While you can connect your Xbox, PS5, or Switch to an ultra-wide screen, your games won’t use the entire monitor. Because console games are designed with the standard 16:9 aspect ratio in mind, black bars will appear on either side of an ultra-wide screen.
Considering an ultrawide display for your gaming setup? Before you splurge, understand how popular consoles like the Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, and Nintendo Switch handle this increasingly popular screen format, and whether you’re really ready for the ultra-wide experience.
Consoles (technically) work with ultra-wide screens
When you connect an Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, or Nintendo Switch to an ultra-wide screen, you’ll find that they technically work. The console outputs its video signal and the ultra-wide screen displays it. So yes, in the most basic sense, your console will work with its ultra-wide screen.
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However, you will soon notice that the image does not fill the entire screen. Instead, you’ll see black bars on the left and right sides of the image, if you’re curious. This is because consoles like Xbox, PS5, and Switch are designed to output video in standard 16:9 aspect ratios.
Ultra-wide displays, on the other hand, typically use a 21:9 (or wider) aspect ratio. Mismatch between console output and screen aspect ratio results in black bars on both sides of the screen. The whole thing is the opposite of a letterbox and is called a pillar due to the left and right dead space resembling pillars on either side of the image.
Why don’t consoles use the full ultra-wide screen?
Consoles do not use the actual space of the full ultra-wide screen because they are designed to work with the most common display standards. Most TVs and monitors used for console gaming are still 16:9, and game developers design their games with this aspect ratio in mind.
Supporting ultra-wide aspect ratio requires additional work for game developers. They need to consider how the extra screen space affects gameplay and balance, and they need to test and optimize their games for a much less common format.
Also, PS5, Xbox Series X/S, and Switch aren’t just gaming machines; they are multimedia devices. They are designed to play movies and TV shows, most of which are also optimized for 16:9 displays.
Therefore, despite the rise of ultra-wide monitors, consoles have remained steadfast in their support for the 16:9 aspect ratio. This adherence to the standard is not due to any technical limitation but rather a pragmatic decision based on market realities and the limited performance of these machines.
You need a PC for true ultra-wide gaming
If you’re a big fan of ultra-wide displays and want to get the most out of your gaming experience, a PC is your best bet. PCs offer much more flexibility than consoles when it comes to display support. Many modern PC games have built-in support for ultra-wide resolutions, and for those that don’t, there are often mods or community tweaks that can enable it.
PCs also have the power to handle ultra-wide resolutions at high frame rates, which is another reason why they’re better suited for ultra-wide gaming. To play games with a 21:9 aspect ratio at high settings, you will need a fairly powerful GPU. Current generation consoles are powerful but are optimized for 16:9 displays and can struggle to maintain high frame rates at ultra-wide resolutions.
While it’s technically possible to use an ultrawide screen with your Xbox, PS5, or Switch, you won’t get the full ultrawide experience. For that, you will need a PC. So, if you’re serious about ultra-wide gaming, it might be time to start thinking about building a gaming PC.