Best Resolution for Gaming: Maximising your systems potential

If you are a gamer you know that how amazing some of the newest video games can look.  As you look at different options you’ll find that no other screen option has a bigger effect on how your games look.  Computer games have had to consider screen resolution options for years upon years, but now with the Xbox One and Playstation 5 even console gamers are beginning to ask what is the best resolution for gaming?

Luckily, we’ve done our homework and are here to help you out with this question.  In the article below we will go over screen resolution and also aspect ratios.  We’ll look at some information for the most common options and then give our pick of the best option.  At the end you will be in the know when it comes to your resolution options.

What exactly is ‘Resolution’?


To start let’s quickly go over resolution and look at some of the most common options for the user.  If you want to be technical resolution describes the number of pixels per unit area, but that is not how the term is commonly used.  In common usage resolution describes the total number of pixels on a screen. We will stick with the common usage for the rest of the article.  Generally, resolution is given in a set of two numbers, the horizontal count and then the vertical count.  If you multiple these together, you’ll get the total number of pixels.   So, in a screen that is 640 x 480 you have a total pixel count of 307,200.

There are some short hand terms for some of the most popular options.  For example, 640 x 480 is standard definition.  For a while 720 HD was in use, but it has fallen by the wayside.  Now if you say HD people will know that you mean 1080, which is 1920 x 1080.  Stepping up from there you can find Quad HD or 1440 (2560 x 1440) and Ultra HD, 4K, or 2160 (3840 x 2160).

You might find some resolutions that have an i or a p at the end.  Generally, these are seen with 1080 and are a hold over from CRT televisions.  They described how those televisions would refresh the lines of information to form the picture, however, in changing to LCD and LED screens we have swapped to frame rates, now you should only really come across resolutions ending with p if there is any letter at all.

Section Summary

  • Resolution tells you how many pixels are on the screen
  • 1080 is Full HD or 1920 x 1080
  • 1440 is Quad HD or 2560 x 1440
  • 4K is Ultra HD or 2840 x 2160

Full HD for Gaming


With today’s technology this is generally the lowest any computer gamer will want to go.  In the not long ago past there was a debate between 720 and 1080 as to which would be the most used.  At this point 720 is really only used for streaming movies.  1080 won out as it allows for excellent visuals.

You might think that as the lowest resolution gamers would consider that this is not really the best choice to game with.  However, this resolution remains a much loved choice.  It all comes down to performance.  If you have a cutting edge system that has all the beefed up components you may not have a problem running higher resolutions, but without all that power 1080 still gives you a great look and great performance.

Section Summary

  • 1080 is Full HD
  • Lowest resolution used for serious gaming
  • Easiest on machine

Quad HD for Gaming


Quad HD is a bit less known if you are coming from televisions and movies.  It got the name quad HD since it has four times the pixels of a 720 monitor.  At times some people will call it 2K resolution, but that isn’t really true either, since it is more correctly 2.5K.  With all the confusion in names a lot of companies have just stuck with referring to this resolution as 1440.

This resolution can offer you a noticeable improvement over 1080.  And for the most part even a middle of the pack GPU can hit 30 FPS while playing some of the latest and greatest titles out there.  You might think that since this level of graphics can be obtained without overly taxing your system this should be the go to option.  The problem comes in terms of frame rate.  If you are good with a frame rate in the area of 30 to 60 FPS, you are golden at this resolution even on a modest machine.  However, many you take on competitive gaming push for a higher rate and that really taxes the system.

Section Summary

  • Four times the resolution of 720
  • Not overly taxing on most machines
  • Higher frame rate can slow systems down

Ultra HD for Gaming


Sometimes called 4K, this is the top of line for most systems at the moment.  While there are some monitors that can hit an 8K resolution, they aren’t widespread as of yet.  This is where the real eye candy can be found.  4K sports four times the resolution of a 1080 monitor.  However, as you might expect, the drawback comes in the amount of power your system will need to deliver these stunning visuals.  A higher end card should be able to get you to 30 FPS on 4K resolution while you are playing the latest AAA game to come out.  If you want a faster frame rate….well, even the top GPUs on the market are struggling to come close to 60 FPS.

Section Summary

  • Four times resolution of 1080
  • Demanding on systems

What is Aspect Ratio?


Aspect Ratio is another consideration that you need to take into account for any screen that you watch something on.  At its most basic level aspect ratio lets you know how the height and length of your screen compare.  Start by imagining a screen that is a perfect square, it doesn’t matter if it is 19 inches on a side or 91 inches.  So long as both sides are the same length, the aspect ratio would be 1:1.  However, not many screens have a 1:1 ratio, for quite a while televisions, as well as many computer monitors had an aspect ratio of 4:3.  This means that the screen would have been 4 units wide to 3 units high.  So a screen that was 40 inches wide would be 30 inches high.  When you see a single measurement of a screen it is the diagonal.  Our example above would have been sold as a 50 inch screen.

When you move into widescreens you can have a number of different aspect ratios, but the one that has gained popularity among those companies making screens is 16:9.  For a while this was called letterbox or widescreen, but now the numbers are generally used.  This means that a screen is 16 units wide and 9 units tall.

Some companies are making computer monitors that now sport a 21:9 aspect ratio.  This doesn’t give any more height than the 16:9 models, but they do allow you to look at a wider field of view.

Section Summary

  • Aspect ratio describes the width versus the height of a screen
  • 16:9 is the most popular option
  • 21:9 is available from some companies

Aspect Ratio vs Resolution

As we mentioned resolution is the total number of pixels on the screen and aspect ratio tells the dimensions of the screen.  This means that a given resolution when expressed by two numbers, like 1920 x 1080, is tied to a particular aspect ratio, in this case 16:9.  If you were using a 4:3 screen you could get a resolution of 1440 x 1080, but as you can see the total pixels would be slightly different.  This means that to compare resolution of a 16:9 screen to a 21:9 screen you’d need to look at total pixels and how they are spread out.  The same size screen with the same number of pixels would have a lower pixel density on a 21:9 screen, so your image won’t look quite as good.

Section Summary

  • Resolutions are tied to aspect ratios

Our Pick for the Best Resolution for Gaming

At the end of the day you need to make the call that is right for you.  In any case, we’d recommend sticking to the 16:9 aspect ratio, as it is the most common option on the market place it will give you the greatest flexibility.  As far as resolution it gets a bit tricky.

If we had to choose a single option we’d go with 1440.  This is a good balance between the eye candy and performance of your rig.  While both other options are fine (1080 is a great value choice and if you have a beefy set up 4K is amazing), we feel that for most gamers 1440 is the right option.


At this point you should have all the information you need to find the perfect gaming resolution for your set up.  Remember, you’ll need to take your screen’s aspect ratio into account to know the right resolution.  Since most screens tend to be a 16:9 aspect ratio it is easy to compare them to one another in terms of resolution.  1080 is a solid choice as even the most modest computers can support this resolution even at high frame rates.  4K is the highest resolution option that is currently on the market, but it is very demanding on your rig.  1440 hits that sweet spot in the middle.  It might not rival the view of a 4K screen, but it is a noticeable improvement over 1080.  And while it does need a little more power than a 1080 set up, it doesn’t call for nearly as much as 4K does.

So, we’d love to hear from you.  Which resolution did you end up going with.  Let us know in the comments section below.


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