What’s a TV Pixel and Why Should I Care?

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When you want to purchase a new TV, the choices can start to seem overwhelming, and the terms might not even make a lot of sense to you right off the bat. There are now options, like 720p, 1080p, and 4K displays, but what does that really mean? This article looks at today’s high-definition viewing options so you have a better idea of what kind of TV will be right for you.

What’s a Pixel?


Image via Flickr by Brett Jordan

Pixels are the building blocks of the picture that makes up the image on your screen. One pixel is the smallest unit of a digital image. Each pixel is usually a square block placed on a two-dimensional grid, like a TV screen, computer monitor, or device screen. The overall number of pixels on that grid determines the resolution, or how clear and detailed the picture appears.

How Do Pixels Alter Resolution?

Two common TV screens, the 720p and 1080p, have names determined by their pixel count. If you multiply the 1280 by 720 measurements of the typical 720p screen, you will know exactly how many pixels are included. The “p” in 720p and 1080p actually does not refer to pixels, but to “progressive scan,” or the way a high-definition picture is sent to the screen.

While 1080p screens today have over 2 million pixels, old standard definition screens of the past only had about 300,000 pixels, resulting in a blurrier picture and fewer details. The current 4K UHD (ultra high definition) TVs have four times the pixels in the same space, providing a more realistic image with rich colors and crisp details.

Why Does it Matter to Me?

Of course, if you enjoy watching movies and TV shows in their full glory, then you will want to find a screen that does them justice. Movies like Avatar and How the Grinch Stole Christmas look drastically better in a Blu-Ray format on a high-definition screen.

Can You Have Too Many Pixels?


Image via Flickr by pestoverde

When 4K TVs first became available for consumers, there were very few 4K content options available. However, the shift from 1080p to 4K has been quick, as manufactures rush to provide more and more products compatible with the new ultra high definition screen. Now consumers can find their 4K screens at their favorite retailers, like the fantastic 65” 4K screens LG and Samsung are currently offering, and streaming services, YouTube, and Redray are starting to offer 4K content.

Putting more pixels in a grid allows the screen to show more variance in pixel color within a smaller space, resulting in sharper details. The more pixels used on both the filming end and the viewing end, the more realistic the image is. But there is only so much detail we can register; as we increase the pixel count, our eyes will find it increasingly hard to tell the difference.

Don’t expect 4K to be the last stop on the TV upgrade wagon. Frame speeds, screen size, flexibility, and other updates continue to change the capabilities of your TV. But you can most likely expect 4K to be added to Blu-Ray specifications in the future for the average consumer who wants a beautiful picture.

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