Wondering how 900p compares to 1080p in real-world scenarios?
You can probably guess that 1080p resolution is better than 900p (1080 is bigger than 900, after all), but you’d be forgiven for not knowing how much better or why. There are so many display resolutions out there these days that it’s getting harder and harder to keep them all straight.
Generally, 1080p is better than 900p in terms of picture quality, content availability, ease of finding new 1080p monitors and TVs, and future-proofing. There’s more content made to fit 1080p, new game consoles automatically render video in 1080p at minimum. However, 900p quality is not bad and the drop-off often isn’t very apparent.
If you’re looking to livestream, play games on an older console, or just do everyday computer tasks, 900p may be the better choice over 1080p. 900p takes up less processing power and bandwidth, and you’ll often find that 900p monitors are cheaper than 1080p alternatives.
That’s the too-short answer. We’ll dive into more helpful specifics in this quick guide in order to cover everything you need to know about how these two resolutions stack up against one another for specific tasks and uses.
Pros and Cons of 900p & 1080p
- 1080p is about 30% more pixels than 900p for a clearer picture
- 1080p is the standard resolution for everything from streaming services to video games
- Easy to find monitors, TVs, and laptops with native 1080p resolution
- 1080P displays are more expensive than 900p displays
- 1080p requires more processing power than 900p
- Streaming in 1080p takes up lots of bandwidth for you and your viewers
- 900p is easier on your computer’s hardware than 1080p
- 900p is good for streaming and running games on older PCs
- Relatively minor loss in 900p picture quality compared to 1080p
- 900p has a lower picture quality than 1080p
- Not standard, can be challenging to find content in native 900p
- Rare resolution, difficult to find 900p monitors and TVs
Picking a monitor is easy when you’re planning to use it for school, work, or other everyday tasks. Spreadsheets and documents look mostly the same in 720p, 900p, or 1080p, and not even 4K resolution will make emails look interesting. A 900p monitor is just as good as a 1080p monitor of the same size.
Note: Our standard recommendation is that 1080p is acceptable on any monitor 27″ and below. For example, a 32-inch monitor (which is a good size for some things and bad size for others) won’t have good enough image quality at 1080p or below.
Whether you want a 900p display or a 1080p display depends on two things: Whether you’re gaming on console or computer and, if the latter, the power of your gaming rig.
Here’s a good example from a Youtuber showing a side-by-side of the quality differences you can expect with 900p and 1080p:
Rendering images in higher resolutions requires more processing power, so you may be forced to choose between resolution and framerate depending on the power of your PC.
If your gaming rig is decked out with the latest processor, tons of RAM, and a beefy GPU, you’ll want to go for a display with a high resolution and maximum framerate to match. We definitely recommending checking out our guide to the pros and cons of 144hz monitors if you’re looking to step up your competitive gameplay and what to push for higher FPS.
If your rig is older or built on a budget, on the other hand, you’ll want to think about what games you’ll be playing before buying a new display.
Slower-paced games like Civilization VI or Stellaris look just fine with a slower framerate, but you’ll want every FPS you can get if you’re blasting through Call of Duty: Warzone or pulling off frame-perfect reactions in Street Fighter V, in which case you’ll want to lower the resolution.
If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on a PlayStation 5 or an Xbox Series X—both of which are capable of outputting video in 1080p and even 4K—you’ll want to opt for a 1080p display over a 900p display of the same size.
Most consoles will be compatible with a 900p display, but newer ones will need to downscale their output to fit the screen. It’ll also be a lot easier to find a 1080p monitor capable of supporting high framerates than a 900p unit, and high FPS goes a long ways toward making your gaming experience feel fast and fluid.
By the way: We also have a guide to downscaling to 1080p on a 1440p monitor.
Previous generation consoles, on the other hand, will work just as well with a 900p display. Though the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are capable of rendering games in 1080p, their components aren’t powerful enough to maintain a steady framerate at 1080p during intense moments with lots of action and characters on screen.
In fact, the gaming industry had a dirty little secret during the previous generation: In the interest of maintaining a steady framerate, consoles automatically downscaled from 1080p to 900p when games became too taxing. So while you may not remember encountering 900p resolution, you’ve almost certainly experienced it if you’ve played any fast-paced games on the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One.
