Widescreen laptops are dumb

I've been thinking about the aspect ratios. After years of phones, laptops, tablets and television screens converging in 16: 9 as the "right" way of viewing, allowing video playback without distracting black bars, smartphones have altered universality recently by passing to more elongated formats like 18: 9, 19: 9, or even 19.5: 9 in the case of the iPhone X. That led me to consider where else the predetermined widescreen proportions could be inadequate, and I've noticed that the Laptops are the worst offenders.

Ask me to name the best laptops on the market, and my answer would be some order of MacBook Pro from Apple, Surface Laptop and Surface Book from Microsoft, and Google Pixelbook. It is no coincidence that the Microsoft and Google machines have a more square 3: 2 aspect ratio, and although the MacBook Pro is nominally "widescreen", it also has a slightly higher 16:10 screen. Everything else on the market, including most ThinkPads, has succumbed to the hegemony of 16: 9.

I understand why laptop manufacturers have opted for this populist option. Video is something that all users care about, whether the source material is Netflix, YouTube or their own high-definition creations. Making videos and images look good is also the reason why most screens, laptops or other, are now bright instead of matte. We tolerate glare and reflections by the superior contrast and the most attractive saturation of a bright panel.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1.

But a laptop is much more than a video playback machine. For me and for millions of people, it is the main tool for earning a living. We use these machines to read, write, remember, create, connect and communicate. And in most of these other applications, a 16: 9 screen of 13 to 15 inches simply feels like a poor fit.

Virtually all interfaces in Apple macOS, Microsoft Windows, and the web are designed to stack user controls in a vertical hierarchy. At the top of each MacBook, there is a menu bar. In the lower part, by default, there is the Dock to start your most used applications. In Windows, it has the taskbar with a similar purpose, and although it can be moved around the screen like the Apple Dock, it is generally kept as a splinter that crosses the bottom of the screen. Each window of these operating systems has chrome, additional buttons and indicator bars that allow you to close, reshape or move a window, and the components of that chrome are usually joined at the top and bottom. Look at your favorite website (hopefully this one) on the Internet, and you will see a vertical structure again.

As if all that was not enough, there is also the question of the tabs. The tabs are a couple of decades old and, like much of the rest of the desktop and web environment, were initially thought of in a time when the predominant computer screens were almost square with an aspect ratio of 4: 3. , most of the computer screens had the shape of an iPad when many of the most common interface and design elements of today were developed. As minimalist as it is, I still can not get rid of the need to have a menu bar in my operating system and tab and address bars within my browser. I'm still learning to live without a bookmarks bar.

Dell XPS 13.

With all these horizontal bars invading our vertical space, a 16: 9 screen quickly begins to feel crowded, especially in the typical size of a laptop. . You end up spending more time scrolling through the content than interacting with it.

Some might argue that 16: 9 is more compliant for creative visual tasks, such as video editing or photos, but I did both (mainly in the Adobe software package). ) on a laptop, and the larger screen does not help much. The experience is better than when I am writing an email with acres of blank space in disuse on each side of my text, but not by much. Side space is simply not as valuable as vertical space in desktop or web applications.

The exception to my argument comes when you have enough extra horizontal space to be able to execute two (or more) vertical work canvases side by side. . The ultra wide 21: 9 desktop monitors are attractive in part because of their ability to comfortably accommodate multiple application windows and browsers side by side. They also look quite glorious when you play or watch films filmed in the 21: 9 cinematic format. Multiple monitor configurations are worth the investment for similar reasons. But none of that is true in the case of laptops, which are best used if you focus on one application at a time.

Microsoft Surface Laptop with a higher aspect ratio 3: 2.

Since we already have iPads, which continue to become replacements for complete laptops, I do not think it is necessary to defend that everyone changes to 4: 3. It is good to have variety and diversity, and I am sure that for some people a 16: 9 laptop could be the best option. But I speak as someone who spends an inordinate amount of time watching YouTube videos on his laptop: black bars do not matter. Especially with the latest screen technology, and with increasingly smaller bezels, a 3: 2 portable screen, like the Surface Laptop, is beautiful to contemplate no matter what content you put on it. And it adapts much better to the way laptops are used on a daily basis.

In short, 3: 2 is a much more appropriate, useful and pleasant aspect ratio for laptops.

Leave a Reply