Something that has come up a few times over the past couple of months when talking to our customers are Ultrawide Monitors.
We have had a couple of customers purchase one, and whilst consulting with a fairly big trading firm in London I noticed a few of their traders using them.
I thought it might be useful for anyone thinking about one to understand some of the considerations before you make a decision.
Before I get into that though, what exactly is an Ultrawide Monitor?
What is an UltraWide Monitor?
There is no clear cut definition (that I could find) however to me, an Ultrawide monitor is a screen that has an aspect ratio wider than 16:9.
What’s an aspect ratio? It is the ratio of horizontal pixels to vertical pixels.
A ‘normal’ widescreen monitor, something like a 21.5” or 24” will usually have a resolution of 1920 x 1080, that means 1920 pixels wide by 1080 tall.
This 1920 x 1080 measurement of pixels equates to a 16:9 ratio.
If an aspect ratio leads to a wider screen than a 16:9 I would class it as an Ultrawide monitor.
Something like a 21:9 or a 32:10 would be examples of this.
What Kind of Ultrawides are Available?
There are lots of different sizes and resolutions available on Ultrawide monitors, I’ll run through some of the more common options here:
|Screen Size (Diagonal)||Resolution||Aspect Ratio|
|29″||2560 x 1080||21:9|
|34″ – 35″||3440 x 1440||21:9|
|43″||3840 x 1200||32:10|
|49″||5120 x 1440||32:9|
I’m sure there are some other sizes and resolutions that fall into the gaps between the list above but in the main I think those listed are the most common around.
Some of the terms I may use here like pixel size, or scaling are described in more detail on our other post: https://traderspec.com/what-size-screen-is-the-best-for-trading/
The Benefits of Ultrawide Monitors
I can see a few main benefits of using an Ultrawide monitor.
1. Aesthetics – Ultrawides look cool.
There is no getting away from it, having a large, usually curved, ultrawide monitor on your desk looks impressive, especially at the bigger sizes.
I think because normal ‘flat-screen’ monitors are the norm, and have been for many years, ultrawides look slightly futuristic.
2. Extra Space for your Stuff.
A wider monitor with more pixels allows you to display more of your programs on your screen, very useful for lots of professions, including traders.
If you swap from one standard monitor to an ultrawide then it is going to feel like a big jump up in terms of what you can display.
I also think for people who haven’t used a multi-screen setup before that it’s easier to ‘get their head around’ how an ultrawide will give them extra usable space over a single screen setup.
3. No Middle Bezel.
If you are used to running multiple monitors then the idea of losing the bezel (casing) between a couple of screens can be appealing. I think this is especially true for gamers or professionals using software with timelines such as audio and video engineers.
4. Running Just One Screen.
Some people may not have the ability to run multiple monitors, or might run software which doesn’t work well across multiple screens. For them going for a single ultrawide may be a good way to increase the amount they can display.
Out of pretty much everyone I’ve spoken with about these types of screens, and most of our customers are traders, I’d honestly say that it is the aesthetics which seems to be the main reason people tend to go for them.
The Drawbacks of Ultrawides
As with anything in life, what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another, here are what I believe are the main reasons that ultrawide screens are not right for everyone.
1. Misunderstanding of Sizes
A 43” monitor sounds massive on paper. Going from a 22” widescreen to a 43” on the surface sounds like a giant leap in physical size. In reality, a 43” ultrawide monitor is only about 5.5cm taller than your 22” monitor, sure it’s a lot wider but actually not much taller at all.
This catches some people out, and if your workflow requires reading documents or pages of any length then an ultrawide may not end up being that useful.
2. Misunderstanding of Resolutions
I’ve had a couple of customers convinced that a 49” ultrawide is a 5K resolution because the horizontal pixel count is 5120, and a 43” one is 4K resolution. This isn’t accurate, a 4K resolution monitor comes in at 3840 x 2160 giving a total of around 8.29 million pixels to use.
A 43” ultrawide with a resolution of 3840 x 1200 gives 4.6 million pixels, just 55% of a 4K screen.
The 49” 5120 x 1440 screen again offers only 50% of a proper 5K screen or 88% of a 4K screen.
Again, this can catch people out and leave them with a lot less usable space then they originally might have thought.
3. The Cost
Ultrawides can be expensive, many of the 49” models can cost upwards of £1,000. Compare this to the cost of a normal 43” 4K screen which offers 12.5% more usable space and can be purchased for £400 – £500.
That can equate to more than double the cost for less usable space.
4. Running Multiple Ultrawides Can Be Awkward
Due to their physical size and design, fitting more than one Ultrawide monitor on your desk can be an issue.
Most Ultrawides are curved screens, this can lead to issues putting two or more side by side. Ideally you’d want to match the curves, so one screen flows nicely from the other, this is going to take up a whole lot of desk space.
Two 34” ultrawides would cover a span of 1.6m wide, and you would also need quite a bit of depth on your desk to get that curve flowing through from one to the other.
Stacking curved screens can also be a problem.
Generally when you mount one screen on top of another you tend to want to tilt the top screen down a bit to make it easier on your neck.
If you tilt a raised curved screen at a different angle to the bottom one you are going to get a weird gap appearing between the top and bottom screens. Not ideal when one of the main draws of an ultrawide is the aesthetics.
5. Pixel Density is Not That Impressive
This is more of an observation rather than a drawback, however the pixel density on most Ultrawides is not that good.
Pixel size / pitch / density all basically describe the same thing, how small / tightly packed in the pixels are. Smaller pixels leads to smoother / more detailed graphics so can be a measure of the image and screen quality.
