What’s the minimum you should buy in 2023?
Ryan Haines / Android Authority
It wasn’t too many years ago that the smartphone resolution wars were in full swing. The debate raged over whether Apple’s Retina Display jargon actually meant anything, while Android phones raced from Full HD (FHD) to Quad HD (QHD) resolutions. Sony even went as far as to push the 4K narrative for our tiny phone displays. Fortunately, that’s a mobile trend that hasn’t caught on (yet).
In a complete U-turn, the industry today is much more relaxed about the display clarity argument. In fact, several high-profile releases don’t bother with the flagship QHD resolution that we once became accustomed to. The base Samsung Galaxy S23 and Pixel 7 are content with “just” FHD+ resolutions.
Do these handsets offer an inferior display experience or has the industry settled the Quad HD vs Full HD debate and picked FHD+ as the clarity sweet spot?
Definitions: FHD, QHD, 4K
Ryan Haines / Android Authority
Before taking a closer look at the differences between FHD and QHD on smartphones, it’s worth discussing what these terms actually mean. In a nutshell, a display’s resolution is the number of pixels in each dimension, horizontal and vertical.
A Full HD (commonly abbreviated FHD) display is 1,920 pixels wide and 1,080 pixels tall. This is the most common resolution across the entire consumer electronics industry today and you’ll find it on everything from smartphones to desktop monitors. Smartphone manufacturers often append a + to denote extra pixels in one dimension.
A Quad HD (QHD) display is 2,560 pixels wide and 1440 pixels tall. The resolution offers 78% more pixels than a standard FHD display. Finally, Ultra HD (UHD) goes even further with 3,840 horizontal pixels and 2160 vertical pixels. The term is also interchangeably used with 4K, which signifies that it has four times more pixels than standard FHD.
Do you really need Quad HD on a smartphone?
The selling point of Quad HD displays is sharper images and improved clarity. This is more important for larger displays, where a greater number of pixels are required to keep up the pixel density and thus clarity. Pixel density is often referred to as the pixels per inch or PPI number. A higher display resolution also helps games appear smoother with fewer jagged edges. The trade-off is that rendering more pixels puts more strain on the graphics processor, potentially lowering the frame rate and/or consuming more power.
However, there is a limit on the level of detail that the human eye can see for a given viewing distance. There are a lot of variables to the science behind human visual perception limits, including the size of the screen and viewing distance. For a small 5-inch smartphone, FHD has you covered pretty much regardless of how close you hold your device. For larger 6-inch and 7-inch handsets, the move from FHD+ to Quad HD can make a little bit of a difference at closer viewing distances.
The graph below plots roughly the maximum pixels per inch you can see for a given distance in yellow. I calculated the PPI for these distances using the equations you can find here. The PPI offered by various resolutions for three unique display sizes is shown in the column plots.
Columns above a line represent crystal clear clarity at that viewing distance.
For devices between 6 and 7-inches in size, the crisper density of QHD is just about noticeable when holding phones closer than 30cm from your eyes. The key takeaway is that higher resolutions are only just noticeably better on the very largest phones held very close up. However, most consumers probably don’t hold their smartphones so close. 30cm to 40cm is nearer to a typical handling distance so even FHD has you covered virtually regardless of device size at those sorts of distances.
It’s also worth noting that wider aspect ratio FHD+ displays found in modern devices sit as a nice middle ground between 16:9 FHD and QHD devices from previous years. At typical viewing distances, even large FHD+ phones end up right in the sweet spot where we’d struggle to notice any further increase in resolution. Hence why this display resolution has become increasingly popular in the past couple of years. The latest high resolutions found in the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra fall beyond our visual abilities even for very large mobile screens.
FHD+ is as good as your eye can see for all but the largest phones at very close viewing distances.
Another important point is the resolution of content viewed on your smartphone. The majority of video content streamed online is still 1080p (FHD), and in rarer instances perhaps even 4K. FHD and FHD+ is all you need to make the majority of streaming content look very good, albeit with black bars on FHD+ models. QHD or 1440p content is much rarer, plus 1080p and 4K doesn’t scale nicely to this resolution. Hardware or software processing is required to scale content to a QHD resolution, with consumes some power and doesn’t quite look as good as viewing at the content’s native resolution.
In a nutshell, the move to QHD and beyond is a case of diminishing returns and it definitely has its share of trade-offs too. Particularly when it comes to battery life.
