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June 22, 2017

Monitor Resolution Update

Filed under: Main — Tags: — admin @ 12:01 am

Beyond the processor, one of the most murky regions where names, numbers, and abbreviations lurk is the computer monitor. Evolution doesn’t remove the old names, but it does settle down the field to something more reasonable.

In the early days, only two monitor types existed: color and monochrome. The monochrome monitor could be the familiar green screen (I preferred amber) or a dreadful black-and-white TV. A monitor came in various sizes, from about 4-inches diagonal to a whopping 14-inches. Beyond that, meh.

As computer hardware advanced, more graphics capabilities were added. Eventually, monochrome monitors went away. Their text-only display was replaced by full color to various degrees, standards, and acronyms. Technical specifications littered the graphics/monitor field like paper picnic supplies across a field on a windy day. Things were hectic! Choice was good, but a pain because of the multiple options.

Today, the monitor realm is quite peaceful. Nearly all computer monitors are widescreen, LCD, color, and spectacular. Most monitors come with multiple inputs, which means they can double as an HDTV, and work with a laptop or desktop. The only true monitor question, and one for HDTVs as well, is the pee question: Is the monitor 720p, 1080p, 4K, what gives?

The value refers to the monitor’s vertical resolution in pixels, though the p means “progressive scan” and not “pixels.” The same resolution also applies to recorded video, though you can resize a video and you can’t resize a physical computer monitor.

The 720p rating means the monitor (or video) has a vertical resolution of 720 pixels. 1080p implies 1,080 pixels. Easy.

The horizontal resolution depends on the monitor’s formfactor. A widescreen monitor has a ratio of 16:9, so as 9 is to 1080, 16 is to 1920. So a widescreen monitor at 1080p can have a horizontal resolution of 1920 pixels. Again, this value depends on the monitor’s width.

The 1080p standard is also known as HD for high definition, though “high” is relative as newer standards offer even more resolution.

Speaking of relatives, 1080i is an interlaced format, which isn’t as good as 1080p. The progressive scan version sports a single image that’s displayed top-down. The interlace scan uses two 540 pixel-high images that are displayed one after the other. This is the format used for broadcast TV.

Superior to 1080p are other standards, though the numbering scheme fails to remain consistent. The big cheese is called 4K, which is technically 3840p though that’s not true for all monitors advertized as 4K. Then comes the 8K standard, which also has a variety of p values.

These numbers can be confusing, but fortunately they’re pretty much the only values you must deal with beyond the screen’s diagonal size. The bottom line for a computer is that it must have the display adapter hardware installed to drive the high definition monitor. As long as things match, you’ll get all the monitor you pay for.


  1. Odd thing, I have worked on both CRT & TFT (flat screen monitors), I find the flat screen less tireing on the eyes than the CRT but I am a little concerned over the exposure to UV that comes from a monitor, as UV can cause Macular Denegration in the eye, my Dad suffers from it…

    Comment by glennp — June 22, 2017 @ 5:26 pm

  2. I’ve not heard of that. Thanks for the info.

    I know that flatscreens can interfere with sleep patterns. The “night mode” for many monitors and mobile devices is currently a thing.

    Comment by admin — June 22, 2017 @ 6:12 pm

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