Absorption spectrophotometry has been and still is the industry standard for detection in HPLC. Limit of detection (LOD) and linear dynamic range (LDR) are the primary performance requirements and have driven continuous improvement of spectrophotometric HPLC detectors. Recent advances in HPLC column technology have led to low flow-rate HPLC such as capillary HPLC and nanoflow HPLC and put higher demands on optical HPLC signal detection. However, fundamental principles in spectrophotometric HPLC detection have not been reviewed for many years. In particular the relationship between the detector’s signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) and band broadening needs to be re-evaluated. In this work, a new quantitative model is presented which allows the calculation of the trade-off made between chromatographic resolution and SNR in spectrophotometric HPLC detection. Modern optics flow cells based on total internal reflection are included and compared to conventional flow cells.