaming. I would never, not in a million years, go below 34" 21:9, as that would lose me vertical screen area, which is entirely unacceptable for any use, but going bigger doesn't make sense ergonomically. I'd rather take a new 27" 16:9 monitor than a <34" 21:9 one. Then again, when browsing the web on my desktop, the browser fills the middle ~3/5 of the monitor or so, underscoring how silly widescreen is for web browsing. This would be even sillier with an ultrawide. When it comes to laptops, portability is key for me. While the small screen size is a bit annoying, weight and size for carrying around wins out. As such, vertical screen size again becomes very important, as it's the smallest dimension, while also being the axis along which my neck needs to bend. If I can get a taller screen in the same size laptop (which is mostly entirely possible, as the keyboard deck and touchpad needs to be a certain size any way), I'd take it every single time. Most laptops have thick bottom/top bezels, but barely any side bezels. Why not grow the panel to fill that area? There are _no_ downsides to this as long as resolution increases to match.
  • Good points. And I agree, desktop experience works better with wider displays and it's not much of an issue there at all.
  • I ***** a lot about WCentral's technical inaccuracies, so I also wanted to say that these are the types of articles WCentral does very well. Good read! In regard to a desktop monitor's vertical height, at least for office workers (and who doesn't occasionally write a letter on their PC), I'd say a good sized monitor should be able to display a FULL Letter/A4 page, including chrome (Window frame , Word ribbon, etc) at its original size. This makes it easy to quickly flip pages within a document and get a good feel for how the document will look when printed. 24" @ 16:10 | 27" @ 16:9 | 34" @ 21:9 all achieve this, which is why all of them are well suited to office work. Displays with smaller diagonals need be taller to maintain a useful/reasonable vertical height. That's why diagonals below 24" really should NOT be 16:9, but taller.
  • I agree. The average user if asked does not know what version of windows they are using, let alone aspect ratio. I personally would still rather have 16:9. I find this whole article a moot point, as in WGAS.
  • Well, I care because I review all the major laptops here and greatly prefer 3:2 - as does everyone else who works on this site. It's not moot, it's a legitimate discussion about preference, efficiency and design in modern laptops. If I don't grab the XPS 13 when I leave because it's display is too short and instead I prefer Surface Laptop, well, that's an important distinction on usage. I get it, many "olds" in the PC world love 16:9 - and that dumb Lenovo TrackPoint. I'm more interested in where the market is going, not where it's been. And frankly, it's a lot easier to woo Mac users to PC with 3:2 rather than 16:9. Go and ask them. Even look at the comments here. Most users who try 3:2 can't stand going back to 16:9.
  • I would agree with this 100%. No way I could go back to 16:9. And I'm not young.
  • > I get it, many "olds" in the PC world love 16:9 - and that dumb Lenovo TrackPoint. I'm more interested in where the market is going, not where it's been. Uhm...ignorance much? How do you want to determine where the market is going when you don't even know where its been? Case in point: The IBM ThinkPad 700C did NOT have a 16:10 display. It did have a 4:3 display, as almost all ThinkPads until 2005, when the first model with a 16:10 screen appeared. Also, "dumb TrackPoint"...lol. You should ask yourself why you write laptops reviews, when you can't even grasp such a simple concept. Calling it "dumb" just shows that you don't understand it.
  • I think you need to learn some reading comprehension 🙄
  • Can you add anything of significance to the discussion besides snide remarks? Doesn't seem so.
