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What They Are
1080p and 1440p are both considered high definition computer and TV display resolutions. 1080p is often referred to as 2K or FHD (Full High Definition), while 1440p is known as either QHD (Quad High Definition) or perhaps WQHD (Wide Quad High Definition) as it offers four times the picture quality of 720p, the most basic resolution in the HD category.
The second thing you should know is that screen resolution is often abbreviated. Though it appears as one number, it’s actually a representation of two numbers split by an ‘X’. Take 1080p for example. The full dimensions are actually 1920 x 1080p. The first number tells you how many horizontal pixels there are, while the second is a count of vertical pixels.
The main difference is that 1440p has many more pixels than 1080p, and so offers more impressive picture quality. Now let’s discuss some similarities and differences between these resolutions.
Whereas resolution describes how many pixels are in a display, the aspect ratio is an expression of the physical size of a screen, displaying the relationship between width and height. Numbers in aspect ratios don’t have units as they describe the dimensions as compared to each other, meaning that the ratio remains the same no matter what unit you measure them in.
The standard aspect ratio for both 1080p and 1440p is 16:9, which is a widescreen ratio that offers an optimal spread of screen not just for gaming, but for other activities such as work, and video conferencing, and it’s particularly great at limiting image distortion too.
With 78% more pixels than 1080p, 1440p is always going to have a clearer, crisper image. Lines will be sharper and the general picture, if you did a side by side comparison, will seem more in focus and less blurry than 1080p.
The refresh rate of a monitor describes the speed at which it redraws an image on the screen per second and creates the effect of movement. Think of it like a flipbook. The slower you flip the pages the less fluid the resulting motion seems. The same is true on a computer screen. Low refresh rates will display stuttered movement and lots of screen flicker which can be incredibly fatiguing for the eye – not great if you enjoy long gaming sessions.
Generally speaking, the higher the resolution of a display, the slower the refresh rate is, so moving up to 1440p is kind of a two steps forward, one step back situation in terms of video performance. That said, there are plenty of 1440p monitors out there with refresh rates beyond the 150Hz mark, and you only need 120Hz for some seamless gaming free from motion blur.
Frame rate is the result of the combined efforts of your GPU and CPU, but it’s facilitated by your resolution. Much like monitor refresh rates, the lower your resolution, the more frames per second your monitor can display. The higher the resolution, the more pixels there are to manipulate, and the more pixels there are, the heavier the workload is for your GPU, so whatever the frame rate your system achieves in 1080p will be near halved when you boost the settings to 1440p.
A lot of pro gamers prefer 1080p monitors because, to them, frame rate is more important than the extra acuity afforded by 1440p. A sharper line isn’t exactly going to help them in a situation that requires insanely fast, knee-jerk reactions, whereas a super fast screen will indeed offer a better chance of victory. Another reason the pros use 1080p is that it’s the preferred resolution at tournaments, so practicing in anything else would hinder their chances come game day.
Size and Screen Distance
The ideal screen size for 1080p is 27”. Any bigger than that and you may start to notice a dip in picture quality. 1440p displays are prime between 28” and 32” because at 32” they exhibit the same acuity you’d experience on a 24” 1080p display. Going any bigger than 32” in any resolution isn’t ideal for near-screen gaming as you won’t be able to take in the whole screen at once.
These resolutions are also meant to be viewed from different distances. For optimal visual quality and minimum eye fatigue, there should be a 3.2ft distance between your face and a 1080p monitor. For 1440p, that distance is minimized to 2.6ft, so depending on how you like to game and the dimensions of your set up, one may be more suitable than the other.
1080p is still the most widely used resolution for gaming for a few reasons, but 1440p is slowly but surely seeing greater proliferation, and it’s no surprise really. With a much greater pixel density, 1440p offers significantly enhanced image quality, and the fact you can go as big as 32” will always have its appeal. Higher resolutions are definitely the way to go for professionals that use a lot of animation or video/photo editing software. Unfortunately though, for gaming applications, it’s not such a cut and dry debate…
Normally, in matters of gaming tech, the word ‘performance’ is synonymous with quality, but what’s important to understand when comparing 1080p and 1440p is a separation of these two terms. Quality belongs to 1440p, no doubt about it. More pixels means pristine lines and colors so vivid, the real world looks comparatively greyscale. Performance, on the other hand, still largely belongs to team 1080p. The breakneck speed of refresh and frame rates allows competitive gamers to perform at the highest level.
But as we move into the future and GPUs become more and more adept at handling the heavy workloads imparted by 1440p, there’s really no question that 1080p will start to fall out of popular usage. This means that while it may be great to have a high-end 1080p monitor now, they’re not particularly future proofed.
It depends on your current hardware. The combination of a powerful CPU and GPU will push a 1080p monitor to its limits, so to make the most of your build, it’d be a good idea to make the jump to a 1440p monitor or settings. If, for instance, your GPU is pushing more frames per second than your monitor’s refresh rate can handle, they’re wasted frames.
Your resolution of choice for gaming will also be decided by the kind of games you play and the kind of gamer you are. If you’re a competitive gamer, you should absolutely stick to 1080p unless there’s some sort of shift in tournament conduct towards 1440p.
If, however, you’re a leisurely gamer that likes to kick back, relax, and play some games of an evening or weekend as a hobby, we highly recommend looking into 1440p resolution gaming as the visuals are stunning, it’s unlikely you’ll notice the dip in performance, and you’re all set for future hardware and game releases.
Steve is obsessed with technology and the difference it makes to everyday life. having grown up with PCs since he was a kid, he was fortunate to have parents who worked in the industry, giving him access to computers when he should have been outside more! Steve loves obsessing over comparing different types of tech and working out which performs better.