What Is The Optimal Tablet Aspect Ratio?

Tim Bray has aninteresting post on tablet viewing orientation. His post hasspurred discussion on the topic of tablet aspect ratios.

In the tablet field the most common aspect ratio is 16:10, witha few 16:9 outliers. One product uses a 4:3 aspect ratio.

The advantage of the “widescreen” format is obvious for mediaconsumption. A typical movie fills 90-100% of a 16:10 tabletwithout distortion (on most such tablets fielding some 920k pixelsof detail). The same on a 4:3 tablet fills just 75% of the screenwithout stretching (on the canonical example on just 590k pixels,or 36% less detail).

It isn’t just movies that gain, though.

Consider that the standard size for paperbacks has an aspectratio of 1.6:1, a ratio that was not accidental.

Letter sized paper has an aspect ratio of 1.25:1, but in actualpractice the surface area actually used — after liberalleft and right margins — is more in line with the 1.6:1 aspectratio. The extra width simply provides holding areas.

Reading books from Kindle on a 16:10 tablet in portrait mode isa glorious experience if you have the device propped on your lap oragainst a pillow. It is a close to perfect experience.

The single reasonable complaint that could be made about mostcurrent 16:10 tablets is that in portrait mode the ten inchvariants are difficult to casually hold upright for long periods oftime when you hold them near the bottom between fingers, as mostdo. The significant leverage of the height multiplying the lateralpressure.

This is problem that is partly solved by lighter tablets, doublyso by the slightly smaller ones (such as the Galaxy Tab 8.9″device).

To Tim’s core point, when reading book-type content there is nodoubt that portrait mode is the superior experience.

In this ADD-afflicted era, however, most content isn’t inbookish, text-only form. On Wikipedia and most other content sitesthe sidebars arefilled with interesting ancillary information and tables andgraphs. For that reason I find that my tablet is in landscape modethe vast majority of the time. Only in the Kindle app, and gameswhere you need to see “up” more, do I switch over to portraitmode.

Most content today is built with landscape mode in mind,increasingly expecting a 1.6:1 ratio given its dominance on thedesktop and in the home.