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In computers, resolution is the number of pixels (individual points of color) contained on a display monitor, expressed in terms of the number of pixels on the horizontal axis and the number on the vertical axis. The sharpness of the image on a display depends on the resolution and the size of the monitor. The same pixel resolution will be sharper on a smaller monitor and gradually lose sharpness on larger monitors because the same number of pixels are being spread out over a larger number of inches.

A given computer display system will have a maximum resolution that depends on its physical ability to focus light (in which case the physical dot size - the dot pitch - matches the pixel size) and usually several lesser resolutions. For example, a display system that supports a maximum resolution of 1280 by 1023 pixels may also support 1024 by 768, 800 by 600, and 640 by 480 resolutions. Note that on a given size monitor, the maximum resolution may offer a sharper image but be spread across a space too small to read well.

Display resolution is not measured in dots per inch as it usually is with printers. However, the resolution and the physical monitor size together do let you determine the pixels per inch. Typically, PC monitors have somewhere between 50 and 100 pixels per inch. For example, a 15-inch VGA (see display modes) monitor has a resolution of 640 pixels along a 12-inch horizontal line or about 53 pixels per inch. A smaller VGA display would have more pixels per inch.

This was last updated in September 2005

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