What is the Aspect Ratio? (16:9, 21:9, CinemaWide)
|4:3 (1.33:1)||Standard TV||Old TVs|
|16:9 (1.77:1)||High Definition TV||The majority of HDTVs|
|1.85:1||Some movies||Not available|
|21:9 (2.35:1)||Most movies||Very few TVs|
The Aspect Ratio is the proportion between the width and the height of a picture. It is often expressed in the W:H format, where W is the width and H the height. For example, a 16:9 aspect ratio means that for a width of 16 units, the height must be 9 units.
Most televisions currently available have an aspect ratio of 16:9, which fits perfectly the high definition television shows. However, movies are usually filmed with a ratio of 21:9, which will results in black bars at the top and bottom of the picture. To fix this, some manufacturers are producing televisions with a 21:9 format (also called Cinema Display). The next table shows the most common aspect ratios and their availabilities.
Is a 21:9 Cinema Display Worth It?
A 21:9 Cinema Display is only worth it if you watch almost exclusively movies (more than 80% of the time). If you watch a normal 16:9 content (like a HDTV channel) on it, you will see black bars on the side. This reduces the viewing area for 16:9 content considerably. A 58" 21:9 television correspond to the same viewing area of a 47" for 16:9 content, as you can see in the picture to the right.
Unless the aspect ratio of TV shows changes to 21:9 (which is unlikely to happen in the next few years), go for a traditional 16:9 television. For the same price, you will get a lot more usable area for 16:9 content.
What is CinemaWide?
CinemaWide is the marketing name of Vizio for a television with a 21:9 aspect ratio. CinemaWide is not worth it, unless you watch almost only movies on your television. As shown by the picture above, for a 58", it correspond to a 61" for movies, but 47" for TV shows.
CinemaWide is available on only one model in 2012:
What does black bars looks like on different aspect ratio TVs?
The position and size of black bars on your television depends on two factors: the aspect ratio of your television and the aspect ratio of the video you are watching. Any mismatch between the two will be filled by the black color. The following picture shows the black bars for different televisions and aspect ratios (4:3, 16:9 and 21:9). All televisions have the same diagonal length.
As you can see, for the same size, a 21:9 display 21:9 content 9.8% bigger than a 16:9 TV, but at the cost of displaying 16:9 37% smaller. Therefore, while a 21:9 Cinema Wide display is great for movies, TV shows will be a lot smaller.
Currently, the best aspect ratio is still 16:9. While an extended 21:9 Cinema Display aspect ratio is useful for watching movies, you lose a lot of screen real estate as soon as you watch other things. The 9.8% size gain for movies does not compensate for the 37% lost in HD TV shows.
You may also want to read
- LCD vs LED vs Plasma 2013: Picture Quality
- What is the Resolution? (Ultra HD (4k), 1080p, 720p, DVD)
- What is the Best Size for a TV?
- Television Size to Distance Relationship
- What is the Refresh Rate?
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