  • >>I get it, many "olds" in the PC world love 16:9 - and that dumb Lenovo TrackPoint. I'm more interested in where the market is going, not where it's been. And frankly, it's a lot easier to woo Mac users to PC with 3:2 rather than 16:9. Go and ask them.<< How about the "kiddies" actually maybe just take a look around and learn a bit of history and listen to all the "oldies" like me that have been screaming blue murder at the moronic 16:9 technology trend of the last 10 or 12 years. Who in gods name are the "oldies" that want 16:9, we want 4:3 with a large pixel count on the '3' dimension, 1920x1440 is 4:3 I could live with that but nobody will do it, hell I could live with 1920x1280 3:2 but no one will do that either, no they will use higher resolution smaller pixel pitch and force some god awful scaling ratio on us that looks crap, yes Windows 10 scaling is much improved but it is still not perfect and never will be for non integer fractional scaling. And as for the really truly DUMB comment about the IBM TrackPoint, well good god yet another luddite that prefers style over function. I have a Surface Book, it is very good for playtime, it is fantastic for photography and post process editing, it is absolutely god awful for software development while travelling, why, because the keyboard layout is DUMB really DUMB, Fn to get F keys to work in Visual Studio, jeez, and a stupid DUMB huge trackpad that prevents them giving us a decent keyboard layout. Everything else about it is great, apart from the never ending hardware bugs, but the fact that you really need 200% scaling unless you have the eyesight of a 12 year old means you only get an effective 1500x1000 resolution in terms of effective fonts which is 420 pixels too narrow for a lot of the "oldies" and 80 vertical pixels poorer for anyone that actually reads or writes anything on a computer. Total vertical lines of text at a readable font size is what actually matters in terms of ergonomics and it is what all the "oldies" like me have been screaming about for over a decade, in practice giving us more vertical pixels really means the devices (laptops) need to be physically larger, quite a bit larger, so that isn't going to happen is it, because big isn't trendy and the world is driven by trendiness now, not engineering and ergonomics. The Surface Book is supplied by my work, my own computers (for me and my family) are all ThinkPad's, all of my ThinkPad's are compromises but the best of them all would be my W500 however in the modern world it is just a bit too heavy and underpowered, if Lenovo would only build a great 16:10 1920x1200 machine with a full gamut 15 inch panel with modern internals and ports I would have my perfect laptop, 3:2 yes please a 1920x1280 panel would be even better but nobody is going to make those panels and Lenovo is mindlessly following fashion with 16:9 or being forced to by lack of ability to source alternative aspect ratios. Rant over!
  • They won't take care to the ratio, but they'll see the enormeous bezel on the bottom of a Lenovo Yoga's Screen. That bezel is horrible and it wouldnt be there with 3:2
  • I'm 100% with you on this one. I didn't quite get what the big deal was with the 3:2 ratio until I ditched my old HP laptop and got the Surface Laptop last fall. I honestly can't use a 16:9 laptop anymore. It's so unbelievably crammed, that I get a little claustrophobic using it. Fine, most movies won't fill out the screen on 3:2, but that's one trade off I gladly accept. Also, Civ VI is extra nice on 3:2. So much room for activities!
  • Especially annoying are tall menu bars tham many programs come with. On the Windows surface you can at least push the task bar to one side gaining height. But in many programms this is impossible. Then only "real" height will help.
  • Yea, verily! One of the reasons I choose Surface.
  • What about 4:3? That's closer to A4. In fact, a true A4 display would be all kinds of convenient, especially for a tablet. It would be helpful if Windows could bring back a horizontal scrolling system like W8 for landscape mode as well, switching to vertical scroll for portrait mode. W10 defaulting to portrait suitable scrolling for PCs which are far more likely to be used in landscape mode is pretty messy and leads to poor use of screen space. It's particularly annoying for desktop and laptop PCs which rarely get out of landscape mode.
  • 4:3 would be indeed perfect. At least for a Windows Tablet. Unfortunately the only device with such a display (bigger than 10 inch) the iPad Pro will never run Windows!
  • Take iPad and add Windows 10 and I'd be pretty happy ;)
  • Take a surface and add IOS on the back end so I could use both OS and I would be SUPER HAPPY!
  • So you would be happy using tiny ugly UI controls from 95 and no apps and dedicated games? Interesting
  • 1.4142:1... Why does nobody seem to understand this...
  • I understand it. But what has it got to do with screens, which don't fold in half, unlike the 'A'-series of paper sizes?
  • Firstly it's about consistency, and secondly screens are now going to start folding in half so it's about time.
  • Because snapping even if the device doesn't fold. Two portrait apps fit on one landscape screen perfectly. One portrait and two landscape fit on one landscape screen perfectly. Two landscape apps fit on one portrait screen, etc. Not saying there shouldn't be options but let's have this as one of those options.
  • It really just depends on what you needed it for. For example, CAD would be brutal on a 3:2 display.
  • I'm with you on this one. Width is king on CAD. Even when you are doing things like coding you need the width to get the maximum amount of code on the screen at one time without having to scroll. I think that a lot of these devices are aimed at media consumption rather than professional content creation. It's why there is a race to make laptops thinner and to have fewer and fewer connectors. Whoever designed these devices never had to go into a conference center and find that the only room available has an projector that only accepts a VGA connection. Or had to use a decryption dongle, a USB wireless presenter, and USB wireless keyboard all at the same time. It'd trade a chunkier laptop with lots of connectors for having to carry about 100 adapters any day of the week. Saying this, a 3:2 display would be absolutely rubbish at displaying the 9 bazillion 16:9 movies that I already own.
