Are 4k laptops actually worth it? We’ve got more than a few strong opinions to share with you! Some laptop manufacturing companies are pushing 4K monitors as the next best thing in mobile computing.
Does it make sense to buy a new laptop with 4K resolution? Should you stick with the lower resolution of a 1080p laptop? Should you switch to a desktop computer or add a second monitor?
Today we’ll dig into laptops with 4K display resolution and let you know if they’re actually worth it. Let’s jump into the specs between 1080p and 4K laptops.
Are 4K Laptops Actually Worth It? Side-by-Side Comparison
|Dell Latitude 3520||Dell XPS 15 9500 UHD+||Dell XPS 17 9720 UHD+|
|RAM||32.0 GB||16 GB||32 GB|
|CPU Speed||2. 8 GHz||5 GHz||5 GHz|
|Hard Disk Size||1 TB||1 TB||1 TB|
|Display Resolution Maximum||(1920 x 1080) pixels||(3840 x 2400) pixels||(3840 x 2400) pixels|
|Screen Size||15.6 inches||15.6 inches||17 inches|
|Pixels per inch||141||290||266|
|Pixel Pitch||0.179 mm||0.09 mm||0.0954 mm|
|Power Consumption (Display)||4.50 W||10.4 W||13.73 W|
|Weight||3.95 lbs||6 lbs||5.34 lbs|
|Size||14.2 x 9.5 x 0.71 inches||13.57 x 9.06 x 0.71 inches||9.76 x 14.74 x 0.77 inches|
|Battery Type||Standard: 41 WHr, 3-cell lithium-ion|
Option: 54 WHr, 4-cell lithium-ion
|Standard: 56 WHr, 3-cell “smart” lithium-ion.|
Option: 86 WHr, 6-cell “smart” lithium-ion
97 WHr, 6-cell, ExpressCharge, lithium-ion
|Battery Life||12 hours and 51 minutes||8 hours and 1 minute||8 hours and 29 minutes|
We selected three laptops manufactured by Dell for an easy side-by-side evaluation. It’s easy to find cheaper laptops and obscenely easy to find more expensive ones. We just selected three from the same manufacturing company. We could have just as quickly chosen ASUS, Acer, or Lenovo.
Are 4K Laptops Actually Worth It? What’s the Difference?
The difference between a “standard” laptop (defined by us as a laptop with 1920 x 1080 resolution) and a “4K” laptop (defined by us as a laptop with 3840 x 2400 resolution) is double the resolution. A 1080p display has approximately 2 million pixels. A 4K display has about 8 million pixels. That’s a big jump in pixels. Let’s look at how that impacts the laptop’s performance.
What Functions Will You Perform on the Laptop?
A laptop with 4K resolution has a lot of display horsepower hidden under the laptop’s “hood.” Do you need all that display? (Approximately six million pixels more than the 1080 display!)
Let’s explore functionality first. We’re gonna buzz through a few different applications for your laptop to help you determine if a 4K laptop is actually worth it for you.
Go directly to 1920 x 1080 display laptops. Immediately. Do not pause and dilly-dally at Amazon’s 4K resolution laptop section. You’ve been punted right out of the 4K laptop resolution discussion. Go now!
Email Is the Primary Task
Congratulations, you’ve also been punted to the 1920 x 1080 display laptop section along with the spreadsheet guru. (A higher resolution laptop monitor will help less than a trip to the eye doctor for a new glasses prescription.)
Web Surfing: What’s Happening With All the Latest Gossip and News Sites?
Well, now you’re starting to pique our interest level, but not too much. Save your cash and stick with the 1920 X 1080 display. You will notice little difference between J-Lo in 1080 and 4K.
Streaming (YouTube/ Netflix/ HBO Max/ etc.)
OK! Now you DO have our interest! If you plan to stream 4K content from the laptop to a TV with 4K display capabilities in 4K, you can make a (very slim) argument that you need a 4K display on your laptop to navigate the menus. (Like we said, slim.)
Streaming to a TV
Suppose you plan to stream content to a TV (USB-C display port from the laptop to an HDMI TV input port); you don’t need a laptop with 4K display capabilities. The TV’s display capability defines your laptop’s exported display capability. Remember to have HDMI 2.1 cables.
Streaming 4K Content to a Laptop
Time to talk business! You’ve got a 4K streaming plan, and you’re ready to rumble. Or are you? What’s the size of your monitor? The smaller the monitor, the closer the recommended distance between your eyes and the monitor. How close is “too close”? How far away is too far?
What’s the Correct Distance?
