Updated for 2020
You decide to shop for a new laptop and you come to a crossroad – 4K vs 1080p laptop display. Which one is worth getting? You start to wonder which resolution makes sense to you.
This indecisiveness can be so frustrating you start asking questions on forums, watching YouTube videos etc.
In this article, we will clear your indecisiveness by explaining the differences between 4K and 1080p laptops displays, their benefits, downsides and which one is worth getting.
Understanding 4K UHD and 1080p Laptop Displays And The Difference Between Them
Before you decide on which laptop display resolution to get you to have to understand the differences between 4K and 1080p.
First of all, 4K laptops displays have a video resolution of 3840 x 2160. They are also known as UHD or Ultra HD displays. 1080p or Full HD, on the other hand, has a video resolution of 1920 x 1080. They are the most common form of display resolution found on laptops.
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Video resolution is just telling you the number of pixels running horizontally or vertically on a display or screen. As mentioned above, 4K displays have a video resolution of 3840 x 2160. That means for every vertical line there are 2,160 pixels running from the top to the bottom of the display.
The same applies to the horizontal – 3,840 pixels run from left to right for each horizontal line. When you have a Full HD display 1,920 pixels run from left to right horizontally and 1,080 pixels run from top to bottom vertically.
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Now for the total number of pixels. Multiplying the number of pixels in a 4K laptop display is going to give us 8,294,400 pixels. That’s a lot of pixels. A Full HD (1920 x 1080) display is going to have 2,073,600. That’s one-fourth less than 4K displays.
This tells us that 4K displays have four times the pixels as Full HD displays.
Basically, the differences between a 4K and 1080p display are the number of pixels. Now, what advantages or disadvantages does 4K display have over a Full HD Display?
4K Laptop Pros and Cons
The more pixels there are the sharper the images and videos. 4K displays by default have a great colour gamut, saturation and contrast. The display just looks beautiful. You are also able to enjoy streaming 4K movies on Netflix.
A 4K laptop display becomes really handy when you are into 4K video-editing and photo-editing. Software like Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Premiere take advantage of the pixels that 4K laptops have to offer. Laptops with high-resolution displays are every content creators dream.
Laptops with 4K displays are expensive and take massive hits at your wallet or bank account. The difference in price between a Full HD Dell XPS 13 and 4K Dell XPS 13 is $300 if you keep the rest of the specifications the same.
Some laptops have similar price differences with others going up to $500. The more the pixels the more expensive the laptop is going to be.
More Power Less Battery Life
Because there 8 million pixels on the laptop screen. Your laptop is going to use more energy in keeping those pixels alive. If you plan on downscaling the video resolution on a 4K laptop to a Full HD resolution to save some battery life.
It won’t work. Because there will be the same amount of pixels on the laptop’s display. If you are concerned about battery life avoid 4K laptop displays.
1080p Laptop Pros and Cons
Better Battery Life
Yes, 1080p laptop display have better battery life when compared to 4K displays. This stems from the fact that your laptop will use less energy in keeping 2 million pixels alive compared to keeping 8 million pixels alive.
The fewer pixels there are the less power is needed to keep them alive which mostly results in better battery life.
A Sweet Spot
Apart from 4K editing, 1080p or Full HD laptop displays provide a sweet spot for many users. It is the perfect balance for almost everything. Photos are sharp enough, videos are also pleasant enough to watch. For everyday tasks, you probably don’t need a 4K display.
Full HD displays are much cheaper than 4K displays. The difference between the prices of laptops with a 4K display and 1080p display provided they have the same specs is between $300 – $500.
If your budget is not high enough you should totally stay away from laptops with 4K displays.
Colour Accuracy Might Not Always Be The Best
This is where 1080p displays lose to 4K displays. This is not to say all 1080p displays have bad colour accuracy. 4K displays have better colour accuracy, colour gamut, saturation and contrast compared to 1080p display.
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1080p displays are mostly average in these departments except with a few laptops. If you are concerned about colour accuracy do proper research before getting a 1080p laptop display.
Can’t Be Used For 4K Editing
The title says it all. Because the maximum resolution is 1920 x 1080 you can’t do anything to increase it beyond these limits. You also can’t upscale it to 4K resolution. This makes 1080p laptops a poor choice for 4K video editing, photo editing or streaming 4K movies on Netflix.
What About Gaming On A 4K Display?
4K display only becomes worth it when your laptop has a high refresh rate. Most 4K laptop displays are capped at the 60Hz refresh rate. Which can make the game less enjoyable for you because there will a lot of screen tearing and stuttering. In addition, the game will run on a lower FPS unless you downscale it.
Because playing on a high-resolution display requires a powerful graphics card if you want high FPS. Full HD displays really shine in gaming because they are the sweet spot for most things and also manufacturers are able to push the refresh rates to high levels.
An example is the ASUS ROG Strix Scar II which has a 1080p and a refresh rate of 240Hz. Some laptops have 144Hz refresh rate something you won’t find on a 4K laptop display.
The higher the refresh rate the better the gaming experience and less screen tearing and stuttering there is. Gaming on a 4K display is not worth it. Because eventually, you will reduce the resolution to get better FPS if your laptop’s GPU is not powerful enough.
Which One Is Worth It – 4K or 1080p?
4K displays are only worth it if you do 4K editing, concerned about colour accuracy or enjoy watching 4K movies. Apart from that, there is no reason to get them.
The thing about 4K and 1080p displays is that your eyes can hardly differentiate between a 4K and 1080p display especially if it is a 13.3-inch display. Everything just looks the same.
Also, 4K laptop displays drain a lot of power leading to less battery life.
Now that we have gone over the differences between 4K and 1080p and which you should get. It all comes down to if it fits your personal preference.
If you truly want and like a 4K laptop display no one should tell you otherwise if you want to pull the trigger.
Just be ready to pay extra. But, if you want to look at it from pros and cons viewpoint. You already know which one to get and if it fits your goals and needs.
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