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Updated , Mehdi Azzabi

What is the Resolution?

Differences between Ultra HD (4k), 1080p, 720p and 480p resolutions
Ultra HD (4k) vs 1080p vs 720p vs DVD resolution size

The resolution of a television is the number of pixels in each dimension that the TV can display natively.

A pixel is essentially a lit-up square that produces a specific color. The more pixels you have on a TV, the more detailed the picture on the screen will appear.

While the resolution isn't the only aspect of picture quality, it is important, and most people will easily notice and appreciate the difference between a high-resolution TV and a low-resolution one.

The resolution of the media itself is also important to consider. To benefit from a higher resolution, you also need to have high-resolution content on hand. A 4k or UHD TV can be used with a 1080p feed and vice versa, but you will not gain anything significant from either uses.

Learn more about upscaling.

Name Alt. Names Columns
Width in pixels
Lines
Height in pixels
Common Media
480p Standard 720 480 DVD
Standard Channels
720p HD
HD Ready
1280 720 HD channels (some are 1080i)
1080p Full HD
FHD
1920 1080 Blu-ray
Game consoles
4k 2160p
Ultra HD
UHD
3840 2160 Streaming
Blu-ray
4k gaming

Which resolution should I get?

Chart of which resolution is worth it, DVD, 720p, 1080p or Ultra HD (4k)
The resolution needed depends on the size and distance of the television, due to the limitation of the human eye
(learn more about this here)

Upgrading your TV's resolution isn't always necessary. Depending on the size of your TV and the distance you sit from it, upgrading to a 4k TV might not make a difference in detail. Adding to this, to benefit the most from a resolution upgrade, you also need to consume content at that same resolution.

An average person with 20/20 vision (6/6 in Europe) can only distinguish detail 1/60 of a degree apart. Because of this, sitting closer to a TV makes it easier to see imperfections in the resolution. 

Size is also a factor. A 65" TV and a 32" can both share the same resolution, but because of their size difference, the pixels are larger on the larger TV, since the same image is stretched over a larger surface.

Using this data, it means that you need to sit closer than 7ft from a 55 inch TV to notice the individual pixels. This also means that if you sit anywhere further than 7ft, you probably won't be able to tell the difference between a 4k TV and a 1080p one (more info on UHD vs 1080p).

What content is available in which resolution?

Content Resolution
Standard channel 480i
HD channel 720p or 1080i
Netflix Up to 4k
Blu-ray 1080p or 4k
Resolutions of contents

The popularity of higher resolution screens has rapidly increased in the past few years, but the content hasn't moved quite as fast. Streaming services were first to upgrade to 4k, but Blu-ray and newer game consoles support it as well.

HD TV channels are still far behind though. While some of them have started doing a few test broadcasts in Ultra HD, the cost upgrading the infrastructure is prohibitive and slows down the development. It isn't unlikely that a movement towards 4k HDR TV broadcasts is coming in the near future though.

While a lot more content is now found in 4k, most of the stuff from recent years is still only 1080p. We have compiled a list of some of the more common sources of 4k UHD content, which you can find here.

What is the most common native resolution for a television?

Nowadays, almost every TV sold in stores has a 4k resolution. You can find everything from cheap, small budget TVs to exorbitantly priced 100 inch TVs, LED or OLED. Find out the best 4k TVs here.

1080p is very rare and usually found on smaller, more budget oriented models. To get anything above 55", you'll have to go for 4k. 

720p TVs, on the other hand, is now quite difficult to find. Only very small TVs, usually 30 inches or smaller, can be found with this resolution. Usually, they'll be very cheap TVs and often not very good.

Conclusion

The TV's resolution is one of the most important aspects that defines its picture quality, but it is highly dependent on the quality of the content you are watching as well as the position you are watching it from. If you sit further away from your TV, the difference can become impossible to notice. The same thing applies to the content itself; using a brand new 4k TV to watch VHS tapes won't make much of a difference.

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