Computer Monitors – Is Higher Resolution Better? Part 1

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The Pixel Problem

We live in a world where everyone wants more and bigger is better. But we also know that is not always true! No one wants a bigger pimple or more STD's! Sometimes having more is just pointless. Like more of the tools that come with furniture you need to assemble yourself. Pixels are the same way. The human eye can only perceive so many pixels. Imagine pixels as sand. When you are standing on the beach you can see the grains of sand but when you are standing on a cliff looking at the beach you may know its sand but you can not actually see the grains anymore. Pixels work the same way. Get close enough and you can see that a pixel is actually smaller red, green, and blue lights working together to make you see a different color when you are further away. Get far enough away from your monitor and all you will see is a light in the distance. So the real trick is sitting at the optimum viewing distance for your computer monitor. That is determined by the resolution and the size of the monitor. The higher the resolution the smaller the pixels, the larger the monitor the larger the pixels.

So knowing those two pieces of information you can find out the optimum viewing distance. This is because the human eye can only perceive details as small as 1 / 60th of a degree of arc but I'll spare you the math and provide a few examples.

Monitor Size ——– Aspect Ratio ——- Resolution —– Optimal Distance
22.5 "========= 16: 9 ========= 1080p ====== 2.9 '
22.5 "========= 16: 9 ========= 4K ======== 1.5 '
30 "========== 16: 9 ========= 1080p ====== 3.9 '
30 "========== 16: 9 ========= 4K ======== 2.0 '

So as you can see any further away than 1.5 feet from a 22.5 inch 4k monitor and you stop seeing 4k anyways. Occasionally you get to 1080p around 3 feet. In between 1.5 and 3 feet you do have better than 1080p, although this introduces a new issue. Operating systems are not built for resolutions higher than 1080p which causes the text on a lot of the interface to be visually smaller. While there is software to help this it does not fix all text and often causes other text to be much larger than necessary.

When you are sitting closer than optimal distance you see all the possible details with no loss in quality. In order for you to truly enjoy a 4k monitor you need a very large, very expensive monitor and all the hardware to support gaming at that resolution which is also very expensive.