720p vs 1080p vs 1440p vs 4K and 8K Screen Resolutions Compared

 Selecting screen resolution is no longer a simple affair. What used to be 720p or 1080p has turned out to be five resolution choices that will leave you confused. Displays have come a long way that’s why understanding the science behind screen resolution can help you pick the right size display and match it to your needs.

What is Screen Resolution?

We can go on and on, but it’s vital that you first understand that screen resolution is measured by width x height. If a screen has a 1280 x 720p high definition (HD) resolution, it means that it has 1280 pixels on its width and 720 pixels on its height. Multiply that, and you have 921,600 total pixels on that screen.

The same is true for 1920 x 1080 (Full HD), 2560 x 1440 (Quad HD), 3840 x 2160 (4K/Ultra HD), and 7680 x 4320 (8K).

When choosing a PC monitor the more pixels, the better as it gives you sharper images. But it is not always in black and white especially for high-resolution monitors that require running high-end graphics cards for you to enjoy high resolutions.

Need to Know

Measuring pixels by width x height is kind ambiguous since factors such as flat panel displays like LCDs, cathode ray tube (CRT) displays, and projection displays affect pixels. Resolution pixels do not tell you anything about the pixel density of the display.

As such, resolution can rightly be termed as the number of pixels per area or unit distance and not the total number of pixels on the screen.

Pixel Density and Screen Size

 Pixel density is usually measured in pixels per inch (PPI) and is calculated based on the size and resolution of the screen. A high pixel density means that your monitor can relay sharper images with better clarity.

For example, if you have a 32-inch full HD monitor, the pixel density comes to around 68.84 PPI. Compare that to a 32-inch 4K monitor that has approximately 140PPI. It is evident that the 4K display is much better in clarity and is capable of showing finer details.

While picture performance improves on high-resolution screens, the text is usually affected negatively. In small screens, text and icons will appear smaller such that it may not be readable when you are away from the screen.

When looking for a display, you may want to go for the biggest screen available, but you should always remember to match the resolution to the size. In our above example, notice that although both screens are at 32 inches, one has lower pixel density which means its picture quality won’t be as excellent as that of the higher pixel density display.

Difference between PPI and DPI 

Pixels Per Inch (PPI) and Dots Per Inch (DPI) are common terms you will encounter when looking for a display. To most of us, they seem to mean the same thing, but they are not. While both terms refer to density, we use PPI to refer to digital resolution while DPI refers to printed quality such as that of a document.

When High PPI becomes Meaningless 

Again, going for high pixel density makes sense, but it is limited to a certain point where our eyes can no longer perceive the differences after a certain limit. After 400ppi according to Fundamentals of Digital Imaging in Medicine, we cannot see the differences in higher PPI; hence higher is not always better to this extent.

The secret is all in finding the perfect balance between PPI, resolution, and screen size of your monitor.

Comparing 720p, 1080p, 1440p, 4K, and 8K Screen Resolutions

720p- High Definition Resolution 

This is plain high definition. You won’t find the word full in front of HD. The reason it’s referred to as high definition is that it is better than standard definition (SD) which is old-fashioned. Standard definition at 640 x 480p means 1280 x 720 is the upgrade in this sense.

You will get twice the resolution of old resolution standards. But since modern movies and gaming consoles use higher resolutions, you cannot achieve high-quality viewing results. Notice that it is not suitable for the latest titles as there are significant differences between 720p displays and those that have been enhanced four and eight times more.

1080p- Full High Definition Resolution 

 1080p is the minimum entry point in displays that can do more than just type and perform basic editing tasks. With the entry of 1440p and 4K; 1080p is relatively affordable, and you can pick a monitor for as low as $100.

1080p is five times better than 720p in picture quality. It is ideal for gaming with older consoles up to PlayStation 3 and Xbox One. For casual gamers, you can go for displays with a 60Hz refresh rate. This is the number of times the screen refreshes in a second to display a stutter-free image.

If you are a hardcore gamer on a 1080p monitor, you need to look for 144Hz refresh rate for marathon Overwatch gaming. Adaptive refresh technology is also something you need to look at as it can mean the difference between a miss and a kill in demanding games.

With 1080p screens, you can expect a smoother viewing experience and less anti-aliasing which can slow down your gaming console and PC.

