External Monitor Size & Aspect Ratio

I innocently bought a 20" Dell ST 2010 at Staples the other day w/ max res of 1600 x 900 to go with my MacBook. (Don’t worry I already returned it.) So, while trying to figure out why I hadn’t been able to get the clarity and non distorted letters I wanted, I ended up lost in a sea of screen sizes and aspect ratios. I’ve read a lot on the web about this—and some here, but am still not sure what I’m looking for. I don’t do graphics. I just want to be able to take full advantage of Scrivener 2.0
I know that some of the problem might be that astigmatism!—Which does make it a little weird looking up and down from the screen to laptop even with the prescription glasses. But I can tell some is the monitor. So, do I just need a higher res (like 1920 x 1080) or something that’s more of a 4:3 aspect ratio? Or both.
Is there anything else major I should consider? There are such good deals out there, but it ain’t a deal if the letters make you dizzy.
Thanks. David

Moved to “Software by Other Folk”, where you’ll have more chance of getting an answer from users with monitor recommendations (we really need a “hardware” section…).

I’d recommend getting as many pixels as you can afford, and there are some affordable solutions out there that give you a ton of space, especially if perfect colour and such are not a high priority. Apple’s monitors are nice, but a little on the expensive side for what you get. The nice thing with the new ones is that they are really easy to use with Mac laptops. The connector is the small mini-port, so no need for a big clunky converter hanging off of the laptop, they also come with a power cord as well, so you don’t need an additional wire to keep your laptop powered.

The plus side of having many pixels in one screen is that it diminishes the need for using your laptop as a second monitor. This is nice to have, but it can be a little awkward to set up in an ergonomic fashion. The best way to do so, especially if you have a focussing condition like astigmatism, is to make sure both monitors are at roughly the same level, and at the same plane of distance from your eyes. This usually means setting up a stand of some sort, so that your laptop is up beside the monitor instead of below it. A good side benefit of a stand is that it increases air flow and keeps the passive heat displacement surfaces in atmosphere instead of against a solid material like your desk—your laptop will run cooler and that’s good for its longevity and performance.

Thanks, Amber. This really helps. And of course raises a few more questions.
1. So, the “aspect ratio” doesn’t make as a much of a difference. I.e., if I get a high enough # of pixels (e.g., 1920 x 1080) I should be able to choose a proportion that makes sense w/out losing too much space?
2. I haven’t gone towards the Apple monitors because of size, as well as price. I just need 20" or 22" when I’m trying to organize a big Scrivener Project (2.0 made me do it!!), and I want a lot of quick refs etc. on the screen at once.
3. The side by side is a good solution. I did that way back in the late 80s w/ my first Macs!, but I was doing it with a desktop system and an extra monitor. I.e., my keyboard was free. Are you using a wireless touchpad keyboard which seems like the best solution?
4. Yes, on raising the laptop off the desk. Although this time of year in Vermont…until I get the woodstove going in my cabin/office out back, heat is not a problem…
5. I get my eyes checked tomorrow for the first time in a couple of years!

Thanks again for your help. No hurry on a response. The deals seem to seem be out there. Best… David.

  1. Yes, unless you intend to use the monitor to watch movies, aspect ratio really doesn’t matter—and in fact for writing, getting a screen with more vertical pixels would be better as you can see more text at once. Some people even tip their widescreen monitors on the side and use OS X’s rotation feature to orient everything correctly. Generally though, especially with large monitors, this isn’t the best setup for long periods of time as it is impossible to get the entire screen at a vertical height that is good for your neck. The top of the screen should be roughly level with your eyes if possible.

  2. True, but I’ve found Scrivener is one of those applications that will take whatever monitor you throw at it and say, “Give me more.” :slight_smile: This is especially true if you like freeform corkboards!

  3. Ah yes, naturally putting your laptop way over on a stand is going to dictate an external keyboard of some sort. I’m using the Apple compact wired keyboard right now. It’s just like their Bluetooth keyboard—really more like a laptop keyboard—but with a wire. I never got the fascination with pumping batteries into a device that sits in the same spot for five years.

  4. A good pair of corrective lens can do wonders for eye strain. My vision isn’t too shabby, I’m only a little off of 20/20, but its enough to make it so my monitor, when at a healthy distance, requires a bit of squinting to see. With glasses I can work at it for much longer periods of time without getting sore eyes.

Actually, Apple’s current wireless keyboard is incredibly efficient with batteries. I switched to rechargeable batteries when using their last bluetooth keyboard because I was forever switching them. The batteries that came with my current keyboard lasted well over 6 months (probably longer) and I have yet to recharge the batteries I replaced them with. AND it only takes 2 AA batteries instead of the 4 previously required. The only downside? I have a bunch of rechargeable AA batteries in my desk drawer slowly going flat from under-use.

Returning to topic (monitors), umm, well, everything else that AmberV said… :blush:

Hey, thanks to you both. Saved me a lot of trips back and forth to Staples. Once I get those new eyeglass lenses I’ll buy something that works and be well on my way to massive free-form corkboards! Hopes the info helps others. David.

Depending on your Scrivener usage, I’d have to disagree that aspect doesn’t matter. I would go for the “wide screen” version of any line of monitors. Here’s one usage scenario to explain why:

Let’s say that you want to leave your binder visible, plus have a lot of index cards visible, and have an editor to the side that displays whatever text is associated with the currently selected index card.

With that in mind, you don’t want your editor to be too narrow, and you want to maximize your cork-board real estate while not also obliterating the names of documents in your binder. Even hiding the binder will probably leave you wanting more space for index cards. And no matter how you split the view, the text editor window will always take up the entire width of it’s part of scrivener, leaving none of that for extra cork board space. With a “standard” aspect ratio, a vertical split will rob you of a lot of the pixels you want for your cork board, but a wide-aspect monitor will use fewer pixels for the text editor split, leaving more for the index cards.