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2K vs. 4K: What’s the Difference Between These Display Resolutions?

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2K vs. 4K: What’s the Difference Between These Display Resolutions?

If you’ve shopped for a computer monitor or TV lately, you’ve probably been overwhelmed by a number of phrases like 2K vs. 4K resolution. Don’t worry, the terminology may be complicated, but it’s pretty simple. Higher numbers indicate the TV has a better picture. So a 4K TV actually has twice the number of individual pixels than a 2K one.

Of course, 8K TVs appear to be right around the corner, but you shouldn’t worry about that just yet. Instead, you should make sure that you can benefit from either 2K or 4K content. Not to mention, TV quality varies immensely between models, so you really need to look at more than just the resolution. If you’re upgrading from an older 1080p TV, then you are sure to be blown away by either 2K or 4K.

2K vs. 4K: Side-By-Side Comparison

infographic for 2K vs 4K
2K Screen4K Screen
Resolution2,560 x 1,4403840 × 2160
Found InMonitorsTVs and Monitors
Panel TypesTN, VA, IPSTN, VA, IPS
Best ForComputer MonitorTV, Gaming, Monitor
ShorthandQHDUHD

2K vs. 4K: What’s the Difference?

As mentioned, 2K and 4K refer to the quality of a TV screen or monitor. These devices create a picture by putting together thousands (or millions) of individual light known as pixels. If you look very closely, you can see the individual dots. The further away you are from the screen, the less noticeable these dots will be. This quality is known as resolution, which denotes the exact number of pixels on a screen.

2K

The exact resolution of a 2K monitor is about 2,560 x 1,440. This is assuming the screen is a standard size, which most TVs and computer monitors will be. A 2K monitor like this ASUS TUF Gaming 27 2K HDR Gaming Monitor, will have about twice as many pixels as a 1080p one. It is rare to see a 2K TV but computer monitors are readily available in this resolution. Additionally, you would see a benefit from using a 2K screen with 4K content, but not the other way around.

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ASUS TUF Gaming 27″ 2K HDR Gaming Monitor (VG27AQ)
$306.10
  • 27-inch WQHD (2560x1440) IPS gaming monitor.
  • ASUS Extreme Low Motion Blur Sync (ELMB Sync) Technology.
  • Fast 1ms response time.
  • DisplayPort 1.2 and Dual HDMI (V2.0).
  • 1440p resolution.
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01/17/2024 07:59 am GMT

4K

Moving on to 4K screens, this is what you commonly find on most new TVs. Larger TVs over 40 inches nearly all have 4K screens. The good news is that with its widespread adoption, 4K TVs like this Toshiba 43-inch Class C350 Series LED 4K UHD Smart Fire TV have become very cheap. However, computer monitors are not nearly as cheap, and you may even find 55 inch TVs for the same price as a 32 inch 2K computer monitor.

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Toshiba 43-inch Class C350 Series
  • Regza Engine 4K (Toshiba’s high-performance 4K engine)
  • PQ technology combined with a high-quality LCD panel
  • 4 times the resolution of Full HD
  • Dolby Vision HDR and HDR10
  • DTS Virtual
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(Please note that as of July 19th, 2023, this product is currently unavailable on Amazon. Please check back later.)

Previous Resolutions

To put things into perspective, it’s important to take a look back at older resolutions that you may be familiar with. One of the most common is 480p, which you’d find on older tube TVs. This is also the quality of standard cable signals you would have if not for an HD cable box.

The other two resolutions you’ve probably heard of are 720p and 1080p. There is also 1080i, which is somewhat in between, but that gets even more complicated. Both 720p and 1080 have been the standard for over a decade it’s also what you will find on older flat-screen TVs. This is also what Blu-Ray discs are capable of delivering.

SD vs HD
You can see a big difference between the older 1080p resolution and 4K resolution.

Terminology

Now is a good time to discuss the various terms associated with 2K and 4K. The most common phrase you will hear is ultra-HD or “UHD,” which refers to 4K screens. On the other hand, 2K screens are called quad high-definition “QHD.” We use these terms across most brands and models, including both TVs and computer monitors.

Another important thing to look out for is high definition “HD,” which means a screen is either 720p or 1080p. Finally, the last phrase to look out for is full-high definition “FHD,” which is 1080p. The computer monitor market is where you will most likely come across these terms, but a TV or monitor won’t necessarily use these phrases and could instead just have the numbers.

To make matters even worse, some places use the term 2K for 1080p screens. The reason is that the horizontal pixel count on these screens is approximately 2,000 wide. The more common use of 2K is for QHD and is designed to represent half the pixels of a 4K screen.

