HD vs Full HD – What’s The Difference?

When picking a new display, the resolution is usually the first entry on its specification sheet that you’ll take a look at, and with good reason – with a higher resolution, you get more screen real estate and higher-quality visuals, so it’s obvious why it’s a priority feature for many.

In 2020, you’ll encounter a fair number of labels: HD, Full HD, Quad HD, Ultra HD, 4K, 8K, and more. And while high-resolution displays are becoming increasingly more common, the lower resolutions still have their place in the hardware world, even today.

So, in this guide, we’ll briefly compare HD and Full HD, two resolutions that you’ll still find in a number of laptops and TVs, and see which of these two fares better and if either of them is actually worth considering in 2020.

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What Is HD?

720p HD logo

HD, also sometimes referred to as 720p or HD Ready (though the latter term was mainly used back when high-definition displays were only entering the market), commonly refers to displays with a resolution of 1280×720 pixels. This is just shy of one million pixels in total.

However, HD today also covers other similar resolutions such as 1280×800 or 1366×768, and although these have their own display standard labels, those are seldom used in common parlance and are often just thrown under the HD/720p umbrella.

Today, good old HD is obsolete when it comes to gaming monitors and, as mentioned above, you’ll only find it in some affordable TVs and laptops today.

What Is Full HD?

1080p Full HD logo

Full HD, also commonly known as 1080p and sometimes also referred to simply as “HD”, indicates a resolution of 1920×1080 pixels, which is roughly two million pixels in total – about twice that of what 720p offers.

Similar to 720p, 1080p is also slowly descending into irrelevance as Full HD TVs are now generally outnumbered by 4K and even by 8K models, although 1080p is still very popular when it comes to laptops and it still has its place in the world of gaming monitors, be it budget monitors or monitors with high refresh rates (e.g. 144Hz or 240Hz).

HD vs Full HD – Which Should You Choose?

So, if you’re thinking about getting a 720p or 1080p display in 2020, you’re likely considering a budget laptop or a budget TV. So, what should you keep in mind when choosing between these two resolutions in that context?

Screen Real Estate

Comparison of Screen Resolution

If you’re buying a laptop for work, then the amount of screen real estate that you get should definitely be on top of your priority list.

What “screen real estate” indicates is the amount of space available on the screen for an application to provide output. So, since Full HD offers twice as many pixels as HD does, this means that it also offers twice as much screen space for applications to use, even though the physical size of the screen might be the same.

Needless to say, a higher display resolution can make multitasking a lot easier, and reading documents in a higher resolution wouldn’t require nearly as much scrolling as reading them in a lower resolution would.

Gaming

Online gaming

If you’re getting a laptop for gaming or plan on hooking up a console to the TV, then there are several factors to keep in mind.

If you intend on playing games on a laptop, then it’s important to keep in mind that gaming in a higher resolution requires more hardware power. And if you’re buying a budget laptop with an HD display, there likely won’t be that much hardware power to speak of.

Namely, such a laptop is pretty much guaranteed to rely on integrated graphics rather than on a discrete graphics card, and very few integrated graphics solutions can come close in terms of performance. As such, a budget laptop that’s not designed for gaming will likely not fare well when it comes to newer 3D AAA games, at least not unless you lower some settings and, potentially, even the resolution.

On the other hand, if you intend on getting a TV to use with a console, it’s worth keeping in mind that the latest 9th generation of consoles – the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X – will be focusing not on HD, not on Full HD, but on 4K. As such, pairing up these $400-$500 consoles up with a 720p or a 1080p TV would feel like a waste of the considerable graphics processing power that they pack.

Granted, the Xbox Series S is always there as the $300 affordable option that will render games in 1440p rather than in 4K, so it is a good choice for 1080p TV owners who don’t intend on upgrading in the next couple of years, but this raises the next question…

Future-Proofing

HD vs Full HD vs Quad HD vs Ultra HD
Neither HD or Full HD are future proof resolutions

Finally, there’s the matter of future-proofing and, as we’ve mentioned before, both of these resolutions are quite dated in 2020.

Now that even consoles are tackling 4K and with more and more content being available in 4K, 720p displays are very dated and 1080p isn’t faring too well either.

So, if you’re concerned with the future, it might be a better idea to save up a few more bucks and get a TV with a better display. After all, you can get a 4K TV for under $300 now, which is much less than what they used to go for only a few years back!

As for laptops, well, it’s a bit more complicated than that since there’s more hardware involved than just the display. If you’re pinching pennies and trying to get the most powerful internals that you can (e.g. a better CPU, more RAM, more storage, etc.), then a lower-resolution display could be worth the trade-off.

On the other hand, if you only intend on using the laptop for casual activities such as web browsing and watching movies or for light office work, then a better-looking display with more screen real estate would be preferable. 

In any case, we suggest checking out our selection of the best gaming laptops of 2020 if you’re shopping for one at the moment.

Conclusion

All in all, though it may feel like they were top-of-the-line only yesterday, HD and Full HD are seriously dated in 2020.

Sure, one million or two million pixels may sound like a lot, but when you consider the fact 4K boasts over eight million pixels, it sort of puts it in perspective just how much more detailed an image you’d be looking at and how much more screen real estate you’d be getting.

As mentioned above, if you’re getting a new TV, 720p and 1080p are really only viable as budget options for those who can’t afford anything more expensive. But even then, it’s worth keeping in mind just how much cheaper 4K TVs are now relative to how expensive they used to be, as it makes the value of cheaper HD and FHD TVs very dubious, especially if you want something more future-proof.

As for laptops, HD is still perfectly viable on smaller screens, though we’d recommend Full HD over it any day of the week – again, seeing as 1080p isn’t that much more expensive in comparison, although as mentioned above, more goes into choosing a laptop than just the display resolution.

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Samuel Stewart
Samuel Stewart

Samuel is GamingScan's editor-in-chief. He describes himself as a hardcore gamer & programmer and he enjoys getting more people into gaming and answering people's questions. He closely follows the latest trends in the gaming industry in order to keep you all up-to-date with the latest news.

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