  • Actually for coding it's much better the 3:2.
    You can see many more line of codes at once which helps a lot.
    In fact many of our developers just rotate the external monitor in portrait mode to have the maximum height available.
  • Yes, programming needs vertical space to see a vertical stack of code lines all at once. The width is for tool sets and project outlines. I like to use 2 monitors, one wide and one tall. The 'tall' one is a 4:3 turned sideways to make 3:4.
  • I noticed this about ten years ago, it seemed like the laptop market was quickly shifting towards the wide screens as if watching movies was the only thing we use laptops for.
  • Professional grade laptops are a different breed. You wouldn't do CAD on most laptops and would probably use an external monitor if you did.
  • I'm going to make a case for why I'm choosing an xps15 2-in-1 over the Surface Book 2 as my next purchase, and this has to do with the 16:9 aspect ratio. It's a very niche thing, but here it goes: Almost all Artists and illustrators that work digitally have a wacom tablet. Wacom tablets have a touch ring and hot key buttons on the side for undoing, shift, brush size, zoom, etc. Pen Enabled PCs don't have anything like this. You can get a $100 accessory from wacom with buttons but it is almost never in stock, and wacom wants to sell it as a replacement to the one that you get with the big cyntiqs. it isn't meant to be sold as an accessory for any PC. There is a solution for this. It's a UWP app called Tablet pro. It is a black stripe on the side of the screen where you can put a silly amount of buttons and sliders, and you can configure it as you want it. With tablet pro you can never use a keyboard while working on photoshop again. All your hot keys can be there. If you use tablet pro, a chunck of your screen will be dedicated to this app. If you want to have a comfortable workspace on your 2-in-1, you will want to have a wide screen where you can have tablet pro, the photoshop tools, and room for the actual drawing. 2:3 screens are too squared for All this tools+ drawing room, but I think that 16:9 can do the job just fine.
  • I'm not so sure. Microsoft jumped for 3:2 because their main product, Surface, is a tablet. Their (almost) whole line doubles down as tablets. Meanwhile, 16:9 tablets are awkward and less than optimal (trust me, I have one). So while tablets, convertibles and AiOs would benefit greatly, laptops, not half as much. The only reason why I would consider a 3:2 laptop is that it can have a bigger screen without a bigger footprint (trimmed bezels, like Huawei's MacBook Pro). Other than that, I'm not sure how ergonomic would be using a 3:2 laptop (can't judge, haven't used one yet) and would it be any better. Not to mention the fact that people prefer tried-and-true solutions.
  • 16:9 tablets (or anything without a fixed keyboard) in portrait mode are silly. I'm much more likely to watch a movie on a laptop then I am to turn a laptop (with a fixed keyboard) to portrait (vertical screen) mode, so 16:9 laptops don't bother me.
  • It's rather impressive how much you manage to argue against yourself. The bigger screen without bigger laptop argument is _the whole point._ Specifically, that you'll get a taller screen which helps for pretty much anything besides watching video. You'll see more of web pages, see more of photos without zooming, see more of text documents... The list goes on. As for ergonomics, anything making your laptop screen taller is better, as you'll have to arch your neck less. This is a pure win-win scenario.
  • In the world where screen size was everything, you would be right. But you're not.
    Only things that scale will benefit from a taller screen. Movies (and games for the first couple years) will display black bars.
    And as for ergonomics, making the screen too tall will force you to move your head up and down while reading if you're sitting close to the laptop. The whole point of 16:9 is that it's better adjusted to the way we see.
    So no, by saying that the only positive thing about this is the bigger screen, I don't argue against myself (I really don't get your point here). What I was saying is, bigger screen as the sole reason to change the ratio is just not worth the hassle. We've been there with the widescreen revolution already. And now you're basically advocating to revert it.
  • How close are you to your laptop if you have to move your head up and down to read on a 3:2 screen?
  • "The whole point of 16:9 is that it's better adjusted to the way we see."
    Yeah, for movies where peripheral vision is part of the experience, not for reading the web 4 lines at a time in 2018.