8k 4k ultra high quad full HD TV monitor high resolution
Ultra high-definition, or UHD, refers to 4K screens, while 2K screens are called quad high-definition, or QHD.

How Does Size Affect Resolution

The relationship between a screen’s size and resolution is pretty simple. The resolution is the number of pixels, but you usually only hear the vertical pixel count (1080, 1440, 2160). There is also a set number of horizontal pixels that is based on the screen’s aspect ratio.

The main takeaway regarding resolution is that it is a fixed number of pixels sent by a processing device. For instance, a standard Blu-Ray can only provide 2,048 x 1,080 pixels. If you get a TV with a higher resolution, it will upscale the image to take up the entire screen.

Monitors vs. TVs

If you’ve priced TVs and computer monitors lately, you’re probably wondering what’s the difference besides price. Well, there is actually a lot different. Modern TVs have to process an image and typically upscale them to take up the entire screen. This causes a slight delay, which isn’t a major problem when watching a show or movie.

The problem occurs when playing video games, where you may notice a slight delay between pressing a button and your input causing a reaction. Computer monitors are designed to have less lag, but they also do not have inputs for coaxial or smart features.

2K vs. 4K: 5 Must-Know Facts

  • 4K has a significantly better picture than 2K.
  • Most TV shows and movies only display in 1080p.
  • There are other factors you should consider like panel quality.
  • 8K TVs are coming, but you shouldn’t wait for them.
  • Video games and streaming are the best ways to get 4K content.

2K vs. 4K: Which One Is Better? Which One Should You Use?

Now that you know all about 2K and 4K, it is time to pick the right one. The obvious answer is that 4K is better, but it may not be the best choice depending on your budget. For TVs, 4K will nearly always be the right choice because 2K options are pretty limited to nonexistent. However, 2K monitors are a great choice for most people since it takes a lot of graphics processing power for 4K.

Consider Usage

You are probably trying to choose a resolution for either a TV or a computer monitor. Each of these has its own unique considerations. For TVs, 4K content is becoming a lot more common, with streaming services like Netflix, Disney+, and even Amazon offering some shows in 4K. However, if you have cable or satellite, those shows will usually max out at 1080p.

Video games are one use that goes crosses over between TVs and monitors. Consoles like the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X can output most games in 4K. On the other hand, PCs will be limited depending on your graphics card. It is very difficult to run a game at 4K on a PC, and some games may easily run in 4K, while others will stutter like crazy.

However, you can greatly benefit from a 2K or 4K monitor even if you are doing desk work. Larger monitors like 32 inches can get very pixelated at 1080p. This means that the text will begin to look blurry. This is why you will definitely want to get a 2K monitor for any monitor over 27 inches and 4K for monitors over 34 inches. That will provide a great picture without the screen turning into a blurry mess.

Find a Distance

A good-looking screen is relative to the distance you sit from it. So a big-screen TV doesn’t necessarily need to be 4K if you are watching from ten feet away. However, you don’t want to get a 720p monitor if you are sitting a foot away from it. If you do choose to use a large TV, such as a 40 inches for a computer monitor, just remember that you will want to have 4K.

Price

The last consideration is the price which hinges on whether you are looking at monitors or TVs. As far as TVs go, there really aren’t any 2K options. However, the price between 1080p TVs and 4K ones usually isn’t very much. Monitors are a completely different ballgame because a 2K one will cost significantly less than a 4K one.

Beyond just 2K vs 4K, there are a few different factors that will also affect image quality. Both TVs and monitor panels come in three varieties known as TN, VA, and IPS. A TN panel is usually considered the lowest quality, with IPS being the highest, and the price goes up accordingly. Panels are made in several resolutions, so you can get a 4K VA or a 1080p IPS. Therefore it is best to compare each screen type to see what you like best.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use a TV as a monitor?

Most of the time, you can use a TV as a monitor without any problem. The only time where you may experience issues is when gaming.

Is 4K more expensive than 2K?

Generally speaking, 2K computer monitors are cheaper than 4K ones. However, monitors come with different panels, and a 2K IPS monitor could be more expensive than a 4K VA monitor.

Can you get a smart monitor?

Most monitors on the market do not have any smart functionality, although, there are a few that have streaming capabilities. Otherwise, you can hook a streaming device, like a Roku, to a regular monitor’s HDMI port.

Can you plug a laptop into a 4K monitor?

Yes, but you may have to adjust the computer’s output resolution to make the image appear correctly.

Does Apple make monitors?

Yes, Apple does have standalone monitors, which you can pair with any of their Macs, or even a PC.

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