What Is Resolution And Why Does It Matter?

As Fast As Possible

Screen resolution is simply the number of pixels the display shows. The standard 1920×1080 Full HD resolution, for example, has 1920 pixels horizontally times 1080 pixels vertically. The higher the resolution, the better the picture (assuming the display’s size is the same).

If you are thinking of purchasing a new TV or a monitor, you’re probably overwhelmed with all the specifications and features you have to deal with, such as the panel type, response time, refresh rate, etc.

Screen resolution is arguably the most important specification as it’s the basis of the picture. For instance, with a 1920×1080 resolution, you get 2,073,600 pixels. All of these pixels change color to create the image.

The pixels also get refreshed a certain number of times per second according to the display’s refresh rate. So, the higher the refresh rate and the resolution of a display, the more powerful computer rig you are going to need.

Screen Resolution & Screen Size

what screen resolution do i have

Another important thing to consider is the display’s size in relation to its resolution, which is referred to as pixel density. Since displays of different sizes can have the same resolution, the picture won’t look the same on all screens.

For instance, a 1920×1080 resolution on a 24-inch monitor will have 91 PPI (Pixels Per Inch), whereas that same resolution on a 27-inch monitor has 81 PPI.

Therefore, due to the higher pixel density, the picture will be more detailed and spacious on a 24-inch monitor.

In general, displays with over ~90 PPI will have decent image quality, whereas anything less than that results in smudgy details and insufficient screen real estate.

Many find a pixel density of 110 PPI to be the sweet spot for monitors as it provides both sharp details and plenty of screen space without any scaling necessary.

On displays with a higher pixel density than 110 PPI, you get even more screen space, but you have to use scaling in order for small items such as text and icons to be readable.

Increasing the size of text via scaling will make it appear sharper, but you lose on some of that extra screen real estate.

Some applications also don’t scale well; they don’t inherit the scaling set by your OS settings, but use their own.

Certain applications only have a few scaling options (100% and 200%, for example) which can be an issue if you find 150% scaling to be ideal for your display’s pixel density.

So, if you’re buying a monitor with a high pixel density, be sure to check how the applications you use handle scaling. Luckily, most newer apps won’t have any issues.  

TV Size/Viewing Distance

Since TVs are bigger than monitors and you watch them from a greater distance, it’s important how far away you are sitting from the TV according to its size to be able to see the extra details of a higher resolution.

So, based on the diagram above, if you have a 55″ 4K TV, you will only be able to notice the benefits of 4K if you are sitting ~2.2 meters (~7.2 ft) from or closer to the screen.

At a distance greater than that, a 55″ 1080p TV would have a high enough pixel density for your eyes not to be able to distinguish the individual pixels.

Of course, other elements affect the image quality on TVs as well, such as color gamut, contrast ratio, brightness, HDR support, etc.

Common Resolutions & Abbreviations

same resolution different screen size

  • 1920×1080 – Full HD, 1080p
  • 2560×1440 – WQHD, 1440p
  • 2560×1080 – UWHD, 1080p ultrawide
  • 3440×1440 – UWQHD, 1440p ultrawide
  • 3840×1600 – UWQHD+
  • 3840×1080 – DFHD, Dual Full HD
  • 5120×1440 – DQHD, Dual Quad HD
  • 3840×2160 – 4K, Ultra HD, 2160p
  • 5120×2880 – 5K
  • 7680×4320 – 8K
  • 15360×8640 – 16K

Screen Resolution – Gaming

define screen resolution

If you are looking for a gaming monitor, make sure that its resolution and refresh rate are suitable for your PC.

Most affordable CPU and GPU components are sufficient for gaming at 1080p and 60 FPS with decent settings.

However, if you want to play at higher frame rates or resolutions – or both, you will need a more powerful system. 

We recommend looking for YouTube videos with benchmarks of the GPU/CPU you’re interested in to see if it would provide you with a frame rate you’d be satisfied with at the desired screen resolution.

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Joseph Moore
Joseph Moore

Joseph has probably spent thousands of hours learning about displays in his free time and prior work experience at HP. He now writes and manages DisplayNinja to ensure it stays as the people's favorite resource.