FHD vs 4K – Which is Better?

If you haven’t bought a new display in a while, it can be hard to keep up with all the new features.

One of the most important features of displays is the resolution. It determines how clear the picture will be.

But there are a lot of resolutions out there! What’s worse, there are multiple ways to describe each resolution!

In this article, I’ll compare some of the most common resolutions.

What is Display Resolution?

To start, display resolution refers to the number of pixels on a display, measured from width to height.

Most of the time, the last number, the pixel height, followed by the letter P, is used to describe the specific resolution.

But that’s not always the case. Sometimes the resolution is followed by the letter I.

If you want to know why that is, read this article: 1080I vs 1080P.

Types of Resolutions

High Definition (HD)Full HIgh Definition (FHD) Quad High Definition (QHD) Ultimate High Definition (UHD)
Image Resolution:1280 x 7201920 x 1080 2560 x 14403840 x 2160
Pixel Count921,6002,073,6003,686,4008,294,400
Other Names: 720P1080P1440P or 2K4K
Recommended Displays:9" Displays23" Monitors27+" MonitorsTVs
Used OnHandheld Devices, PhonesMonitors and Budget TVsMonitorsMonitors and TVs

HD

HD stands for High Definition. HD has a resolution of 1280 x 720 or 720P for short.

Even though 720P is pretty dated, many mobile and handheld devices still use it. On small screens, 720P resolution is acceptable.

For example, the Nintendo Switch has a 720P LCD screen.

FHD

FHD stands for Full High Definition. FHD has a resolution of 1920 x 1080 and it’s often called 1080P.

1080P is the most common resolution found in displays because it’s very budget-friendly.

QHD

QHD is Quad High Definition. The next bump in resolution from FHD is QHD which has an image resolution of 2560 x 1440.

It’s also sometimes called 2K. QHD is the sweet spot for gamers because it offers a good balance between visuals and performance.

UHD

UHD stands for Ultra High Definition. It quadruples the resolution of FHD, with a resolution of 3840 x 2160.

What’s interesting about UHD is the trend of referring to it by the pixel height seemed to have ended.

To learn more about different resolutions and their performance, read our 1080P vs 1440P vs 4K vs 8K  guide.

Why is it Called 4K Instead of 2160p?

The 3840 x 2160 resolution is called 4K due to marketing campaigns.

The logical reason for calling it 4K is because 3840, the number of vertical pixels, is closer to 4,000.

It’s also less of a mouthful than saying “2160P ” so it stuck. On a similar note, 8K has a resolution of 7680 x 4320, and 7680 is close to 8000.

It seems like the days of referring to resolutions by their vertical pixel count are over.

FHD vs 4K

FHD is 1920 x 1080 pixels. 4K is 3840 x 2160.

Naturally, the image quality on an FHD display won’t be nearly as clear as on a 4K display.

4K is much better than FHD because it has 5x the number of pixels.

When comparing FHD to 4K, the clarity, colours, and details will always be much better at 4K

But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should always opt for the 4K option.

Can You Tell the Difference Between 1080p and 4K

You can tell the difference between 1080P and 4K on screens that are larger than 23 inches.

Similarly, if you’re sitting far away from your 4K TV, it may not look much better than 1080P.

Up close to larger displays, such as 27-inch monitors or TVs, almost everyone can tell the difference between 1080P and 4K.

Display Size

Now, there are a few other factors to consider, such as the size of the display. A pixel is not an exact size.

With monitors, you may come across a term called PPI which stands for Pixel Density. It’s the number of pixels in an inch of a screen.

With small devices, such as phones, it’s almost impossible to tell what resolution the screen is. You would need a magnifying glass to see the pixels.

For that reason, smaller devices usually stick to under 1080P resolution. It’s cheaper, and people can’t really tell the difference.

The same applies to monitors, especially 23″ inch monitors.

When comparing 23″ monitors that have different resolutions, it can be difficult to tell the difference.

Naturally, the Pixel Density on a 4K 23″ monitor is much higher than FHD. However, the pixels are already very condensed at either resolution.

If you look very closely, you may be able to notice some pixels on the 1080P displays.

But for most people, a 1080P 23″ monitor is perfectly acceptable.

Now when we move to larger displays, it’s when the resolution really starts to matter.

Viewing Distance

Another point is the viewing distance. If you’re far from your TV, you probably won’t be able to make out all the finer details that 4K provides.

For information on how far to sit from your TV, read our TV dimensions guide.

You also need to factor in your eyesight.

4K Media

Lastly, a display could support 4K resolution but you need to provide 4K media. Most cable shows are not even 1080P!

On that note, some web browsers also limit the resolution of streaming shows. Google Chrome limits the resolution of Netflix media to 720p.

Speaking of Netflix, you need to subscribe to UHD Playback and make sure the show or movie supports UHD (not every show does).

It’s easy to make the mistake of investing in a 4K TV only to play media at 1080P or even lower.

The Bottom Line

Overall, FHD is not as good as 4K but the difference is most noticeable on larger displays.

For TVs, it’s always a good idea to go with the 4K option. It’s not worth buying a 1080P TV nowadays.

For monitors… well, that’s a personal decision.

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About Tim Gagnon

Timothy Gagnon is a tech blogger and writer. When he's not dissembling computers, he's researching the latest tech gadgets and trends.

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