Higher resolution laptops are more desirable because their screens are sharper and display more detailed and intricate visuals. That can be extremely valuable for gamers, video editors, and live streamers.
In this guide, we're going to look at 4K Ultra HD vs 1080p laptop resolutions so that you can decide which is best for your needs. 1080p used to be known as FHD, short for Full HD. However, it has since been eclipsed by UHD, or Ultra HD, represented by 4K displays.
4K displays are newer and more expensive but are higher in quality. We’ll cover them in-depth in this article.
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4K Ultra HD Laptops (Overview + Pros & Cons)
We'll start our 4K vs 1080p laptop screen comparison by looking at 4K Ultra HD laptops. These have a resolution of 3840 x 2160, which refers to the number of pixels on the screen. It's classed as 4K Ultra HD because it has 4x more pixels than 1080p laptop displays.
This resolution laptop is popular among photo and video editors because programs like Adobe Photoshop can take advantage of all the extra pixels. The same is true for gamers who play the latest video games, designed with settings that improve graphics depending on the chosen resolution.
However, you’ll have to watch the refresh rate as it can sometimes be insufficient on 4K Ultra HD displays.
Everyday laptop users can also benefit from 4K Ultra HD because some movies and documentaries are now filmed in 4K, providing an even more immersive experience than 1080p Full HD.
Features of 4K vs FHD laptop screen resolutions include the fact that 4K displays can show greater saturation and contrast, plus extra color shades. That’s because the total number of pixels in a 4K display is 8.2944 million, which is considerably more than the 2.0736 million in a 1080p display. Images will pop out and look beautiful to the eye.
4K is a newer technology, so it isn’t as widespread as 1080p, which has been around for many years. That means it can be more challenging to find suitable laptops when comparing a UHD vs 4K laptop range. However, over time the 1080p displays we have all become used to will be replaced by 4K displays, and it will be 1080p displays that are hard to come by.
We’ll now look at some pros and cons of 4K Ultra HD technology.
1080p Full HD Laptops (Overview + Pros & Cons)
We'll continue our 4K UHD vs Full HD laptop comparison by covering 1080p, a resolution that many of you will be familiar with. It’s been around for a long time and was called Full HD because it was a step up from 720p, the first HD resolution available.
As you'll know from the 4K vs 1080p laptop discussion we had in the previous section, there are a lot fewer pixels on a 1080p Full HD laptop display. There are 4x as many pixels on a 4K display, which illustrates the difference in resolution.
For many people, 1080p Full HD was good enough. It lets you see most of the details you need, even if you’re a gamer or streamer. It’s the standard for TVs and laptops. Resolutions lower than 1080p are uncommon for TV and laptop screens.
1080p Full HD also remains the standard when it comes to smaller laptop displays. Typically, a laptop with a display of 14 inches or less won’t benefit from 4K because you won’t be able to see extra details on a screen that small.
Also, 1080p Full HD display laptops are perfect for office work and lighter tasks, with 4K being unnecessary. That means most people outside of gaming and photo editing will be more than satisfied with a 1080p Full HD display.
1080p Full HD laptops will be around for a long time to come, although they’ll eventually be replaced by 4K technology as it becomes more affordable and widespread.
We’ll now look at the pros and cons, as we did for 4K Ultra HD displays.
4K Ultra HD Vs 1080p Laptop: Which Is Best?
Now that we’ve run through the details about both laptop resolutions, it's time for us to look at laptop 1080p vs 4K differences in-depth. That way, you can figure out which is best for your specific circumstances.
Screen Size & Pixel Density
As we mentioned earlier in the article, when you compare laptop 1080p vs 4K definitions, you'll be dealing with a much higher pixel density on the 4K screen. There are 1920 horizontal pixels and 1080 vertical pixels on a 1080p display. On a 4K display, there are 3840 horizontal pixels and 2160 vertical pixels.
That means over 2 million pixels for 1080p displays and over 8 million for 4K. The human eye can rarely tell the difference when comparing 4K vs Full HD laptop screens, but that does depend on the screen size and viewing distance.
Gaming Performance & Resolution
When gaming, it’s important to compare 1080p vs 4K on laptop screens because it can affect how immersive your gaming experience is. A 4K resolution is better for gaming, and so long as you have a decent GPU, it should render without issues.
