Maybe More Computer Monitors Should Be Square

We will control the horizontal, and the vertical

Key Takeaways

  • Horizontal screens are the norm, but are they really better?
  • Vertical screens are great for displaying and reading long texts.
  • Square screens offer the benefits of both wide and tall, and more.
Person using LG DualUp Monitor on a plain, white desk

LG

Until the smartphone, almost all computers used horizontal, landscape-oriented monitors. But wouldn't we be better off with a nice, big, square screen?

LG's new DualUp monitors look like two monitors stacked on top of each other. Dual monitors aren't new—they're a great way to see more apps and windows at once—but usually, we put them side by side. Meanwhile, some media professionals prefer a vertical screen, although that's certainly a minority case. But one look at LG's new designs can make one wonder: why don't we all use square screens?

"The 4:3 aspect ratio of old televisions and computer monitors was so common that once HD and 4K became the norm, we didn't want to look back. It is almost a societal conditioning that tells us that a widescreen is modern and fresh," indie movie maker Daniel Hess told Lifewire via email. "However, there definitely could emerge a space where wide and square displays can live in eventual harmony."

Landscape

We’re used to watching TV and movies in a wide format. Even old, squared-off 4:3 ratio CRT television sets were landscape, and the cinema has always played with wide aspect ratios. But why? Perhaps we prefer a horizontal aspect because our eyes are side-by-side, not on top of each other?

"It is almost a societal conditioning that tells us that a wide screen is modern and fresh."

It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation. Movies are horizontal, so the cameras that shoot them are also horizontal. And yet, as soon as we got video cameras in our phones, we started to shoot and view vertically. Take a look at your camera roll, and see how many of your photos are horizontal vs vertical, compared to the ratio shot on a regular camera with a landscape-oriented sensor and layout. 

Then again, a vertical phone screen is small, whereas a vertical movie screen might give us all neck pain (and require a two-story theater). 

Vertical

Whatever our reasons for historically preferring landscape views, they don’t always apply to a computer monitor, where movie-watching is only one of many activities. 

Vertical monitors—either purpose-made or just regular screens turned on their ends—are great for all kinds of uses. Programmers like them because they can see more lines of code at a time. Ditto for anyone who reads a lot on their screen. 

Isometric and Front facing view of LG's DualUp Monitor

LG

"Vertical monitors are great for anyone reading long lines of content, such as lawyers, coders, developers, content editors, and people who read property contracts (like me)," real-estate investor and vertical-monitor devotee Marina Vaamonde told Lifewire via email. "There's simply so much more space on a vertical monitor for written content, and it takes up less space on your desk."

Vertical monitors are great. But because they're often just regular wide-screen monitors twisted 90-degrees, they often seem too tall. I've tried it myself, and found that the top of the screen is just too high to be comfortable. 

Square Deal

Usually when we expand our monitor setups, we go wide. Gamers can buy ultra-wide, curved monitors that look like two or three screens placed side-by-side. The rest of us can just take two screens and arrange them next to each other. Rarely, though, do you see two screens stacked up. The only common exception is leaving a laptop open below an external monitor, and using both screens together. 

Woman using LG DualUp Monitor as well as a laptop and webcam

LG

But take a look at LG’s product shots, and you’ll see that a square screen is indeed compelling. Movie editors can put the video up top, with the timeline and other controls below. Ditto photographers. Other users can arrange their windows into a comfortable space, all of which is in range of their eyes, instead of off to the side.

Case Closed

Obviously square screens aren’t the answer to everything. For gamers, they’d be pointless as the games themselves are all in widescreen. And for laptops it makes zero sense, unless you want your computer to look like a pizza box, and to have even more useless space on the keyboard half. 

But for everyday, general computing, square looks like a great format. It can be wide or tall, but it can also be both at the same time. Imagine a video call up top, with your usual windows below. Or a YouTube piano tutorial paired with a double-page spread of music notation. 

The specs of LG’s DualUp are pedestrian—it’s 2,560 x 2,880 and not 4K equivalent—but that’s an implementation detail. Square is a great way to go, so let’s hope more manufacturers take up this idea.

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