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.

need4k-differenceclose

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

need4k-differencefar

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…

need4k-monitorsize

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.

need4k-tv

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!

7 comments

  1. If you’ve ever seen a 4k display with 4k video playing on, you’ll realize how mind-blowing the quality is vs. full HD. The problem is that the storage space required to hold 4k video is astronomical. I’m certain Apple will never have a 4k option on their iPhone unless they offer well over 100gb to start (or allow for external storage).

    Costs for the display’s will always come down, but to manage such enormous video files requires an overhaul of a lot of hardware.

  2. Typo in second paragraph. Should read “8 million pixels”. I’m using a 1440p monitor and it looks really good for a 27″ display. I think another bottleneck in mass 4K adoption is the processing power required to drive it, especially for gaming. Even the Titan has a hard time putting out constant frame rates at those kinds of resolutions. I’ve never seen a 4K display in person but I’m sure they look really good!

    • Yeah, sorry about that paragraph! Thanks for pointing it out. I’ll get the editor on that immediately.

      Also, great point about processing power. Gaming indeed succumbs to the GPU and memory’s ability to render at given resolutions. However, many people will probably be happy enough with watching movies and 3D films in 4K while gaming in 1080p/2K.

      Also, 27 inches and 1440p? That’s pretty awesome. I have the same size screen and 1080p and I can distinguish between pixels when sitting about a foot away. It’s a little bothersome at such closeness, but I sit like 3 feet from the computer, so I hardly notice any pixelation.

  3. There will always be the segment of users who just have to have the latest and the greatest. They want the bragging rights.

    Sooner or later we all will have 4k monitors and TVs, but by that time the 8k or 16k devices will be out. lol

  4. when we see the retina display from apple, 4k res is definitely worth of it and viewing distance is not that big concern. key is the OS. i think.

  5. that problem with pixelation will disappear with the years to come.
    As soon as you grow older you will have less problems with this pixels :)
    In my age I don’t need a 4K as I can’t even see the 2K pixels anymore

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