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Screen Resolution: Why Does it Matter?

In recent years, screen resolution has become a hot topic as visual products have improved. With the invention of 3D TVs and the improvement of HDTVs and computer monitors, we’re all able to see clearer than ever. With tablets and smartphones also offering recording and streaming video, we all want the sharpest picture possible. As Andre Agassi would say, Image is Everything. (Please watch that video. I implore you. Look at that mullet! That pink bathing suit! That car! I need to watch that video about 50 more times and break it down like it was the Zapruder film. Good lord.) But even as we constantly want a clearer picture, many of us don’t know about screen resolution, and how important it is to what we watch.

Screen resolution is the amount of pixels that are in a frame on a screen. Pixels are little colored dots, and they make an image sharper looking. Resolution is measured in pixels per inch, or PPI. The more pixels there are, the clearer looking the picture will be. A standard resolution for a 17 inch computer monitor is 1024 x 768 pixels, using width x height. If you reduce the screen resolution to 800 x 600 pixels, the screen won’t be nearly as sharp, and the graphics on the page will be significantly bigger since the pixels will be further spread apart. Remember the old computer games that looked like just a bunch of dots moving around if you put your face really close to the screen? They looked that way because they had a low screen resolution. Nowadays, it’s a lot tougher to see that in games, because the resolution has gotten so much better.

Pixels are also the reason that HDTV picture looks so much better than that of standard definition. HDTV has 1 to 2 million color pixels per frame, which is about 5 times what standard definition TVs offer. The only difference between HDTV and regular TVs is this massive difference. HDTV resolution is usually described as being either in 720 or 1080p or i. (On a side note, the ‘p’ after the number doesn’t actually stand for pixels. It stands for progressive scanning, meaning that all of the lines in each frame are redrawn each time that the frame changes, which can be as many times as 25 per second. When there’s an ‘i’ after the 720 or 1080, that stands for interlaced scanning, meaning that only the odd or even lines are redrawn with the frame change. But with a refresh rate so high, this isn’t noticeable to viewers.) The 720 or 1080 stand for the amount of pixels in the height of each frame. With the standard ratio of 16:9 in width to height, that means that there’s 1,920 pixels in width, resulting in 2.1 million (or mega-) pixels in each frame for a 1080 HDTV. That number is proportionally less for a 720 HDTV, but the pixel numbers are still very high compared to what we had available in standard-definition a decade ago.


When it comes to TVs and computer monitors, we’ve progressed greatly when it comes to screen resolution. The amount of pixels that we can fit into a frame has increased as we’ve moved into HD, and as it gets higher we’ll get the best pictures imaginable. The power is in the pixels.

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