How to Choose the Best Aspect Ratio for your Touchscreen or Whiteboard

Aspect Ratio for Touchscreen and whiteboardWhen choosing a touch screen, LCD or whiteboard the choice of aspect ratio can be a tricky decision. Aspect Ratio is one of the most misunderstood aspects of image display. Here are some tips and insights on how to make better choices.

Common aspect ratio standards are 4:3 and 16:9 but 16:10 is a new aspect ratio for projected images, which has come from the computer industry.

The fundamental issue is a common expectation that "if I paid for a screen of a given size, then I want my image to fill the whole screen." This is what has created the stretching and cropping modes built into TVs.

The classroom environment is probably the best illustrator of the problem. There may be document cameras of various aspect ratios, permanently installed computers of various aspect ratios, transient laptops of different aspect ratios, DVD or Blu-ray players of at least two aspect ratios, white boards, touch screens and possibly other devices... all with different aspect ratios

So key questions to aid the choice of aspect ratio selection are...

  • What is the most common source that will be used?

  • What is the most "important" source that will be used?

The answers to these two questions can provide the "best" choice of screen aspect ratio. Of course the trick is defining what is "important" for the user. Important could mean the source that you want to look the best. In a classroom where random content is most common, 4:3 supports the widest range of content. However if it is a classroom where many videos are shown then 16:9 would be the best choice to match video sources.

The design goal of a presentation system is to get the best possible image from the equipment and budget constraints. The aim has to be to select devices where every pixel of the source can be used.

While 16:9 is a video industry standard (as in TV, videos and movies). 16:10 has been adopted by the computer industry, where for the same width image you get a little more height. In the windows world, this added height actually gives space for the windows taskbar

16:10 was the logical upgrade from 4:3. It allows two printable pages to fit side by side in full screen. It also allows 16:9 content to be displayed along with a menu bar at the top (or bottom) enabling a single line of information or editorial.

A couple of years ago, wide-screen laptops were almost all 16:10 which gave the advantage of a bit more height. Now many of the latest laptops are 16:9, which probably comes more from the entertainment side of things to match a wide-screen TV.

The pixel count and ratio of the actual imaging element in LCD panels or DLP chips are:

  • XGA (4:3) chip is 1024 x 768 pixels

  • 16:10 is 1280x800 or 1920 x 1200

  • 16:9 is 1366x768 or 1920 x 1080

(There maybe other less standard options, but these are the main ones)

You can manipulate the image however you want, but for true geometry and image quality... each pixel on your computer screen should have a corresponding pixel space on the formatted image be it on your Touch Screen, TV or whiteboard... so choose the aspect ratio to suit your most "important" source.

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