However, aside from the GPU and resolution, your screen needs a high refresh rate to play games smoothly, and 4K screens are capped at 60Hz. That means if you play games with a higher refresh rate, you might see ghosting or screen tearing. Many 1080p laptops have a 144Hz refresh rate to solve these problems.
If you're looking for a new gaming laptop with a top-notch display, you can see our favorite models here.
Photo and Video Editing
If you want to edit photos and videos, it's important to compare Full HD vs 4K laptop resolutions. A 4K display is the best option you'll have at the moment. It will provide you with the sharpest images and videos, which allows you to edit with precision. A 1080p display simply won’t be as detailed.
However, it does come with some disadvantages. Because of how high the resolution is, a 4K display can make the Windows user interface blurry and pixelated. Plus, you’ll need a powerful video card and a large screen size. Often, editing is done on a desktop because you can have larger screens.
If you need a new laptop for a new budget laptop for photo editing, you can see the best models here.
When video streaming began over a decade ago, it was in Standard Definition, or SD, rather than HD—over time, streaming software and technology improved to the point where HD became commonplace.
720p and 1080p are still the standard today, but 4K is growing in popularity. 4K has vastly higher quality than 1080p, so if you’re looking at an FHD vs 4K UHD laptop for streaming, we’d suggest the latter.
However, it will be expensive to get the equipment for 4K streaming now, so you might want to stick with 1080p for a while longer if you’re on a budget.
It's easy to overlook the basics when looking at a 4K Ultra HD vs 1080p laptop. For example, checking social media, sending emails, and shopping online are all basic tasks. These tasks will be doable on either of these resolutions, but 4K will be considered overkill.
That’s because the extra pixels simply aren’t needed. Full HD is more than enough for shopping, emails, and social media. So if your main focus is tasks like these, then you should opt for a 1080p laptop.
A 4K display can make everyday computing tasks harder because of the potential for blurriness with some applications, but you can scale text and apps with 1080p and 4K displays.
A more powerful display will consume more power, so if you're comparing laptop FHD vs 4K power usage, 1080p has the advantage. That’s because when rendering the display at a 4K resolution, the GPU in your laptop will be under higher demand. That means it will need more resources and extra cooling.
The net result is that 4K screens will use up your battery faster than 1080p screens. However, if you’re working from home or you’re regularly near a power outlet, then plugging in your laptop shouldn’t be a problem.
4K Ultra HD vs 1080p laptop price is a significant factor to consider. The price will be higher for 4K than 1080p because the latter is much more common. Full HD screens are the industry standard. That means you’ll often find them even in budget laptops, as well as more expensive ones.
On the other hand, 4K displays will significantly increase the price of any laptop, regardless of other components. That means you should only invest in 4K if you need it for any of the purposes we’ve covered above.
People Also Ask (FAQs)
Which is better: UHD or FHD or HD?
HD means 720p or 720i, FHD means 1080i or 1080p, and UHD means 4K or above. That means UHD is the best choice of the three based on resolution alone.
Can I watch 4K on a 1080p laptop?
No, because the 1080p display can only ever show 1920 x 1080 pixels. A 4K display contains 3840 x 2160 pixels, meaning a 4K image or video will reduce in quality when shown on a 1080p display.
Does 1080p look blurry on a 4K screen?
Yes, it will look blurry because the image or video will need to upscale to fit the 4K screen properly. However, scaling can't add any new data; it only stretches what's already there. So it will reduce the sharpness of the 1080p image or video.
How do I convert 1080p to 4K?
In most cases, to upscale a 1080p image or video to 4K, you’ll want to use specialist software that will do the conversion for you in just a few clicks. An example would be Adobe Premiere Pro.
You should understand the key differences between 4K Ultra HD vs 1080p laptop resolutions. With that in mind, you can now shop with confidence and get the best display for your specific needs.
Andrew White is the founder of TechGearoid, a leading technology review & information website that is designed to help consumers make better decisions when it comes to their IT purchases. As a specialist tech writer (nerd) with over 10 years of experience, he enjoys writing about everything there is to do with modern technology & the newest market innovations. When he isn’t providing value for his readers, he’s usually drinking coffee or at the beach. Andrew lives in Sydney, Australia with his wife and family.