Poll: Do you Prefer Widescreen (16:9) Tablets or Regular (4:3) Tablets?

I got a press release yesterday from Ematic, one of the smaller tablet makers. They’ve just announced a 9.7″ Android tablet, the eGlide Pro X, making it their second budget 10″ tablet to be launched in only a few months.

The Pro X has much the same specs as Ematics’ other 10″ tablet (and pretty much all the latest budget Android tablets on the market). It’s running Android 4.0 on a 1GHz CPU with a graphics chip, bevy of ports, cheap camera, card slot, and a minimum of storage.

That pretty much describes Ematic’s last tablet, the eGlide XL Pro II. In fact, I can see only one way major difference between the 2 devices: the screen.  The older tablet has a 10″ screen with a resolution of 1024×600, while the newer tablet has a 9.7″ screen with a resolution of 1024×768.

Now, neither screen size is uncommon, but this is the first time I know of where a tablet maker released 2 new devices with similar specs this close to each other which differed by little more than the dimensions of the screen. One is noticeably longer and narrower than the other, and it raised a question in my mind. Do people prefer one screen shape or the other?

It’s not a trivial question; there are some use cases which fit one screen geometry better. For example, I’ve been told that comics work better on a 4:3 screen, and I certainly think that browsing might be better on that screen as well. But for portability, the narrower 16:9 screen on many 7″ tablets wins out over the wider 4:3 screen geometry. You can slip  a Galaxy Tab or Nook Color in to your pocket because it’s so narrow. It also more closely resembles a book, making it a slightly better choice for use as an ereader.

So what do you think about the shape of a screen?

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. SevenG27 June, 2012

    Having used both aspects on multiple size screens, I have no real preference. Portability is a small factor, but pixel density is more important to my than actual resolution. However, I’m extremely disappointed with the display industry. LCD innovation came to a screeching halt when 16:9 HDTV caught on. I want my 4:3 high-res computer screens back! Or if 16:9 really is the future, try adding horizontal pixels instead of chopping off the bottom of a decent screen!

  2. pholy27 June, 2012

    I really miss the 1600×1200 20 inch screen of my old Viewsonic CRT display, but not the dent it left in my desk. I saw a Playbook the other day and was amazed at how small the screen was, and how lines of text were either too short in portrait or too long in landscape. I do think I would prefer to browse or read magazines or comics on a 1024×768 10 screen like the iPad or lePan2. I’m pretty happy with the screen size of my 6 inch 800×600 e-ink reader for ordinary novels and short stories.

  3. the rodent27 June, 2012

    16:9 is a terrible aspect ratio for anything, including film. 16:9 doesn’t approximate visual perception field in any way, it’s just hugely too wide. If turned vertically, it’s too narrow. 4:3 or 3:2 are both better for just about anything.

  4. monopole27 June, 2012

    Unlike retina fanboi I’m not a resolution queen.

    I like the 16:9 factor, perversely, because the empty space at the top and bottom can contain meta information (page, title, progress bar, notification bar) without obscuring the content. I much prefer the Transformer’s 10.1″ (1280×800) screen over the HP Touchpad 9.7″ (1024×768) screen in that the pixel density is just higher enough to be unnoticeable. Strangely enough 10.1″ (1024×600) work well for me as well.

    That said, on the lower end, the 8″ (800×600) screens blow away the 7″ (800×480) screens
    for comics and manga. The 480 pixel width is pretty much marginal for any comics with fine print.

  5. Thomas27 June, 2012

    I might feel differently if I were using a larger tablet, but for my purposes I prefer a 7″ widescreen. I mostly use it for reading and watching video. Seven inches is really too small for comic books and web browsing anyway, and all current TV and movies are in widescreen.

  6. DavidW28 June, 2012

    7 inch tablets are not small enough to carry around in your pocket like a phone. And would you when you have keys, wallet and a phone already in your pockets? I dismiss the usability of 16:9 on those grounds (not actually practical as stated).

    For watching hd video yes I’ll grant you the widescreen ratio is perfect.

    I mostly browse the net, and read ebooks. For both uses the wider ratio of 4:3 which imitates 8.5:11 paper is much better for portrait mode reading.

    The higher the aspect ratio for the same diameter, the less area the screen has. Those 7 inch 16:9 tablets are around half the area of a 10 inch 4:3 tablet. I really wish that pc monitors and android tablets had not decided foolishly that 16:9 was the perfect aspect ratio– IT IS NOT.

