What is TV Resolution?
TV resolution is the number of pixels displayed on your TV that form the picture. It’s measured in width x height, and the more pixels a screen has, the more picture detail can be shown.
As well as the numbers, you’ll also see resolutions referred to by names such as High Definition, UHD and 4K. We explain all these and more below.
High Definition TVs are clearer, sharper and more lifelike than Standard Definition models, thanks to their higher basic resolution of 1,280 x 720.
To watch HD content, you need an HD TV plus an HD programme, Blu-ray disc or another source of content, like HD video streamed from the Internet.
There are two types of High Definition TV: HD-Ready and Full HD.
These TVs have a resolution that’s at least 720 pixels high – slightly more than double the resolution of Standard Definition. Nearly every digital TV nowadays receives a HD Ready logo, which means it can receive and decode HD broadcasts.
Some cheaper HD Ready TVs have a larger screen resolution of 1,024 x 768, but the screen is also a slightly different shape (or ‘aspect ratio’). These models aren’t fully compatible with Blu-ray discs and tend to be on the small side.
With a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, Full HD TVs are five times more detailed than Standard Definition models. You’ll need a Full HD TV if you intend to take full advantage of Freeview HD, Blu-ray and other HD content.
You’ll need a Full HD TV if you intend to take full advantage of Freeview HD, Blu-ray and other HD content.
4K TV, or UHD as it’s sometimes known, is the newest and most high-tech offering for TV resolution and picture quality. The picture is 3,840 x 2,160 pixels, which is over 8 million pixels in total, giving four times the detail of a normal HD TV. Picture quality is extremely sharp, with lots of detail and depth.
Generally, these are big screen models of 40 inches or over, as you need a larger display to really appreciate the picture quality.
One issue with these TVs is that there isn’t much 4K content available yet. However, you can watch everyday content such as Freeview HD, Blu-ray movies and DVDs in higher quality as these TVs often upscale it automatically.
New content is currently being designed, such as 4K Blu-ray discs. These should be on the market by the end of 2015.
Prices for this type of TV are relatively expensive because the technology is new and there aren’t as many models available. As more brands start making them and growing the market, prices will start to drop.
You can watch everyday content such as Freeview HD, Blu-ray movies and DVDs in higher quality as these TVs often upscale it automatically.
Standard Definition TV (SDTV) is an older version of digital TV with picture quality similar to that of a DVD.
Standard Definition usually has 640 x 480 pixel resolution and no defined aspect ratio. It’s better than analogue broadcasts but can’t compete with the quality created by new technologies.
This type of TV has decreased in popularity as HD TVs have soared, with nearly all new TVs being at least HD Ready in their resolution.
Newer TVs come in much larger screen sizes and most networks primarily cater for these wider screens, often cutting off the edges of programmes as they don’t fit the smaller models. Information such as sports scores also comes out small and fuzzy when reduced to fit on SDTVs.
What about 720p, 1080i and 1080p?
As well as HD and other terms, you may come across numbers like 1080p.
The number is simply the number of horizontal lines of pixels on the screen. 720p equates to HD Ready (1,080 x 720 pixels), while 1080p is Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 pixels).
The ‘p’ and ‘i’ stand for progressive and interlaced, and refer to how the images are displayed. A progressive scan TV displays the whole image for every frame, while an interlaced scan displays half of it at a time, using alternating lines of pixels.
If your budget allows, look for a progressive scan TV. These models have less noticeable flickering and action looks smoother.
A progressive scan TV displays the whole image for every frame, while an interlaced scan displays half of it at a time, using alternating lines of pixels.