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Professionals need our 4:3 screens (put.poznan.pl)
85 points by H4CK3RM4N on Feb 18, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 93 comments

Same! I hate the freaking wide screen madness. It's not just laptops though. There are not a ton of manufactures making LCDs with modern resolutions in a 4:3 aspect ratio. Also a lot them are quite expensive.

Eizo makes 1:1 desktop monitor, I managed to get one used for a good price I love it! I would get a second if they did not cost so much.


Also 5:4 is basically stuck as 1280x1024. You think for the desktop monitor market there would be more variety of aspect ratios made with higher resolutions.

2560x2048 would be awesome (they exist but they cost about 5-10 times what a 2560x1440 does.. http://www.ieiworld.co.uk/products/MMD_5201M-1323-459.html).

Two of those side by side would be perfect.

I have dual 2560x1440's at work (24") and that's nice but the extra 608 height would be great for things like Chrome devtools etc.

> *2560x2048 would be awesome (...) Two of those side by side would be perfect.

You have just turned two 5:4 monitors into a 10:4 monitor - and the closest format to that exists in a form of current 21:9 monitors, with acceptable prices.

"Two of those side by side would be perfect."

When used in a discussion regarding the desirableness of the aspect ratio 4:3, 1:1 etc, I find this statement quite amusing :)

For the price of that. I would rather buy raw panels and build something my self.


Also medical monitors tend be very expensive for what they are, but have good contrast. Also a lot are only gray scale.

I got a second Eizo. And a third.

4:3, not 1:1. They were really expensive but I've found that I don't mind: I adore the colour and the first is almost 15 years old now.

All I do is stare at large expanses of text, mostly emacs and konsole. Why would good colour make a difference to that? I've no idea. But my expensive Eizos are somehow pleasant to look at, to read from, in a way that €200-€300 screens aren't. So my advice is: Pay for that second Eizo. You may still have it in 15 years and the price per year is okay anyway.

Would you get a second one to use them together? Because in that case you might as well just buy a bigger wide-screen...

No for an other computer.

Just open two buffers side by side and it's almost like you have two 4:3 monitors. Isn't that better?

Not if you're only working on one document at a time. Being distracted by some other stuff on the side is not always a benefit and many editors are surprisingly hard to set up to center documents on the screen while blending out anything on the sides.

Being distracted is never a benefit, but being able to see two or three files together and compare them is. At any rate, it's just extra space that you can leave blank if you wish. I see no upsides of 4:3.

Just use Emacs and follow-mode.

Let's see. No it isn't. Not even close.

A 4:3 aspect would give 1920x1440. You have 1920x1080. Where has the bottom quarter of the screen gone? It's not there.

How can that possibly be better?

I'd take 3:2 with high enough resolution as that's the equivalent of 2x 4:3 side by side in portrait. That would be a fair trade off. I'd still prefer a 4:3 laptop though!

There are 8:3 monitors you could use, with 3840x1440 resolution.

What if I set my resolution to 3840x2160? Do you think it's about raw pixel count? Widescreen resolutions make most people more productive.

In that case I'd prefer 3840x2880. It's still missing 25% comparatively speaking.

All the losses from browser header, footer, OS status bars, browser chrome or IDE widgets are at the top and bottom. Making that 16:9 letter box skinnier.

I'd prefer more lines to be productive - to display the whole email without scrolling, or the whole method definition or half the article on a site etc. When I want to watch a full res HD movie I'll take black bars top and bottom.

It depends on what your doing. I spend a lot of timing doing hardware design. So it can include VHDL for instance or I can be looking over PCB designs and various other layouts. If go to that Eizo's page you might see why a more square monitor is nice for CAD work not just long streams of text.

So, he doesn't like 16:9 or 16:10 because he doesn't use the extra space? I think I couldn't live without a wide-screen.. screen. Most of the time, I have 2 or 3 files side-by-side. I also think that the author actually has a different problem: a bad trackpad. He stated he needs to scroll a lot to view content, and a nice trackpad goes a long way with this.

It all comes down to opinion; I'd rather have a wide screen than a high screen, because I feel really agile with my huge trackpad.

