Updated , Mehdi Azzabi

What is the Resolution?

Differences between Ultra HD (4k), 1080p, 720p and 480p resolutions
Ultra HD (4k) vs 1080p vs 720p vs DVD resolution size

The resolution of a television is the number of pixels in each dimension that the TV can display natively.

A pixel is essentially a lit-up square that produces a specific color. The more pixels you have on a TV, the more detailed the picture on the screen will appear.

While the resolution isn't the only aspect of picture quality, it is important, and most people will easily notice and appreciate the difference between a high-resolution TV and a low-resolution one.

The resolution of the media itself is also important to consider. To benefit from a higher resolution, you also need to have high-resolution content on hand. A 4k or UHD TV can be used with a 1080p feed and vice versa, but you will not gain anything significant from either uses.

Learn more about upscaling.

Name Alt. Names Columns
Width in pixels
Height in pixels
Common Media
480p Standard 720 480 DVD
Standard Channels
720p HD
HD Ready
1280 720 HD channels (some are 1080i)
1080p Full HD
1920 1080 Blu-ray
Game consoles
4k 2160p
Ultra HD
3840 2160 Streaming
4k gaming

Which resolution should I get?

Chart of which resolution is worth it, DVD, 720p, 1080p or Ultra HD (4k)
The resolution needed depends on the size and distance of the television, due to the limitation of the human eye
(learn more about this here)

Upgrading your TV's resolution isn't always necessary. Depending on the size of your TV and the distance you sit from it, upgrading to a 4k TV might not make a difference in detail. Adding to this, to benefit the most from a resolution upgrade, you also need to consume content at that same resolution.

An average person with 20/20 vision (6/6 in Europe) can only distinguish detail 1/60 of a degree apart. Because of this, sitting closer to a TV makes it easier to see imperfections in the resolution. 

Size is also a factor. A 65" TV and a 32" can both share the same resolution, but because of their size difference, the pixels are larger on the larger TV, since the same image is stretched over a larger surface.

Using this data, it means that you need to sit closer than 7ft from a 55 inch TV to notice the individual pixels. This also means that if you sit anywhere further than 7ft, you probably won't be able to tell the difference between a 4k TV and a 1080p one (more info on UHD vs 1080p).

What content is available in which resolution?

Content Resolution
Standard channel 480i
HD channel 720p or 1080i
Netflix Up to 4k
Blu-ray 1080p or 4k
Resolutions of contents

The popularity of higher resolution screens has rapidly increased in the past few years, but the content hasn't moved quite as fast. Streaming services were first to upgrade to 4k, but Blu-ray and newer game consoles support it as well.

HD TV channels are still far behind though. While some of them have started doing a few test broadcasts in Ultra HD, the cost upgrading the infrastructure is prohibitive and slows down the development. It isn't unlikely that a movement towards 4k HDR TV broadcasts is coming in the near future though.

While a lot more content is now found in 4k, most of the stuff from recent years is still only 1080p. We have compiled a list of some of the more common sources of 4k UHD content, which you can find here.

What is the most common native resolution for a television?

Nowadays, almost every TV sold in stores has a 4k resolution. You can find everything from cheap, small budget TVs to exorbitantly priced 100 inch TVs, LED or OLED. Find out the best 4k TVs here.

1080p is very rare and usually found on smaller, more budget oriented models. To get anything above 55", you'll have to go for 4k. 

720p TVs, on the other hand, is now quite difficult to find. Only very small TVs, usually 30 inches or smaller, can be found with this resolution. Usually, they'll be very cheap TVs and often not very good.


The TV's resolution is one of the most important aspects that defines its picture quality, but it is highly dependent on the quality of the content you are watching as well as the position you are watching it from. If you sit further away from your TV, the difference can become impossible to notice. The same thing applies to the content itself; using a brand new 4k TV to watch VHS tapes won't make much of a difference.

