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21:9 mobile gaming (Sony Xperia 1, 5, 10, Samsung Z Flip and others)

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Posted · Original PosterOP

So I've bought Sony Xperia 10 plus a while ago. This topic is not created to review this phone overall. I would like to share you what it's like playing on a 21:9 screen on Android phone.

Normally I would split it to pros and cons. However, it will mostly be cons. So here is a pro: when you get an optimized game, it may show you more. That's it. Now moving to cons.


There are popular terms widely known in widescreen and surround communities: horizontal plus and vertical minus. Ideally when you start a game on a wider setup you want to see more so the 16:9 part would be the same and the added parts would show additional content like wider field of view. But most of the times when the game is not specifically optimized for that you get vertical minus effect. It means that not only you don't get that wider field of view but you also get cropped image vertically. Here, take a look at this scheme I've made to explain it better:




Basically, horizontal plus is good - this is the way screen developers intend it to be used. Vertical minus is bad, it crops the image and decreases your field of view.


Since this whole making the smartphones long thing started they've been getting longer and longer. I'd say that 19.5:9 is kind of a standart these days. But it is not as long as 21:9 or even more (Samsung Z Flip is like 22:9).


And here's a thing. Absolute majority of the games on mobile phones are cropping the picture, so it is vertical minus (or horizontal minus if you're playing vertical game) everywhere. But with 19:9 or 19.5:9 phones this effect is not as strong as it is with longer phones like 21:9. If you'll get two phones side by side and launch the same game here and there you'll see how much your game is being croped by 21:9 phone. Even worse, in lots of games you can have your camera too close to your character to be able to play or you can even not see all of the elements of the game like subtitles. I've checked a lot of games I have and there were just a few that supported 21:9 as it is supposed to be supported. All major projects croped the image really hard. GTA is hardly playable due to the camera being too close to the character (you can't even see the whole car you're driving with any camera). In Life is Strange you can't see half of the subtitles since it's being cropped.


There are lots of games that launch in windowed mode (16:9 with black bars on left and right or top and bottom). This way it works nice but your game is just too small, it uses not enough of your screen so even your 6.5 inch screen looks extremely small compared to the older models with more traditional aspect ratio.


So this aspect ratio might be good for work or browsing or messaging but it's absolutely not optimized in any ways for gaming. Either you're going to get very cropped image or very small windowed image with huge black bezels. Both of them are bad. It requires optimization from the developers to work good on these kinds of displays, but it's just not worth it for them since these phones are just not popular enough to even bother. They did optimize a few games for these screens to promote the phones (Asphalt 9, PUBG) but the list of not optimized games is just enormous.


And even when you get an optimized game it doesn't add to the immersion in any way since there is no peripheral effect since your screen is just too small. So it really just some additional information in select games like casual coloring or card games or something like that.


Conclusion is: if you want to buy a 21:9 phone and you want to have some gaming on it, think twice and check the reviews of the games you'd like to play on that phone before you buy it.

I am not a native English speaker, so I might make some mistakes here and there. I am sorry in advance for that. I do my best to write as good and clean as I can. Cheers!

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