Pixel Density vs Resolution: What’s The Difference?

What does pixel density mean?

Pixel density determines how crisp and sharp an image will appear on your display.

PPI, which stands for Pixels Per Inch, is the measurement of pixel density. It is the number of pixels relative to the square inch surface.

Put simply, the more pixels and the smaller the screen size the higher the PPI amount will be.

Pixel Density Example
Example of low, medium, and high pixel densities. Higher density = more pixels = better image quality.

Using the following formula, we can calculate how dense a monitor’s pixel amount is in correlation to its monitor size.

PPI Formula

Where:

  • w = width of resolution (pixels)
  • h = height of resolution (pixels)
  • d = diagonal length of screen (inches)
Ppi Example
The lower the pixel density the more noticeable individual pixels will be on the screen.

The higher the pixel density, the more pixels there are on a screen, and the more detailed an image can be. It will be sharper and more clear looking.

That’s why nowadays you have technology pushing into 16K territory (move over 4K and 8K) for the best and sharpest image possible.

That’s 16 times more pixels than 4K and 64 times more than 1080p!

These days you’ll also find monitors that are, for example, 27 inches big but only have a 1920 x 1080 resolution.

Do math and you get PPI of 82.

That’s a very bad pixel density.

What is the relationship between pixel and resolution?

With an increase in monitor size, you should likewise see an increase in resolution, otherwise your image quality will suffer.

Below you can see common resolution and size combinations for monitors:

24-Monitor-Resolution-and-Pixel-Density-2015-12-14.csv
Screen size (inches)Monitor resolutionAspect RatioPPI
23.5″1920×108016:994
24″1920×108016:992
2560×1440 16:9122
27″1920×108016:982
2560×1440 16:9109
3840×2160 (4K)16:9163
31.5″1920×108016:970
2560×1440 16:993
34″2560×1440 16:986
3440×144043:18110
35″2560×108021:979
49″3840×2160 (4K)16:990

A monitor that measures 24 inches and has a resolution of 2560 x 1440 (1440p) hits the sweet spot and offers the best pixel density for the price.

If you need to calculate PPI for a different screen size and resolution, then this convenient calculator can easily do the job for you.

What about ultrawide monitors?

Remember bigger is not always better… that is unless everything’s bigger.

The new trend of ultra wide monitors can be exciting.

That’s until you realize that at their size and resolution they have a very low pixel density.

Couple that with their hefty price and they become very unappealing.

Think about your graphics card

You should know that a higher resolution also means there is more work for your graphics card to render.

The larger the resolution, the more pixel density, the better graphics card you’ll need to run your game.

Keep this in mind when shopping for a new monitor or new graphics card.

Technology is always pushing boundaries and, lately, we have seen releases of monitors with a 4K or a 3840 × 2160 (UHD) resolution.

Dan Alder
Dan Alder
Dan's logged far too many hours in CS 1.6 and reminisces about LAN parties back in the good ol' days. He's also an engineer that's interested in anything to do with tech.
Dan Alder
Dan Alder
Dan's logged far too many hours in CS 1.6 and reminisces about LAN parties back in the good ol' days. He's also an engineer that's interested in anything to do with tech.

2 Comments

  1. Hi, Great article. I currently have a PS4 slim. It outputs in 1080p @ 60hz. I have been using a 10 year old 24” 1080p tv which is shot. I want to buy a monitor. I want to buy a new monitor. My eye sight isn’t the greatest so I’ve been having a lot of trouble seeing the enemy on Cod, the only game that l play. My question is this. If I buy a monitor that has a higher resolution so l could get a 27” monitor wouldn’t it be pointless bc the ps4 only displays 1080p? Or do they upscale it enough to make up the difference?

    I also realize that anything over 60hz would be pointless bc of the capabilities of my console. My only concern is that I’ve read that the ps5 will support a higher frame rate, possible 130hz or faster). I would think that is a strong possibility being that the current Xbox just upped theres. So I’m debating on just biting the bullet and going with something 4K, 144hz, 1ms. Even though for now I’m thinking that all I need to max out the ps4s potential is 1080p, 60hz, 1 ms on a 24” monitor.

    Sorry to be so long winded. I’m ready to buy one but I’m rattled when it comes to the size. Is it possible to buy a higher resolution monitor and go with a 27” to make up the difference, even though my PS4 only outputs 1080p? Your help in this matter will be greatly appreciated. Thanks again for all of the great articles and advice. I hope to hear from you.

    1. Hey hopefully I can answer your question. Typically from a gaming standpoint a 27inch monitor is better of with 1440p since 1080p will become less sharp after 24 inches. As for the console a 1440p monitor will work with your ps4, however it will still render the game in 1080p and will upscale to the monitors resolution resulting in an image less sharp than if it was native resolution.

      For future consoles (or any PC’s) you get a high refresh monitor would be a great investment. Personally imo 4k monitors are way to exspensive currently especially if you opt for the high refresh rate versions and few PC’s can actually drive games at 4k to take advantage of high refresh rates. The 1440p market is more competitive in price along with hardware requirements. A 4k TV could work fine since they are much cheaper but wouldn’t necessarily cater to high refresh rates if that’s what you want. If you wanted to drop money a higher end 3440×1440p 34″ in ultra wide would be a better investment as you’d get a luxurious amount of curved screen space while preserving a 110 ppi which despite what this article say, is really sharp for gaming, as well as being easier to drive high fps.

      If you are more budget orientated AOC makes good budget monitors such as the AOC CQ27G1 or the non curved version. Keep in mind whether you want a VA or an IPS panel. If you want true 1ms response time, you could opt for a tn panel but they sacrifice image quality and color accuracy. In the end it will be user preference, and I’ll admit 4k is very pretty on the eyes, but just pick what is best for you.

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