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What's the benefit of 16:9 on a 20-inch monitor?

I have a question. Is having a 16:9 aspect ratio monitor (as opposed to 16:10) really all that beneficial? The answer is, "it depends".

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I have a question: is having a 16:9 aspect ratio monitor (as opposed to 16:10) really all that beneficial? The answer is, "It depends."

If we're talking strictly about resolution benefits, the specific size of the screen matters greatly. For example, a 16:9, 21.5-inch monitor has a native resolution of 1920x1080, whereas a 16:10, 22-incher tops out at 1680x1050. That's an extra 309,600 pixels you'd have at your disposal on the 21.5-incher. Gaming, movies, Photoshop--virtually all apps would benefit from more pixels. Yes, even porn. Or so I hear...ahem.

On the flip side, a 16:9, 24-incher's max resolution is 1920x1080; however, a 16:10, 24-inch monitor has a higher native resolution of 1920x1200. To complicate matters a bit, Dell's smaller, 16:9 SP2309W is a 23-inch display with a 2048x1152 resolution.

So, clearly, for certain screen sizes there are resolution benefits to 16:9. Also, with a monitor capable of 1080p (1920x1080) resolution, you'll get to watch 1080p, high-definition content without it getting stretched or shrunk to fit the screen.

So that long-winded setup brings me to the HP 2009m: a 20-inch, 16:9 monitor with a maximum resolution of 1600x900. As a rule, 16:10 monitors at 20 inches have a max resolution of 1680x1050. So with a monitor this small, what's the real benefit in going to 16:9? Sure, high-def content (1080 and 720p) will fit better, but will there really be a huge difference in quality and in the experience you have?

Now, I just got the HP 2009m in this week and, while it's definitely pleasing to the eye, it doesn't boast many improvements over the HP w2007 we reviewed a couple years back--unless you consider 16:9 on a 20-inch monitor an improvement, since the w2007 had a 16:10 aspect ratio and 1680x1050 resolution. On HP's site, the newer 2009m costs $20 more. Are we really expected to pay $20 more (yes, a small difference, but still) for a lower-resolution monitor?

OK. Now, to be fair, I haven't tested the monitor yet. There could be many hidden benefits I'm not yet privy to--performance and power consumption being chief among the possibilities. I'll be sure to keep an eye out for any of those boons when I review the monitor in a couple of weeks. For now, check out the slideshow.