> Please consider the needs of such user as I and many of my colleagues. Academics and various assorted IT professionals are not an insignificant group of users. And even if only a part of them are having the same frustrations as me when buying notebooks, this is still a large group, I’m sure. Please consider providing such people as us with a little choice in the matter of screen ratios. There is our money in this for you. Lots of money!

I don't think there's "lots of money" there. I also think the companies that make these laptops do the necessary market research and come to the conclusion that wide-screen sells better.

Extra space? There is no extra space, if anything the aspect ratio of wide-screens makes the screen smaller if keeping with the weird diagonal measurements.

16:9 is in my opinion quite terrible for computer work, 16:10 is ok but hardly great.

While it helps sometimes to have two windows side by side, the focus is convincingly better with a single window in the front of the eyes.

The most important use-case I have for side-by-side windows is having a file explorer as the second window, which too does not need half the width. I disable the tree pane (using tabs instead if I need multiple folders together), and do a 3:1 split for the windows. Even then, I see myself always maximizing the primary window for a better focus.

I place the Windows taskbar on the sides to create more vertical space for documents, and discovered accidentally that placing it on the right side made it less distracting for work. (Perhaps given left-to-right reading order, our initial focus is skewed towards the left.) These seemingly little things do make a significant difference to usability and productivity.

> I also think that the author actually has a different problem: a bad trackpad. He stated he needs to scroll a lot to view content, and a nice trackpad goes a long way with this.

Well - he has no trackpad, actually. The X60s he mentions has only a trackpoint. But even though this trackpoint is wonderful for scrolling, it's not the point - he wants to see the content, not scroll through it.

I get it, when I upgraded from X61s to to a new 12" laptop, I also didn't like the reduced screen height. But these old laptops had low resolution screen, and the extra resolution of FHD screen more than makes up for the smaller vertical physical size. And I can have two documents side-by-side.

You can still do that with 4:3. Think of the dimensions of a real open book.. it's quite alright :)


I have a Microsoft Surface Pro (or Surface Book Pro - I can never remember which because I find the naming scheme ridiculous and irritating but, basically, the most powerful variant)[1], which has a screen that's much closer to 4:3 than 16:9.

I tend to like to have files open side by side. Not just code, but often documents, web pages, and sometimes spreadsheets. This does not work nearly as well on a 4:3 screen as it does on a 16:9 screen. A particular bugbear is Visual Studio, where I like the solution explorer open next to my side by side files: I can make it work on the Surface, but it's not great, and I find myself having to reduce the font size.

16:9 works much better for me, particularly when I'm on the move and am forced to only use a single screen.

[1] Off topic but I do not recommend you buy one of these due to unreliable WiFi connectivity, unreliable trackpad, a tendency to drain the battery very quickly (12 hours or so) when sleeping, and disappointing overall battery life. These would be irritating issues in a £600-1000 laptop, so they're absolutely unacceptable in a £2400 laptop.

For when not on the move:

21:9 curved 34" at 3440x1440 is perfect for Visual Studio. I have bought two of those for myself now; home and work (U3415W, X34). 21:9 is as if made for VS.

There's even a bigger 38" 3840x1600 (the U3818DW) that I'd love to see.

You're talking serious real estate you caon use with no silly scaling, ie 1:1 or 100%.

That sounds like a fantastic setup. I'll have to look into it because it would work great with my MBP.

Sadly, thanks to another bugbear of mine with the Surface Book, I'd need to carry the dock around with me rather than leaving it at the office if I wanted to do that at home.

This is because the Surface Book itself only has one mini display port connector - you need the dock if you want to connect two monitors.

Let me say it again: I do not recommend anyone buy a Surface Book (although ironically the author of the article would probably quite like its screen's aspect ratio).

Ahh... no Thunderbolt / USB Type C would be a major let down in 2017/2018, for sure. My U3415W doesn't have Type C connectors, but the newer models do - including that luscious 38".

I actually surround my home 34" Predator X34 with two U2412Ms (1920x1200) on an Ergotech stand. The sides are similar enough in DPI for it not to be jarring, and they are floating in air over my desk making for a very nice work area. Used to be 3x of the 24s until I upgraded the middle. The GPU has 3x DPs which makes it easy - but with a newer setup you could possibly daisy chain type Cs?