    A good compromise for video and reading is 16:10, it is sad to see those sizes in pc monitors disappear.

    1. Nate Hoffelder28 June, 2012

      I carried my Samsung Galaxy Tab in my right front pocket while I was on the convention floor at SID Display Week.

    2. SKStark29 March, 2016

      I’m just a standard-sized guy and I can easily carry an 8.4 inch Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro tablet in my back pocket, even while still cased in a plain and common ultra-slim case. 7″ tablets are even easier. I almost always take it out of my pocket before sitting down though, but then I do that with my phone too if only so i can get to it quicker than having to pull it out of my pocket when notifications and calls come in.

      Kind regards

  7. Jim T.28 June, 2012

    16×9 (1.78:1) was designed for television. It was determined to be the best compromise for displaying all of the various movie and TV formats that have been used over the past century. Some of these are wider (aka Cinemascope and Panavision at 2.35:1) and some are narrower (Most pre-2009 TV and pre-1954 movies were 1.33:1). The 16×9 shape minimizes the black bars on the top for wider formats and minimizes bars on the sides for narrower formats. Applying the widescreen TV format to reading devices is just a marketing gimmick, because widescreen is “cool” today.

    I prefer 4×3 for tablets. One reason: A 4×3 shape has about 12% more real estate than a 16×9 shape with the same diagonal measurement. Most people don’t realize that. The other reason: More of a web page can be seen in landscape mode.

  8. Drew2 July, 2012

    I think that a 16:9 ratio is perfect for a 7 inch or even 10 inch tablet. I do not really have a very strong argument for this because it’s all opinionated, but I prefer a widescreen layout rather than portrait.

  9. james odogu20 July, 2012

    16:9 is madness and a big problem to cinematography. You can notice the chopping of heads and lower chest by the camera man. Or placing focus pictures on the side of the screen. 4:3 or 14:9 is better.but manufacturers are trying to force their stupidty on us.let them allow production of 14:9 tv and see if 16:9 tv will sell a single unit

  10. obama13 August, 2012

    whose stupid idea was it to have 16:9 for computer monitor?
    i rather buy a second hand 4:3 old monitor than those 1080p craps.

  11. gt_undergrad2 September, 2012

    16:9 is a terrible aspect ratio for a touch screen tablet. When you type using the on screen keyboard in the landscape mode, there is so little real estate left for viewing what you have typed that it becomes impractical to use to type long paragraphs. In the portrait mode, it is too narrow to type anything. 4:3 is FAR superior. I believe that the manufacturers are pushing for 16:9 because they use the diagonal as the measurement for screen size. For the same diagonal size 16:9 is MUCH smaller than 4:3, but most people don’t seem to be aware of it.

  12. cloudmann29 January, 2013

    It all depends on what the tablet is used for. For browsing the web, reading magazines or comics, and e-reading, the 4:3 ratio works better, as it’s a bit more natural. Surprisingly, the 3:2 ratio of the older iPod touch and the new Nook HD+ works quite nicely as well. For multimedia, 16:9 or 16:10 is king… unless you’re viewing an old 4:3 movie or TV show.

    1. Andrewi24 February, 2014

      Eh? Multimedia means multiple media which makes that claim false.
      16:9 is perfect for:
      video: yes!
      music: irrelevant
      reading: not at all (too narrow, especially for comics)

      4:3 switches video and reading, with the caveat that for video 4:3 remains usable (wasting a bit of space though).

      I know people who adapted to reading on 16:9 but for text-only.

  13. Robin1 October, 2013

    Absolutely 4:3. I have been in the market for a quality Android 4:3 tablet from one of the main suppliers for years (unfortunately the unknown brands lack support in some apps e.g. newspapers). Still nothing on the market. I’m tempted by the Versus TouchTab 9.7 1600×1200 from Maplin though.

    You would think the manufacturers would look at the popularity of the iPad and the light would go on! I thought initially they were running scared of being sued by Apple but there is now lots of prior art from the Chinese that hasn’t been challenged.
    16:9 screens I believe are cheaper to manufacture, so perhaps that’s one reason for the glut of these (on laptops too).

  14. Dan29 March, 2014

    I’d buy a large Android ipad Air clone from a reputable maker in a heartbeat. Like a previous commenter said, there’s simply nothing like that available on the market. I have a Nook HD+ which is about the best I could get with its 15:10 aspect ratio, and even then, it’s just too narrow for portrait web browsing and PDF reading.

