Screen size and resolution of computer monitors explained

On August 24, 2015, in Guides, by Harry Jackson
Monitor size

Monitor size is measured diagonally across the screen

What is the ideal screen size and resolution of a monitor for photo editing and for general use? And what is the reason for choosing those values? This and more we shall find out in this article.


Definition and meaning of size

A computer monitor’s size means the value in inches between one corner of it’s screen viewable area to it’s diagonally opposite corner. For example, the size of a monitor can be said to be 24-inches, 27-inches, 30-inches, 32-inches etc. Which means the measured distance (in inches for example 27-inches) from one end of its screen corner to the diagonally opposite end of its screen corner. The diagram above helps to explain the meaning of size better. Just take a closer look at it.


Definition and meaning of resolution

A computer monitor’s resolution means the number of picture elements (pixels) a monitor can display vertically and horizontally. It is usually specified in a width x height value whose units are in pixels. For example, if the resolution of a monitor is said to be 1920 x 1080, it means it can display 1920 pixels of picture elements horizontally. And 1080 pixels of picture elements vertically.


A computer monitor’s screen size like we said above is measured diagonally in inches. The bigger, the better for most users. The same is applicable to resolution as well in terms of which is better. The higher the resolution, the better in most cases. But a bigger screen does not always mean a higher resolution. For this reason, you need to check the resolution of a display you are interested in along with its size.


Because resolution is very important as well. It is what makes it possible for you to see the many details of a picture displayed on a monitor. And it helps so you don’t have to scroll too much to see what is on display.



Watch this Youtube video below from NCIX Tech Tips to better understand resolution





A monitors screen size and resolution helps to determine how efficient it can render colors displayed on it. But consider if your workspace can accommodate a big sized screen.


If you are going to be working close to the screen, you may not need a display to be that wide and big in size. All you need is a display with a high resolution even if the screen size is not that big.


If you choose to get a big sized screen such as a 27-inch screen or higher, check the maximum resolution for that product.


Because it won’t be ideal if the screen size is as big as a 27-inch or 30-inch screen, and yet has a resolution of just 1920 x 1080. Ideally, it should have a much higher resolution of up to a 4k Ultra HD resolution (3840 x 2160). Or a value close to that. To be ideal with the big screen.


It is better you choose a small sized screen of maybe 24-inch or 23-inch at least with a high resolution. Than choosing to use a big sized screen with a much lesser resolution.


However text on the display of high resolution monitors are usually smaller. Which some users might find hard to read. Because of this and a few other reasons, many still argue that a high resolution is not necessarily better.



Screen size is measured diagonally

Screen size is measured diagonally
Image source: Wikipedia

Check to make sure the size of a display you are interested in is physically big and wide enough. For this, we recommend a 24-inch and above screen. Except you are in a tight budget. Then you can opt for a 23-inch monitor. And that’s the minimum size you should consider for editing pictures.


Because a 24-inch and above screen monitor makes it possible for you to view photos at a good level of magnification. And at that size and above, you will be able to view all the necessary toolbars and software tools you will need to work with while editing pictures.


Like we already said before, the bigger the screen of a display, the better. But this does not mean that you should go for the biggest in size. For example, if your work space will not contain a 32-inch monitor, it will not be practically useful for you to own a display of that size.


You need to consider the cost of a big screen display as well. Because the bigger the size, the higher the cost of the monitor. And the cost margin when you go higher in size is usually very high. For example, the difference in cost price of a monitor when you go higher in size. Say from 24-inch to a 27-inch, is almost double the price of the 24-inch.


Because of this, you need to determine and decide the size that will allow you to work comfortably well without spending too much.


But bear in mind that a big sized monitor enables you to see more of your pictures in greater details. Which is what we recommend.


Size matters

Monitor screen size

Size matters

Size matters but consider that it cost a lot more to get a big screen monitor like we said before. Compared to the cost of an average 24-inch monitor.

First and foremost, consider your budget. Next choose the biggest screen size that you can afford. That you will also have space for at your working place. Also check to make sure that its resolution or pixel count is high as well.

A bigger screen is better because it enables you to see more of what you are working with in greater details. Like high pixel RAW image files taken from your camera. But like we said before, it won’t be ideal that you have a big sized monitor with nothing more than an average resolution. There should be a corresponding increase in resolution as well along with its size.

