I was talking with a friend earlier tonight about monitors and resolutions and got to wondering why, out of all standard (non widescreen) native resolutions, 1280×1024 is the only resolution that does not have a 4:3 aspect ratio. Why is it not 1280×960 to keep in theme with the beloved 4:3 ratio?
Nick, the 1280×1024 resolution is known as Super eXtended Graphics Array (or SXGA) and is designed not to have a 4:3 aspect ratio.
The SXGA standard was created to accommodate LCD displays which have a 5:4 physical aspect ratio rather than the 4:3 ratio commonly found in CRTs. Using a resolution with a 5:4 ratio on LCDs prevents the display from appearing stretched.
Of course, not everyone has an LCD. That’s why a 1280×960 resolution is available. Any hardware that supports SXGA will also support its 4:3 variant. In some cases, this may require different video drivers.