1600×900: Is it 720p, 1080p, or neither? Is it good for gaming?

When shopping for a monitor, one guarantee is that you will be inundated with numbers and terminology. From 720p 1080p and 4K, to 60 vs 120Hz, to aspect ratios and LEDs and LCDs, you can easily spend a day trying to choose a monitor, even if you already know the size display you want.

One monitor resolution, 1600×900, occupies an obscure middle ground between the more popular 720p and 1080p displays. For this reason, many users have questions about the 1600×900 resolution.

Here, we will provide an overview of 1600×900 monitors, and answer questions such as, “What is 1600×900?” while comparing 1600×900 vs 1080p and 720p.

Quick Overview: What is 1600×900?

To briefly explain the 1600×900 resolution, here is what you need to know.

1600×900 is a middle ground between the lower-resolution 720p format (called HD) and the higher-resolution 1080p format (called full HD or FHD).

1600×900 has more pixels than 720p and will provide higher contrast visuals. However, because video is rarely produced in native 1600×900 resolution, your video sources will usually need to be downscaled (if available in 1080p) or upscaled (if available in 720p).

Rescaling, regardless of the direction, can always result in the picture appearing to be lower contrast. 

Simply put, 1600×900 is “close” to full HD, but has slightly lower resolution.

What is resolution? Does it matter?

Here, we should back up and explain the actual meaning of 1600×900. These numbers refer to the number of pixels in the display. 

A “pixel” basically refers to the number of “dots” in the display. So, a 1600×900 display has 1600 pixels horizontally, and 900 pixels vertically. 

When we say 1080p, that refers to a 1920×1080 display. On the other hand, a 720p display has 1280×720 pixels.

Simply put, the more pixels a display has, the more detail can be displayed. So a 1080p display, which has more pixels, can display sharper detail than a 720p (or 1600×900) display, which has fewer pixels.

“Resolution” refers to the number of pixels in a display, with a larger number referring to a display with higher resolution. Using the above example, 1080p has higher resolution than 720p.

One thing that gets confusing here is that screen resolution and screen size don’t always go hand-in-hand. So, you could have a small screen with high resolution, or a large screen with low resolution.

The worst combination between screen size and resolution is when you have a very large screen with a very low resolution. In this case, the picture will appear blurry and unclear. When a small screen has a very high resolution, the opposite will be true – the picture will be crisp and clear.

Confused yet? Don’t worry, we will explain things further later in the article. 

As a general rule, any screen that is 12” or less will look fine regardless of resolution, whether it is 720p or 4K (which is a resolution that is even above 1080p). And for any screen larger than 22”, you should aim for a 1080p or better resolution, since 720p will have noticeably lower clarity.

However, this whole discussion is quite subjective, so if you ask 100 different gamers you will get 100 different answers.

One further general rule. If you are buying a new display, and if your budget allows for it, you should aim for a 1080p (or better) resolution. This is a high-quality resolution that will be compatible with almost any kind of gaming, streaming, or video playing.

Final thoughts here: we still need to answer the question, “Is higher resolution always better?” The answer is that higher resolution provides better video clarity, but it is also more taxing on your computer and GPU.

Similarly, a lower resolution display (such as a 720p rather than 4K) will provide less clear video, but it will also be less demanding on your GPU. This may mean that you will be able to game with a higher frame rate on a lower resolution monitor.

For some users, gaming looks better with a higher frame rate and lower resolution, rather than vice versa. If you have a high resolution monitor (such as 4K), it is always possible to downscale the video to a lower resolution. However, this negates the whole purpose of paying extra for a premium monitor.

Of course, the best case scenario is to have a high resolution monitor that has a high frame rate, but you need a powerful GPU in order to accomplish this.

Is 1600×900 better than 720p?

Generally speaking, 1600×900 is considered “better” than 720p. 720p has fewer pixels, therefore lower resolution and more blurred visuals.