For example you may find a 27-inch monitor that the price looks attractive. But when you look closely, the resolution is just 1920 x 1080. Which is only 2 megapixels compared to the high pixel value of modern day DSLR cameras.

An ideal 27-inch monitor should come with a 2560 x 1440 resolution or higher. Some even feature a 3840 x 2160 4k ultra HD resolution. So look for a high resolution monitor as well when choosing to get a big screen display.

Because the higher the resolution, the clearer and sharper your photos will be on display. You will also have more of your photos on display to view without needing to scroll around the screen too often.

Moreover, more pixels available on display due to a high resolution means you will have to zoom out less often when working with RAW image files of latest digital cameras. That offer up to 30 megapixels of images taken with them.
So pay attention to resolution as well when you consider the size of a monitor.

Monitor screen size

Size matters: A 21.5-inch display in this picture is not enough for photo editing

Except you are on a tight budget. Then you might not concern yourself too much about resolution. Especially if size is most important to you. Since a high resolution monitor usually cost higher in price.

With an increased screen real estate (size), you get more workspace available on the screen to work with. And your workflow will be enhanced with better image visuals and minute details.

A higher resolution will as well provide you with more content that will fit the screen. Without you needing to scroll about the screen too much. However, images and text will appear smaller on a high resolution monitor. Which some do not find appealing. But you can still adjust the resolution the way you want it manually. Using the settings of the monitor.

Screen size and aspect ratio

A monitor’s screen size can be determined in two ways. Either diagonally across the screen. Or in terms of the screen ratio (aspect ratio). Being the ratio of the width to the height of the screen. Bigger is not always better because not all sizes can fit your desk or will be ideal for your working environment.

Aspect ratio

Aspect ratio
Image source: Wikipedia

When looking to choose the right screen size for you, consider the aspect ratio as well. Because you will have to choose between a 16:10, and a 16:9 aspect ratio. Which is most common today.


In terms of screen ratio, a 16:9 aspect ratio is very common. Which is good especially for movies. But a 16:10 screen ratio is most ideal for photo editing. Because it is in line with the image ratio of most cameras. And because most pictures in landscape orientation fits perfectly into a 16:10 aspect ratio. Moreover a 16:10 aspect ratio provides enough space for you to view completely the various toolbars of photo editing programs.



Resolution is a measure of how many pixels that make up the screen of a monitor. In other words, resolution means the number of picture elements (known as pixels) a monitor is capable of displaying both vertically and horizontally on its screen.


Most popular screen resolutions

Most popular screen resolutions
Image source: Wikipedia

A 1920 x 1080 resolution is just two megapixels of picture elements. Compare that with the number of megapixels on your camera. And the fact that most DSLR cameras provide up to 20 to 30 megapixels of picture elements.


With that, you perhaps will understand that a 1920 x 1080 resolution is a small value compare to the pictures you will be editing with it from your camera. And that’s one reason why you should desire and go for a high resolution display.


Except you are on a tight budget. Then you may choose to use a display with a resolution that is not less than 1920 x 1080. And maybe when later you have the budget for it, you change to a higher resolution monitor.


Large screen monitors of 27-inches and above offer up to 2560 x 1440 and higher screen resolution. And even up to 4k ultra HD resolutions of 3840 x 2160 pixels. Which is most ideal for photo editing.


resolution and aspect ratio

Resolution and aspect ratio

What a bigger screen sized monitor with a high resolution means for you as a photographer is more screen real estate to work with. And high quality images on display due to the high resolution. With improved workflow and image visualization at a resolution close to RAW image files. A high resolution display also provides superb graphical details across its screen. Helping you to analyze and perceive minute details of photos on the screen with more accuracy.


Bear in mind that resolution is not determined by the size of a monitor. And for this reason, don’t expect to get a high resolution all the time when you see a big screen monitor.


Ideally, you should choose a 27-inch or above screen with a 2560 x 1440 resolution for your photo editing monitor. But like we said before, if you are on a tight budget, a 24-inch or 23-inch monitor with a 1920 x 1080 resolution or thereabout is still good for a budget display.


