Comparing 16:9 vs 16:10 aspect ratios, 16:9 is generally the better choice as it is more widely supported by software and games, but 16:10 gets you more resolution in a similarly-sized frame.
Picking a monitor or laptop can seem daunting, because not only are there differences in size and resolution, you might even have to choose the aspect ratio.
Choosing that should be your first step, though, which might help you narrow down your search.
What Is 16:9?
Over the last decade or so, 16:9 has become nearly ubiquitous. Originally created in the 1980s as a compromise aspect ratio, it became the High Definition TV standard.
Because of that, a tremendous amount of content, from television shows to movies, have been shot in the 16:9 aspect ratio. With this and the large number of HDTVs produced, the cost of LCD panels in the 16:9 aspect ratio dropped.
That made those panels even more attractive for manufacturers and users alike, and 16:9 has become the clear market leader.
What Is 16:10?
In the early 2000s, as CRT monitors began to fade away and LCD screens became common, most monitors used the 4:3 Fullscreen aspect ratio.
With the rise of LCD screens also came the rise of widescreen, and at first, the most popular wide aspect ratio was 16:10.
There are a few reasons for that. Humans have very wide fields of vision, making wider screens practical.
Wider screens also allowed more content side by side.
As 16:9 panels became cheaper, they mostly took over from 16:10 panels, but some monitors, laptops and tablets do still use 16:10 aspect ratio screens.
16:9 vs 16:10 for Photography and Video
If you’re taking photos or shooting video, or even gaming, your choice should have as much to do with the other specs of the computer than just the aspect ratio of the monitor.
Generally speaking, both aspect ratios work well for photo editing, but 16:9 is probably the right choice for a screen for video editing, especially if you’re creating content for 16:9 screens.
If you’re choosing between two identical setups, with only the aspect ratio of the monitor to guide you, consider 16:10 as it gets you a bit more resolution.
A Full High Definition 16:9 monitor would have a resolution of 1920×1080. If the same panel had the 16:10 aspect ratio, it would have a resolution of 1920×1200.
That extra bit of resolution might be what you need.
It also allows more room on screen for the user interface and other controls on screen alongside the content you’re editing.
Is 16:9 or 16:10 Better For Reading and General Use?
With the low cost of 16:9 panels, nearly all modern laptops use that aspect ratio. The most common resolution is still Full High Definition, or 1920×1080.
The Lenovo Flex 5, a 14” laptop, uses such a 16:9 aspect ratio panel with Full HD resolutions. That makes it a great choice for watching video at full screen or browsing the web.
A higher-end laptop, the Lenovo Legion 5i Pro 16”, uses a 16:10 panel, by contrast, and its resolution is not just 1920×1200, but 2560×1600. The extra resolution, as well as the taller screen, make it much more well suited for reading and gaming.
The 16:10 aspect ratio is popular on Android tablets in particular because it matches the look and feel of the printed page better than the 16:9 aspect ratio.
Your choice about which one is suitable for general use depends mostly on what you’re going to be doing.
If much of what you do is watch video and browse the web, a 16:9 screen will likely be perfectly fine.
If, however, you use your screen for reading or for gaming, the extra height offered by the 16:10 aspect ratio will be beneficial.
Is 16:9 or 16:10 Better For Productivity Use?
One of the original pitches for widescreen computer monitors was that they were useful for office and productivity use. The extra screen real estate made everything from reading PDFs to editing spreadsheets easier.
Another benefit of wider screens was that if they were rotatable, you could move them to portrait rather than landscape orientation. That meant you could see more of a long document without having to scroll.
Another big benefit for productivity use is the ability to have two windows open side by side. This allows you to research in one window and write in another, to copy notes back and forth or any other number of tasks.
If you mainly use your computer for office-related or productivity tasks, you might find it worthwhile to seek out a laptop or computer monitor with a 16:10 aspect ratio. Both a 16:9 and 16:10 monitor would offer the same basic benefits, but the 16:10 gets the edge for a few reasons.
The extra height offers extra resolution, allowing you to fit more on screen, and the aspect ratio matches better with the real world, making it more useful.