16:9 vs. 4:3 Aspect Ratio: How do you choose them?

Do you ever wonder about aspect ratio? You might not know all about this concept and how it works. From mobile videos to screen resolution choices, the aspect ratio is something you will find everywhere. The choice of the 16:9 vs. 4:3 aspect ratio is a crucial decision you must make at some point.

What’s the significant difference between them? The difference between the two-aspect ratio is that one works perfectly for widescreen or landscape views. At the same time, the other one is suitable for portrait view. In this case, the 16:9 ratio works for widescreen purposes, whereas the 4:3 is something you would see for portrait view.

I can say that the whole concept is not yet clear to you. I have prepared this in-depth guide on the two aspect ratios, where I will compare them. You will know all you need about the aspect ratios and how they work in different scenarios. Let’s not waste any time and get going into it.


What does aspect ratio mean?

Before I take you through all the technicalities, isn’t it better to know the basics first? So, this brings us to the question, what do you mean by aspect ratio?

To put it simply, the aspect ratio is the ratio of width and height on your image or video. For example, when you say the aspect ratio of a video is 16:9, it’s 16 inches wide and 9 inches high. Similarly, the 4:3 ratio means the image is 4 inches wide and 3 inches high.

Typically, these two as the most popular and standard aspect ratios. Other than these, screen sizes have several different aspect ratios like 3:2 and 1:1.

Now, the real question is, how does aspect ratio work, and why does it matter? Let’s find the answer to that question very quickly here.

How does it work?

Picture this; you have shot a video on your phone using 16:9 ratio settings. Usually, you will shoot these kinds of videos while keeping the phone in landscape orientation. Now, if you watched the video on a screen with a different aspect ratio, you would end up with a distorted or cropped video.

Still a bit confused, right? Let’s say you have a screen with a 4:3 aspect ratio. Whenever you try to watch that video on that screen, you will probably end up with a video that’s either stretched or cropped.

The stretched video will look horrendous where everything will be stretched out. The cropped one won’t be good either because there will be black borders on the side, ruining the immersive experience of the widescreen.

That’s why you have to watch the video on a 16:9 aspect ratio screen to get the complete experience of the video without ruining any quality at all. Ensuring this also gives you all the details and views you should see on the video.

The differences between 16:9 and 4:3 aspect ratios

Now that you have a clear idea of the aspect ratio and how it works, you can easily understand the difference between the two choices. Here, I have lined up a comparison between the two aspect ratio choices and the differences you get to see in them. Let’s get through that very quickly.

Comparison table for 16:9 vs. 4:3 aspect ratio

First, let’s get through this quick comparison table of the two aspect ratio choices to get a basic idea of the differences –

Usable forWidescreenNarrow screen
AvailabilityTv, monitor, mobile phonesMostly mobile phones
Popular inVideosImmersive with the three-dimensional aspect

This little information won’t be enough to understand the differences thoroughly. So, I recommend going through the in-depth discussion on the differences I am about to go through.

What is the 16:9 aspect ratio?

The 16:9 aspect ratio means you will have a screen resolution with a 16-inch by 9-inch ratio. For example, many people come across a popular 1920 by 1080P resolution. I am pretty sure you have heard of the resolution. When you divide the resolution by 120, you will get the 16:9 ratio.

All these calculations involve the use of pixels. So, the whole thing means that when you divide the 1920 pixel by 1080-pixel resolution by 120 pixels, you get an aspect ratio of 16:9. This can be true for other resolutions as well.

For example, in 4k resolution, the numbers are 3840 by 2160 pixels. When you divide this resolution by 240 pixels, you will get the 16:9 aspect ratio.

So, you can get the 16:9 aspect ratio from any resolution. It depends on the device you are using for recording or capturing. Also, when you are watching the video, this will matter a lot.

What is the 4:3 aspect ratio?

Well, the concept is pretty much the same as the one I discussed above. This time you will be dividing the resolution by a higher number. This means you will divide the video’s complete resolution into more parts and pixels to fit on a smaller screen.

For example, you will divide 1920 by 1080-pixel resolution with 480. It means that the exact resolution will be divided into more parts. The purpose is to fit the screen with a 4:3 aspect ratio without any kind of borders or distortion.

Like, I said earlier, using the wrong aspect ratio will always get you issues like a black border or distorted quality. So, suppose you are using a 4:3 aspect ratio device. In that case, you will always have to ensure that you are using the 4:3 settings on your recording devices to get the whole video experience.

