If you’re like me, you’re drooling over the latest ultra-wide monitors to improve your work-from-home setup. After a few weeks with one that I bought secondhand, I am quite happy with the purchase … but found some unexpected issues when trying to use it. They are worth considering if you̵
Advantages of Ultrawide Monitor
The benefits of ultrawides are more than just a larger screen. Greater resolution means more comfortable use of two or three windows at once, and the 21: 9 aspect ratio can handle movie and TV video beautifully. They’re obviously great for (most) games, and many also offer more connectivity options than a standard monitor.
If you’re looking for a reason to justify an ultrawide purchase from your boss or your partner (or yourself!), This is the way to go. With about a third more horizontal space than a standard 16: 9 screen (or 50 percent, if you go for one of the more extreme panels!), Ultrawides have more room for activities.
I found that especially relevant in my everyday workflow: while I was used to using two windows side by side, the extra space is now enough to use Photoshop comfortably on one side. For more conventional users, having two windows side by side in an ultra-wide way is a much more comfortable way to keep two text documents open at the same time. And when you’re working with media or spreadsheets, you’ll want every possible pixel you can get.
Watch videos and movies
Standard 16: 9 monitors work great for video – that’s the standard aspect ratio of most web videos and TV shows. But in recent years more and web videos, plus “prestigious” TV shows such as The Mandalorian, are stretched to a wider aspect ratio. Most Hollywood movies have already been shot in this ratio. That means if you watch them on a TV or normal monitor, black bars will appear at the top and bottom.
Not so with an ultrawide. That extra horizontal space allows for a 21: 9 video to be displayed in a beautiful widescreen, filling the frame. If you watch a lot of videos at your desk, this is a great way to take in the details. If you go for a mega ultrawide (32: 9) you will still get black bars on both sides of the screen, of course, but the video will still be much larger than on a standard monitor.
The gaming experience
Here’s the big one: most ultrawides are marketed as gaming monitors, and it’s easy to see why. The extra horizontal space means players can take advantage of a wider field of view, which is wonderfully immersive. In some games, especially first-person and third-person shooters, it can even be a competitive advantage.
Many ultrawides are shown with game visuals, but to make the most of their capabilities, look for one with a high refresh rate (minimum 120 Hz) and a low response time (less than 5 ms). Extras such as RGB lighting or compatibility with NVIDIA’s G-SYNC system will cost you extra.
Ultrawide monitors are large, which means there’s plenty of room to cram in extra hardware. Even the most basic models offer multiple video inputs, and most also have a USB connection for connecting multiple gadgets.
But those are the simple things. Premium models have USB-C connections for both video and fast charging, audio output to get HDMI sound to speakers, or even built-in speakers built into the display itself. The most advanced productivity-oriented ultrawide monitors offer the ability to view multiple device inputs simultaneously on the screen, both side by side and in picture-in-picture mode.
Disadvantages of Ultrawide Monitor
Here’s the other side of the coin: There are some downsides to ultrawide monitors that you may not have thought of. Obviously, ultra-wide monitors cost more than 16: 9 monitors with the same features, but you may not have thought that they are a bit tight on text … and they will make your desk a lot more cramped than you think.
They are expensive
No two ways: ultrawide monitors are expensive. Even budget models will have a premium over their 16: 9 monitor counterparts as they require specialized design and specialized equipment from the manufacturer. For the cost of a typical ultrawide monitor, you could get a standard model with more features, or maybe even a new graphics card.
Prices seem to go up much faster as you add more features. A $ 1,000 price tag for a gaming-focused ultrawide isn’t uncommon, especially if you want G-SYNC, color accuracy, or the latest connections. Ultra-premium ultrawide monitors can cost $ 2,000 or more.
More resolution is always better, right? Um … not always. Consider upgrading from a 32-inch QHD monitor (2560 × 1440) to a 34-inch WQHD display (3440 × 1440). You’re stuffing a lot more pixels in front of your face, but that stretch to a wider panel comes at the expense of height. So to see images and text of the same size, at least vertically, move the monitor a little closer to your eyes. Depending on your work, a 32-inch 4K monitor may make more sense setup.
On the two screens below, assuming 1440p resolution for both, text and icons appear smaller on the 34-inch monitor, even though it’s technically a larger screen. This is because it is physical shorter, making the elements on the screen appear smaller.
Non-standard resolutions can cause problems in other ways too. While gaming has a huge appeal for ultrawides, not all games support extra-wide resolution. That’s especially true for older titles, such as Skyrim, or 2D fixed-asset titles, like last year’s Hades. The screenshot below shows that the horizontal space is filled with static artwork.
The problems don’t end with programs on your computer. Most non-computer inputs assume you have a 4: 3 or 16: 9 screen. So if you plan on hooking up game consoles or Blu-ray players to your ultrawide, you probably have to make do with those black bars.
The bigger the screen, the more hunger for energy
If you’ve bought a desktop or laptop in the past five years, it can probably handle the extra resolution of an ultra-wide monitor for most basic programs without difficulty. But that doesn’t necessarily apply to games. With an increased pixel count by 30-50 percent, you’ll have to push your graphics card a lot harder to get good performance in 3D games.
If you don’t have a powerful up-to-date system, you may have to lower the visual quality or resolution in games to keep performance high. This is especially true for graphically intense titles. Since good-looking games are often a reason for an ultrawide upgrade in the first place, it’s worth considering – a more typical 1080p or QHD display might be a better choice, especially if you’re into online multiplayer games .
They are huge
Ultrawide monitors are huge. It’s hard to see how big and heavy they are, until you get one on your desk that takes up half the space available from the large, sturdy stand alone. I had to replace my triple VESA stand with three separate ones because otherwise my other monitors just couldn’t fit … and the ultrawide is so heavy I had to place it very carefully.
Another part of that extra size is that the monitor stand must also be larger. If you’re using a small desk or table, and especially if you don’t have enough space between you and the other side, you may not be able to comfortably fit a super-large screen into your workflow.
Should you buy one?
To summarize all these points, ultrawide monitors are a great fit for a productivity-oriented work setup or a gaming or media machine that has the power to drive high-resolution heavy applications. Either way, you’ll need a large workspace on your desk to take care of it, and quite a bit more budget to afford it in the first place.
There are applications where a standard 16: 9 monitor makes more sense, especially if you need more vertical space or resolution, or if you plan to use multiple monitors at the same time.