A 1600×900 monitor can play 720p video without downgrading it, whereas a 720p monitor would need to downgrade 1600×900 video in order to play it.

Neither 1600×900 nor 720p can play 1080p, “full high definition,” video without downgrading.

However, there are 2 advantages to a 720p monitor over a 1080p.

First, the lower resolution of a 720p will put less strain on a computer and GPU. For a high-powered gaming rig, this won’t make a difference. But for budget gaming setups and laptops, you will be able to game with a faster frame rate and less risk of overheating when your display is 720p rather than 1600×900 or higher.

Second, the 720p format is more common. This means that more video (webcams, DVDs, streaming, etc.) is natively recorded in 720p format than 1600×900. 

When you play a 720p video on a 720p display, there will be no rescaling of pixels necessary.

On the other hand, when you play 720p video on a 1600×900 display, there will be an upscaling of pixels. And when you play 1080p on a 1600×900 display there will be a downscaling of pixels. This rescaling (whether upscaling or downscaling) forces the monitor to “guess” as to the correct location and data of each pixel. While modern displays can rescale pixels quite smoothly, the process can lead to some amount of blurring.

Is 1600×900 better than 1080p? 1600×900 vs. 1920×1080

Generally speaking, 1600×900 is considered “worse” than 1080p. 1080p has more pixels, therefore higher resolution and sharper visuals.

A 1600×900 must downgrade 1080p video in order to play it. On the other hand, a 1080p monitor can play 1600×900 video without any degradation of quality.

1080p is considered “full” high definition – sometimes referred to as FHD.

Further, because 1080p is such a common resolution, 1080p monitors and displays function seamlessly. Many webcams and streaming services play video in native 1080 format, so there is no rescaling of pixels necessary. Instead, a 1080p monitor can play the video exactly as it was made.

Similar to the above discussion (which compared 1600×900 vs. 720p), the 1600×900 resolution still has an advantage over 1080p even though 1600×900 is lower resolution. 1600×900 puts less strain on a computer and GPU. For a high-powered gaming rig, this won’t make a difference. But for budget gaming setups and laptops, you will be able to game with a faster frame rate and less risk of overheating when your display is 1600×900 rather than 1080p or higher.

Overall, many people consider the 1920×1080 resolution (called 1080p) perhaps the best balance between quality and affordability. For this reason, we recommend that most people purchase a 1080p monitor if their budget allows.

Is 1600×900 good for a gaming PC?

The 1600×900 resolution, despite lacking the crispness of a 1080p full HD monitor, is considered a decent format for gaming. The aspect ratio is still 16:9, similar to 1080p, so there won’t be concerns with stretched video or black bars.

However, 1080p is quickly becoming an industry standard, and will soon be considered an industry minimum. For this reason, we recommend choosing a 1080p (or better) monitor for gaming – if your budget allows. Many streaming services and webcams are moving towards 1080p and higher videos, so you run the risk of being left behind if you have a lower resolution monitor than this.

1600×900 is still a good budget-friendly option which will be less taxing on a GPU. The video quality is decent, and the difference between 1600×900 and 1080p may not even be noticeable on screens smaller than 15”.

Is 1600×900 full HD?

1600×900 is sometimes called HD+, to distinguish it from 720p resolution (which is occasionally called HD). However, 1080p is the resolution that is considered FHD, or “full” HD. Therefore, 1600×900 is not full HD.

Final Thoughts

To oversimplify a complicated (and subjective) discussion, we will conclude like this: if your budget allows you to purchase a 1080p monitor, be sure to purchase a 1080p or higher resolution monitor.

However, if you already have a 1600×900 monitor, or if your budget doesn’t allow you to buy a full HD monitor, don’t fear! A 1600×900 display is fully capable of streaming videos, watching movies, and even competitive gaming

If the display is larger than 22”, you will probably notice the blurriness of this low-resolution format. But for smaller screens, there isn’t a huge difference between 1600×900 and 1080p. So a 1600×900 display may be a good way to save some money while also putting less strain on your GPU.