16:9 vs. 4:3 comparison detailed

You must be very eager to know about the differences, no? Well, the wait is over. Let’s dive deep into the comparison and see how the two aspect ratio options differ.

Screen compatibility

First, let’s discuss the screen compatibility factor for both aspect ratios. You should already know that you can get screens in different aspect ratios. You just have to choose the project based on the screen resolution you want to get.

For example, a 16:9 video will be much more appealing or satisfying to watch on a widescreen because this aspect ratio tends to have a 78% extra width compared to its height. This means the videos are made so they will appear wider, and you will see more on the width end of the video or image.

On the other hand, with the 4:3 ratio, the media is a bit more compact or smaller on the width aspect. However, they tend to have a better vertical view. So, screens with more vertical space work out the best with this ratio.

Pixel division

A while ago, you learned how to divide pixels to get your desired aspect ratio. This is a key difference in finding the aspect ratio according to your needs.

Let’s say you want to portray a 1920 x 1080 video on your device. If your device has a 4:3 ratio, it will divide all the pixels of the video into 480 parts.

Similarly, if you are displaying the same video on a 16:9 ratio device, then it will divide by 120 pixels.

Viewing experience

Here’s the real deal. The viewing experience is all that matters when it comes to a general viewer out there. And there is a significant difference in the viewing experience of both these aspect ratios.

With the 16:9 ratio, you get a much more immersive feel because they are wider. You get to see more on the width side of the media. This gives you more information about the surroundings and helps you indulge in whatever is happening on the screen.

On the other hand, with a 4:3 ratio, it’s not as immersive. Although, you do get more information on the vertical end of the spectrum. But still, you can’t get that feel to indulge yourself on the screen as it doesn’t offer you that kind of spacing.

Which one is a better viewing experience? Honestly, it depends on what you are watching. If you are watching something that requires you to get all those details and information going on in the width of the screen, then 16:9 is a better option. Whereas 4:3 works better when watching something with more value on the vertical aspect.  

Continuing from the earlier factor, the purpose these aspect ratios are used for are also quite different these days. And this is where it gets easy to decide between one or the other aspect ratio.


The 16:9 aspect ratio is the perfect option when you are shooting videos. Most modern movies and tv show these days are shot in a 16:9 aspect ratio, regardless of the resolution. Modern TVs and monitors have the same 16:9 aspect ratio to fit the requirements. They want to provide you with the best movie-watching experience.

Does that mean the 4:3 aspect ratio has no value? Of course not. The 4:3 aspect ratio works perfectly when dealing with pictures and images. This ratio provides a portrait view which works excellent when taking portraits of someone. A single picture or family picture comes out very well in this ratio.


Regarding suitability, I would say 16:9 will be a bit more ahead compared to 4:3 in the modern days. Nowadays, not many devices use the age-old 4:3 ratio as they focus more on the 4:3 one.

From TVs to monitors to mobile phones, every device has support for 16:9. And whenever you try to change the aspect ratio to 4:3 on any of these devices, you end up with a pretty awful viewing experience. The quality may even make you throw up at times. 

16:9 vs. 4:3, the similarities between the two choices

There aren’t many similarities between the two aspect ratio options because they are entirely different. Still, there are a couple of things that you may find similar when you take a deeper look.

  • First, you can use these aspect ratios for almost any resolution.
  • Secondly, you can find a recording or capturing options in both these aspect ratios on your camera or mobile devices.

Which aspect ratio should you pick?

To be very honest, there is no correct answer here. It all depends on the project you are working on.

If you are creating a video you want all the TV, mobile, and computer users to enjoy, then 16:9 should be the way to go. For example, movies, Tv shows, YouTube videos, and travel vlogs, these types of things work best on 16:9. Otherwise, you just miss out on the surrounding information.

In contrast, whenever you are taking pictures of a person or taking portraits, the best bet is to use the 4:3 aspect ratio. Because then you will have less space to look around and focus on the person in the frame. Unless the pictures require an artistic demand for capturing the surroundings, 4:3 is the best aspect ratio for portraits.

Based on these two logics, you can easily pick which aspect ratio works out the best for your purpose.



To wrap it up, the 16:9 vs. 4:3 aspect ratio is undoubtedly a discussion you must go through. Especially if you are planning to go professional in this sector, you have to have an idea about these concepts. Now that you know the difference between these two options, you can quickly determine the best one for your project.

Aside from the professional side, this can be very helpful for a general viewer. As of now, you can get the most out of your viewing experience while knowing what an aspect ratio is and what it does.

Leave a Comment

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