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So, I'm looking ordering myself a new development desktop soon and setting up a PROPER office environment by the end of this year.

To boost productivity, I'm going to purchase three new monitors. I find that two just isn't enough when I'm debugging or doing something intensive.

That said, I had something pointed out to me the other day that I never really noticed nor cared about before - is the difference between a 16:10 and a 16:9 monitor noticeable when programming? Do you really miss those few extra lines, or is it something that you don't notice at all.

I notice HP only seems to sell 16:9 monitors (as far as I have found). Is this becoming something of a new standard with the recent growth and cleaver marketing of of "HD 16:9"?

To summarize: Has anybody made the switch from 16:10 to 16:9 (or vise-versa) and actually noticed the difference while programming?

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16:10? Maybe you mean 16:12 aka 4:3, a non-widescreen monitor? – Matthew Frederick Jan 8 '11 at 9:08
No he most likely means 16:10, there are many monitors that use that ratio (mine included). – wildpeaks Jan 8 '11 at 9:12
@Matthew Fredrick - no, I don't mean a 4:3 monitor. I could be wrong about the exact aspect ratios, but I believe that most monitors are either 4:3(old monitors), 16:9 or 16:10. – Craige Jan 8 '11 at 9:14
@Developer Art - Removed – Craige Jan 8 '11 at 10:01
Ah, fair enough, I guess that explains some of the weird resolutions I see sometimes. – Matthew Frederick Jan 8 '11 at 10:23
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Personally I could not care less about the physical shape of the monitor. What matters to me is:

1) The amount of pixels on the monitor. Get as many pixels on the monitor as possible. This eventually determines how much you can see at one point. Also note that some programs work better on a single monitor than on several, again meaning that you want that monitor to have the highest practical pixel count.

2) Number of source lines I can see on a monitor. This means the highest possible vertical resolution. Since most monitors are wider than tall, this means that you want pivotable monitors.

You might find interesting.

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Well, the aspect ratio will directly affect the number of maximum pixels in your vertical resolution. – Craige Jan 8 '11 at 9:15
Don't look for aspect ratio. Look for pixels. This is for programming, right? – user1249 Jan 8 '11 at 9:27
Of course there are some old programmers out there. I'm not there yet - I still read the small print on the eye test from a distance that makes opticians think I'm cheating. But I once worked with someone who insisted on 640 by 480 on a 17 inch CRT, and got quite upset when Windows started assuming an 800 by 600 minimum. – Steve314 Jan 8 '11 at 11:07
@Steve314, even so, having a high pixel count is the only way to reduce the relative size of icons, sliders, etc. You can have essentially a 80x25 even on a HD but with very little visual clutter as the cluttering is very tiny. – user1249 Jan 8 '11 at 13:29
Every LCD monitor is pivotable, btw. Especially if it has 4 VESA-compatible screws on the back (most LCDs do), then you can buy or make a custom stand / holding arms for it easily. If not, you can just rest the monitor vertically against the wall - I do that often for long sessions with documentation or google reader. – Kos Jan 8 '11 at 14:41

Well I'd say it does if you plan on using it/them in portrait mode. At a 1920xY resolution, a 16:10's width has 120 pixels more than a 16:9, that's valuable screen real-estate IMO.

I wouldn't bother if I weren't interested in portrait mode though, since 16:10's are much harder to come by, and are usually more expensive too.

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Actually, I think it's kind of random as to whether 16:10 or 16:9 displays are more available. I've been to stores and see mostly one or the other at different times. I think it's mostly marketing-driven since very few people actually care about the difference. – Michael Kohne Jan 8 '11 at 14:35
@Michael: I agree on the last comment, and that's actually why I disagree on the first :) Most folks don't care about such things, as long as they know it's "full hd", so 1920x1080 became the standard, any search on an online store will show that. – julien Jan 8 '11 at 14:59

is the difference between a 16:10 and a 16:9 monitor noticeable when programming

Some say YES, but I never really experienced an issue.

Do you really miss those few extra lines

I don't notice those missing lines at all.

An objective advantage of 16:9 over 16:10 is that you get movies filling the entire screen, without black margins on top and bottom. If you watch lots of movies, eventually those margin regions should begin to look differently from the rest of the screen which was actively used. In years though.

An objective advantage of 16:10 over 16:9 is that you get more vertical space. Advantageous for working with applications.

P.S. Working on a 16.4" laptop with 1920x1080 (16:9) and very happy.

P.S #2. Just like Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen said, the size of the pixel (dot pitch) is very important. Not too small for you to be able to sit back and comfortably see everything. Not too large because you'll see a matrix of pixels instead of a smooth image. This is however extremely personal and cannot be advised upon. Go to some store and spend a few hours there looking at different sizes and emulating work conditions. Make a few screenshots of your favorite development tools and see how they look like on various displays. Then you'll understand what is right for you.

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+1 for the edit. Useful information added. – Craige Jan 8 '11 at 9:22
On LCDs, there is no burn-in, so the letterbox stripes on top and bottom of 16:10 screens will NOT look different, even after years of use. – fzwo Jan 8 '11 at 11:35

My advice:

Ignore the aspect ratio. Look at the pixel dimensions.

These are a few resolutions you are likely to stumble upon:

  1. 1440x900 (16:9)
  2. 1680x1050 (16:10)
  3. 1920x1080 (16:9)
  4. 1920x1200 (16:10)

Most 22" screens have either 2 or 3. If you're lucky, you can find 4., but I've only seen it in 24"s personally.

My recommendation: Go for 1920 width. It translates to "wide enough to let you have two browsers next to each other horizontally", which is good. It's a good starting point... Having the width of 1680 is still nice, but you'd often feel that's not enough.

Then: the more vertical space you get, the better. The 120 pixels more is nice, but not "obligatory"... definitely not as crucual as the distinction "two browsers at once" vs. "one browser at once".

Note that a 22" variant 3 will be physically smaller than a 22" variant 2 and you'll notice that on the shelf. But see my advice below. If you find it too small, get a bigger size, but stay with 1920 width.

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Rather than two browsers, I want to have two side by side xterms, and anything less than 80 columns wide is awkward. Until adequate horizontal real estate is available to have two side by sides of whatever it is you frequently use horizontal RE is more critical than vertical. For graphics I would insist that pixel height/width be the same. I usually open graphics windows as square, so height does matter.

Having a single window spilling across two moniters isn't a very good solution either.

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