What is Monitor Resolution and Refresh Rate?

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What is more important for a PC user: monitor resolution or refresh rate? Learn more about these important terms for your PC monitor in this guide.

If you are looking for a new monitor, you will have many decisions to make. Not only do you need to decide on the screen size and aspect ratio, but you also need to consider the screen resolution and refresh rate.

What is the monitor resolution? How does it differ from the refresh rate? What is more important when considering refresh rate than resolution?

We’ll take a look at these and other questions below to help you tell the difference between them.

What is the monitor resolution?

Monitoring example

Monitor the resolution it’s a measure of how many pixels your monitor can display. The higher the resolution of a monitor, the sharper the images will be. You also need to take into account the screen size – a smaller monitor at a specific resolution will provide sharper images than a larger monitor at the same resolution.

Resolution is usually referred to as the number of vertical and horizontal pixels the monitor can display, although the more common resolutions are often known by specific names.

Here are some of the most popular monitor resolutions:

  • 720p: 1280 x 720 pixels. Also known as HD.
  • 1080p: 1920 x 1080 pixels. Also known as Full HD or FHD.
  • 1440p: 2560 x 1440 pixels. Also known as Quad HD or QHD.
  • 4K: 3840 x 2160 pixels. Also known as Ultra HD or UHD.
  • 8 THOUSAND: 7680 x 4320 pixels.

Why is monitor resolution important?

The pixels have no defined size. The size of a pixel on your monitor will depend on factors including the resolution of the monitor, but also on the size of the screen itself. Monitor resolution is important, because the higher the resolution, the smaller the pixels will be for certain screen sizes. As you can imagine, the smaller the pixels, the finer the details that can be seen.

It’s easy to appreciate the importance of pixel size with a simple experiment. Take a sheet of squared paper and draw an image shading entire squares. Up close, your photo will look very blocky.

Put the paper across the room and it looks a lot smoother. From a distance, each square you’ve shaded looks much smaller, just as smaller pixels lead to smoother images.

Resizing to high resolutions

Higher resolutions mean smaller pixels for the same screen size. This leads to much more detailed images, but it also has undesirable consequences.

Imagine you have a 24-inch monitor with a resolution of 1080p. There is a 32 pixel high icon on the screen. Now imagine another 24-inch monitor running at 4K. Since this monitor has double the vertical pixels, the same icon, which is still 32 pixels high, will appear to be half the height of the 1080p monitor. The same goes for its width.

In other words, at higher monitor resolutions, the same images will appear much smaller. It can reach the point where the images on the screen are too small to be viewed or used comfortably. At this point, you will need to use screen scaling.

Resizing is like enlarging the screen. For example, if you used 200% scaling, each image will appear twice its size. This means that the 32 pixel icon will now actually be 64 pixels high. This means that the icon will be the same size as the 1080p monitor, but will be much sharper.

What is pixel density?

The pixel size will vary between different sized monitors that have the same resolution. Here’s where pixel density enter.

The pixel density is a measurement of how many pixels your monitor can display per inch. A smaller monitor will have a higher PPI (pixels per inch) than a larger monitor with the same resolution.

A higher PPI is desirable, but at some point the difference becomes unnoticeable. You’ll have a good experience with a monitor that has a PPI of around 110, but you may decide you need a higher PPI to meet your specific needs.

What is the monitor refresh rate?

Explanation of the monitor refresh rate

Monitor the refresh rate is a measure how quickly it can update the image on the screen. The faster the image is updated, the smoother the motion will be.

Standard monitors have refresh rates of 60 Hz or higher. This means that the image on the screen is capable of changing up to 60 times per second. Some gaming monitors can have refresh rates up to 240Hz, which means the monitor can refresh images four times faster than standard monitors.

A modern PC monitor will be able to transmit a much higher refresh rate than the base 60Hz. You can change the refresh rate to a higher (or lower) rate, depending on the specifications of your monitor, GPU, and operating system.

Monitor refresh rate versus resolution – which is more important?

The focus on monitor research has evolved over the years. When higher resolution monitors were first introduced, having the highest resolution was the most important thing. This is because the difference between a 720p monitor and a 4K monitor is like night and day. While an 8K monitor has four times the number of pixels of a 4K monitor, the difference between the two isn’t as noticeable.

This is why the refresh rate has taken on more importance in recent years. One of the main reasons is that games are able to run at higher frame rates of 100 frames per second or even higher. If your monitor can only update 60 times per second, it can’t update for each of those 100 frames.

This leads to a phenomenon called tearing where the frame rate and refresh rate are out of sync – you will see a horizontal split in the image on the screen. A technology like Vsync (supported by some monitors and graphics cards) is designed to help solve this problem.

Games that are better with a higher resolution than the refresh rate

Higher resolutions give you sharper images, so a higher resolution monitor makes visually detailed games a lot more fun.

High-quality games (like Red Dead Redemption 2) are packed with stunning landscapes and detailed cities. These graphically intense games are best played on a high resolution monitor. The better the resolution, the more game detail you will actually see.

Better games with a high refresh rate than resolution

Example of FPS player

A high refresh rate is especially important for fast-paced action games like first person shooters. A higher refresh rate offers smoother movement, so trying to make the perfect headshot feels a little more natural.

A higher refresh rate might also give you that little edge you need when playing online against someone with a lower refresh rate.

Choose the right monitor

Choosing the right monitor isn’t just about refresh rate versus resolution. There are many other things to consider if you are looking to get the best gaming performance out of your PC.

You need to select the right monitor size for your needs. There is no point in getting a huge monitor if you only sit inches away from it. You’ll also need to consider aspect ratio – how wide the screen is relative to its height.

It is important to take into consideration the way you use your computer. If you’re mostly just browsing the internet and typing in Word documents, an 8K monitor with a 240Hz refresh rate is way too much. If you’re looking for a monitor for work, you might also want to consider running a dual-monitor system for more space.

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