Ask Dan: Minimum video card for 1680 by 1050?

Date: 10 February 2007
Last modified 03-Dec-2011.


With the rise in popularity of the 22" LCD's whats the minimum spec vga card to run these at the native 1680x1050 res? Most of the cards I have seen only show a 4:3 ratio resolution chart.



1680 by 1050 only has 92% of the pixel count of 1600 by 1200, so it's not a challenge for single link DVI, or even good old analogue "VGA", for that matter.

Single link DVI has more than enough bandwidth for a 60Hz refresh rate (invisible on an LCD, but still there limiting your frame rate in the background) at 1680 by 1050.

So that's not a problem. Any video card on the market today can do it. There are fewer driver hassles these days, as well; a couple of years ago both Nvidia and ATI still seemed to be having some trouble understanding that widescreen monitors existed, but I think they've got it together now. And if not, there's always PowerStrip.

If you're asking "what's the minimum card that can deliver decent 3D frame rates at this resolution", though, then that's one of those how-long-is-a-piece-of-string questions.

Fortunately, this resolution's closeness to the pixel count of 1600 by 1200 means you can just take those benchmark results from video card reviews and add a bit, and get a good idea of how fast that card will be for 1680 by 1050.

Of course, there are still plenty of games that don't understand non-4:3 resolutions (everything works with 5:4 1280 by 1024, but aspect ratios may be a bit wiggy if the game still assumes it's got a 4:3 monitor). I wouldn't be surprised if there were even games that worked with 16:9 monitors (1920 by 1080, for instance) and didn't work quite right at 16:10. You can't blame the hardware for that, though.

(A reader's now pointed out the Widescreen Gaming Forum to me, where people gather to share their nightmares about viewing the world with big black bars down the sides.)

Incidentally, the threshold resolution for a reasonable refresh rate from single link DVI is 1920 by 1200. Single link can still do 60Hz at that resolution, but you need dual link for anything higher.

I think it's technically possible for DVI to drive monitors at higher resolutions with lower refresh rates - dual link does exactly that if you ask it to run one of those 3840 by 2400 super-monitors that're currently only seen in specialised CAD and medical applications; it can do it, but only at 33Hz. But I don't think current consumer PC graphics card drivers will let you use sub-60Hz refresh rates (and consumer monitors might not accept that input anyway), so you need dual link if you want to run a 2560 by 1600 30 incher at its native resolution.

Australian shoppers can buy monitors and video cards from Aus PC Market.