The aspect ratio is an important yet often overlooked entry on a monitor’s specification sheet. Today, most people tend to fixate on the display resolution, the refresh rate, and even the response time, while the aspect ratio remains more of an afterthought.
But, for some others, the aspect ratio will be the first thing that they settle on before considering the rest. In this article, we will focus on answering the titular question: what is the best aspect ratio for gaming?
What Aspect Ratios Are There?
Displays have been coming with various aspect ratios over the years, although the selection is not very wide today, at least if we’re talking solely about gaming monitors.
Today, there are two main aspect ratios that we see in gaming monitors:
- The regular widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio
- The ultrawide 21:9 aspect ratio
Of course, other aspect ratios exist, but they are far from commonplace when gaming monitors are concerned. For example, there are 4:3, 5:4, 16:10, 18:9, 32:9, and others, but monitors in general tend to stick to the two above standards in the vast majority of cases.
Advantages of a Larger Aspect Ratio
As you can tell, a greater aspect ratio usually simply means that the monitor itself will be wider, while the height remains more or less the same. So, what benefits does a wider monitor offer?
Well, for one, there is the bigger display surface which can make multitasking a more enjoyable experience. However, when it comes to gaming, there is one very particular advantage that a larger aspect ratio offers: a wider field of view (FOV).
In most games, this will mean better peripheral vision, which can constitute an advantage in multiplayer, although not all games support ultrawide monitors. While some older games or console ports simply may not natively support a 21:9 aspect ratio, others (such as Overwatch) deliberately disable ultrawide support so that some players would not have an unfair advantage over others.
Disadvantages of a Larger Aspect Ratio
Having a larger aspect ratio can’t possibly be a bad thing in itself. When disregarding all other factors, there is no disadvantage to picking a 21:9 monitor over a 16:9 one. However, these two types of monitors differ in pricing and in terms of features that they offer.
- The resolution – This is the first and most obvious difference. A wider monitor will also come with a higher resolution. As such, the higher pixel count may be problematic for those with weaker GPUs, as it may lead to a noticeable performance drop.
- The refresh rate – Another important aspect to a gaming monitor is the refresh rate i.e. the maximum FPS that a monitor can display. Today, 60Hz, 144Hz, and 240Hz are the most widespread standards. Now, while there are ultrawide 21:9 monitors that support a 144Hz refresh rate, they start at a price quite a bit higher than that of their 16:9 counterparts. Furthermore, there are still no 240Hz 21:9 monitors.
- The price – And finally, there is the most important factor to consider for the budget-conscious. Today, ultrawide monitors are not actually that expensive, and you could easily get one for under $200. However, a 16:9 monitor will definitely offer better value and more features than a similarly priced 21:9 one, especially in the lower price ranges.
Conclusion – What Is The Best Aspect Ratio For Gaming?
With all of the above in mind, we would recommend a 16:9 aspect ratio to most people, and right now, it is the best aspect ratio for gaming. Why?
Well, for one, the 16:9 aspect ratio is currently the most widespread, meaning that it is also universally supported. What’s more, as mentioned above, a 16:9 monitor will inevitably offer better value and, potentially, features that aren’t available in the more affordable 21:9 monitors.
At the end of the day, unless you’re a PC gaming enthusiast or really like having multiple windows open at once on your desktop, going with a 16:9 aspect ratio is the safest bet. And as mentioned above, not all games support 21:9 displays, so if you plan on getting one to get an edge in competitive multiplayer, make sure the game(s) you’re playing can support it first.
In any case, if you’re shopping for a monitor right now, be sure to check out our selection of the very best ones currently available!
Samuel is GamingScan’s editor-in-chief. He describes himself as a hardcore gamer & programmer and he enjoys getting more people into gaming and answering people’s questions. He closely follows the latest trends in the gaming industry in order to keep you all up-to-date with the latest news.