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Questions & Answers

Why do 42" plasma TVs have a resolution of 1024 x 768 and still look quite good?
The resolution is not the only factor involved in picture quality. The most important one is still contrast ratio, which plasma TVs are excellent for.
When viewing digital photos on my 1080p TV they don't look amazing. Would they be better on a 4k TV? Or is the problem something else?
It depends on a few things, but the most important ones are the quality of the photographs and the picture quality of the TV.
Upgrading to a 4k TV wouldn't help unless your problem was that your current TV couldn't display all the detail that is in the photos. If the images don't look good, the more likely issue is that the quality of the images themselves is poor, or that your TV's picture isn't great.
Try to find good picture settings for your TV, and use those when looking at your photos. You should also make sure your camera settings are correct and that your shots are well-lit, in focus, etc.
Why do stock charts look much clearer on a computer monitor than on an LED TV? The amount of space required for a stock chart on a TV is much greater than that required for a computer monitor.
This is most likely just a configuration problem on your TV. Make sure the TV has a direct mapping of the pixels (with no overscan) and disable all processing settings.
Hello. Let me start off by just giving you guys/gals the people's award for all the research you do. This website is extremely informative and allows the consumer a fair, non-swindling opinion on TV sets.I love it!
Here is my question: Is there a way to rate a TV set's upscaling ability? Does this factor in to any tests currently? I've noticed that Samsung does great with upscaling lower resolution content, but some Vizio TVs are rated higher, despite being without the ability to upscale efficiently. I am not a gamer, and normal cable is about 80 percent of what I watch, with 20 percent being streamed movies.
We do score our TVs for upscaling, rating them based on how well they display 480p, 720p, and (for 4k TVs) 1080p. Unfortunately, we currently have no objective way to measure this, since different TVs do different things when upscaling, so the scores are subjective.
By comparing the results we've seen from all the TVs, Samsung, Sony, and LG TVs are all mostly good at upscaling, while Vizio and Sharp aren't as good. If you want to watch low-resolution media and your TV will be doing the upscaling (some cable boxes can also upscale), get one of the first three.
Why are 4k TVs given a 9 for 1080p resolution and regular 1080p TVs like the Vizio E-series have a 10 for 1080p? Does that mean the E-series has better 1080p picture than a Samsung JU7100 with a score of 9 in that resolution?
Even great upscaling like you get with the JU7100 isn't perfect, and so 1080p on 4k looks a bit less crisp than it does on a genuine 1080p TV. So in terms of the resolution of the image, yes, 1080p looks a bit better on the E-series. For overall picture (things like uniformity, motion blur, etc), though, the JU7100 is better.
My cheap new Sceptre 1080p TV is failing to upscale certain 16:9 sources to fill the screen automatically, and there is no manual setting to make it do so, either.
This happens with component DVD signals (upscaled only to 720p size), and with *some* over-the-air 720p stations (appear at 720p size), but not others which correctly upscale to 1080p size.
I haven't tested with cable boxes but suspect similar problems. All 4:3 sources (even component DVD) upscale properly to fill the screen top-to-bottom. A related issue is the "Movies!" over-the-air network which transmits 4:3 Anamorphic and is not being automatically stretched to 16:9 by the TV (have to dig for settings). Have you ever heard of this happening with any other TV? I call it a defectively designed product not doing its basic functionally -- evil/clueless Sceptre tech support calls it "complying with all industry standards".
We haven't encountered that problem, no.
If you want a solution, the easiest fix (if possible) would be to use an upscaling DVD player, which would send an upscaled, screen-fitting 1080p signal to the TV. For a cable box, choosing an option to send a 1080i signal would probably achieve the same result.
Are there any LED televisions around that have good quality pictures both sitting directly in front of the set and at an angle? I am thinking of buying a 60 to 65 inch set. Sitting about 11 feet away, dead center. The set will be mounted on a wall and the side seats about 4 and a half feet away.
Unfortunately, there is no perfect mix available. If you want good quality when viewed at wide angles, an IPS TV will be your best bet - you lose out on a bit of contrast, but the side seats will at least get to enjoy better color saturation. The best TV for that kind of setup is the Sony KDL65W950B.
What is the best 24-28" tv? Is it worth buying a 1080 dpi tv vs a 720 dpi tv if we are sitting 6-8 feet from tv. Most TVs in the 24-28" size seem to be 720 dpi. Is that because the extra dpi doesn't matter on such a small size screen?
The smallest TVs we reviewed are of 32" in size so we can't really recommend any smaller ones. At those sizes and viewing distance it's hard to see a difference between 720p and 1080p. 720p will be fine.
I bought the Samsung JS9500 and am not all that impressed with the difference in picture quality when compared to my Samsung 60" plasma. The JS9500 also seems to have a lot of motion issues, and that's with turning off all of the junk that is not needed and every combination in between. 3D is awesome, but the picture still seems to have a fair amount of motion issues. Is there any solutions? Would calibration help? Future software update? Is it just a 4k thing?
No, calibration won't help, and it's not related to 4k.
LED TVs in general don't look quite as good for motion as plasma sets do. If you want something that looks a bit better, an OLED TV would be the answer. If that's not an option you want to explore, then you'll need to try to adjust to the look of LED - and it doesn't get much better than the JS9500.
Cable company just upgraded me to HD service for my new Samsung UN60J6300. The picture looks great, but the display is showing 1280 x 720 @ 60p. I thought I just purchased a 1080p TV. Does cable promise more than it can deliver? Or it there a setting I have to make?
It's normal for cable to transmit a 720p or 1080i signal, and your TV will upscale that to 1080p automatically. There's nothing you need to do here.
You mentioned that it's normal for most cable to transmit 720p or 1080i signals. I purchased two 1080p televisions (55" Vizio and 40" Magnavox). My TV's did not upscale automatically to 1080p yet. Should I contact my cable provider (Comcast). I have the top of the line HD service from Comcast. Not sure what to do. Thanks
Your TVs will always upscale to 1080p, so you have nothing to worry about. When you press the 'Info' button on the remote, the signal displayed is the incoming one, not the upscaled one.
I just purchased a Vizio E55 C2. I have ATT Uverse. The cable box gives you the option of changing the signal, 720p or 1080i. Does it matter what it is set at? Or does the TV automatically deal with the incoming signal? Thanks! -Dave
The Vizio E will deal with the incoming signal but it isn't the best at upscaling cable resolutions. For that reason, and if it is an available option, set it at 1080p. If 1080p isn't an option, select 1080i. Also, if there is a 'Native' option, make sure it isn't selected.
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