  • I have a Windows 10 Macbook Pro and I have decided that I prefer the 16:10 ratio. But this 3:2 seems okay, I still think 16:10 is the best because I watch a lot of video on my system.
  • 16:10 vs 3:2 is very close in experience (I too have a MBP with Windows 10 and like it).
  • Was it the shiny logo that attracted you?
  • Assuming it's a pre-2016 model, probably the solid chassis construction and nice keyboard. Not many Windows laptops approach Apple chassis solidity. PS. I'm not talking about current keyboard or touch bar, they're rubbish!
  • Really? Watching movies on a laptop is important? I watch movies on my home theater system unless I'm on a plane. So watching movies on a laptop is an absolute last resort.
  • "Really? Watching movies on a laptop is important?" Me too. I never understood why people watch movies even on their tiny (5 inch) smartphone displays. At home I could watch them on my 27 inch monitor but very seldom do it because the big TV set is so mauch more impressive.
  • Not everyone owns a tv
  • Same. I mean, if I'm stuck on a eight hour flight, sure I'll probably bust out a movie (even then, I may opt for the "latest" in-flight movie). But besides watching Hulu/Sling for TV (short durations) I don't consider my laptop a cinema.
  • I love the 3:2 on the Surface for reading, but hate it for productivity when I need to snap documents side by side. I had a 16:9 tablet which was awkward in portrait orientation. On a 3:2 two snapped documents look nice side by side, the pages fit nicely, however, on a 16:9, there is extra space to open a side menu such as OneNote pages or the headings list in Word.
  • There is some truth to that too. I don't snap too often and just glad it works as much as it does, but it's true it's more efficient on 16:9.
  • I bought a Samsung Galaxy Book 12 a few weeks ago, tablet with keyboard similar to the Surface Pro with a 3:2 ratio and I love it. Working in Word or other apps and keep the ribbon showing or just see more text without flipping to portrait is very nice. I'll look for that ratio for my next laptop.
  • Soo, if tendency with laptops continues to embrace a more square 3:2, that will definitely make content look different on phones vs PCs... Especially these days with an ocean of 18:9 displays on the phones.
    BTW I'd love the phones to go with 18:10 :)
  • I've been saying this for years now. I love 3:2 and will not go back to 16:9 (in a laptop). This means I'm stuck with Microsoft (or Huawei, which I'm not a fan of). Everytime I see a cool new laptop I think I'd like to buy, I have to remind myself that it won't have a 3:2 screen, so I should just forget it. It's kind of sad. What's worse is when OEMs put a 16:9 screen on some sort of convertible, like Lenovo's Yoga series, which leaves the device unbalanced and worthless for using in portrait.
  • I'm on the fence about this. On the one hand, I've always felt that 16:9 displays on laptops (or tablets) is annoying for anything but watching movies (or creating video content) - I miss my old 4:3 laptops for most productivity tasks. On the other hand, am I the only one that feels like we're regressing to the "golden days" of computing, since 3:2 is well on it's way back to 4:3? Dan, you commented that the "olds" in the PC world love 16:9, but the "even more olds" like me were used to 4:3 long before the "new fangled" 16:9 reared its ugly head.
  • Totally agree LOL, we all used to use 4:3s on the CRTs/first LCDs . Then everyone moved to 16:9 for the Youtube/Netflix/Games era and now we are going back to the squarer ratios for web browsing. Well I'm not too sure if the industry will all shift to 3:2. Gamers still want 16:9 and having black bars really doesn't look good on videos. I do like that my camera's photos fit 3:2 a whole lot better, and my 4:3 Ipad is a direct fit.
  • Technically 4.3 has the most screen real estate if the you are limited by the width of your keyboard like you would be on a laptop with 3.2 a close second. Basically the closer to square them more real estate you have. So you definitely have a point.
  • Not sure about regressing, but yeah, that's why I pointed out older PCs being 4:3 and the first Lenovo laptop. I think priorities and how we use tech changes. Just like how in the 80's it was all digital watches, bu then Swatch figured out how to make analog cool again. Laptops for awhile were very "media focused" hence the wide screen (plus it was different), but now I think that's less of an issue.
  • 3:2 for laptops, 16/10 for desktops ! Unfortunately, finding a good 16/10 monitor is now a pain.
