Common Pixel Display Resolutions and Their Aspect Ratios

by DerdriuMarriner

The sharpness of images on computer monitors and other electronic visual display devices depends upon pixels, which often are standardized as common display resolutions.

The display resolution of an electronic visual display device, such as a computer monitor, smartphone, or digital television, usually is presented according to dimensions of width by height and is measured in units of pixels.
• Pixels are the smallest controllable component of a picture’s onscreen presentation.

Standardized combinations of display resolutions typically are known by acronyms, which are comprised of initial letters in a descriptive phrase.
• For example, WSVGA signifies Wide Super Video Graphics Array.

Whereas acronyms generally appear as gibberish to outsiders, they serve as welcome shortcuts for experts.
• Demystifying acronyms eases consumer navigation through the bewildering, burgeoning onslaught of computer and electronic product lines.

Recognizing common display resolutions -- of which 18 are presented below -- provides helpful guidance in making informed decisions regarding computers and electronics.

Monitor with 4:3 ratio: Macintosh Color Display, 14-inch CRT (cathode ray tube) introduced by Apple in December 1992

Macintosh Color Display
Macintosh Color Display

A 16:9 ratio television

Cat watches self as a kitty
Cat watches self as a kitty

Back story: Pixel display resolutions and aspect ratios

 

The pixels' display resolution defines the display's critical proportions, expressed as an aspect ratio.

The aspect ratio originally favored in mass market display industry products was commonly 4:3 and occasionally 5:4. The 5:4 ratio became common in monitors with a resolution of 1280 × 1024 pixels. 

By 2003, monitors with an aspect ratio of 16:10 became commonly available, especially via resolutions of 1280 x 80, 1680 x 1050, and 1920 x 1200.

The current mass market ratio, implemented in 2008 and favored since 2010, is 16:9.

In the period from January 2014 to December 2014, the three most common desktop, tablet, and console screen resolutions worldwide were ranked, from first to third place, as:

  1. 1366 x 768 at 16:9;
  2. 1920 x 1080 at 16:9;
  3. 1024 x 768 at 4:3.

 

Comparison of aspect ratios via overlapped rectangles fitting within a 16:9 rectangle and enclosing a smaller, common 16:9 rectangle:

TV 4:3/1.33 in red, 5:3/1.66 in orange, 16:9/1.77 in blue, 1.85 in yellow, Panavision 11:5/2.2 in mauve, and CinemaScope/2.35 in purple.
Equal-area comparison of aspect ratios from which Dr. Kerns H. Powers derived 16:9 standard.
Equal-area comparison of aspect ratios from which Dr. Kerns H. Powers derived 16:9 standard.

 

Seventeen of the most common display resolutions are presented briefly here, grouped by aspect ratio.

 

4:3 aspect ratio

QXGA abbreviates Quad Extended Graphics Array, which features a display resolution of 2048 x 1536, with a 4:3 aspect ratio.

SVGA abbreviates Super Video Graphics Array. A broad term covering a range of computer display standards, SVGA normally represents a resolution of 800 x 600 pixels, with an aspect ratio of 4:3.

SXGA+ abbreviates Super Extended Graphics Array Plus. Its resolution of 1400 x 1050 accounts for an aspect ratio of 4:3. SXGA+ displays find common usage on 14-inch or 15-inch laptop LCD screens.

UXGA, also known as UGA, abbreviates Ultra Extended Graphics Array. Its resolution measures 1600 x 1200 pixels, with an aspect ratio of 4:3.

VGA abbreviates Video Graphics Array, which features a resolution of 640 x 480 and an aspect ratio of 4:3. In scenarios with graphic device drivers in operating systems, VGA remains as the universal fallback troubleshooting mode.

XGA abbreviates Extended Graphics Array. Its resolution of 1024 x 768 translates into an aspect ratio of 4:3.

 

5:4 aspect ratio

QSXGA abbreviates Quad Super Extended Graphics Array, featuring a resolution of 2560 x 2048, with a 5:4 aspect ratio. Grayscale monitors with QSXGA displays are available primarily for medical use.

SXGA abbreviates Super Extended Graphics Array, which features a resolution of 1280 x 1024. Its aspect ratio is 5:4.

 

16:9 aspect ratio

FWVGA represents Full Wide Video Graphics Array, which references a display resolution of 854 x 480 pixels. Its dimensions approximate the 16:9 aspect ratio which is considered a safe resolution for not cropping an image. FWVGA is also referred to as Full WVGA.

HD 1080 abbreviates High Definition 1080, also known as Full HD or FHD. Its resolution of 1920 x 1080 translates as a 16:9 aspect ratio.

WSVGA abbreviates Wide Super Video Graphics Array, favored in netbooks and tablet computers. Its common resolution is 1024 x 600, which translates into an aspect ratio of 16:9.

WVGA abbreviates Wide Video Graphics Array. Also known as Wide VGA, it standardizes a height of 480 pixels but features variants with varying widths. Its commonest resolution is 800 x 480, with a 16:9 aspect ratio.

WXGA abbreviates Wide Extended Graphics Array, also known as Wide XGA. Its commonest resolution in the 16:9 aspect category is 1280 x 768.

 

16:10 aspect ratio

WQXGA abbreviates Wide Quad Extended Graphics Array. As a wide version of QXGA (Quad Extended Graphics Array), it has a resolution of 2560 x 1600, with a 16:10 aspect ratio.

WSXGA+ abbreviates Widescreen Super Extended Graphics Array Plus. As a widescreen version of SXGA+, its resolution is 1680 x 1050, with an aspect ratio of 16:10.

WUXGA abbreviates Widescreen Ultra Extended Graphics Array. A widescreen cousin of UXGA (Ultra Extended Graphics Array), it has a resolution of 1920 x 1200, with a screen aspect ratio of 16:10.

WXGA abbreviates Wide Extended Graphics Array. Its commonest resolution in the 16:10 aspect ratio category is 1280 x 800.

 

Most common display resolutions

Comparison of video resolutions. The hyperbolic iso-pixel contours denote 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 million pixels.
Comparison of video resolutions. The hyperbolic iso-pixel contours denote 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 million pixels.

Conclusion: Decisions and trends via pixel display resolutions and aspect ratios

 

Gaining familiarity with common display resolutions and their aspect ratios reduces anxiety in making decisions about mass market electronic display products.

Awareness of trends in resolutions and ratios also eases purchase decisions.

A pertinent knowledge base, which easily may be built through recognition of resolutions and aspect ratios, helps to weather the changes which are essential to the dynamic world of computers and electronics.

 

Representation of current industry-favored aspect ratio: A 16:9 rectangle in which rectangles visualize the ratio.

Created in Inkscape with the help of the built-in Cartesian Grid render extension.
Created in Inkscape with the help of the built-in Cartesian Grid render extension.

Acknowledgment

 

My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.

 

Sources Consulted

 

"Pixel Aspect Ratio." The Mossywell Web Site. www.mossywell.com

  • Available at: http://www.mossywell.com/pixel-aspect-ratio

"Top 10 Desktop, Tablet & Console Screen Resolutions from Jan to Dec 2014." StatCounter Global Stats. StatCounter. Web. gs.statcounter.com

  • Available at: http://gs.statcounter.com/#resolution-ww-monthly-201401-201412

 

the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

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DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 05/08/2015, DerdriuMarriner
 
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