1080p vs 1440p vs 4k: Comparing screen resolutions

The resolution on any display device is taken from the number of pixels on the width of the device against the height. This is where you get values such as 1080p, 1440p, and 4k with each of them having a different number of pixels that are used to create the image on your screen.

A 1080p display has 1920 by 1080 pixels which gives you a total of 2,073,600 pixels. A 1440p display has 2560 by 1440 pixels to give you a total of 3,686,400 pixels. The difference between these two resolutions is 1,612,800 which is a 44% difference between 1440p and 1080p.

4k, on the other hand, is a different kind of beast by itself as it has 3840 by 2160 pixels to give you a total of 8,294,400 pixels. This is about 4 times the pixels found on a 1080p display and 2.25 times the number of pixels on a 1440p device.

With each increase in the total number of pixels, the clarity, and level of detail of an image increase.

But to help you choose the best resolution on your next display device, especially on TVs or computer monitors, we should look at each of these resolutions and the buying consideration to make.

Understanding 1080p, 1440p and 4k resolutions

1080p

As we mentioned above, 1080p resolution stands for 1920 by 1080 pixels where the 1080 height pixels are used to represent this resolution on a display with an aspect ratio of 16:9.

1080p is also known as Full HD, FHD, or Full High Definition and is most commonly found on TVs, projectors, and computer monitors.

Full HD displays have double the number of pixels found on 720p devices and is now considered the standard entry-level resolution on any display by today’s standards. Unless your budget is limited getting a 1080p monitor, projector, or TV is not recommended as display technologies continue improving.

1440p

1440p is 2560 by 1440 pixels and is also known as QHD, Quad High Definition, or WQHD as it is usually found on a 16:9 aspect ratio.

This resolution is mainly found on computer monitors and laptop screens and is considered the sweet spot between 1080p and 4k. 1440p is mostly used for computer gaming but can also be found in gaming consoles such as Xbox One S and PS4 pro.

If your budget is not enough for a high-quality 4K monitor, getting a 1440p monitor or laptop should be your next logical alternative.

4K resolution

Usually, 4K is used to represent 3840 by 2160 pixels and is the most common 4K resolution on displays found in today’s market.

This has become a popular resolution but there is often confusion as to what 4K truly represents. It can also be used to stand for 4096 by an unknown number of pixels. That is a 13% difference between the number of the width pixels on the two 4K resolutions.

3840 by 2160 pixels is also known as UHD or Ultra-High-Definition while 4096 by an unspecified number of pixels is also known as True 4K or Cinema 4K.

UHD can be found on TVs, projectors, monitors, and laptops while True 4K is mainly found on projectors.

Now would be a great time to make a switch to 4K as it has become increasingly more popular with more content being produced in 4K and with the unveiling of the PS5 and Xbox X gaming consoles that are capable of reaching resolutions of up to 8K.

What is the difference between 1080p and 1080i or 1440p and 1440i

The difference between 1080p and 1080i or 1440p and 1440i comes between the “P” which stands for progressive and the “I” stands for interlaced. Both of them have the same resolution and the difference comes down to how the image is displayed on the screen.

On an interlaced display, the image is displayed by rapidly switching back and forth between odd and even pixels while a progressive display works by scanning and drawing each pixel multiple times a second. A progressive display produces a more stable and higher quality image when compared to an interlaced display which is known to create a flickering effect.

How to choose between 1080p, 1440p and 4K

There are different considerations to make such as budget and your daily needs when choosing between 1080p, 1440p, and 4K resolution displays.

Each resolution has its benefits and drawbacks. More pixels do not always mean better as with an increase in resolution, the more power the display will draw to create images on the screen at the same frame rate.

Here are is what to consider before buying;

1.      Screen size and pixel density

Having more pixels on your display device is always unless it is too small to take advantage of the higher resolution. Screen size directly affects pixel density which is also known as PPI (pixel per inch) or DPI (dots per inch).

An example of this would be a 27” 1440p monitor with a pixel density of 108 which when compared to a 1080p monitor of the same size with a PPI of 81, will have a clearer and more detailed image. However, 4K at 27 inches would give you 163 pixels per inch which will not only have more details but is overkill at this size.

To take advantage of a 4K resolution, you need a larger monitor that will give you an overall better experience.

Real estate is also a consideration of the different screen sizes. The higher the resolution, the more space you will have to work with on a monitor.

We can go back to our 4K 27-inch monitor and compare it to a 1080p monitor of the same size to help you understand better. In the case of a 4K display, you will have 4 times the space to work with as with a 1080p display meaning multitasking will be much easier as you can fit more windows on the monitor.

However, the downside is that at 27 inches, more real estate will diminish the size of your values making them virtually unreadable at certain points. You may be forced to scale your values for better readability.

This is why it is important to strike a core balance between resolution and screen size, especially for monitors and TVs.

2.      Refresh rate

The refresh rate is the number of times an image is regenerated on screen per second and is represented using Hertz or Hz. An example of this would be 144Hz which would mean that the image is regenerated 144 times a second to create smooth footage.

Choosing a display with the right resolution should strike a balance with the refresh rate. This is especially true for gaming monitors and gaming consoles for a smoother and better gaming experience.

Although the refreshing happens so fast on all refresh rates, your eyes can pick up significant changes in refresh rates, especially for competitive and fast-paced games such as Rocket League. For example, jumps from 60Hz to 120Hz, 120Hz to 144Hz, or 144Hz to 240Hz.

So how does this affect resolution? Most high-resolution displays tend to have lower refresh rates. This means that you can find a reasonably priced 1440p display with a higher refresh rate such as 144Hz but a 4K display that costs more at a refresh rate of 60Hz.

Having a UHD monitor with a low refresh rate will not make a big difference if you are experiencing stutter and causing you to miss shots in competitive games. You would rather get a 1440p monitor at 144Hz.

However, it also comes down to what you will be mainly using the display for.

3.      How you plan to use your display device

Whether you are a competitive eSport gamer, a graphic designer, a non-competitive gamer, or even an avid movie lover, you will need a display with a resolution and refresh rate that is tailored for your needs.

To a non-competitive gamer that mainly plays games such as Rise of the Tomb Raider for fun, a 4K monitor will be more important than a 240Hz refresh rate. Here the visuals will matter more than how fast the screen can refresh for an immersive experience. The same thing applies to a movie lover or a graphic designer.

However, for a competitive gamer where each microsecond matters, a 240Hz monitor at 1440p will be better than 120Hz at 4K.

4.      How much money you have to spend on a display (Budget)

Budget is the biggest determinant when it comes to choosing between 1080p, 1440p, or 4K displays.

However, it is always important to ensure that you are paying for your money’s worth and that you are still staying up with major technological trends. High-quality displays with better resolutions have increasingly become affordable.

With that said, I would recommend getting a display with a 4K resolution, especially for TVs but for a monitor the least I would recommend is 1440p.

You should also note that for a monitor, a higher resolution will also mean that your graphics card, CPU, and power supply unit should be powerful enough to handle that specific resolution.

Which is the best resolution for you?

Depending on what you plan to do, your personal preference, and most importantly your budget, ensuring that you get the right display for your needs will be of utmost importance.

Not one resolution can be a fit all for most people, but there are different products with different qualities in the market, and using the comparison guide above, you should be able to choose a display that will make sense for you.

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