Monitor resolution is the measurement of the number of pixels that a computer display or monitor can show at one time. Monitors that display more pixels offer a sharper, brighter image. The term "pixels" is short for picture elements, and a pixel is the smallest element of an image.
The term resolution can be a little misleading, in part because today's computer displays sometimes serve as televisions, and vice versa. Because all types of displays make use of pixels, however, measuring resolution with pixel counts is common. The terms display resolution and pixel dimensions also have a similar meaning, and shoppers will sometimes see resolutions measured in the pixels per inch that a monitor can display, both horizontally and vertically.
The computer monitor combines all of the pixels to create the image, and, ultimately, the resolution measurement for the display. Each pixel is so small that the human eye cannot distinguish between individual ones. Instead, the eye naturally blends them together to create the image.
Monitors have a native resolution, which is the resolution at which their images look best. When displaying images at resolutions other than the native resolution, the image might not look as sharp because of the resizing that must occur. Liquid crystal displays are most affected by native resolution.
Several standard pixel measurements make up common monitor resolution amounts for computer displays. For example, QSXGA measures 2,560 pixels by 2,048 pixels, which usually is shortened to 2560x2048. The measurement means a QSXGA display measures 2,560 pixels horizontally by 2,048 pixels vertically, which is a 5-to-4 ratio. Numerous other standard measurements exist, including WUXGA, which is 1920x1200; UGA, which is 1600x1200; SXGA, which is 1280x1024; and XGA, which is 1024x768.
To determine the total number of pixels in a standard monitor resolution, individuals can multiply the two pixel measurements. Using QSXGA as an example again, a person can multiply 2,560 by 2,048 to yield a total number of pixels of 5,242,880, usually shortened to 5.24 million pixels, or 5.24 megapixels. An XGA resolution (1024 by 768) would yield 786,432 total pixels, or 0.79 megapixels. Consumers should keep in mind that a monitor measuring 15 inches (38.1 cm) with 3 megapixels of resolution would create a sharper image than a 20-inch (50.8-cm) computer monitor with 3 megapixels, because the smaller monitor would offer more pixels per inch than the larger monitor.
On average, computer monitors have higher resolutions than television displays. A high-definition TV resolution can vary from 1920x1080 to 1280x720, but the top resolutions for computer displays carry significantly more pixels. Both types have seen steady increases in the total number of pixels they can display during the past several years, and monitor resolution should continue to increase in the future.