Quad HD vs Full HD: battery life trade-offs
The biggest trade-off with the move to Quad HD and QHD+ has increased power consumption. There aren’t just more pixels on the display to power, but your phone’s graphics and display processors have to work harder too. Check out our dedicated test where we compared the battery drain of QHD vs FHD displays.
In summary, powering a Quad HD display consumes roughly 12 percent more power than Full HD. Using Quad HD has the biggest drain on battery life when playing games, followed by watching videos. Flicking through the UI and browsing the web is less strenuous on processing components, and thus less affected by higher resolutions. As you’d expect, setting your phone to a lower display resolution helps improve battery life but not always by a lot. This is mostly beneficial for lowering power consumption when playing games, as the display still has to power those extra panel pixels regardless.
Fixed Full HD hardware saves more battery than lowering the resolution of a Quad HD panel.
Of course, the growth of high refresh rate display is another improvement to image quality that knock-on effects for battery life. The trend in 120Hz refresh rates is placing additional drain on our small smartphone batteries. When it comes to making power consumption trade-offs, the feel of a fast refresh rate is more tangible than the slightly sharper image of FHD versus QHD. Typically speaking, picking Full HD over Quad HD adds over 30 minutes to screen on time or possibly even more for gamers. Although this varies a lot from handset to handset.
Manufacturers disable Quad HD anyway
Although we still see very high-resolution displays on modern spec sheets, most consumers probably aren’t using their phones at that resolution. At least not out of the box.
Although many high-profile flagships boast QHD+ capable displays, they are actually set to an FHD+ resolution in software out of the box. Just check the display settings on virtually any high-end smartphone release, such as the Galaxy S23 Ultra, and you’ll find the phone set to FHD+ by default.
While flagship smartphones continue to offer QHD+ hardware, many manufacturers have decided that setting their displays to FHD+ offers the best balance of visual clarity and power consumption. The fact that few consumers have noticed the downgrade from QHD to FHD+ is a testament to how small the difference really is. That said, Quad HD is a nice feature to have if you really want your display to look its very best. Still, you’d generally find a bigger difference from HDR display technology than QHD’s slight sharpness bump.
What’s the minimum you should buy in 2023?
If you’re spending money around and above the $1,000 mark then you should expect nothing but the very best Android phone. For a large phone nearing the 7-inch mark, that would be a QHD+ display combined with a big battery so that you can run the panel at its full resolution for the whole day. Otherwise, FHD+ is the best option for more traditional smartphones below 6.5-inches in size.
That said, resolution certainly isn’t the be-all and end-all of display quality. In fact, 120Hz refresh rates as well as classic metrics such as gamma accuracy, display color gamut coverage, and white balance, have a bigger overall impact on image quality. Full HD+ is more than clear enough in the vast majority of use cases and for all but the largest smartphones. In fact, it’s pretty close to the older QHD resolution and most flagship phones now default to FHD+ out of the box anyway.
The industry seems to have settled on FHD+ resolutions as the sweet spot. But do you agree with that assessment?
Is a Quad HD display an essential smartphone feature?
QHD vs HD: COMPLETE Comparison
When deciding on a new laptop, computer monitor, tablet, smartphone or projector, you have to navigate a maze of sometimes quite confusing names and abbreviations.
In a lot of cases, those abbreviations even share letters. It’s important to understand what those mean and how they relate to the display you’re going to get.
Two common types of displays are HD and QHD. HD displays have a resolution of 1280×720, while QHD displays have a resolution of 2560×1440.
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What Is HD?
High Definition, or HD, displays, have a resolution of 1280×720 and take their name from High Definition Television. HD displays offer twice the horizontal resolution and 1.5 times more vertical resolution compared to VGA/NTSC displays.
HD displays became common in the early days of HDTV, when most broadcasts were limited to 720p video.
HD vs Full HD
The next step up in resolution from HD, displays that support Full HD have a resolution of 1920×1080.
That offers three times more horizontal resolution and more than twice the vertical resolution offered by VGA/NTSC.
What Is QHD?
A QHD, or Quad High Definition, display has a resolution of 2560×1440, which is four times the resolution of a High Definition display. They first began to appear in the mid-2000s as the next step up, and gained in popularity as a less expensive alternative to a 4K monitor.
QHD, also sometimes referred to as WQHD, has also become a common standard in the gaming world. The Xbox Series S can support QHD resolution at 120 frames per second, for example.
Other uses of QHD
While there are some resolutions that have pretty standardized names, that isn’t always the case. For example, more than one resolution is referred to as QHD. The name usually refers to 2560×1440 displays, but not always. Displays with a resolution of 3200×1800 are called QHD+ or sometimes simply QHD, as well.
