TV resolution is the number of pixels displayed on your TV that form the picture. Manufacturers present measurements as width x height, and the more pixels a screen has, the more detailed the picture.
As well as the numbers, you’ll also see resolutions referred to by names such as High Definition, UHD, 4K and 8K. We explain all of these and more below.
High Definition TVs give you a clearer and sharper image than Standard Definition models, thanks to their higher basic resolution of 1,280 x 720.
To watch HD content, you need a HD TV. Not every show displays in HD, so you’ll have to choose a HD programme or channel to watch it in high definition. Other sources of HD content include Blu-ray discs and 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 HD broadcasts.
You’ll need a Full HD TV if you intend to take full advantage of Freeview HD.
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.
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 eight million pixels in total, giving four times the detail of a HD TV. Picture quality is exceptionally 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 appreciate the picture quality fully.
One issue with these TVs is that there isn’t much 4K content available yet. There is a selection of 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray discs available, although the range is currently quite limited and the price remains pretty expensive. 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.
Prices for this type of TV are relatively expensive because the technology is newer, however prices are dropping as it becomes more common.
At the top of the resolution scale is 8K. There aren’t many televisions around currently that support 7,680 x 4,320 resolution, and those that you can find are likely to be expensive.
If you do want the very best picture quality that money can buy, you won’t be disappointed with an 8K TV. As 4K becomes more affordable, 8K will become the standard for luxury large screen TVs in sizes ranging up to 98”.
Standard Definition TV (SDTV) is an older version of digital TV, with picture quality similar to that of a DVD.
Standard Definition usually has a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels and no defined aspect ratio. It’s better than analogue broadcasts but can’t compete with the quality created by new technologies.
Standard Definition is pretty antiquated now, and you’re unlikely to find many TVs still offering SD quality. Nearly all new TVs are at least HD Ready in their resolution.
However, it’s the original benchmark that all of the following resolutions measure themselves against.
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 shows the whole picture 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. Likewise, movement and action on screen are 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.
If your budget allows, look for a progressive scan TV. These models have less noticeable flickering.