Besides your own personal preference between the two regarding their design and appearance, there are additional things you should consider. We’ll fill you in on everything you need to know before making your decision.
32:9 vs 21:9 vs 16:9 – What’s the Difference?
The standard ultra-wide (21:9 aspect ratio) resolutions amount to 3440×1440 or 2560×1080 pixels which offer extra horizontal space in comparison to their respective 16:9 widescreen resolutions of 2560×1440 and 1920×1080.
Some bigger ultrawide monitors feature even higher screen resolutions such as 3840×1600 and 5120×2160; the latter is considered as 5K ultrawide (and 5K2K or 2160p ultrawide) which is kind of a combination between 4K and ultrawide.
There are also 32:9 ‘super’ ultra-wide displays with 3840×1080, 3840×1200, and 5120×1440 resolutions.
In comparison, 4K Ultra HD resolution has 3840×2160 pixels which is over three million pixels more than 3440×1440 (the most popular ultrawide resolution).
Of course, there are many other things that impact the image quality besides the resolution which include panel type, color gamut, pixel density (pixel-per-inch ratio), HDR (High Dynamic Range) support, local dimming, etc.
Ultrawide monitors are usually curved, some more aggressively than the others, but there are also some that are flat for those who are worried that the screen curvature would mess up the color accuracy or distort and blur the lines on-screen.
Regardless, this isn’t an issue as these curved monitors are built with the above-mentioned points in mind. As long as you are sitting in front of the monitor, you won’t encounter any color inconsistency, however, lines will be skewed which can be inconvenient depending on what type of content creation you do.
The ultrawide aspect ratio also provides you with more screen real estate for your spreadsheets and applications but if you want the most screen space for productivity purposes, you’d be better off with a dual 16:9 monitor setup.
If you’re a video editor, on the other hand, an ultra-wide display will be of great help as due to the extra horizontal space, you can have a more comprehensive view of your timelines.
At first, you may not even like the way your ultra-wide monitor looks as it can appear too wide for its vertical size, but you will get used to it eventually. After that, you will wonder how you ever got around without it.
Upgrading to a 4K UHD display from 1080p or even 1440p may also take some time getting used to as even on a 32-inch screen, the 4K resolution provides you with a high pixel density making everything on your desktop tiny.
So, you will need to scale the interface by a certain amount to make small items such as icons and text easily readable. A problem occurs when some applications don’t scale well or not at all, leaving you with a messy desktop with either too small or too large elements.
As you can see, both choices have their downsides. The upsides? Watching compatible content at the native resolution. With a 21:9 ultrawide display, movies are closer to their native aspect ratio at which they are shot (2.39:1).
On the other hand, there’s a lot of 4K content nowadays available as well allowing you to enjoy your favorite shows and games in crystal-clear quality with maximum detail.
4K vs UltraWide For Gaming
To start with, we’ll focus on the negative aspects of both types of monitors to make it easier for you to choose.
The main downside of a 4K gaming monitor is the equipment and the cost required to run demanding video games at 4K with decent settings and frame rates, especially when it comes to high refresh rate 4K monitors, such as the Acer XB273K 4K 144Hz display.
You would get an excellent image quality but at the cost of performance.
For instance, if you have proper PC rig to run 4K at 60FPS, you could also run 3440×1440 at ~100FPS. Simply put, the difference in frame rates between these two setups will have a bigger effect on the overall gaming experience than the difference in image quality.
Plus, ultrawide monitors make the gaming experience more immersive by extending your field of view which trivializes the slightly more detailed picture 4K displays have to offer.
Keep in mind that not all games support the 21:9 format which will result in a stretched image or black bars at the sides of your screen. What’s more, even some newer competitive games such as StarCraft II don’t support the ultrawide format as it’d be an unfair advantage against other players. So, make sure your favorite games support 21:9 resolutions before you get one.
In the end, you should choose between 4K and ultrawide according to what type of content you’ll be watching the most. There’s no use in getting an ultrawide monitor if none of your games support the 21:9 format; just as it makes no sense to get a 4K display if your PC rig can’t do it justice.
Rob is a software engineer with a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Denver. He now works full-time managing DisplayNinja while coding his own projects on the side.