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graphic display resolutionsGraphic Display resolutions can be a rather cryptic business, with multiple standards used to describe the same display resolution in 10 different ways. All of those technical terms tend to change based on the display’s purpose (television versus computer monitor) and even your region (the meaning of HD Ready).

Previously, we talked about 7 Important Things To Know When Buying an LCD Monitor 7 Important Things To Know When Buying An LCD Monitor 7 Important Things To Know When Buying An LCD Monitor Read More , the difference between full HD and HD Ready What’s the Difference Between HD Ready & Full HD? What’s the Difference Between HD Ready & Full HD? Television manufacturers can be a tricky bunch. Just when you think you’ve figured out their acronyms and slang, things change again. In the early days of HDTV people were scrambling to figure out the difference... Read More  and even how Apple’s retina display works How Does The Apple Retina Display Work? [MakeUseOf Explains] How Does The Apple Retina Display Work? [MakeUseOf Explains] These days, people are crazy about the Apple Retina Display. Supposedly, it does wonders! A completely non-pixelated screen? Who would have ever thought?! However, many questions loom the supposedly revolutionary technological advancement. Is it really... Read More . Today, we’ll help you make sense of the different terms people tend to throw around when describing display resolutions. When buying a computer monitor or a TV screen, it can be incredibly useful to know what those numbers mean. Not just to differentiate between two displays, but also to determine what kind of display you should be looking for.

Width x Height

The easiest convention is the one that’s used to describe the maximum resolution of computer monitors. A lot of laptop displays have a maximum resolution of 1280×800, and the resolution of larger computer screens often go into the neighborhood of 1680×1050.

These numbers describe the width and height of the display in pixels – the building blocks of your display. Some displays have different pixel densities (most famously, Apple’s retina displays How Does The Apple Retina Display Work? [MakeUseOf Explains] How Does The Apple Retina Display Work? [MakeUseOf Explains] These days, people are crazy about the Apple Retina Display. Supposedly, it does wonders! A completely non-pixelated screen? Who would have ever thought?! However, many questions loom the supposedly revolutionary technological advancement. Is it really... Read More ), meaning the physical size of two displays with the same maximum graphic display resolution is not necessarily uniform. But the actual resolution (that is, the amount of available building blocks to construct a picture) is unambiguous.

SD, HD Ready Or Full HD

The difference between SD and anything with ‘HD’ in its name is simple. SD – or Standard Definition – is usually used to indicate television displays that are not 720p or 1080p High Definition screens, or 480p Enhanced Definition screens. More generally, the term SD display is used to indicate 576i displays in the PAL and SECAM regions, or 480i displays in the NTSC region.

Full HD is used to describe 1080p displays. The difference between HD Ready and Full HD is more ambiguous, and depends on the region. For more information, read Matt’s article on The Difference Between HD Ready and Full HD What’s the Difference Between HD Ready & Full HD? What’s the Difference Between HD Ready & Full HD? Television manufacturers can be a tricky bunch. Just when you think you’ve figured out their acronyms and slang, things change again. In the early days of HDTV people were scrambling to figure out the difference... Read More .

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If some of the words used above made little sense, don’t worry. We’ll explain the meaning of 720p and 1080p in a bit, as well as the difference between 1080p and 1080i (progressive versus interlaced) displays.

720p versus 1080p or 1080i

Modern televisions are often described using terms like 720p and 1080p, or 1080i. The number at the front of the term indicates the lines of vertical resolution. Thus, 720p and 1080p have 720 and 1080 lines respectively of vertical resolution. Both 1080p and 1080i screens have 1080 lines of vertical resolution (we’ll explain the difference between these two below).

graphic display resolutions

To compare the resolution of these displays to the width x height notation of computer displays, we can glean the lines of horizontal resolution from the aspect ratio. For example, a 1080p display with a conventional 16:9 aspect ratio has 1920 lines of horizontal resolution, meaning a 16:9 1080p screen has a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels.

1080p versus 1080i, or Progressive versus Interlaced

The difference between 1080p and 1080i, or rather the difference between progressive and interlaced displays comes down to how the image is displayed.

Progressive displays use frames. One frame is one completely rendered image. If you press pause while watching a video, you’re looking at a single frame. If a progressive display is said to have 25 frames per second, that means it renders 25 distinct images every second.

graphic display resolutions

Interlaced displays works very differently. Instead of refreshing the entire picture, it refreshes half the lines in the picture. It’s meaningless to talk about frames per second, because an interlaced display never displays a ‘complete frame’. Instead, we express the refresh rate in fields per second, in which one field contains half the lines of the display.

In an ideal, theoretical world, progressive would always be better than interlaced. However, there are a few problems with that thought. Progressive displays don’t have the same refresh rate as do interlaced displays. Although interlaced displays only render half the lines on the displays with each refresh, it refreshes twice as often as the equivalent progressive display, and each of these fields is part of a distinct snapshot. On top of that comes the fact that television broadcasting uses interlaced video.