Most of the Ultrawides have a similar pixel pitch to a normal 21.5” widescreen, so it’s not bad, and doesn’t require any scaling which is good, but it’s not that high either really. For the cost of some of these Ultrawides you would expect that it would be better really.
Overall Pros & Cons Thoughts
I think in the right situation an Ultrawide can be a good choice, if you are limited in some way to running just one screen, or use software which would benefit from that extra width like video editing, then they do make sense.
If your main goal is increasing your usable space, i.e. you want to display a lot of information on your screens, and cost is any kind of consideration then I think there are better and much cheaper options to consider.
Alternatives to an Ultrawide screen
I’ve mentioned that Ultrawides are not the best or most cost effective options in terms of raw usable space, here I will now go back through our previous table of common ultrawide sizes and resolutions and make some suggestions as to potential alternative options.
29” Ultrawide @ 2560 x 1080 Resolution
A screen like this will normally cost from around £225 and then upwards in price from there.
An alternative option would be going for two 21.5” 1920 x 1080 widescreens, at the cheaper end these can be found for around £70 per screen, so the cost for two could be as low as just £140. This would give you a total resolution of 3840 x 1080 which is 50% more usable space.
Three of these 21.5” screens could still come in cheaper, or around the same price as the 29” Ultrawide but would give 125% more space with a combined resolution of 5760 x 1080.
A third alternative would be to use one QHD screen. QHD means a resolution of 2560 x 1440, and a standard 27” QHD monitor can be found from around £185. So one QHD saves around £40 and offers 33% more space to use.
34” Ultrawide @ 3440 x 1440 Resolution
The lowest price I can currently see on this size and type of screen is around £550 with some going up to £700+, however let’s use the lower price as the measure here.
Three 21.5” FHD (1920 x 1080) screens offers 25% more space and comes in around 38% cheaper (a £340 saving).
Going up to four of them would be slightly over half the price of the 34” Ultrawide whilst giving you 67% more usable space.
Two 27” QHD screens would work out around £180 cheaper and offer a 48% increase in usable space. Three of them would be pretty much the same cost, for 123% more screen real estate.
You could even pick up a 43” 4K monitor for around £450 (£100 less) which again would offer 67% more usable space.
43” Ultrawide @ 3840 x 1200 Resolution
One of these will generally start from around £750, what would that get us with FHD or QHD screens?
Four 21.5” FHDs would cost around £470 less and yet give 80% more space! You could probably bring in six FHD’s and a premium multi-screen stand to hold them all for the same price as the 43” Ultrawide and get yourself a massive 170% more space to layout your programs and charts…
Four QHD screens would again come in at a similar price to the 43” screen and offer 220% more space, even 3 QHD’s gives you 140% more space and a saving of £195.
One normal 4K screen at 43” would save around £300 whilst offering 80% more pixels.
49” Ultrawide @ 5120 x 1440 Resolution
These premium ultrawide monitors usually come in at £1000 each, let’s see how much we could save going with FHD, QHD or proper 4K options.
Our trusty four 21.5” FHD monitors (1920 x 1080 each) work out to be £720 cheaper for a 12.5% increase in pixel count. Jumping to 8 of them with stands would still save you at least £100 and offer 125% more space.
Two QHD screens offers the same amount of space but would cost £630 less! four QHD panels still saves around £260 giving you double the amount of usable space.
Finally, one 4K panel would save around £550 and offer 12.5% more pixels, or two 4K screens would offer you a 125% pixel bump for less cost than this 49” Ultrawide beast.
Computer Graphics Card Considerations
The alternative options I’ve mentioned only talk about the screens themselves, I’ve included example costs for stands in a few of them but I haven’t mentioned graphics cards at all.
To run multiple monitors whether they are FHD, QHD or 4K you would need to check that your existing computer could support them. Many computers can run a couple of FHD screens by default, however to run 3 or more screens may require a different graphics card.
This would add to the cost of any new setup however it is also true to say that some of the bigger Ultrawide monitors might also require a graphics card upgrade to support them. It is all dependent on what you are currently running.
As a very rough example, a graphics card which could run 4 FHDs, QHDs, or 4K monitors would cost around £200, so whilst that may add to the cost of some of these alternatives, in almost every case you still get more space at a much lower cost by using non-ultrawide screens.
And remember you might not need to upgrade your card at all depending on your current PC.
Hopefully you can see that from a purely pixel count aspect, ultrawides are not a cost-effective option, even the cheapest ultrawide monitor loses out to a couple of low cost FHD screens.
Looking at the high end ultrawides, you can often get double the usable space in a sometimes significantly lower cost package using FHD or QHD screens.
Do I hate ultrawides? No, I simply think they are more of a novelty than anything else.
I think you’ve got to ask yourself what is your aim when picking a new screen setup? If you want to increase the amount of space to display charts or any other programs you may run then an Ultrawide will do this, but this space will cost a lot more than if you went for multiple screens.
Even if cost isn’t an issue for you, will that ultrawide offer enough space for your workflow, if it doesn’t then running more than one can be awkward.
I think that the amount you could potentially save by not going with some of these bigger ultrawides would give you a far better investment if you put it back into the PC components.
£400, £500 or £600 could get you a faster processor, more RAM, or a bigger hard drive (in some cases all three) and you still wouldn’t be losing out in terms of usable display space on your screens, often you’d be better off.
For me it’s kind of an easy choice, but the key is always the same, make the right choice for you and your requirements.
As ever, I hope you find this useful. Let me know if you have any further questions in the comments.