  • Same here. I'll never go back to 16:9 for a production computer display. I might go ultrawide on a gaming rig though. On my prior 16:9 laptop I would even dock the taskbar to the left side of the screen so I would have enough vertical space to see what I was doing.
  • Absolutely!I have two 24" Samsung monitors at my desk. They're the reason I don't work from home. I can't be productive on a horrible 1366x768 16:9 laptop like I can on two big 1920x1200 monitors.
  • I kinda feel that way too. Multi-displays spoil you lol
  • Depends on what you're doing. For word or notes or content browsing, 3:2, but for video editing or gaming, I want as wide as I can get. Timelines are too small in 3:2, and you don't get the wide view in gaming. I enjoy 3:2 for daily grind work, but not for designs, 3d modeling, video editing, music production or more. That I want at least 16:9 or ultrawide.
  • Sure, which is why I mention gaming at the end. 16:9 makes more sense there.
  • I totally agree with you on the 3:2 ratio screen. It's one of my top criteria on choosing a computer. It's basically dictated that I get Windows, and more specifically Surface. My last computer, purchased about 18 months ago, was a Huawei Matebook (original not the improved X). I was frustrated with the 16:9 ratio for trying to read web pages and do programming. When the touch started going out I traded up to a Surface Laptop last fall. Despite getting the i5/8GB/256GB model, I greatly prefer it to my work-issue Dell Latitude E5450 with an i7/16GB/256GB. The difference is the Surface's glorious 2256x1504 display compared to the painful 1366x768 Dell. The Surface is comparable to a MacBook, but the Dell looks like a laptop from 1995.
  • I hate my IT chose that display for me too. My ThinkPad x270 sucks big time because that 768 display.
  • *recent Surface-like ratios.
    The original Surface was 16:9, it's not like this was always a staple for the line. And it might change again.
  • Did I not detail and explain how it all started with Surface Pro 3? 99% sure I did. No * needed.
    "And it might change again."
    No signs it will. Instead, we now have Surface Studio, Laptop, Book, and Pro all 3:2.
  • I have a 12" 3:2 ultralight. I code on it, and I live in snap-view. I never want to go back. My first laptop was a 4:3 lenovo thinkpad and it always felt archaic. My next computer, a 16:9, was crazily more productive. 3:2 really does seem to be the (modern) sweet spot. But display size, resolution, pixel density, and even OS REALLY change the narrative here. With that said, my 25" external monitor I use to play games is 16:9 and I'd never have it any squarer than that. If anything, as monitors become larger, the wider the better. A 25" 21:9 would be a waste but my father's 37" 21:9 is magical. I can see the new smartphone aspect ratio 18:9(2:1) coming to windows as an alternative to screens not quite big enough to benifit from 21:9, or for people with less-good peripheral vision. I cannot envision a possible use case for wider than that. I have a 16:9 phone,like most of them were until recently. The utility of giving my phone an extra vertical inch in undeniable, and an 18:9 display is almost mandatory in my next device. I still don't have fond memories of 4:3. I've tried out recent iPads, the only modern thing with 4:3 displays, and they're still way too square. 3:2 is the usability barrier here, anything squarer than that is hard to use. TLDR: 18:9 phones are swesome. As soon as you hit an 8" Tablet switch to 3:2. Keep that on any 2:1 device or on laptops up to 14". 15"-17" can have 16:10, 17"-27" can have 16:9, anything bigger than that really should be 21:9. Anything wider is silly. I would like to see a midpoint in size where 18:9 can take off for the desktop, especially in the AIO space.
  • "as monitors become larger, the wider the better" So true. I had a Kindle Fire HDX 7 a few years back. It was worthless in landscape mode because the various elements across the top and bottom of web pages took up half the screen.
  • Except for desktops, it's also easy to add multiple monitors to extend the width, so the need for monitors to be extra-wide is reduced. On my main desktop, for example, I use a 40" 4K in standard landscape mode plus a 30" portrait 2560x1600 display. My laptop is also 4K, but in a much smaller 15" display (HP Spectre x360).
  • I think 3:2 is good for a 2 in 1 but for a laptop that doesn't convert to a tablet, 16:10 is the perfect middleground between 16:9 and 3:2 where the aspect ratio isn't too wide or too tall.
  • I don't really care for 16:9 either. Too much scrolling. 16:10 was better, and I'd definitely look at any 3:2 displays as well. Just wish they'd make desktop displays with that ratio.
