Pointer Clicker is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

4:3 Versus 16:9 projector screen: What are the differences?


One of the important decisions you need to make when you choose a projector screen is which aspect ratio is best for your home theater setup. The aspect ratio is the ratio of the width to the height of the screen, and two common ratios are 4:3 and 16:9.

Before everything started coming out in widescreen format, 4:3 was the norm for televisions. It is closer to a square. 16:9 is the widescreen format, and it has become quite common.

Before you can decide which is best for you, you need to understand the similarities and differences. Continue reading to learn all about these aspect ratios.

4:3 versus 16:9 Aspect Ratios

difference 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratio

The 16:9 aspect ratio is around 78% wider than the 4:3 aspect ratio screen. In the past, when you played a 4:3 video on a 16:9 screen, you had black bars on the sides because they made sure that the movie fit on the screen without reformatting it.

When you are looking at ratios, it is important to note that 1:1 means that you have a square. For every one horizontal unit, there is one vertical unit. 4:3 means that the screen is 4 units wide and 3 units tall, while 16:9 screens are 16 units wide and 9 units tall.

Today, you will find that they can change the player size in computers to compensate for the aspect ratio. However, this is not the case with projector screens.

If you have a projector screen that has a 16:9 aspect ratio, it works great with 16:9 movies and shows. However, you will see the black bars on the sides if you watch a 4:3 aspect ratio video.

Which One Should You Have?

Even if you watch a lot of older television shows that are formatted in the 4:3 aspect ratio, you are better off with the 16:9 screen. The problem with the 4:3 screen is that your widescreen formatted movies and programs will spill over onto the walls outside of the screen.

Nearly all films are made with a 16:9 aspect ratio today, so you will want the 16:9 screen. If you really want the 4:3 screen as well, you can always get both so that you have a separate screen when you are watching these programs.

What Are the Home Theater Video Projector Aspect Ratios?

Generally speaking, HDTV cable connected, satellite signals, and Blu-Ray disc movies are formatted with the 16:9 aspect ratio. They also have 1080p to 4K or higher resolution. On the other hand, CRTs and DVDs are still made with the 4:3 aspect ratio and 480 resolution.

a crt tv
An old CRT with the 4:3 aspect ratio screen

Home theater projectors almost always use 16:9 aspect ratio and the 4:3 aspect ratio with black bars on the sides. Today, people often stream their video content when they use a projector.

Most digital content is formatted for the 16:9 aspect ratio, so if you are streaming programs and films, you will likely get the most use out of a 16:9 projector screen.

Can You Watch Both Aspect Ratios on One Screen?

If you have a 16:9 aspect ratio projector screen, you will be able to watch both 16:9 content and 4:3 content. You can watch a 16:9 film on a 4:3 screen, but the sides will spill over onto your wall.

You need to know what kind of projector you have because they are often set up to play one aspect ratio or the other. It will be more difficult for an older projector that plays the 4:3 aspect ratio to show an HD movie than it would for a new projector to show an old film.

What Ratio Do Computers and Laptops Use?

Prior to 2003, all computer monitors were made with a 4:3 aspect ratio. In 2008, computers and televisions began moving to the 16:9 or the 16:10 aspect ratios.

Today, the standard for all media is 16:9 and HD or 1080p. It is rare that anything is made with the older 4:3 aspect ratio.

old computer with a 4:3 screen
You will rarely see this 4:3 computer nowadays.

Why Do People Use the 4:3 Projector Screen?

With most films and programs being made with the 16:9 format, you may wonder why anyone would get a 4:3 projector screen. The fact is that many people do not want to see the cropped image of older films.

When 4:3 programs and films are reformatted for 16:9, they need to be cropped. There are film purists who do not want to watch old media in this form.

The best way to see the older form is with the black bars on the sides; otherwise, it is necessary to make the image stretched, squashed, or cropped.

Choose the 16:9 Aspect Ratio Projector Screen for Home Theater Setups

In the past, 4:3 was for television and 16:9 was for movies. However, this has changed. Although older television programs are still 4:3, modern shows are made in the 16:9 format.

When you have the 16:9 aspect ratio projector screen, you can play both types of media without any trouble. This allows you to get the most out of your projector.

If you choose a 4:3 projector screen, you will find that part of your video will wind up on the walls. This will be far more distracting than having the black bars on the sides when you watch a 4:3 formatted program.

Choosing A Projector Screen - Everything You Need To Know

Final Words

When you install a home theater, one of the first things you will decide is what kind of projector screen to get. You need to decide whether you will choose a 4:3 or 16:9 screen.

Today, it is recommended that you choose a 16:9 screen. This will provide you with the most freedom to play all kinds of media on your projector screen.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.