What is 4K Resolution? (Explained)

What is 4K Resolution?

4K resolution signifies the 4000 horizontal pixels that represent the width of the image, where ‘K’ refers to Kilo or thousand. However, technically and mathematically it represents the resolution standard of 3840 × 2160 or 82,944,400 pixels.

In simple terms, 4K resolution refers to exactly four times the pixel count of Full HD or 1920 x 1080 pixels resolution which is 20,73,600 pixels.


  • 4K resolution is four times FULL HD which means that you get a sharper, clearer and crispier image with more details and vivid colors.
  • Though the most common size of this resolution is 3840 x 2160 pixels there are different standards and measures of it based on the aspect ratios and the policies of the manufacturers.
  • The concept of presenting images at 4000 pixels horizontal count in 4K resolution is based on the scientific principle behind maximum horizontal field of view of the human eye.
  • There is no need to buy a special HDMI cable to connect a monitor with 4K resolution support because the DisplayPort of the computer or a standard HDMI cable will do the job quite well.

Understanding 4K Resolution

Understanding 4K Resolution

4K simply signifies high definition resolution. Technically, it is four times the total number of pixel count or twice the line or height resolution in Full HD or 1080p.

4K resolution delivers images that are greatly enhanced even on larger screen applications.

The clear and intricate details of the objects in an image can be seen and it greatly reduces the chances of the viewers to see any artifacts or any visible pixel structures.

In simple words, 4K resolution means smoother edges and more depth in the images along with much faster refresh rates.

Technically, the depth of the images displayed in 4K resolution is as good as 3D images, sans the 3D glasses.

4K resolution is good but is not quite easily available or affordable right now due to the cost, infrastructural requirements and other challenges such as availability of limited 4K contents.

Therefore, it will take a long time, as it seems, for 4K to replace 720p or 1080p or the HDTV broadcast to change to 4K overnight.

The best part of 4K resolution is that the quality remains constant irrespective of the size of the screen in spite of the fact that the number of pixels in an inch changes as the size of the screen becomes larger.

This means that either the size of the pixels must be increased or it should be placed farther apart so that the same number of pixels is maintained on the screen.

Actually, in order to understand 4K resolution in a better way, you will need to take a look at it from a scientific point of view.

This will help you to tell the difference between 4K UHD resolution and a Full HD resolution even more easily.

Typically, the field of view for the human eye is about 100 degrees where every degree can receive and sustain about up to 60 pixels. This means that the maximum limit of your horizontal vision is 6,000 pixels.

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In terms of resolution of images this is much, much higher than a FULL HD resolution which has a horizontal pixel count of just around 1920 pixels.

In other words, it is only equal to 32 degrees when it is changed into the horizontal field of view. This makes it even less than half of the highest horizontal field of view.

In order to get a bigger angle of coverage the distance between the image and the eyes need to be shortened.

The closer your eyes are, the easier it will be for you to identify the pixel intervals in the image. In scientific terms this is known as the ‘Window pane effect.’

It is for this reason people are fond of viewing images on larger screens and Full HD resolution cannot overcome these limitations while displaying an image.

That is why 4K UHD resolution is needed for four times higher pixel count than Full HD but still 2000 pixels less than the maximum horizontal field of view of the human eye, leaving a lot of room for improvement.

This means that the viewers can sit closer to the display unit and still have a much bigger angle of coverage considering the same unit space and still not feel any uneasiness or roughness.

Therefore, with 4K resolution the chances of enjoying a much deeper and immersive visual experience are enhanced four times, and all very naturally.

4K Resolution Size

What is 4K Resolution

Ideally, the size of 4K resolution is 3840 x 2160 pixels, which comes to a total of more than 8 million pixels. This large number of pixels displays more vivid and clearer images.