Assuming it supports DisplayPort v2.0 or greater you should be able to connect two monitors using a MST (Multi-Stream Transport) hub or monitors that natively support MST daisy chaining.

Is it a laptop with detachable screen? => Surface Book (after MacBook)

Is it a tablet with a thin attachable keyboard? => Surface Pro

Ha - thanks. The first one.

> which has a screen that's much closer to 4:3 than 16:9.

It's 3:2 probably, 13.5" 2256x1504 ...

4:3 and matte and a proper keyboard. These no longer exist because Apple and shiny.

Apple was one of the last holdouts. They were shipping matte and 4:3 laptops until relatively recently.

Reflective screens are the biggest shame. They’re worse but they sell better. For a while 4:3 looked “old fashioned.”

Turns out that a tall form factor works for phones, but thankfully most manufactutors relize that tablets should be 4:3 or close to it.

I thought they were among the very first to abandon matte and 4:3, what models are you thinking of?

I've bought two MBPs in recent years: in December 2011, and again in August 2015. The first time around you could definitely get the matte screen, although unfortunately only with an ugly grey bezel. Not so sure about 2015 though.

If there would be a demand then it would exist (from Apple or other companies).

It does exist-- from hobbyist entrepreneurs. 51nb has been selling motherboard upgrades for the old 4:3 ThinkPad models for a few years now, and others have begun to specialize in whole-system integration, additional mods, and complete systems based on this work (I'm one of those people, though I also do it as a hobby).

My three ThinkPads X60s machines are all Broadwells, with nice 12.1" 4:3 high res screens using modern backlights I fabricate myself. They work so well I intend to build more.

Well, there is the problem. If monitors and notebooks are sold with 16:9 only, then of course there is no "demand" for 4:3, because you don't sell any! This argumentation is scewed.

You assume there is actual competition taking place in computer display panels. Not sure how you can get that impression.

There's a demand for a non-anemic Mac desktop that isn't a huge overpriced dead-end waste of money, but that doesn't exist.

I could say the same for the Macbook Pro: the current models are an absolute joke.

Just like title loans, reality tv, and vape shops.

Dell and HP will still sell you matte on their corporate laptops.

Even the Dell XPS sorta-corporate line has some matte options but they are tricky to find.

Matte screens are a crutch. I’m a big boy I can figure out how to properly light my office. I don’t want to stare at my text through cheese cloth for the sake of those who can’t.

It's great to have a matte option on laptops. I can't really control the lighting in a moving train or on a park bench.

In my experience this is controlled by shutting the blinds over the windows so the naughty sun doesn't make the laptop screen impossible to use. Great, no more sun in the cubicle farm. Thanks guys. :-(

Or is this a call for mainstream operating systems and applications to get creative (read, nice tiling or splitting by default)?

What if all browsers suported single page split view? So that the left side was your regular view, half width, and the right side was the continuation of the same page, where the left side ended.

>> So that the left side was your regular view, half width, and the right side was the continuation of the same page, where the left side ended.

+ 1.

Our two eyes are placed horizontally, giving us a landscape field of view. Yet, left-right eye movement/tracking is limited, so print or online reading material is mostly portrait. I guess we did not really evolve for reading! :-)

The book printing industry did not face this problem as they print on both sides of a page and then position these as the left and right pages of an open book! And sometimes also use of multi-columns formats when using wider papers (e.g., newspapers) or smaller fonts (e.g., journal papers).

Could someone not create a browser plugin that automatically lays out the content onto the left and right sides like a book? How would scrolling work is a question, as also asked by a comment here [1]. Do we really need scrolling? Aren't page flips just sufficient? :-)

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16405710

There's only so much you can get with good tiling. I used to not care about the aspect ratio debate until I started increasing font sizes in my applications. My eyesight is still good, but being able to work farther from the screen feels better, and I can keep brightness low.

I work on a 16:9 27" display where this is moot (still, I feel like I use the center 50% of the display 90% of the time) but I feel this pain in laptops.

