720p vs 1080p vs 1440p vs 4k: Everything You Need To Know

Pixel Density vs Resolution

720p vs 1080p vs 1440p vs 4k: which should you get?

If you’re reading this in 2016 then chances are that you are more than likely on a 1080p (1920 x 1080) monitor as it has become the new standard in monitors. You might be looking into a new monitor and haven’t been able to decide whether the leap to a 1440p (2560 x 1440) monitor or a 4k (3840 x 2160) monitor is worth it. In order to find out, a bit of number crunching and two very important monitor aspects need to be known.

A monitor’s resolution and pixel density have a big role in how good image quality will be – panel type, contrast ratio, and brightness put aside.

The resolution of a monitor is simply how many pixels there are and at what ratio. A 1920 x 1080 resolution, for example, has a width of 1920 pixels and height of 1080 pixels. Multiplying the two gives the total pixel count which in this case is 2,073,600 pixels. The greater the resolution then the greater the number of pixels and as a result the greater the detail and image quality. The drawback to this, for gamers at least, is the hit in frame rate performance because of the extra pixels that need to be rendered by their graphics card.

The most common resolutions out there are:

  • 1280 × 720 (720p, HD)
  • 1920 x 1080 (1080p, FHD)
  • 2560 x 1440 (2k, WQHD)
  • 3840 x 2160 (4k, UHD)

There are of course other resolutions like the 2560 x 1080 resolution which is commonly used in wide screen monitors and has a 21:9 aspect ratio. On that note, we should point all the resolutions previously mentioned have a 16:9 aspect ratio.

Pixel density tells us how many pixels there are in relation to a certain screen size and is measured in pixels per inch (PPI). A smaller screen size and larger resolution will give us a bigger pixel density. Below you can see the total pixels for the most common resolutions have and what their PPI is for 24 inch and 27-inch monitors, the most common sizes.

Monitor resolutionPixel amountPPI on a 24 inch monitorPPI on a 27 inch monitor
1280 × 720 (720p, HD)921,6006154
1920 x 1080 (1080p, FHD)2,073,6009282
2560 x 1440 (2k, WQHD)3,686,400122109
3840 x 2160 (4k, UHD)8,294,400184163

720p monitors are now a thing of the past and 1080p monitors will surely follow as time goes on. It makes no sense to get a 720p monitor at this point. Economically speaking, the current sweet spot for monitors is a 24-inch monitor with a 1080p resolution and a 27-inch monitor with a 1440p resolution.

As technology continues to progress a new category of 4k monitors is becoming increasingly common. For the moment, however, there is only one high refresh rate monitor that has a 4k resolution, the Dell UP3017Q. There’s a good reason for this: such monitors are expensive to produce and for now make little sense to have because no graphics card exists that can produce the number of frames required to make a 144Hz 4k monitor worth it in modern gaming titles.

Now how well you will be seeing the details and image crispness will also be determined by how far you sit from your monitor. If you sit less two and a half feet away then you definitely will notice the difference. This becomes truer the lower the pixel density that you are upgrading from.

Still don’t know what monitor to get? Check our definitive 120Hz-plus gaming monitor list for help narrowing it down. We last added monitors in January 2017!