Help me understand image size and monitor resolutions
July 21, 2011 8:59 AM   Subscribe

Help me understand monitor resolutions, sizes, etc. I think I need a math whiz!!!? I'd really appreciate a bit of guidance.

I'm trying to find a monitor online that is a decent size (around 18.5 to 21 inch) with a resolution similar to what I have now. When I say similar, I'm referring to how large the stuff I see on my screen will be when the monitor is set to its native resolution. It seems like resolutions have gotten larger, meaning that the stuff you see on the screen is actually smaller. For me, smaller images with more screen real estate isn't a good thing. I'd like what I see to be the same size or possibly slightly larger than what I see on my current monitor. I'm a bit lost in the numbers. Not that it makes a difference, but I'm using a Mac.

My current monitor is a 19 inch flat panel.
5:4 aspect ratio
1280 X 1024 resolution.

How does that compare to a 21.5 inch
1920 x 1080 ?

Or a 20 inch
1600 x 900

Or a 19 inch
1440 x 900

Or a 19 inch
1440 x 900

Or an 18.5 inch
1360 x 768 ?
posted by 2oh1 to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
As an alternative option to figuring out these sizes specifically, Windows does provide the option to change the DPI of the display (which can make things larger or smaller). The default is 96 DPI, and offers an optional 120 DPI or custom settings (under XP: Display properties - Settings - Display - Advanced) - I am not sure how to change the setting in and modern OS or if Mac / Linux offers the option to change it
posted by Mahogne at 9:06 AM on July 21, 2011

Response by poster: I need to buy a new monitor - possibly as soon as today - so figuring out the screen size is pretty much essential to the task at hand.
posted by 2oh1 at 9:10 AM on July 21, 2011

If you can afford the 1920x1080 (the resolution you hear referred to as "1080p") one, that's the one you want. Everything that you think will get "smaller" (the text, the icons) is, AFAIK, adjustable, even to the extent that you can just drop down the resolution if you like.
posted by griphus at 9:13 AM on July 21, 2011

Best answer: You want the closest DPI to your existing monitor, which would be the 19" 1440x900.

DPI = inches * sin(arctan(y/x))

19" 1280x1024 DPI 86 (current monitor)
21.5" 1920x1080 DPI 102
20" 1600x900 DPI 91
19" 1440x900 DPI 89
18.5" 1360x768 DPI 84

I'm confused by the two 19" monitors you list with different aspect ratios. Two monitors with the same resolution should have the same aspect ratio, unless they're making non-square pixels now.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 9:14 AM on July 21, 2011

Response by poster: qxntpqbbbqxl, I'm confused by that too! I have to assume one is a misprint/typo in the online info. Thanks for the info you posted. You gave me a starting place to figure out what will work for me. I assume that I want a DPI of 86 or LOWER (84 would be better, 81 would be worse, in other words).

griphus: everything that will get smaller is most certainly not adjustable. For example, the menubar at the top of the screen on a Mac. Or the Photoshop icons in the toolbars, etc. That stuff is at a fixed size (sadly) and I need it to not get smaller.
posted by 2oh1 at 9:21 AM on July 21, 2011

How 'bout that. Then, what qxntpqbbbqxl said.
posted by griphus at 9:23 AM on July 21, 2011

One option: get a large 1080p television to use as a monitor. 1080p is a criminally small number of pixels for, say, 40 inches. The DPI will be low, and everything will be nice and big.
posted by jsturgill at 9:26 AM on July 21, 2011

Best answer: Also: DPI calculator
posted by jsturgill at 9:27 AM on July 21, 2011

Response by poster: I must say, stuff like this is what I love about metafilter: DPI = inches * sin(arctan(y/x))
I knew there was an equation for exactly what I need to know, and sure enough, qxnt posted it. And then jsturgill comes along with a DPI calculator. Awesome. Really, I want to hug you people. Or buy you a beer. And I live in Portland, so it would be a damn gooooood beer.

Now, my challenge is to find a monitor that is less than 21 inches wide (it has to fit on my desk, after all) and has a DPI of 86 or less.
posted by 2oh1 at 9:30 AM on July 21, 2011

Now, my challenge is to find a monitor that is less than 21 inches wide (it has to fit on my desk, after all) and has a DPI of 86 or less.


16x9 type monitor: 19" ViewSonic 1366x768 native resolution. 82.41 DPI. $110 on newegg.
4x3 type monitor: Any 19" 1280x1024 monitor will have a DPI of 86.27. There are 40 of them on newegg. This 19" 1280x1024 from Acer would be an easy choice at $125.

Now if you meant 21" wide and not just a 21" monitor, there may be room for play towards a bigger monitor. For example: This 27" Asus 1920x1080 monitor is only 25" wide and has a DPI of 81.59 for $300.

Or if you want to do like Mister Fabulous, you get a 40" LCD TV at 1080p that has a DPI of 55 and mount it to your wall and play Portal 2 in sexy big screen mode.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 11:03 AM on July 21, 2011

Not a direct answer to your question, but may help a little.

AFAIK, you cannot adjust the size of the menu bar text; it is fixed. The only way to "change" it is to switch to a lower overall resolution. The problem with that is that now you're not running at the LCD's native resolution, so everything will look a little fuzzy. I hear that they finally made some really key changes in Lion (can finally resize a window from anywhere, woo!) so maybe this baffling inability to resize the menu bar has finally been addressed in Lion too? I dunno, haven't had my hands on it yet.

The other thing is that you can resize some of the visual elements in a Finder window (even on your desktop) by going View, Show View Options. You can set icon size, text size (for icons), and so on. It's not much, but it may help a little.
posted by xedrik at 1:25 PM on July 21, 2011

Response by poster: Here's a question that adds on to my previous question: Is there a difference between a monitor and an LCD TV? I ask because a 20 inch 1366 x 768 monitor could be outstanding for me. And that's basically a 720P TV. LIKE THIS!
posted by 2oh1 at 1:52 PM on July 21, 2011

Since no one else answered...

I think it will be fine. TVs are optimized for video, not text, and have some extra processing stuff built in that you probably won't care about. But it shouldn't hurt. Note that I'm not an expert and am kind of talking out of my ass. However, I do use my computer on my television some of the time, and it seems fine to me. I know several people whose monitors were designed to be televisions.

If possible, go into a store with a laptop and an hdmi cable and try to talk a salesperson into letting you plug it into a tv they have on display. Then you'll be able to know for sure before you buy.

You could also dive right in and place your trust in Costco's return policy if things don't work out.

Note that you have a pretty odd, specific situation here. For anyone else in the world, I would never, ever recommend a 20" 720p monitor.
posted by jsturgill at 5:57 PM on July 22, 2011

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