At 16:9, for page-based content (all text editors and code tools, productivity tools, web browsers; terminals less so), you're forced to display two pages side by side. Still, they're shorter vertically than your eye can handle. Horizontally, your eye will either gravitate towards the center of the display, or have to switch between the two sides (ultimately rendering the extra area of the display temporarily useless)

At 4:3 in full screen (especially important for smaller displays) you can have a sidebar or ancillary tool occupying 1/3 or 1/4 of the screen, and the paged content occupying the rest.

I've made my peace with 16:10.

How would scrolling work? If both panes went up or down a little, I'd find it a little jarring. Maybe I would get used to it, I don't know.

Same as if you have two windows open: whichever one you have the cursor over scrolls.

Do we really need scrolling? Won't book-like page flips just be sufficient? :-)

On the other hand resolution has gotten to be AMAZING with 4k so I almost don't care anymore. That might be eye sight dependent as I am able to use fairly minimal scaling.

I've had over the years ThinkPad 760, 600X (600 was one of the best laptop ever designed given the constraints in available tech, not sure anything can ever top it), T42, T61p, T420s and now P50 and it is a worthy family member as good as any of them. I /really/ wish they had a P4x that was 14" while retaining the xeon/ecc and 4k but that must be too niche.

I was sad when we lost 4:3 screens.. and was hoping the ThinkPad 25th Anniversary edition would have been delivered to David Hill's design intent.. just to have a real special piece of art if nothing else, but I don't think we'll ever see the industry go back.

The P50 seems very nice. Does anyone know if Linux or FreeBSD would be able to make use of all its features so that it makes sense to buy it, or is it too new?

How about macOS? I currently run macOS on one of my ThinkPads (x220 Tablet). Would macOS be as simple to install on the P50 as it was on the x220 Tablet? [0] Would macOS be able to take advantage of the P50 hardware, including the 4K display?

What’s the battery life of P50 like with Windows? How is it with the operating systems I use, listed above — Linux, FreeBSD, macOS?

[0]: http://x220.mcdonnelltech.com/

I use FreeBSD on mine. iwm(4) handles wifi generally ok but not as well as Windows. You can set either intel or nvidia graphics in the BIOS, both work on FreeBSD with the same about tradeoffs as Linux using open source intel drivers (graphics/drm-next-kmod port on FreeBSD) or the FreeBSD nvidia blob driver.

4k is the worst thing that could happen: it is so heavily marketed and has 16:9 aspect ratio. It is only appealing to people who use computer mostly to watch videos (who, unfortunately are majority of PC users).

The rise of so called "Smart TVs" and tablets gives us a hope that people who are only interested in watching movies will finally stop buying computers at all, and once again professional users will be the main focus of laptop and computer monitor manufacturers :)

I am a long term multi-screen user (last 16 years or so), including portrait monitors for document reading (reminds me that some CRTs used to do funny things in portrait as their cooling was not made for this). I often have multiple datasheets, PCB layout, schematics and some code open at the same time. Lately I only use a single screen on the desk and think a good single 32" 4k monitor is quite close do ideal right now. With that resolution and screen space I really do not need any extra. Learning a few window manager keyboard shortcuts helps a lot as well. Just my personal experience, YMMV.

I agree. I mentioned it in another comment but you're right, 32 inch up to 40 inch is a good sweet spot with huge flexibility to do what you need.

You can basically use the central 3:2 section for most stuff unless you need to tile some windows wider, yet you still have huge vertical height to enjoy. It really is a great way to avoid multiple monitors, bezels and expense.

No, not really the worst thing. Especially for desktops its pretty great. Just buy one of sufficient size to comfortably use the central 3:2 portion, and you've got side left over for whatever else down the sides.

I use a 40inch 4k monitor. You don't even need scaling (i can still read it without glasses). You get massive vertical height and plenty of width to play with.

Just because it's not the perfect ratio doesnt mean you can't just buy a monitor of sufficient size to use a section of it to suit your needs. And when i want to put my feet up i still have a huge 4k movie screen.

It would be great if the choice was there to just buy a 3:2 but the sky is hardly falling down just because 4k got here.

For the desktop market you are forgetting the gamers, unless they quit using desktops and laptops they prefer wider screens. So I don't see it going away especially when the manufactures can be lazy and use the same panels in multiple products.

Although I would be happy if your prediction turned out to be correct!

I've been lamenting similar for years; nearly everything I do on a computer involves long not wide documents.