    If manufacturers don’t get their head out of their asses, my next tablet will be an iPad, and I’m not exactly in love with iOS.

  15. Svet8 April, 2014

    I want a tablet that I can use for business, ie. browsing the Web, writing email, reading etc. I prefer the android operating system, but the form factor is so awkward for the things I want to do. I think that android tablet manufactures are too scared to be abused of copying the I pad and therefore don’t want to adopt the 4:3. The note 8 was ok, but it seems like they are discontinuing that firm factor because now the new note 8 is 16:10! Aren’t there people out there looking to use their devices for something other than watching movies? The ios is so rigid, but I will continue to use the Ipad until manufactures create a tablet with a form factor optimized for business. (ie. 4:3)

  16. Jim7 April, 2015

    The new nexus tab is 4:3, and I think the surface pro 3 is too. I’m hoping this leads to more non-Apple manufacturers making these… I’ve always been baffled as to why there aren’t more. Really only supports the idea that Steve jobs, back in the day, was set on creating something that felt right to use (no comment on Apples practises nowadays or in any other way!) all these 16:9 screened tablets reek of manufacturers feeling pressure to produce tablets and just going along with the 16:9 trend. I’m convinced this screen ratio is a huge part of why iPads have been more successful than any other tablet. I’d rather have more screen with some of it letterboxed away when watching a movie than have less screen whenever I’m not… I used a blackberry playbook for a few years, and an asus transformer tablet too, and as much as I didn’t want to be an “Apple person”, I eventually gave in purely because that aspect ratio felt so much more comfortable for most of the things I ever do is tablet, whether 9-10 inch or 7-8.
    That’s my two cents anyway!

  17. Austin22 May, 2015

    To be honest, neither. In my opinion 16:10 is where the magic lies. Its just a little bit wider in portrait which makes it comfortable but not too tall in landscape to be bad for video. Books and magazines look and read nice as well as web pages and multimedia.

    1. Nate Hoffelder22 May, 2015

      My opinion varies. I want a screen small enough to hold in one hand, or I want a 4:3 screen geometry in a much larger screen. I think the 4:3 works better for web browsing, and it’s also good for reading ebooks.

  18. SKStark29 March, 2016

    edited — please post this one and not my previous if you please. Thank you.
    Of these two, 16:9, easily. Mostly for consistency in visual media. Our TVs, laptops, and phones have gone mostly 16:9-ish and it seems backwards for our tablets to be a holdout of the older aspect ratio that we just spent years getting most everything else away from. 4:3 may make for more space overall than 16:9 at the same diagonal measurement, but much of that 4:3 space is wasted by black bars in video and photos so a net loss in picture size for anything modern that’s widescreen. So for gaming and video, definitely 16:9. And even if I was primarily using it as an e-reader, up to 7? a 16:9 tablet is similar to the standard paperback book dimensions which are all closer to 16:9 in ratio than they are to 4:3.

    Thanks much

    1. SKStark29 March, 2016

      Ok, after a little digging it looks 2 of the 3 standard paperback forms (A and C) are closer to 16:9, and one of them (B) is slightly closer to 4:3.
      Format A is 110 mm x 178mm
      Format B is 130 mm x 198mm
      Format C is 135mm x 216mm

      So for all those saying 4:3 is better for reading… that’s odd because it appears that ratio is less like standard book sizes than 16:9. Just something to consider.


      1. Nate Hoffelder29 March, 2016

        Standard book sizes in the US, perhaps, but not everywhere. The 6″ E-ink screen, with its 4:3 dimensions, was developed to match Japanese paperback dimensions.

        As for me, my viewpoint tends to flip back and forth depending on what I am doing. Right now I am leaning more to 16:9 because in the 7″ range that is easier to hold, and if the screen has a high resolution then there’s no loss of readability.

  19. SH4D0WG4M3S13 August, 2016

    Personally, I prefer 16:9. Some of the main reasons I pick this aspect ratio are that I am a serious gamer, love to view gaming videos on YouTube, create YouTube gaming videos, design in photoshop, and love watching new movies. I believe a 4:3 aspect ratio is for mainly viewing classics, reading ebooks, and web browsing.

    The aspect ratios are just out of personal preference. Some people believe different, but this is just my opinion since I use certain features that others may not. Anyway, hope this helps people decide what they want.

  20. Ashraf Kunhunu N.V.8 October, 2016

    My strong preference 3:2 aspect ratio. But there are hardly any tablets around with this ratio. This meets both the worlds.


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