The QHD+ comes from the fact that it has four times the resolution of an HD+ display, which is 1600×900.
Everyone already has a pretty good understanding of the difference in clarity and resolution between Standard Definition and High Definition video. You can see more detail and motion can appear more realistic and lifelike.
In the case of a display, there are a few ways that having a higher resolution can be helpful.
More Screen Space
The first and most obvious benefit is that the higher resolution a screen, the more things can fit on it — within reason, of course.
Because there are four times as many pixels in a QHD display, things can be rendered smaller and with as much or more detail.
Better Pixel Density
One of the reasons images can look better on a higher resolution screen is because there are more pixels per inch. The more densely packed pixels are, the more realistic and lifelike a photo or video can appear.
To show how much this can affect things, imagine three laptops, each with 14” screens. The first laptop has an HD display with a resolution of 1280×720 and a pixel density of 104 pixels per inch.
The second has a Full HD display with a 1920×1080 resolution, and its pixel density checks in at 157 pixels per inch. The final has a QHD display with a resolution of 2560×1440.
Its pixel density is 209 pixels per inch.
Higher density displays are excellent for photo and video editing, because they allow a higher resolution version of the image or video to be displayed while still leaving room for the user interface.
Choosing Between HD vs QHD
Now that you understand the difference between HD and QHD resolutions, you might wonder why you should choose one over the other. Generally speaking, you should go for higher resolution laptops and monitors, and with Full HD monitors being quite inexpensive, you should avoid HD monitors and laptops.
There is a place where choosing HD might make as much or more sense. That’s when it comes to home theater projectors.
If you’re planning to leave a projector in one place, then going for a larger, higher resolution projector can make sense. If you move your projector regularly or if you travel with it, then HD might make sense.
There are a number of reasonably priced, highly portable HD resolution projectors on the market.
The next step above QHD, which is sometimes also referred to as 2K, is UHD 4K, which has a resolution of 3840×2160. That is four times the resolution of Full HD, about the same relationship as QHD to HD.
In the QHD or 2K display realm, you can also consider UWQHD, also sometimes just called WQHD, which has an aspect ratio of 21:9 and a resolution of 3440×1440. That offers a view about a third wider that QHD.
Another ultrawide option is UWQHD+, sometimes also called WQHD+ or even UW4K. It also has a 21:9 aspect ratio, with a resolution of 3840×1600.
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Why should no gamer be left without QHD and UHD?
UHD and QHD are the future of the entertainment industry and we as gamers should start to consider these impressive resolutions. We explain why.
What is QHD?
QHD is four times the resolution of the old HD 720p standard, which means you can fit the same number of pixels as four HD displays on a QHD display of the same size, namely 2560 x 1440 pixels.
With a stunning resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels, Quad HD (QHD) offers superb picture quality and clarity in every detail. This is a new level of gameplay!
What is UHD?
When 1080p came on the market, it was a revolution at the time. But things have changed rapidly since then, and now we have something better, four times better, to be exact, and we call it UHD.
UHD resolution is 3840 x 2160 pixels. To get a better idea, remember that a Full HD 1080p image only has a resolution of 1920 x 1080. A UHD screen has about 8 million pixels, which is about four times more than a 1080p screen can. These images are unlike anything you’ve ever seen and are ready to open up a whole new world for you.
What’s the difference?
The difference between QHD and UHD is the resolution: QHD offers a screen resolution of 2560 x 1440. UHD, on the other hand, is 3840 x 2160. However, both have a 16:9 aspect ratio.
The Future of Gaming
Regardless of your choice, both of the above options represent a significant breakthrough over previous generations. With QHD or UHD, you will never miss a single important detail in your game.
Any of these resolutions will make your game incredibly realistic and immerse you in a whole new world. QHD and UHD offer such a sharp image that you won’t be able to see individual pixels with the naked eye, as if you were sitting next to a lower-resolution regular monitor. And the visual effects of the games will simply amaze you. Once you experience QHD or UHD, you can’t go back.
But QHD and UHD don’t just take picture to the next level. These high-quality resolutions are also critical for every competitive gamer, as you won’t lose sharpness like you would when playing on a regular monitor.
Why QHD and UHD shouldn’t go unnoticed by gamers
In a football simulation, you’ll be able to follow the ball better than ever before, and not just watch the many pixels flying across your monitor.
