How To Set up a Widescreen Monitor

Using widescreen monitors

As the name suggests, widescreen monitors are wider than their regular 4:3 aspect ratio counterparts. The added width provides for a much better viewing experience, especially when using the computer for entertainment purposes such as watching movies or playing games. Most modern operating systems will be able to automatically detect the resolution and aspect ratio of any widescreen monitor, but sometimes you would have to set this up manually yourself, or at least choose from the choices given by your OS’s setup.

Determine the resolution aspect ratio. The first things you should learn when setting up your monitor are the aspect ratio and resolution. This is often found in the widescreen monitor’s packaging and the user’s manual. Unlike CRT monitors, LCD screens have a fixed resolution, and you will get the best viewing experience when they are in native resolution. Otherwise, the images on screen will look fuzzy or squished.

Aspect ratio is calculated as the ratio between width and height of the monitor screen. The most common ratios for regular monitors is usually 4:3. However, the aspect ratios for most newer widescreen monitors are either 16:9 or 16:10 used in high definition screens. While aspect ratio does not define the resolution of a widescreen monitor, this will usually influence the resulting resolution that a screen will support.

Widescreen monitors usually have native resolutions as follows:

  • 17 to 19 inches        : 1280 x 1024    (SXGA)
  • 20 plus inches            : 1600 x 1200    (UXGA)
  • 17 inches (wide-screen)    : 1280 x 800    (WXGA)
  • 19 inches (wide-screen)    : 1440 x 900    (WXGA+)
  • 22 inches (wide-screen)    : 1680 x 1050    (WSXGA+)
  • 23.6 inches (wide-screen)    : 1920 x 1080    (WUXGA)
  • 23 inches (ultra wide-screen)    : 2048 x 1152    (QWXGA)
  • 24 inches (wide-screen)    : 1920 x 1200    (WUXGA)
  • 30 inches (wide-screen)    : 2560 x 1600

Plug in the monitor. Most LCD monitors come with two interfaces: a digital DVI interface and an analog RGB interface. The RGB interface will work with most laptops and desktop computers, while the DVI plug is needed for higher-end computers, such as Apple Macintosh desktops and notebooks. Finding the right cable and port will be easy because of the shape of the plug. An RGB plug is trapezoid shaped, and a DVI connector is usually a long rectangle.

Set up your operating system. If your computer does not automatically detect these settings, then you would have to manually set the proper resolution on your computer. Assuming you’re running Windows, the resolution settings can be accessed by right clicking the desktop and selecting properties. Go to "settings" and try sliding the resolution bar until you reach your desired setting. The resolutions are in pixels. The horizontal value would be given first, and then the vertical value next. For instance, 1280 x 800 means 1,280 pixels across and 800 pixels down.

Download drivers. If your OS does not include the resolution of your widescreen monitor, then this can either mean two things: your video card does not support the widescreen monitor’s native resolution, or you do not have correct or updated drivers. Try to determine the brand and model of your video card, and download the latest drivers from the manufacturer’s support website.

Setting up a widescreen monitor is about getting the most out of your computing experience. While it’s usually a straightforward process to plug in, it’s not always plug and play. Make sure your widescreen LCD is running in its native resolution for the best viewing experience.


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