I've mostly made my peace with a 16:10 monitor as it at least allows me to have two documents side by side and this is still findable in a laptop.

My dual monitor setup has an old 19" with a stand that rotates 90º. Custom stands are available for any monitor that has the VESA mounting screws.

Laptops are trickier but I'm hoping in the age of tablet-hybrid detachables that a rotateable tripod comes of age.

Most of us have never tried, or don't remember what it's like to have a 4:3 screen, it's been so long since they were common. It's hard to have a real debate about something few people have actually tried.

Wide screens are a terrible idea indeed. Another side effect is that they frequently add another vertical row of keys on the right edge of the keyboard, just next to Enter/Shift/Backspace. That's just asking for trouble, as if laptop keyboards weren't bad enough already... The C64 had its function keys there, but with a huge gap in between for a reason.

(Controversial) Corollary resulting from this 16:9 domination: the maximum length of a source code line should be increased. 80 characters seems to be not the best fit for modern IDE on 16:9 screens. (I hate that, but praying for a 16:10 monitor comeback did not work. Also, it is getting worse with hidpi monitors)

Again, I can't help but disagree with this. The reason newspapers arrange text in narrow columns is because it's easier to read, particularly if you're scanning quickly: same with source code.

A better approach I've found is to have files open side by side. On my old 17-inch MBP I used to edit three source files side by side. I can just about get away with this on my 15-inch retina model, but find two works better.

My Surface Book. is a bugger for this because, for one thing, the screen is smaller at 13.5", and then you also just don't have the horizontal real estate without reducing the font size slightly

No, all source code lines should be max 80 columns wide, always. That way, you can put a well-defined number of editor panes next to each other on the screen (3 columns on a 16:9, 2 columns on a 4:3). You're also able to print out snippets of source code on paper at 10pt font size.

...or 1.5 panes on a different 16:9, or 0.7 panes on a phone screen.

80 character limit sounds like it makes sense for order, but depending on size & eyesight, a lot of the screen may end up wasted.

    Personally, I hate nothing more than seeing lines wrapped like
    this when reading
    emails wrapped to 80 characters per line. This wastes vertical
    space, making the
    problem even worse.

Agreed. For me, 110 columns max seems to work best. I prefer longer, more descriptive variable names (taking into account the rule "larger scoper, longer name"). LLVM has an 80 lines rule and rarely variable names with more than three letters. This makes the code harder to read IMO.

Agree 110%

I have an external monitor flipped to portrait. Only other option is to get some kind of beastly tablet set-up.

For most forms of computer work, he has a point. 16:9 at 27" isn't the same thing as 16:9 at 15.6".

Browsers, word processors, CLIs, etc. run top-to-bottom, and can make you feel claustrophobic on the tiny 16:9 screens most laptops have.

Another reason why laptops are usually widescreen is airplanes. The seat in front is often reclined, leaving little room for a tall screen.

Also, keyboards are more wide than tall, so an extra wide case allows wider keys or more space between keys.

I have what I think is one of the last great 1920x1200 laptop displays. Not 4:3 but better than 1920x1080 It's a Core 2 Duo 2.66Ghz Dell from 2008. It serves as my Plex Server.

At least after 2012 you could get Retina display Macbooks and later PCs that you could use in other modes without looking bad.

All that being said. For reading, I much prefer my iPad because it is 4:3.

Yeah I have an old 19” Inspiron with that panel. It’s fantastic - but glossy.

I am professional and I like my wide screen laptop.

Most of the time I am in this editor-thingee where the left-hand side is a tree-structure showing an overview of the project I am working on and the right-hand side is some sort of detail view.

Perhaps there are some toolbars too but they are just fine being vertical.

So once again, the rift is between the IDE users and the vim users. :)

My compromise to address the lack of 4:3 screens: Laptop on the left. One monitor in normal orientation in the center. One monitor in portrait orientation on the right.

I still wish for more vertical landscape in the middle, but... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

As a programmer I like panoramic screen very much --- I usually have at least two panes with code open next to one each other. My four year laptop has HD screen, which also helps a lot.

I also find horizontal space much more valuable.

