Why are there black bars when I'm watching movies on iPad? Explained

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Why are there black bars when I'm watching movies on iPad? Explained
Whether you're using the newly-announced M1 iPad Pro or any other models like the iPad Air 4 or the budget iPad, they all have one thing in common – a 4:3 display aspect ratio.

Once you start watching movies on your Apple tablet you'll immediately notice the downside of said aspect ratio – it's not that great for watching modern movies or YouTube videos. Those don't perfectly fit to the screen and thus have black borders above and below the picture.

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Apple iPad Pro 12.9-inch (2021)

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Why are movies on my iPad not full screen?


As mentioned, Apple has chosen a 4:3 aspect ratio for the iPad, which is great for productivity and web browsing, but less than ideal for watching movies. With a screen aspect ratio of 4:3 (width to height), we get more vertical screen real estate than on a widescreen display.

Thanks to that, when you're scrolling through websites, for example, you get to see more of them than you would on a vertically-narrow widescreen display.

So to sum up, the display aspect ratio iPads have is great for productivity and web browsing, but that comes at the cost of most movies having black bars, as they've been filmed with wider screens in mind. By default such widescreen movies and videos are played on the iPad's screen without cropping, with the empty space around the video frame getting filled with solid black color. And so, we get the black borders, or in other words, videos aren't full screen.

Why is YouTube not full screen on iPad?




It may be frustrating to some that YouTube on Android does offer pinch-to-zoom on certain phones or tablets, but there's no such option for the iPad. The reason for this is likely to avoid ruining the user's video viewing experience.

See below an example of how pinch-to-zoom (full screen) could negatively impact your iPad experience, as it would crop the frame of the video you're watching, thus you won't see it in its entirety.



You can pinch-to-zoom movies on Netflix and many other streaming services however, but that too causes inevitable cropping and usually does more harm than good.

How do I get rid of black bars on my iPad?


There's really no way to get rid of black bars on the iPad other the aforementioned pinch-to-zoom, where possible, which usually makes the viewing experience even worse. However, there is plenty of content that will play on your iPad in full screen, no black bars.

If you're a fan of early 2000's movies, sitcoms and shows, or older ones, you'll be happy to know that most of them were filmed in a 3:2 aspect ratio. Thus they usually fit to any iPad's screen and fill it, meaning no black borders.

For example, I love watching Malcolm in The Middle and Married with Children on my iPad. Those shows fill the iPad's display nearly perfectly. And even if you choose to pinch-to-zoom, the frame cropping will be minimal, so it won't impact on your watching experience.

Which tablets are better for watching movies than the iPad?


If you want a tablet specifically for watching movies, you might be happier with the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+ or Galaxy Tab S6 Lite, which have 16:9 and 16:10 widescreen display aspect ratios respectively.

16:9 is the most common aspect ratio used in movies nowadays, so tablets like these will definitely give you a better movie watching experience, with little or no black borders.

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iPad Pro 12.9-inch (2021)
  • Display 12.9 inches 2732 x 2048 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP (Triple camera) 12 MP front
  • Hardware Apple M1 8GB RAM
  • Storage 128GB, not expandable
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iPad Air (2020)
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iPad (2020)
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