From VGA to 4K: Discover the meaning of smartphone screen resolutions

From VGA to 4K: Discover the meaning of smartphone screen resolutions

What is "resolution"?

The resolution of a screen is measured in pixels, which are the smallest element that makes up an image. In screens expressed as horizontal pixels x vertical pixels. Therefore, a 640 x 480 resolution image has 640 pixels per line and 480 lines.

The higher the resolution, the more detailed an image can be. The picture quality leap from standard tube TVs to current HD and Full HD TVs is partly due to the increased resolution. On a smartphone, a higher resolution screen improves text readability and also allows you to place more content at once on the screen. When browsing the web, for example, this means you have to scroll the page less often.


VGA or Video Graphics Array It is a video standard for personal computers created in the 1980s and was the main form of connection between computers and monitors for a long time, even losing space for standards capable of supporting higher resolutions, such as HDMI. One of its features is the resolution of 640 x 480 pixels, which by analogy became known as "VGA resolution".

From the 2000s began to emerge smartphones and other mobile devices whose screens had this resolution, which is therefore known as "VGA screens". But there is a whole "family" of resolutions that takes the 480 lines of VGA as a reference.

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The Nokia 3310 has QVGA / AndroidPIT resolution

One is the QVGA (Quarter VGA), which is 320 x 240 pixels, or a quarter (named after it) of a VGA screen. An example of a device that uses this resolution is the Sony Xperia X10 mini smartphone. WQVGA (Wide QVGA), a widescreen variant with a resolution of 400 x 240 pixels.

The VGA resolution itself has a "Widescreen" variant, WVGA (Wide VGA), with 800 x 480 pixels. It was used, for example, on Google Nexus One and Samsung Galaxy S devices.

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Google Nexus One has WVGA / AndroidPIT screen

At this point, it is convenient to remember that all these resolutions usually have small variations to suit the aspect ratio (width to height ratio) of a device. WVGA, for example, can be 720 x 480 pixels to fit a 16:10 aspect ratio screen. The list below shows a summary of VGA resolutions, including some variations not mentioned here:

VGA-based resolution list

VGA 640×480 pixels
WVGA 800 x 480 pixels
FWVGA 854 x 480 pixels
QVGA 320×240 pixels
QQVGA 160×120 pixels
HQVGA 240×160 pixels
WQVGA 400×240 pixels
HVGA 480 x 320 pixels
WVGA 800 x 480 pixels
SVGA 800×600 pixels
DVGA 960×640 pixels
WSVGA 1024×600 pixels

XGA and variations

The XGA or Extended Graphics Array It appeared in the 1990s as a complement to the specifications of VGA and Super VGA. As far as resolutions are concerned, the name usually means 1024 x 768 pixels, which for a long time was the most common resolution on 4: 3 aspect ratio displays on PCs. XGA also had "wide" variations, collectively known as WXGA (Wide). XGA):

  • 1152 x 768 pixels.
  • 1280 x 720 pixels.
  • 1280 x 768 pixels.
  • 1280×800 pixels.
  • 1360 x 768 pixels.
  • 1366 x 768 pixels.

The Google Nexus 4 is an example of a smartphone that uses a WXGA resolution, in this case 1280 x 768 pixels. There is still a variant called XGA + which represents the resolutions of 1152 x 900 and 1152 x 864 pixels. The following is a summary of all (or nearly all) variations of XGA:

XGA-based resolution list

XGA 1024 x 768 pixels
WXGA 1152 x 768 pixels at 1366 x 768 pixels
XGA + 1152 x 900 and 1152 x 864 pixels
WXGA + 1440×900 pixels
SXGA 1280×1024 pixels
SXGA + 1400×1050 pixels
WSVGA + 1680 x 1050 pixels
UXGA 1600 x 1200 pixels
Wuxga 1920 x 1200 pixels
QWXGA 2048 x 1152 pixels
QXGA 2048 x 1536 pixels
WQXGA 2560×1600 pixels

At this point it should be noted that resolutions having 720 lines or more can also be considered High Definition, such as QSXGA (2560 x 2048 pixels), WQSXGA (3200 x 2048) pixels; HUXGA: 6400 x 4800 pixels and WHUXGA: 7680 x 4800 pixels.

