Picture of Ultrawide monitor 16:9 comparison

Black bars on Ultrawide Monitors, is it a big deal?

Black Bars in TVs and Movies

A common question people have concerning ultrawide monitors revolves around black bars. As you may already be aware, most content is produced in the 16:9 format, that's what most monitors are. Ultrawide monitors on the other hand have an aspect ratio of 21:9, that's where the whole "ultrawide" thing comes in. A concern you as a prospective buyer might have is, will a 21:9 ultrawide monitor play nice with 16:9 content? Well yes, certainly it is compatible. Your glorious new ultrawide monitor will display 16:9 content, but with the cost of black bars.

 

Picture of Ultrawide monitor with black bars

Ultrawide monitor with black bars


Most TV shows and youtube videos display in 16:9, so it follows that if that's the majority of the content you consume, you'll be dealing with this potential inconvenience. With that said there are addons for chrome that will extend the videos to 21:9, but it's not a perfect solution as there will be some distortion. You can do the same for your TV shows in video player programs like VLC.
There is of course a silver-lining, you'll never have to deal with black bars in movies again. Interestingly enough, essentially all movies are filmed in the ultrawide 21:9 format. It's what gives movies their 'cinematic' feeling. If you're a movie buff, you'll fall in love with being able to watch movies in the way they were intended. It's an extremely immersive experience.

 

Picture of Ultrawide monitor with movie

Ultrawide monitor with movie

Lighting Conditions and Backlight Bleed

So how bad is it really? Well it depends on the lighting conditions of your room and the extent of backlight bleed on your particular ultrawide monitor. If there's a lot of light in your room, the black bars on your monitor will stand out as light will reflect off that section of your monitor, potentially even illuminating dust and other fine particles if your screen is dirty.
It certainly sounds rather trivial, but I'm just pointing out all the possible quirks of this black bar situation. On to the back light bleed issue. This is a common issue with ultrawide monitors featuring IPS panels. Here's a picture to quickly illustrate what this problem is:

 

Picture of Ultrawide monitor black light bleed

Ultrawide monitor back light bleed


As you can imagine, in a dark room, this issue can be rather prominent if your ultrawide monitor has a particularly bad case of back light bleed. If you've yet to decide on an ultrawide monitor, I recommend checking out the ultrawide monitor guide on this website:

Ultrawide Monitors Buyer's Guide

Be sure to be thorough on reading up on those amazon reviews or just do "ctrl + f" and type "backlight" to read mentions of it in the guide itself. We go over this common issue so you can be confident in your choice of ultrawide monitor.

Black bars in Gaming

What about the experience while gaming? Do I have to deal with black bars while gaming? Well it depends. A lot of games these days do actually support a 21:9 aspect ratio. Some examples include: CSGO, Rocket League, Warframe, Grand theft auto 5. You'll even have a competitive advantage in some games that support 21:9 because you'll have an increase FoV. Unfortunately some games like Overwatch are aware of this and completely gimp the 21:9 experience. Overwatch has made their game in a way where you have a disadvantage if you're running 21:9, which really sucks, so you'll basically forced to stick with the 16:9 option.

Are Black Bars That Big of a Deal?

I think we can confidently come to the conclusion that no, they are not a big deal. Given the increasing support for 21:9 in gaming, the prevalance of 21:9 movies, and the productivity benefits of having an ultrawide monitor, it's definitely worth the compromise of sometimes having to deal with black bars.

Posted by Roman Stephen