What Is Resolution And Why Does It Matter?

Resolution is the number of pixels the display can show. The standard 1920×1080 resolution has 1920 pixels horizontally times 1080 pixels vertically.


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 typeresponse timerefresh 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 PC rig you are going to need.

Screen Resolution & Screen Size

1080p monitor vs 4K (Scaling)

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 has 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 1080p picture will be sharper on a 24-inch monitor.

In general, displays with over ~90 PPI have decent image quality, whereas anything less than that results in somewhat pixely details, which might be okay for gaming and other multimedia use, but it’s not ideal for work or if you want sharp details and text.

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

On displays with a higher pixel density than 140 PPI, you’ll have to use scaling for items such as small 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.

For instance, certain applications may only have a few scaling options (such as 100% and 200%) 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

different screen resolutions

Since TVs are bigger than monitors and you watch them from a greater distance, it’s important just how far away you are sitting from the TV relative 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) 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 panel, 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
  • 7680×2160 – DUHD
  • 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.

The most affordable modern 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 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 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.