Do You Really Need 4K Resolution on Your Display?

1080p monitors were a thing of the future back when they were first introduced. Everyone was stashing up cash to buy one of these ultra-clear displays no matter what. Do we see the same with 4K? Not so much. But why, despite the efforts that many manufacturers have made to push 4K resolution, are they still not selling as well as 1080p displays? And, most importantly, is it really necessary to have a 4K display? These questions are perhaps some of the most commonly asked and poorly answered. That’s why I think we should take an effort to answer them!

Well, first of all, many displays that wear the 8.2 million pixels that 4K requires with pride are prohibitively expensive. To put the price into perspective, Samsung went through a painstaking effort to get a “cheap” 4K monitor out there, priced at $700. Sure, they’ll probably get cheaper, but why buy a $700 to $3000 4K monitor when you can buy a 1080p display for around $300 to $500?

The other reason 4K isn’t selling very well is because many people think they have a high enough resolution with 1080p. And they’re mostly right, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

If you’re using an HD monitor, turn the resolution down to 640×480 and walk away slowly from it. At what distance is one pixel indistinguishable from another? Depending on your monitor, you might even have to step out of the room to get any results. 1080p introduces over 2 million pixels, making it very difficult for you to distinguish them at a comfortable sitting distance. 4K resolution, with its 8,294,400 pixels, extends this capability even further. For some screen sizes, your nose could be touching the display and you’d still be unable to distinguish clearly from one pixel to the next.

To put this into perspective, let’s look at a close-up image of the pixels in 1080p vs. those found in 4K streams.

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But from a normal viewing distance, the difference would look more like this:

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Do you really need this? How close are you to your monitor? A couple of inches, or a few feet? If you’ve answered the latter (which I’m pretty sure you did), then you probably don’t need 4K resolution on your display. Notice how I said probably. And that’s because of…

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If you’re sitting a few feet away from a nearly 40-inch 1080p monitor, I’d bet you’d be able to distinguish the pixels from that distance. In such a case, 4K does the work of making sure that big monitors like these can display images with crystal-clear quality. This is a problem we’ve had, and one reason we don’t see many 30+ inch 1080p monitors, yet we see tons of 60-inch television sets at this resolution. It has to do with distance. Thanks to 4K, we will probably start seeing much bigger displays.

4K is both a necessary and superfluous technology. It depends on who you’re asking and, more importantly, what they plan to purchase. 4K is usually useless at anything below 30 inches (some would say 27). Here’s where it excels: Let’s say you’re replacing your 24-inch monitor with a 32-inch beast, but you still want to sit at the same distance as you did with that smaller model. If you don’t want to sacrifice any pixel density, you need 4K resolution.

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Most computers nowadays are equipped with HDMI ports (you shouldn’t be putting any higher-resolution equipment on anything else in the first place). This means that you can install basically anything that will connect to them, such as a 50-inch 4K TV. You’d end up paying a hefty price, but perhaps that’s something that’s worth it to you. You certainly don’t need to pay a premium on a monitor unless you’re using features specific to it (like nVidia 3D Vision or anything requiring a higher refresh rate than 60 Hz).

It’s time we hear your side of the story. Everyone has something to contribute, and your contribution is just as valid as anyone else’s. If you have something to add, or even a question about the subject at hand, please post a comment to continue the discussion!