On a 4:3 note I really just want a large 1024x768 (or even 2048x1536) monitor that's larger than the standard 18" for software preservation purposes. Lots of games were just made to run at 1024x768.

I should use my ext display in 9:16 more often. That's the one that makes sense even if you only work between vim, firefox and the terminal.

I felt like my widescreen wasted a ton of space until I started using a tiling window manager. My productivity went through the roof!

>When it comes right down to it, I find only these two things to be of paramount importance:

>the highest possible screen,

>the lowest possible weight.

Rotate the monitor sideways. According to the only 2 criteria that matter to him, a 16:9 monitor on its side is way better than a 4:3 monitor in any rotation.

How many laptop monitors can you rotate?

All of them, but you'll rotate the laptop itself with it. Which can be quite a hassle. :p

All of them. You just need usb keyboard and mouse and flat stable surface.

and not being afraid to look like a total freak ;)

He already does that with his desktop monitor, he's talking about laptops.

> This is why my desktop LCD monitor is mounted vertically the whole time, and this is also why I would like my notebook monitor to be positioned likewise.

In that case, the answer is because adding more height to the screen would mean adding more height to the base as well. You basically double the additional weight, which is against his low-weight requirement.

Alternatively, you can shrink the keyboard. I'm sure that if he tried a keyboard with smaller keys, he'd suddenly add a third requirement to his list: Regular sized keys.

I remember the days of people complaining about laptop keyboards, and I'd much rather have a slightly wider screen that I didn't need than smaller keys.

The author presents his own personal opinions as though they were shared by the majority of programmers, but they're not. 4:3 ratio offers little space and I found that I actually prefer ultrawide monitors (21:9) to regular HD ones. The extra width lets me open 4 emacs buffers side by side (or 5-6 if I'm editing smaller files) which gives me unparalleled possibilities for editing and comparing code. Of course when it comes to laptops I find 16:9 way better than 4:3. I don't think we're going to see too many 4:3 laptops in the future.

Where does the author imply that a majority of programmers prefer 4:3? The expressions he uses are "many of my colleagues", and "only a part of [academics and IT professionals, but] still a large group". I think they are accurate.

I do strongly prefer 4:3. As an academic, a large portion of my time is spent reading papers in PDF, and opening papers side by side is mostly useless - you want to read, not compare or copy from one to the other. When coding, it depends on how your mind works. I understand that many people may want to have several files on screen at the same time, but my mind works mostly by focusing on a single file at a time, and rapidly switching context to another. Having several windows visible at the same time distracts me.

All the author (and other people wanting 4:3, like myself) are saying is that we want to have 4:3 as an alternative. We do not want to force 4:3 on anyone, just to be able to buy laptops with 4:3 screen, even if they are a minority of the product range. Is that that much to ask? Would it be that bad for people who prefer 16:9 to have 90% of laptop screens designed for them, instead of 100%? Because as long as you are OK with that and you don't need 100% of the screens to cater to your preference, I don't see why posts like this should create any controversy at all.

iPad Pro with keyboard.

Yeah, this was going to be my suggestion, but again, i think it depends on usage.

I have a 12.9 inch (first gen) iPad Pro. Using it in portrait to read is completely amazing. It is actually almost too tall for my lap like this (I am not a large person), but I can just manage.

Some of these folks may be able to get away with this solution if reading PDFs, web pages, etc. I assume that at this point it is also possible to do console style development on an iPad (remote apps, ssh, etc). The only bummer is the iOS local development problem for people that need the software flexibility of working locally. I really, really wish Apple would allow this.

But for reading and writing, the iPad Pro is pretty darn hard to beat.

Ironically I end up using my iPad Pro mostly for TV, since I already use a MacBook Pro laptop with a somewhat decent 16:10 screen aspect ratio. But iPad Pro is such a great reading screen.

Wish Apple made an iPad dedicated for video with 16:9 screen that you could place on a stand. Was hoping HomePod would have included a screen, like the Alexa, but it didn't..

this is so stupid. this guy doesnt want a laptop but a tablet or netbook, and should be asking why chromebooks dont come in 4:3

this guy's real problem is probably that 768 pixels isnt enough, not the wasted pixels to make the width 1366; so the solution is probably not being as cheap, and getting a higher resolution screen on a small latptop

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