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What Makes Screen Resolution?

Gary from Kingwood, WV writes:

What determines the max screen resolution a PC can produce?

Hi, Gary.  Thanks for a really good question – and one that I’m sure more than one of Worldstart’s readers have been wondering about.

Probably the most basic factor is the resolution of the screen, or monitor, itself.  When you buy a new monitor, the screen resolution (which is the number of dots of resolution across and down the screen) should be printed on the product’s information sign, but can always be found on the box.

So the monitor here would be capable of 1080 (HD) resolution, because there are at least 1080 dots of resolution across the face of the monitor.

The next thing to look for is your video card.  If this is important to you – if you’re displaying HD video or playing visually complex games, like World of Warcraft – you want a fairly powerful video card.  All video cards are NOT created equal.  Some things to look for in a video card, if you want these things, is that it has its own on-board RAM and its own cooling fan.  The more powerful that these things are, the more that they tend to heat up; the more that they tend to heat up, the more that they tend to fail.  If you intend to link this computer out to a TV, you also want to look for an HDMI output.  DVI will work for video (you will need a DVI to HDMI adapter), but this method carries no sound.  The card pictured below is the GeForce GTX 560 with a gigabyte of RAM and an HDMI output.  It will set you back about two hundred dollars.

The last thing that will determine your resolution, if you don’t have a video card with on-board RAM, is the amount of RAM in your machine itself.  The more RAM that you have, the more stuff you can have open and running on your computer at any given time.  So if all of your RAM is being eaten up by the computer’s processes, you will have little left to display graphics.

Hope that this helps.

~Randal Schaffer