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Nine 21:9 monitors test preview: wide enough for you?

2013 will be known as the year when PC monitors finally started moving beyond Full HD resolution. Last year we tested a large number of WQHD monitors with 2560x1440 pixels, and today we will examine nine screens with a resolution of 2560x1080.

The aspect ratio of these 29-inch monitors is a rare one, 21:9. That's much wider than the 16:9 aspect ratio of Full HD, WQHD and Ultra HD, but with the same vertical space. It's very close to the super-widescreen movie format of 2.39:1.

That means you can watch films in their original format without those annoying black bars on the top and bottom. That does bring with it some challenges. The resolution of a Blu-ray film in this format is about 1920x804. When you zoom that in to 2560x1072 pixels the black bars disappear almost completely, along with the subtitles should you need those. Advanced Blu-ray players and software are sometimes able to vertically reposition the picture and/or subtitles, but not always. If you plan on watching movies with subtitles on a monitor like this, it's something to keep in mind. Also, the zoom-in effect to get rid of the black bars don't make the picture sharper, exactly.

These monitors can of course also be used for gaming, despite the fact AH-IPS panels aren't ideal for gaming. TN panels have much faster response times, and IPS is also faster. Nevertheless, a 21:9 aspect ratio is appealing to gamers because it shows you much more of the world (if the game allows this). Great for RPGs, racing and space sim games, and potentially a tactical advantage in FPS games. The Wide Screen Gaming Forum is the best online resource for finding out how to play games with a wide aspect ratio.

And while the number of pixels on a 21:9 screen is 33 per cent higher than Full HD resolution (2,764,800 versus 2,073,600), it's not to the point where you need a much more powerful video card. WQHD screens, which have 77 per cent more space with its 2560x1440 pixels, do require very powerful hardware. The monitors in this review have excellent colour rendering and viewing angles thanks to the AH-IPS panels. Both 2560x resolutions are still not high enough to make anti-aliasing superfluous.

We've noticed that a third popular application for 21:9 screens is video editing. The width is perfect for displaying a timeline, but if we had to choose a single screen for video editing we would probably prefer a WQHD screen due to the extra pixels. The best solution for video editing is still two monitors, if you can afford it. You can read the rest of this preview on