All this makes interlaced pictures more fluid in motion than the equivalent deinterlaced pictures. On the other hand, progressive pictures are more easily scaled, paused and edited – which makes the image more adaptable with less loss of quality.

What other specs do you look at when shopping for displays? Let us know in the comments below the article.

Image source: scottchan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

  1. Anonymous
    February 14, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    Wikipedia has a great article which gives pretty much every available graphics resolution on common displays.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_common_resolutions

    One of the questions I'm often asked is what resolution should you use in a game, when your computer can't pump out decent framerate at your monitors optimum resolution. Many people don't know the other resolutions available in their monitor's aspect ratio. Here's a handy table. Just find your normal resolution in the table, and any of the other resolutions in your aspect ratio, if offered by your game, should work just fine.

    List of 4:3 Monitor Resolutions*

    Resolution - Aspect ratio

    720x480-----3:2
    1152x768-----3:2
    1280x854-----3:2
    1440x960-----3:2
    2880x1920----3:2

    ___________________

    320x240-----4:3
    640x480-----4:3
    800x600-----4:3
    1024x768-----4:3
    1152x864-----4:3
    1280x960-----4:3
    1400x1050-----4:3
    1600x1200-----4:3
    2048x1536-----4:3
    3200x2400-----4:3
    4000x3000-----4:3
    6400x4800-----4:3

    ___________________

    800x480-----5:3
    1280x768-----5:3

    ___________________

    1280x1024-----5:4
    2560x2048-----5:4
    5120x4096-----5:4

    ___________________

    852x480-----16:9
    1280x720-----16:9
    1365x768-----16:9
    1600x900-----16:9
    1920x1080-----16:9

    ___________________

    320x200-----16:10
    640x400-----16:10
    1280x800-----16:10
    1440x900-----16:10
    1680x1050-----16:10
    1920x1200-----16:10
    2560x1600-----16:10
    3840x2400-----16:10
    7680x4800-----16:10

    ___________________

    2048x1080-----17:9

    *compiled from various sources

  2. ROHIT MAHESHWARI
    February 13, 2013 at 4:35 am

    Thanks Simon

  3. Márcio Guerra
    February 13, 2013 at 4:24 am

    Nice article. I didn't remembered the last bit, interlaced versus progressive, but now that I've read I remembered some classes I had back in university when studying video, ahahha!

    Thank you!

    Cheers

    Márcio Guerra

  4. Ron Lister
    February 12, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    Nice explanation.

  5. Nevzat Akkaya
    February 12, 2013 at 7:41 am

    Time has come for ultrabooks to have real HD displays. Low res. displays suck on laptops, ultrabooks and such...

  6. Paul Girardin
    February 12, 2013 at 6:11 am

    Thanks for sharing!

    Another thing learned!

  7. Keith Swartz
    February 12, 2013 at 5:55 am

    "What other specs do you look at when shopping for displays?" Well, Simon, I have never really thought about it until now, after reading your article. I usually buy computer complete when buying, with at least 15" or greater monitor (that is a spec, so I guess I really do look for one!). From now own... NO MORE! Great article, thanks

  8. Anonymous
    February 11, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    Great article ! Now I'll stop using these terms without knowing what they mean :-p

  9. Prasanth Mathialagan
    February 11, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    Thanks for the article !!

  10. Taswir Haider
    February 11, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    Amazing post ! I like it.Thanks for the share.

  11. Scott Macmillan
    February 11, 2013 at 11:54 am

    I want the best display possible.I am looking to purchase a new monitor for my desktop.Any suggestions?.

    • Daniel Patterson
      February 14, 2013 at 7:08 pm

      If you go for the best display possible, I presume you are talking about size and resolution together. In this regard, the best you can get are 30" displays with a resolution of 2560 x 1600. However if you are doing anything like gaming on this you would need to either turn the resolution closer to the neighbourhood of 1080p, or throw some serious GPU power at the problem (we are talking multiple cards).

      However in reality, most of these displays are very expensive for the consumer, therefore the best display size and resolution I can recommend is 27" and a resolution of 2560 x 1440. The size and resolution are obviously slightly less, however this is the most you can get for even the highest consumer budget.

      • Scott Macmillan
        February 14, 2013 at 7:35 pm

        Thank you very much!!IThe suggestions are very appreciated!!!

        • Daniel Patterson
          February 14, 2013 at 10:09 pm

          Also, another word of caution: Avoid 1920 x 1080 displays at large sizes like 27". In my experience they are not great to use, and if you wanted to have a lower resolution, you could get a getter monitor at 23 or 24 inches.

  12. Alexander
    February 11, 2013 at 11:50 am

    I use a 1920x1080 FullHD LED monitor for my gaming setup! And i can clearly see a difference from that to the screens i use at my school.

  13. Anonymous
    February 11, 2013 at 1:36 am

    I just want a crappy 15" SD lcd monitor with composite input for my single board pc. Don't need some super-amazing and expensive power-hog.
    I mean, how perfect do I need text to be when I'm working?

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