If your primary concern is how good your favorite movies and shows will look on a new TV or monitor, you’re typically better off going with the model with a higher native resolution. 1080p displays will produce images about 30% clearer than 900p displays of the same size, providing a more detailed, cinematic viewing experience, and they also come with the benefit of having a wide library of content designed to be watched in that resolution.
In spite of being halfway between 720p and 1080p, 900p never caught on as an industry standard for producers of TVs, monitors, or content. Most movies, shows, and even YouTube videos are made to be played in 720p, 1080, or even 4k, not 900p.
So while the magic of video scaling will let you play movies and shows on a 900p display, you might end up with a picture that looks slightly blurry or out of focus, and you may see some visual artifacts in the picture depending on the content’s original resolution and your display’s video scaler.
On the other hand, the difference in resolution between 1080p and 900p is only half as large as the jump from 720p to 1080p, so the difference in picture quality won’t be too extreme.
Most people can easily tell the difference between 720p and 1080p, but it can be hard to tell between 900p and 1080p without a side-by-side comparison. While you’re probably better off with a 1080p display, 900p will still deliver a fine viewing experience.
As counterintuitive as this may sound, it’s not a good idea to livestream game footage in 1080p or above. Take Twitch for example: Unless you’re an established partner, Twitch sets a bitrate cap of 6000kbps on your stream and doesn’t automatically provide transcoding options. Or, in other words, Twitch limits how much data you can send and may not let your viewers change the resolution of your stream.
A bitrate of 6000kbps seems like a lot, but it isn’t enough to stream content in 1080p at 60 FPS, let alone at higher resolutions or framerates, meaning your buttery-smooth gameplay will translate into a lower-FPS slog for your viewers.
Even worse, a lack of transcoding options means your viewers won’t be able to adjust the resolution, so many viewers with subpar internet connections won’t be able to watch your stream at all. Twitch actually recommends you stream at 900p or lower for these very reasons.
How do Display Resolutions Work?
To put it simply, a display resolution refers to the number of pixels that a screen can display at once. Fixed-pixel-array screens like plasma displays, liquid crystal displays (LCD), and OLED displays are made up of physical rows and columns of pixels, and the number of pixels determines the resolution.
The name of the resolution itself gives you a hint to how many pixels your screen can display. Take 1080p (Full HD) for instance: “1080” isn’t just a random number that sounds cool, it means your screen can display 1,080 rows of pixels at once. That only answers half of the question, however. For the other half you’ll have to look at your display’s aspect ratio.
The term aspect ratio may sound complicated, but all it measures is the width of your screen compared to its height. Most wide screen displays have a 16:9 aspect ratio—though there are some exceptions—meaning they’re about 1.777 times wider than they are tall.
Why does that matter? Well, if 1080p means 1,080 rows of pixels, and if there are about 1.777 times as many columns as rows, that means your screen has 1,920 columns of pixels. Multiply the number of columns and rows together and you get 2,073,600 pixels in total.
That’s right: Your 1080p TV’s picture is actually comprised of over two million tiny light-up dots turning on and off and changing colors many times a second. No wonder the detail is so nice and crisp.
That same math applies for any resolution in the 16:9 aspect ratio. If 1080p means 1,080 rows and 1,920 columns for a total of 2,073,600 pixels, then 900p means 900 rows and 1,600 columns for a total of 1,440,000 pixels.
It seems like 1080p means a lot more pixels than 900p (about 30% more, in fact), but does that mean 1080p is 30% better than 900p? Or is there more to it than just the number of pixels?
The last factor to take into account is your screen’s pixel density, or the number of pixels per square inch. More pixels means more detail, so the higher the number of pixels per inch (PPI), the better the picture will be on your display.
PPI hits a point of diminishing returns when the density passes a certain threshold, but in general a screen with a higher PPI will provide a better viewing experience than a larger screen with the same resolution. That’s why it seems like the picture is clearer on your smaller Full HD monitor than on the big flat screen Full HD TV in your living room.
Final Thoughts & Recommendations
Even though 1080p will result in a higher quality picture, there are still some obvious applications for choosing 900p.
For multimedia and pure picture quality in gaming, opt for 1080p, but don’t dismiss the potential positives of 900p if your PC lacks power or if you use your PC for simple tasks and won’t realize the full potential of 1080p.