HD Resolution

With the advent of mobile devices with increasingly sophisticated and larger screens, the market eventually converged to a "standard" resolution with strong commercial appeal, HD (High Definition), which was "in the people's mouth" because of the transition to the high definition TVs. The Motorola Moto G can be cited as a representative of this category.

A screen with HD resolution has 1280 x 720 pixels, which in turn combines with screens widescreen (16: 9). In general, screens with this resolution display very satisfactory image quality. Just be careful not to confuse it with its two variations: nHD, which is 640 x 360 pixels, and qHD, which has 960 x 540 pixels.

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Moto G 2013 and its HD panel / AndroidPIT

The term 720p is also used to indicate HD resolution. But where did this letter come from? "P"Well, the content of a screen updated several times a second, and the speed with which it occurs is called Refresh Rate or "Refresh Rate", which is measured in Hz (Hertz). A 60 Hz TV, for example, updates the screen image 60 times per second.

The detail is that at some resolutions the device may not be fast enough to refresh the entire screen with each cycle. Then a trick is used that takes advantage of the persistence of human vision: first only the even lines are updated, then the odd ones. As this is done quickly, our eyes do not perceive and see only one image.

When this trick is used it is said that the image is interleaved, and we add a i resolution, for example 480i. But when all screen lines are updated every cycle, we say that the image is in Progressive scan, and we added the P resolution. That is, a 720p 60 Hz display means that all 720 lines are updated 60 times per second.

Full hd

If HD already results in very good images, Full HD appears to offer an even more enriching experience. The term, which may also be abbreviated as FHD (although this acronym is little used), represents the resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, equally appropriate 16: 9 aspect ratio. Like HD, Full HD has gained strong commercial appeal, something like "good HD but even better Full HD".

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Zenfone 3 and Quantum Fly, both with Full HD / AndroidPIT screen

Full HD resolution is also known as 1080p. HD and Full HD resolutions have become a reference in the market, which is very useful because this aspect reflects the standardization of video and image formats, for example. As the following summary shows, the variations are few:

HD, Full HD and derived resolution list

HD (720p) 1280×720 pixels
nHD 640 x 360 pixels (one quarter of HD)
qHD 960 x 540 pixels (one quarter of Full HD)
Full HD (1080p or FHD) 1920×1080 pixels
QHD or WQHD 2560 x 1440 pixels (also called 1440p)

Since the minimum amount of vertical pixels for a resolution will be considered 720p high definition, it has been informally created that any value above that is HD.

HD + and Full HD + (FHD +)

With the advent of 18: 9 or 21: 9 screens on smartphones, new resolutions have emerged that better accommodate these ratios. We call HD + any resolution based on 720 lines, such as 1480 x 720 pixels. If the resolution is based on the 1080 lines of Full HD we call it FHD +, like 2220 x 1080 pixels. The exact amount of speakers will depend on the screen ratio, and may vary slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer.

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Huawei P30 Pro has Full HD screen + / AndroidPIT

4K and UHD resolution

UHD (Ultra HD) is a term that describes any resolution above Full HD. An example is 4K resolution, which is common only on televisions 50 inches or larger. This is because the human eye can hardly notice the difference between Full HD and 4K on small screens. Therefore, although possible, smartphone manufacturers are unlikely to adopt 4K displays in the near future.

Top UHD Resolutions

2K 2960 x 1440 pixels
DCI 2K 2048 1080 or 1998 x 1080 pixels (uncommon)
4K (UHDTV or QFHD) 3840 x 2160 pixels
4K (Ultra Wide HDTV) 5120 x 2160 pixels
DCI 4K 4096 x 2160, 4096 x 1716 (uncommon), and 3996 x 2160 pixels (also unusual)

Remember that although they do not have a 4K screen, many smartphones are capable of recording video in 4K. In this case, to see the image with all its details you will need to use a 4K TV, as on the smartphone screen the image will be reduced to the native resolution of the device.

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XZ Premium has 4K / AndroidPIT screen

What does "K" mean in 4K?

Just like HD and Full HD, the term 4K not only refers to a resolution but also has strong commercial appeal. Although it can identify this standard as Ultra HD or UHD, 4K is the most widely used expression. This is because the letter "K" in English is used to represent the number thousand and its multiples. So if you have 2,000 or 3,000 units of anything, you can call this amount 2K or 3K.

As one of the UHD resolutions has 3840 x 2160 pixels, by approximation it became known as 4K.

What is the resolution of your smartphone screen? Are you satisfied with her?

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