What Does Resolution Mean?

Resolution is a measure used to describe the sharpness and clarity of an image or picture. It is often used as a metric for judging the quality of monitors, printers, digital images and various other hardware and software technologies.


The term is popular in the mobile industry for describing a mobile device's display capabilities, and also in the entertainment media to distinguish the visual quality of movies to distinguish between high definition and standard definition movies. It is also used to determine the resolution of a screen, monitor, or TV.

Resolution is also referred to as screen resolution.

Techopedia Explains Resolution

Resolution is a broad term and may have different meanings when used in different fields of technology. In the computer and media industry, resolution refers mostly to display resolution and the number of picture elements (pixels or simply dots) that can be displayed both horizontally and vertically by a screen.

Resolution in this case will then refer to how many pixels the display can produce horizontally (width) and vertically (height). This measure also applies to digital images.

For audio, resolution refers to the bit depth of a digital recording, or the number of information bits stored in the sample. This also correlates directly to the recording's quality.

For printers, resolution points to the dots per inch (DPI) of the material the printer produces, which also indicates how small and fine the dots are. The higher the DPI, the sharper the printout will be.

For computer images, the resolution is usually described in pixels per inch (PPI), which is a value that determines how many pixels are displayed per inch in a given picture. Note that this is different from display resolution (more on that later), which determines how many pixels are present in a display.

The higher the resolution, the crisper is the image and the higher the PPI value since there’s a higher number of pixels in every inch. If there are too few pixels in an image, they will look too large and “chunky” if the image is stretched, resulting in pixelated images. Non-professional printers usually print images between 200 to 300 PPI, while professional instruments usually have higher values, up to 600 PPI.

Image resolution is the total amount of pixels shown by a digital image expressed as width and height proportions. For example, an image with a resolution of 1920 x 1080, has a total of 2,073,600 pixels – which is usually referred to as a “2 megapixel” picture.

Resolution is often used interchangeably as the “size” of an image, but it also expresses the size of a display, monitor, screen, or TV (display resolution) in relation to its physical ability to focus light. An HD display has a maximum resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, half the resolution of a 4K display (3840 x 2160 pixels). Usually, a display with a higher resolution may also support several lesser ones.

The crispness of an image depends on the size of the monitor and its resolution. A 27’’ monitor with a 2560 x 1440 pixels resolution will show a clearer image than a monitor of the same size but with a maximum resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels since its PPI will be naturally higher. However, the same resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels may look blocky or blurred in a large 60’’ TV.


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Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…