Amazing video quality is what everyone wants, but do you really know what screen resolution is and what the numbers mean? While resolution definitely matters, picking the right screen, monitor, or TV means knowing how to pick the best for your needs.
1. What Is Screen Resolution?
First, let’s define screen resolution. A computer screen uses millions of pixels to display images. These pixels are arranged in a grid horizontally and vertically. The number of pixels horizontally and vertically is shown as the screen resolution.
Screen resolution is typically written as 1024 x 768 (or 1366 x 768, 1920 x 1080). This means that the screen has 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically (or 1366 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically, and so on).
If you don’t know what your screen resolution is, you can find it with this free tool.
2. Screen Size vs. Screen Resolution
In addition to resolution, screen size is another factor to consider. Screen size is the physical measurement of the diagonal of your screen. Screen size is measured in inches – e.g. 5”, 10”, 13”, 17”, etc.
Screen size and screen resolution aren’t directly related. For instance, you can have a 10.6” tablet with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 and a 24” desktop monitor with the same resolution. Since the resolution of both devices is the same, they’ll be able to show exactly the same image (in terms of numbers of pixels) – it’s just that the image on the computer screen will look much larger because of the larger physical dimensions of the monitor.
However, the larger image will also look blurrier because the distance between the dots is greater (i.e. the pixel density, measured as pixels per inch (ppi), is lower).
Similarly, two monitors of the same physical size can have different resolutions. In this case, the monitor with the higher resolution will be able to fit more on one screen. The images will be smaller but sharper because the distance between the pixels will be shorter.
3. How Does Screen Resolution Affect You?
If you have been following so far, you have most likely already reached the conclusion that as far as screen resolution is concerned, the bigger the better. This isn’t necessarily so.
With two identically-sized screens, the screen with the higher resolution shows more, and there’s less scrolling. Additionally, the image is sharper.
However, the trade-off is that the image will also be smaller. This strains your eyes, and in extreme cases you may need to zoom the image to be able to see it properly. This actually causes you to see less on the screen and use a lower resolution. What’s the point in getting a device with a higher resolution when you won’t be able to use it efficiently?
This is especially true for smartphones, tablets, and other small devices. It’s also something we’ve talked about before – whether your phone needs a 4K display.
You may be thinking that even though you don’t desperately need a super-high resolution, since it’s available, why not get it. There are a few reasons.
The first one is money. Super high-res screens cost more, no matter the screen size.
The second reason is technical. High resolutions require more resources. If you set the refresh rate of your screen at 60Hz, your video card refreshes the frame 60 times a second. For most people, 60Hz is low, and they would go for 120Hz or 144Hz, if possible. The larger the resolution, the higher the strain on the video card. This is because every pixel on the screen is refreshing at once. More pixels equal a higher strain.
While 1920 x 1080 x 60FPS is fine for even low-end video cards, higher resolutions and refresh rates do pose a challenge even for high-end cards.
4. Do You Need HD, 4K, Etc.?
Outside of the numbers themselves, you now also have to consider things like HD and 4K. The big switch from analog to digital TV shows the clarity difference with HD or high definition. With HD, you automatically get a 16:9 aspect ratio, much like a movie theater, along with resolutions of 720p (1280 x 720) and 1080p (1920 x 1080). Less common is 1080i, which divided the resolution into two groups of 540 lines each. All of this means you get a much sharper image.
But then, 4K was introduced. These screens are designed to show even more detail by having a much higher resolution, which varies between 3840 x 2160 and 4096 x 2160. These are ideal for the fine details that come with gaming and movies. However, there’s no point in opting for 4K resolutions unless you have games and videos made for it. Only a handful of games and movies are available in 4K.
For now, HD is sufficient for most users and has become the standard for modern screens, from mobile devices to big-screen TVs. A 1080p HD screen gives you amazing clarity and quality for a fairly affordable price. 4K costs more but is noticeably better if you have compatible content. Otherwise, you’ll simply be viewing HD quality on a 4K screen.
What screen resolution should you choose? For small devices, like phones, you don’t need the highest quality available since it’s a smaller screen. Save your money and skip the 4K phones. But if you want a major cinematic experience, a higher resolution for a larger computer monitor or TV is definitely worth it.
Interested in 4K? Find the best 4K gaming TVs to transform your gaming experience..