Resolutions: How Big is a Pixel, Exactly? Well, It’s Exactly One Pixel Big

This tends to reflect the widespread confusion and misconceptions about display resolution that seems to be getting worse, not better. As technology increases options, we are presented a dizzying selection of hardware specs and marketing buzzwords. Making matters worse, it’s hardly the same across different product categories; TVs and computer displays remain fairly different in their pixel densities and color accuracies, not to mention mobile devices which are becoming a pillar of media and information consumption.

 And it’s always changing. Computer monitors (not to mention, software windows) come in so many sizes and proportions, it’s impossible to know for certain how someone is viewing content. Unlike all other formats of content distribution (print, radio, and even television), web design must adhere to flexible practices that accommodate a myriad of formats.

For a while, all TVs had the same resolution: low. Then HD came along, offering several kinds of HD. Ultimately, the industry started to settle around 1080P (1920x1080). Savvy consumers started to recognize this standard and replace their movies with Blu-Ray and HD downloads.

But how much resolution do we need?



Apple recently surprised many by doubling their iPad resolution (previously an industry-friendly standard resolution of 1024x768) to a whopping 2048x1526 (significantly more pixels than even the TV industry’s highest standard, 1080P HD). Considering the iPad’s 10” form factor, the view is expectedly crisp. And sure enough, other standards are creeping over the horizon: QFHD (or Quad Full High Definition) is promising resolutions of 3840x2160, effectively offering “Retina” density on larger screens.

Technology seems able to keep up, as our digital cameras are already capturing resolutions much higher than that.  And while this has little effect on the presentation of images, it has a profound effect on our display of information. As resolutions increase, and as displays continue to vary in size, we will see a growing focus on how humans see and perceive.


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