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What is HD? And Should I Care?

HD stands for High Definition. And High Definition is relative. Period. End of story.

That being said, there has become a “standard” for what High Definition means in our modern world, but to explain that we have to talk about pixels. Pixels are tiny squares that make up your computer, phone, or TV screen. They are told what color to be by your computer and then lit from behind so you can see them. In essence, they all come together on a miniscule level to make the images you see on your screen. So the more pixels you have, the “better” your screen will look. Or to put it another way, the more pixels you have, the less you will see said pixels which will create the illusion that the images you see on your screen are more “real” and less “digital”. Even though it’s all digital.

So back to HD. HD means one of two things. That your screen has 1280×720 pixels, or that it has 1920×1080 pixels. The size of your screen is irrelevant. The quality is irrelevant. HD only means that there are a certain number of pixels. And pixels can be any size.


One can imagine, then, that one could have a 5 inch HD display as well as a 50 inch HD display. And one would be correct. One would also be correct in assuming that the difference would be drastic, because in order to make a 50 inch display with the same amount of pixels, the pixels must be enlarged – drastically. This is why if you put your nose against a 50 inch TV, you can actually see the pixels, whereas on an iPhone 6 plus, you can’t, even though they have the same number of pixels.


So should you care? Yes. As a rule of thumb, more pixels is better. More pixels makes things look smoother and more “real”. But what matters more than more pixels is pixel density. A 50 inch TV with 500×700 pixels will look terrible, but a 3.5 inch screen on your phone will look just fine.
The point is: don’t be fooled by things that claim to be good because they are HD. Understand what the term actually means and you’ll be well on your way to screen happiness.

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