When shopping for a display, you may come across the terms “contrast ratio” and “aspect ratio.” They are technical specifications for displays. From computer monitors and TVs to touchscreens and human machine interfaces (HMIs), most displays have a contrast ratio and an aspect ratio. Familiarizing yourself with these technical specifications will allow you to choose the right type of display for your needs.

What Is Contrast Ratio?

Contrast ratio is the difference between a display’s light and dark colors. It’s essentially a measurement — expressed as a ratio — of the luminance difference between a display’s brightest white and its darkest black. The higher a display’s contrast ratio, the greater the luminance difference.

Displays can produce light and dark colors. The luminance difference between them is represented by contrast ratio.

What Is Aspect Ratio:

Aspect ratio is the relative dimensional size of a display. It’s the width of a display relative to the height. In the past, 5:4 was the most common aspect ratio. A 5:4 aspect ratio means that a display is slightly wider than it is tall. In recent years, widescreen aspect ratios have become more common. A typical widescreen aspect ratio consists of a 16:9 aspect ratio.

In addition to standard widescreen, there’s ultra-widescreen. Ultra widescreen displays are even wider. They have an aspect ratio of 21:9, meaning they are over twice as wide as they are tall. Regardless, aspect ratio is the width of a display relative to the height.

Differences Between Contrast Ratio and Aspect Ratio

While they are both expressed as ratios, contrast ratio and aspect ratio aren’t the same. Contrast ratio is associated with brightness. It’s the luminance difference between the brightest white and the darkest black that a display can produce. Aspect ratio is simply the dimensional size. To determine the relative dimensional size of a display, you should refer to its aspect ratio.

If you’re planning to buy a display, you should consider both the contrast ratio and aspect ratio. Most people prefer displays with a high contrast ratio. A high contrast ratio will result in stronger light colors and stronger dark colors.

The aspect ratio, of course, will determine the size of the display. More specifically, it will determine the width of the display relative to the height. If you prefer a standard widescreen format, you should choose a display with a widescreen, 16:9 aspect ratio.