  • While I agree 3:2 is good for content consumption and some content creation, it’s awful for high levels of productivity. Try writing software using a surface book and you will know the struggle. I often need multiple windows open when coding. And 3:2 is not wide enough to show the toolbars and content on the screen unless I shrink text to near unreadable fonts.
  • He was specifically writing about laptops, which are typically limited in width by their keyboard. 3.2 would give you more physical real estate than 16.9 of the same physical width. Do the math if you don't believe me.
  • Another statement by Mr Rubino purporting to have THE answer to that people want. Going so far as to say the "Everybody" he speaks to prefers 3:2. This may come as shock horror to him but 16:9 is a lot better when one wants to have two pages side by side to compare. Or to read in Outlook. Oh, I know, it is work. Something he probably does not consider. But surely there remains some relevance in his site being called WINDOWS Central. (I only use caps as there is no bold or underline. Apologies.) When it is not work, a film is much better in 16:9. A web page such as this one goes into the middle of full screen. Each to their own but please do not pretend to have an absolute answer. There are positive merits to each format. Just because Microsoft has gone in one direction is no reason to slavishly follow. For all one knows it might simply have been cheaper to make a 3:2 screen.
  • I'm pretty sure he said laptops. Which for the physical width of the keyboard being the limitation, 3.2 would give you more actual real estate than any other modern ratio. It's simple math.
  • "Each to their own but please do not pretend to have an absolute answer. There are positive merits to each format."
    Take the 'tude down a notch. I end the article like this which I'm guessing you missed, since it negates what you just said:
    "None of this is to say that all 16:9 laptops need to go away. Far from it. Those in business and gamers may still want that ratio, so it makes sense to keep both on the market."
    I want simple choice not 3:2 to replace 16:9. Let the market decide. Please read and take the strident tone elsewhere. I think I was very even-handed. No apologies, I stand by every word (if your read it, that is).
  • @jtwoodfield, 16:9 is mainstream on laptop monitors because of cost, not the other way around. It's a chicken and egg problem for the more price sensitive manufacturers -- the volume is in 16:9, so those are cheaper, so more people buy them keeping the volume higher, etc., etc. Ironically, this started with HD TV's, where original widescreen mainstream computer LCD monitors were 16:10 (this was actually intended as HD with space for the Taskbar below and a title bar above a standard HD display), but mass production for TV displays moved the cost sweet spot over to 16:9. Hopefully this will slowly shift back to displays designed for computer use, thanks to MS focusing on 3:2. Note that for a laptop, the width is fixed by the size of the device, so you lose zero width to add height to the screen. Just smaller bezels on top and bottom. I rarely use any application full screen, often pin apps to the sides of the screen, and work mostly in Word, Excel, and Outlook. 16:9 is borderline unusable as far as I'm concerned, especially at lower resolutions. At 4K, there are enough vertical pixels that it's tolerable, but I'd still prefer 3:2, or at least 16:10.
  • What about those Chuwi devices? They even have the same resolution of 3000x2000 like surface books. Celeron CPU but still
  • Buy a Chuwi and when it breaks out of the box or a few months later, check out their "support".
  • The closer to square (i.e. 1.1) the more actual real estate you have. 3.2 will give you more screen real estate for the width of the keyboard than other MODERN ratios. 4.5 would technically give you more but it would make a terrible slate experience and looks funny on a modern laptop.
  • People will only be able to look, "the higher is better", they'll say.
  • Trump defeats Huawei. Too bad as I was looking for a poorly made 3:2 aspect laptop / 2-in-1.
  • Thank god I live in Canada where we are not ruled by an orange nitwit and conspiracy theorist! Anyone want a Huawei, I will buy you one and ship to you for a small fee.
  • Oh you canucks
  • No you are ruled by a socialist SJW lunatic. And you don't have any good beer.
  • "Trump defeats Huawei. "
    Trump doesn't know what Huawei is, nor how to pronounce it.
  • Probably thinks they give you cancer along with windmills.
  • "Even Google gets it, as its 2017 Pixelbook sports 3:2..." Google has used 3.2 ratios since 2013 with it's first of two generations of Pixel laptops preceding its' current Pixelbook. I own a 2015 Pixel LS among other computers and I use it the most because of the screen ratio.
  • "Movies aren't entirely cropped".
    If content has to be cropped, then that fails to be right for that media.