The recommended optimal distance to maximize the viewer’s experience (Visual Acuity Ideal Viewing Distance.) There are many different formulas to calculate how far away you should be from your television or monitor. A general rule of thumb is 1.5 multiplied by the diagonal size of the monitor (or television.)
|Size (Inches)||Resolution (Pixels)||Viewing Distance (in/ft)|
|Dell Latitude 3520||15.6||1920×1080||23.38 in (1.95 ft)|
|Dell XPS 15 9500 UHD+||15.6||3840 x 2400||12.38 in (1.03 ft)|
|Dell XPS 17 9720 UHD+||17||3840 x 2400||26.47 in (2.21 ft|
Placing the Dell XPS 15 9500 UHD+ approximately a foot from our eyeballs sounds less than ideal! (It sounds like a headache is right around the corner.) The lower resolution of the Dell Latitude 3520 gives a bit of breathing room with a recommended distance of approximately two feet.
We added a third option, a Dell XPS 17 9720 UHD+, which brings the optimal 4K viewing distance up to about 26.5 inches. (The larger laptops also add nearly $1,000 to the price tag.)
The overall goal of a laptop is portability, so there are no laptop models with screens larger than 17.3″. It isn’t easy to justify that a 4K laptop is actually worth it in relation to streaming content.
Where and How Will You Use the Laptop? Is a 4K Laptop Actually Worth It?
Defining where and how you plan to use the laptop is a crucial consideration before you purchase a computer. Sounds intuitive, but we know we’ve had more than one “uh-oh” moment after buying a laptop.
Battery Considerations: Life as a Non-Wall Hugger
How long will my battery last when I’m unplugged? Like every other laptop supplier, Dell is cautious in defining the battery operating time.
“Quote, Varies depending on operating conditions and can significantly reduce under certain power-intensive conditions.”
Look at the difference in power consumption between the 1080p and the 4K laptops. The rate of the battery discharge is directly related to the display resolution. 4K resolution is relentless in how much power it consumes.
Real-life users indicate that the actual 4K battery life under regular use is closer to five hours. Imagine if you use the laptop for 4K applications, like video editing, photo editing, or gaming?!?
Battery Considerations: Life as a Wall Hugger
Sometimes, we must hug a wall with our laptops to stay close to power. With a 1080p laptop, spending an entire day (not CPU/GPU intensive) away from a power outlet is feasible. That’s not feasible with a 4K laptop. (Which makes us question the entire premise!)
Are 4K Laptops Actually Worth It? When Should I Buy One?
We don’t live in a static world where we can always access a power outlet for our laptops. Sometimes it makes sense to have a laptop with a 4K display capability. Here are our top three situations that make a 4k laptop actually worth the investment.
- You perform a great deal of 4K video editing.
- You’re a gamer who wants to be mobile. (We get it. Just don’t play next to us at the coffee shop.)
- Photo editing. Bigger is better. You can’t edit what you can’t see.
Are 4K Laptops Actually Worth It? 6 Must-Know Facts
- You’ll pay a stiff premium for a laptop with an integrated 4K display.
- The 4K display will gobble your battery faster than sugar cookies disappear at a diabetic convention. Seriously though, the 4K display, in conjunction with a more powerful CPU and GPU, will burn through your laptop’s battery rapidly.
- Gaming isn’t all it’s cracked up to be on a laptop with a 4K display. It would be best if you coughed up extra cash to have a premium graphics card for 144Hz gameplay.
- If you need to perform 4K image editing, photo editing, or 4K video editing, a laptop with a 4K display makes perfect sense. Suppose you need to be mobile. You are showing content to a client at their place of business. (Having spent years traveling worldwide to visit clients, the laptop display size is a trade-off. A bigger display is often easier for the client to “see” but is so big and painful to lug around in a shoulder bag during transportation on trains, taxis, and airplanes. Just saying.)
- The working distance is a big deal. Who wants to work with a 15.6 inch 4K laptop display 12 inches from their face? The optimal working distance of a 1080-resolution laptop is closer to 25 inches. You can bump to larger 4K display sizes, like 17 inches, but the increase in display size can quickly increase the price by an additional $500.
- Speaking of cost, a laptop with a 4K display can run anywhere from $500 to $1500 higher than a laptop with 1080 resolution.
Are 4K Laptops Actually Worth It? Which One Is Better? Which One Should You Use?
- A 4K laptop is worth it if you’re a mobile photo editor or a 4K video editor. Aside from these two examples, we’re hard-pressed to recommend a laptop with a 4K display.
- The increased cost of a laptop with 4K resolution doesn’t justify the limited use scenarios.
- The decreased battery performance if you’re using the laptop for 4K applications should be concerning.
- We DO recommend that you consider a laptop with 1080p resolution, but budget to include an excellent second (or third) 4K monitor. (Check the specs of your laptop before going crazy.)
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Thannaree Deepul/Shutterstock.com.