The only drawback with 1080p resolutions is that you cannot be able to use the latest technologies like high-end graphics cards as it cannot realize the features you want in high-end hardware components.

1440p 

 Displays are getting more competitive. If you are looking for a display that can perform video and photo editing while playing games, 1440 is the sweet spot resolution on a budget. Here, you will be looking at a screen with increased refresh rates and capability to take on high-end technologies.

Although this resolution is readily available for smartphones, tablets, laptops and gaming monitors, it has not yet caught as most people go from 1080p to 4K resolution displays as an upgrade. 1440p is cheaper than 4K, and if you are not after a demanding setup, it can save you cash while giving you the benefits of smooth visuals.

Of course, it will depend on the screen size and the distance the display is from you. 27-65-inch screens do great with 1440p but anything larger and you are better off with a 4K display. Another advantage is that on small screens, icons become clearer and on large screens, it gives a large workspace without losing on the details than on 1080p HD screens of the same size.

When it comes to gaming on 1440P, you will want to upgrade to a GPU that can handle 1440p gaming. If you always notice that you reach the ceiling in picture quality with games that play at 60Hz refresh rates, the jump to 1440p is just what you need.

You will also need to check with others about the performance of the particular GPU you pick to use with your 1440p monitor. The good thing is that 1440p works with most of the technology that exists today. It may not be future-proof but comparing costs between 4K and 1440p tells you a sweet story of how dependable 1440p can be.

4K (3840 x 2160 Pixels) 

 This resolution is for the most complex of setups. Known as Ultra High Definition, it encompasses resolutions that are four times better than full HD hence 4K. It presents you with realistic colors and lifelike images that are more vibrant than any full HD picture.

4K has to have 3840 x 2160 pixels of resolution. The horizontal can be above 4000 and its still 4K as in the case of cinema 4K which is 4096 x 2160 pixels.

The reason you should go for 4K is if you have a large screen as images look better on displays larger than 65 inches than they would on full HD with a 65-inch screen. It creates a resolution profile that is twice as wide and twice as high as 1080p meaning it is four times better than Full HD.

For Gaming; 

4K is a demanding format that requires a lot from your GPU. So, the question is whether or not your hardware components can handle the performance demands of 4K resolution.

4K has fine resolution, and it does not come cheap. For the casual gamer, you may find it too much, but pros will like the cinematic experience that 4K brings.

To enhance gaming, you need to look at how increased resolution will affect frame rates. If frame rates suffer when you upgrade to 4K, then 1440p is what you want. We are saying; it is better to have 100fps on 1440p than 20fps on 4K. As much as you will be pumping your machine with the latest graphics card, frame rates are equally important.

You may also want to consider multiple GPUs and SLI configurations when moving to 4K gaming. This will go hand in hand with a large screen. But again, it comes down to the space you have, personal preferences, and your budget. If you can’t push that many pixels, it’s not going to make a difference that you have the best 4K gaming monitor.

8K resolution 

Welcome to the future of display resolutions. It is four times better than 4K standing at 7680 x 4320 pixels. But it’s not yet time to upgrade. We have not yet seen 8K PC monitors and 8K content as the technology is still kicking off. But Samsung has weaned us into the world of 8K in TVs with the Samsung Q900R which will set you off a couple thousand dollars.

With the entry of 8K TVs, it is safe to say that 8K gaming is not so far in the horizon.

8K screens start at 65 inches as you have to be at a considerable distance for you to perceive the difference in the resolution. We can’t tell when the resolution will be commonplace, but as is expected, it will be more demanding than 4K in terms of the GPUs you can use and the computing power that you need.

8K may be the resolution that will bring gaming to the living room. For now, it’s wait and see.

Bottom Line 

Right now, the highest resolution you can get is 4K. You will find lots of 4K content from streaming platforms like Amazon, Vudu, Netflix, iTunes as well as PS4 Pro, Xbox One X and blue-ray players. Video cards will also render games at 4K.

If you have a display at 1080p resolution, we don’t think it’s worth waiting for 8K. Get your 1440p or 4K display and marvel in the upgrades. As long as you stick to a budget and match your hardware components to the resolution, you are good to make the most of your display. 

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