    There is no right aspect ratio, and so there should be no "embracing" of just one.
    Choice is what should be embraced.
  • Choice is what I mean by this article. Look, 16:9 is not going away, even if I wished it (and I don't as I point out business and gamers like it). 98% of laptops are 16:9, it's the default. I'm saying maybe let's make it like 75% 16:9 instead.
  • The Samsung Chromebook plus and pro have 3:2 screens as well. Sweet spot for 2 in 1 devices I think. Also have the HP Spectre 13 and Surface pro. Been hard getting used to the 16:9 ratio
  • I used to own a Toshiba laptop with 4:3 since 2008 and couldn't being myself to buy a 16:9 because I hated that crammed look when surfing the web and using office. Surface has saved me with their 3:2. Loved it.
  • Daniel, I strongly agree. I ended up buying the 16:9 HP Spectre x360 15", so my dollars are contributing to the problem, but only because of the other features and price. If there had been a 3:2 option, I would have absolutely grabbed that instead. I would have even been willing to pay probably about an extra $100-$150 for 3:2, just not the almost $1,000 extra for the Surface Book 2 15". 3:2 is better for working on the device as a laptop, because the screen is taller, which (exactly as you said), fits more on the screen. For me, it's vertical rows in Excel or at least a full legible page in Word or PDF Reader. 3:2 is also better for working on the device in tablet mode, because it's a much more natural shape for writing notes in portrait mode than the silly 16:9 long strip. I think the only reason most manufacturers use 16:9 is because they are cheaper because they are mass produced. We need to get enough manufacturers going to 3:2 to get volume up and the cost down.
  • 16:9 on a laptop can be a frustrating experience, after trying out my brother's Surface, but it might be preferable to go with a 16:9 or wider when you're using a monitor about 24" since multi-windows are much better off on a wider monitor, IMO.
  • For small laptops and tablets, fine. For large screen laptops (17") and desktop monitors, I want 16:10 or 16:9.
  • 16:10 or 16:9 please. It's all about Pixel density. The choice for me is clear. It's about personal preferences and use cases.
  • TBH, using both 16:10 and 3:2 they're both closer in experience than either is to 16:9.
  • I haven't read the story yet but I will say that one thing that pisses me off no end is that so many web sites these days - this one included - display a narrow column and waste the vast majority of the screen. Why the hell web sites get narrower as screens get wider is beyond me. I guess that they're just trying to maintain the exact same layout on every single screen.
  • Adaptive design so it works better on smartphones.
  • I much prefer 16-9 or 16-10. I do a lot of work with documents/windows side by side and that doesn't work except in wide screens. Add in the occasional movie, etc and the 3:2 of Microsoft is one reason I will never but a Microsoft device. As pointed out the 3:2 is the same width, but in a larger device which I don't want to have to carry around. Now is a large monitor at home I might consider or even like 3:2 but only when its 32 inch or more.
  • 3:2 is much better. That's one of the reason i got the SP3. Never looked back since.
  • Totally agree As the costs of devices go down you can either sell low priced homogenized devices or start to create designs that fit better to different segments of the audience. 1.85 suits gaming and entertainment better and 3:2 suits mobile web content better and more tuned to our natural paper content forebears.
  • Just because something is "the modern trend" doesn't mean its good or right. 3:2 screens have their place in PCs. Not because its "the modern trend", but because they are simply better for some use cases, like reading & writing, for Tablets and Convertibles etc. However, the same is true for 16:10 and 4:3. When the PC manufacturers moved away from these formats, the same concerns were raised and they moved away to 16:9 anyway, because it was and is cheaper. While I would definitely expect some 3:2 screens in laptops in the future, I think it will mostly stay in the high-end part of the market.
  • "Just because something is "the modern trend" doesn't mean its good or right."
    No, but it means it's my preference. I don't want 16:9 to go away, I simply want more choice.
  • No, anything but 3:2. I use a lot of programs with important side panels (Visual Studio, Blender, Photoshop) and sacrificing horizontal real-estate is not worth it; not to mention times where I use side snapping of apps for quick comparisons and what not. I do not buy $2000+ laptops so I can browse the web... I buy them so I can get real content creation done. I will continue to buy non 3:2 displays and hopefully persuade others to do the same.
  • No, no and NO.
  • 3:2 screens allow for a deeper touchpad too, which is something I appreciate. Wide touchpads with little height aggravate me when using them.