What Is Resolution?

Picture resolution in PowerPoint
© Wendy Russell

The term resolution describes the number of dots, or pixels, that an image contains or that can be displayed on a computer monitor, television, or other display device. These dots number in the thousands or millions, and clarity increases with resolution.

Resolution in Computer Monitors

A computer monitor's resolution refers to the approximate number of these dots the device is capable of displaying.

It's expressed as the number of horizontal dots by the number of vertical dots; for example, an 800 x 600 resolution means the device can show 800 dots across by 600 dots down—and therefore, that 480,000 dots are displayed on the screen. 

As of 2017, common computer monitor resolutions include:

  • 1366 x 768
  • 1600 x 900
  • 1920 x 1080
  • 2560 x 1440
  • 3840 x 2160

Resolution in TVs

For televisions, resolution is a bit different. TV picture quality depends more on pixel density than it does the gross number of pixels. In other words, the number of pixels per unit of area dictates the picture's quality, not the total number of pixels. Thus, a TV's resolution is expressed in pixels per inch (PPI or P). As of 2017, the most common TV resolutions are 720p, 1080p, and 2160p, all of which are considered high definition.

Resolution of Images

The resolution of an electronic image (photo, graphic, etc.) refers to the number of pixels it contains, usually expressed as millions of pixels (megapixels, or MP).

The greater the resolution, the better quality the image. As with computer monitors, the measurement is expressed as width by height, multiplied to yield a number in megapixels. For example, an image that is 2048 pixels across by 1536 pixels down (2048 x 1536) contains 3,145,728 pixels; in other words, it's a 3.1-megapixel (3MP) image.

The Takeaway

Bottom line: Whether referring to computer monitors, TVs, or images, resolution is an indicator of the clarity, vividness, and cleanness of a display or image.