It is better to choose a small screen monitor with a high resolution. Than a big screen monitor with just an average resolution. Because although text and images on a high resolution display will look smaller. Especially on a monitor with a small screen, they will be more detailed and crisp.


Watch this Youtube video below to see the meaning of resolution explained. And how it relates to pixel density and aspect ratio.



Full HD, above HD and 4k resolution

The most common display resolution you will find with most monitors is a resolution of 1920 x 1080. Which is known as full HD video resolution. With a screen ratio of 16:9.


The closest to that is a resolution of 1920 x 1200. With a screen ratio of 16:10. Which is preferred to work with for photographic purposes. Than the very common 1920 x 1200 full HD resolution. Because it is much closer to the sensor ratio of most DSLR cameras. And because it provides a slightly higher screen real estate to work with.


4k resolution display

4k resolution display

You should not go below these two aforementioned resolutions when choosing a monitor for photo editing. But instead go for a higher resolution. If possible, go for a 4k resolution.


4k resolution was initially targeted at cinematographers using 4k video sources. Photographers find it appealing too. Because it is more closer to the very high pixel resolution of RAW image files that latest cameras shoot out these days. 4k resolution is common with many 30-inch and above screens. As well as some 27-inch monitors.


Choose a display with a 4k resolution for your photo editing jobs if you can afford it.


Native resolution

Monitors are meant to be used at their native resolution. Meaning they are meant to be used only at the resolution specified by the product manufacturer.


You can set a monitor to other resolutions beside the native resolution. But doing so will make images, text, and lines on display look less than normal. Due to change in pixel count as a result of the change in native resolution. And due to pixelation and interpolation effects.


So bear in mind that it won’t be ideal to use a monitor at a resolution that is different from its native resolution.


Resolution and the PPI value of a display

In addition to resolution, you need to take note of the Pixel per inch (PPI) value of the monitor you are interested in.


Monitors for general use usually have a PPI value of 72 PPI. But those meant for working with high resolution photos and videos have up to 82 and higher PPI value.



Conclusion and the products we recommend

Screen size and resolution is a very important aspect of a display. As we have seen in this article.


Choose a big sized monitor if your budget can afford it. But consider if it won’t have problems with your workspace. Will a big sized display fit very well at your workspace? That’s probably what you should ask yourself.


Along with size, choose a monitor with a high resolution. Because it is an important number that tells you how many pixels that is available across a screen. And because it determines how much details of a picture you are able to see on your screen without having to scroll about the screen. So the higher, the better.



What screen size and resolution should you choose? A 27-inch display with a 2560 x 1440 resolution is ideal.


Dell U2713HM is one of the best option for a 27-inch screen with a 2540 x 1440 resolution among monitors for photo editing.






But if you are a Mac user, Apple’s iMac with Retina 5K Display is a perfect fit of a display with high processing power and resolution.


If you want something bigger and better, then consider bigger screens with much higher resolutions. Such as a 30-inch or 32-inch displays. With 2840 x 2160 Ultra-High-Definition 4k resolution and higher. But they cost way more than an average monitor.


You can find other monitors that we recommend for photo editing. That are budget and high end displays and that has the right screen size and resolution for picture editing here.


If you choose to use at least a 24-inch monitor or thereabout, make sure it has a native resolution of at least 1920 x 1080 or more. Which is the minimum we recommend for photo editing.


Of course if you decide to go for a bigger screen. Such as a 27-inch or more, you should make sure it comes with a higher resolution. Such as a 2560 x 1440 resolution. Which is the ideal size and resolution we recommend for photo editors.


If you are on a tight budget, don’t go for less than a 23-inch sized monitor. And don’t go below a 1920 x 1080 resolution. Why? Because a size less than that won’t provide you with an optimum view to work with.


And a resolution less than that will offer less pixel details for you to work with. High resolution monitors display images in more details. Making it possible for you to see and edit pictures with more accuracy.


Moreover a 1920 x 1080 resolution is just 2 megapixels. But consider that you might be using a 20 megapixel camera. You can see the huge difference between them. So choosing a resolution very much less than that will provide less details of your photos on screen for you to work with.


To see more features of photo editing monitors and the products we recommend, go here.


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Do you have questions or suggestions for us? Or perhaps a contrary opinion?


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