Enemies will be more clearly visible in shooting games, which in itself is an important advantage. So no matter what game you’re playing, a QHD or UHD monitor is unbeatable when it comes to the level of enjoyment as well as the perfection of the gaming experience.
All in all, UHD is the latest resolution that will amaze you like no other before. It guarantees picture clarity and a truly realistic game. Although QHD isn’t as high resolution as UHD, players should consider it if they don’t want to be left behind.
Conventional hardware cannot run at this resolution without a significant drop in frame rate. The overall efficiency was far behind modern standards. Developments over the past few years have resulted in the ultimate 4K solution for gamers.
WQHD, QHD, 2K, 4K and UHD: what’s the difference?
If you go to the store to buy any device with a display, ranging from a smartphone to a TV, you will come across some rather confusing terms and abbreviations that you must be able to decipher in your head in order to understand which one. screen resolution you are dealing with.
This is the only way you can tell one model from another. In this article, we want to explain the differences in standard terms and screen resolutions that are used to describe these devices. Do not forget that the clarity of the image, the number of pixels per inch, depends on both the screen resolution and its size.
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In other words, a picture on a 2560×1440 pixel display will look very sharp on a smartphone, but won’t when stretched on a 40 or 50 inch TV screen. Just keep in mind that more pixels don’t always equate to a sharper image, as the size of the image also matters.
HD and FULL HD
Let’s start at a lower level: HD or High Definition. When the term first appeared, in relation to televisions it meant any display having 720 rows of pixels or more, and usually corresponded to a screen with a resolution of 1280 × 720 pixels.
The Full HD level has already increased the number of rows to 1080 and corresponded, as a rule, to a resolution of 1920×1080 pixels. In the early years of HDTV, references to Full HD were found on both interlaced 1080i (interlaced) and progressive 1080p (progressive) TVs. Interlacing technology was a throwback to older generations of televisions, in which one field showed the even lines of the picture, and the next field displayed the odd lines, splitting each frame of the picture into two.
1080p progressive scan, on the other hand, draws the full picture for each frame and is therefore preferred. These days, you’ll almost always only see 1080p (unless «i» or «p» is mentioned at all). And if no letter is specified, then this most likely corresponds to a 1080p scan.
QHD, WQHD and 2K
Display resolution didn’t stay at Full HD for long, and the next step up the ladder was Quad High Definition, or QHD, 2560×1920 pixels, the standard for many flagship phones today.
You can fit four 1280×720 screens inside a QHD screen, which is why the word «Quad» is used, meaning a group of four similar objects.
Many phones are still using Full HD, and the question «can you see the difference on a 5″ or 6» screen? is controversial. This suggests that this feature of the phone definitely looks better on its specification sheet, which is why many phone manufacturers have gone for this improvement.
It is often confusing that a similar characterization is sometimes given to WQHD or Widescreen Quad High Definition to emphasize the 16:9 aspect ratio. Indeed, both WQHD and QHD refer to the same specification feature.
There is also a 2K resolution, sometimes specified by manufacturers, and technically it can refer to any display that has a large screen side of more than two thousand pixels (for example, if the screen has 2048 × 1080 pixels).
However, WQHD and QHD are also often labeled as 2K because they correspond to half the height and half the width of 4K. So there are three different designations for the same display resolution.
4K and UHD
4K resolution first appeared as a cinema standard at 4096 by 2160 pixels, hence its name 4K. But in consumer electronics it has evolved to 3840 by 2160 pixels, which doesn’t have 4,000 pixels in its specification, but is four times the resolution of Full HD (you can fit four Full HD screens into one 4K screen).
UHD (or Ultra High Definition) also means 3840 by 2160 pixels. Some people like to keep the distinction between 4K and UHD, but the term 4K is used so much for game consoles and TVs today that it’s used as a shorthand for 3840×2160 resolution.
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Many hardware manufacturers put the «4K UHD» label on their products to cover both options, while technically the «2160p» label could also be used to refer to both 4K and UHD.
There are so many pixels in 4K (over 8 million) that it makes no sense to pack them into a smartphone display (although some have tried). You will most likely see this resolution only on the screens of large monitors and TVs.
Other display resolutions
The resolutions described in this article are the main types that you may encounter in your online travels, but there are other resolutions, Wikipedia has a complete list of them. Some manufacturers are already offering 5K (5120×2880) or 8K (7680×4320), but it’s not clear if the human eye can really see the difference even on the largest screens? Therefore, whether these formats will ever actually be used remains to be seen.