However, this is the most dominant and commonly known size to all. There are several other sizes of 4K resolution which are categorized on the basis of the aspect ratios and the manufacturer’s policies. Here is the breakup of all of them:

  • 3840 × 2160 pixels – This is used extensively in the display industry and is considered as the minimum resolution according to the definition of Ultra High Definition displays and projectors by the CEA or Consumer Electronics Association with an aspect ratio of 16∶9 and a total of 8,294,400 pixels.
  • 4096 × 2160 pixels – This is the 4K resolution used in the digital cinema production primarily with a total of 8,847,360 pixels and an aspect ratio of 19∶10 according to the specification of the format by Digital Cinema Initiatives or DCI for the 4K digital projectors and monitors.
  • 3996 × 2160 pixels – This is another DCI specification of 4K resolution for flat crop, 1.85∶1 aspect ratio.
  • 4096 × 1716 pixels – This refers to another variant of 4K resolution used in cinema production industry according to DCI specification for CinemaScope crop with 2.39∶1 aspect ratio.
  • 4096 × 2560 pixels – This is another non-standard 4K resolution for 16∶10 aspect ratio used in the Canon DP-V3010.
  • 4096 × 2304 pixels – It is used in 16∶9 aspect ratio in the 21.5-inch LG UltraFine 22MD4KA 4K monitor.
  • 3840 × 2400 pixels – This 4K resolution is for 16∶10 aspect ratio used in the 22.2-inch IBM T220 and T221 monitors and is also referred to as WQUXGA or Wide Quad Ultra Extended Graphics Array resolution.
  • 3840 × 1920 pixels – This resolution is for 16:8 aspect ratios and is used extensively by 360 videos.
  • 3840 × 1600 – This resolution is used in a number of computer monitors of LG with an aspect ratio of 12∶5 and it is referred to as WQXGA resolution of 2560 × 1600 pixels but with a 50% extended width.
  • 3840 × 2160 pixels – This is another non-standard spec of 4K resolution with an extended width by 50% and height by 26% as compared to the WQXGA resolution of 2560 × 1600 pixels and is referred to as WQHD+ or Wide Quad HD+ resolution by LG and UW-QHD+ or Ultra Wide Quad HD+ by Acer and as UW4K or Ultra Wide 4K by some other media.
  • 3840 × 1080 pixels – This 4K resolution refers to 32∶9 aspect ratio used first by Samsung in their 49-inch curved gaming monitor C49HG70 released in 2017 and is equal to two 1080p displays side-by-side with no edges interrupting the image and half of a 4K UHD display of 3840 × 2160 pixels. It is therefore referred to as DFHD or Dual Full HD by Samsung.
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4K Resolution vs 1080p

  • 4K resolution refers to 3840 x 2160 or a total of more than 8 million pixels while 1080p refers to 1920 x 1080 or a total of more than 2 million pixels
  • The horizontal pixels or the image width of 4K is 3840 pixels while in Full HD it is 1920 pixels
  • The vertical pixels or height of the image of 4K is 2160 pixels but in FHD it is 1080 pixels
  • The 4K images are displayed with more intricate and clearer details in comparison to 1080p
  • 4K resolution allows closer viewing often twice as close as 1080p therefore even closer shots look more clear and vivid
  • 4K resolutions allow scaling down even to 2K and still display clearer images than 1080p
  • The color and sharpness of 4K images are much better and higher in comparison to 1080p
  • 4K captures four times more amount of information as compared to 1080p and
  • 4K images can be cropped, reframed or zoomed in with no loss in quality but the same is not guaranteed in 1080p.

Is Ultra HD the Same as 4K?

It depends on the context because both the terms 4K and UHD have different meanings apart from the full forms of their acronym and its resolutions with reference to the vertical market.

Technically, in the display market, UHD or Ultra High Definition refers to 3840 x 2160 pixels resolution and here 4K is often used interchangeably to signify the same resolution because it is 4 times HD, mathematically.

However, the confusion lies in reality with reference to the digital cinema sector where 4K refers to 4096 x 2160 pixels, which is 256 pixels wider in comparison to UHD.

The reason for this additional bit in the resolution measure is due to the fact that the 4K digital cinema projectors have to accommodate special kinds of films that come in two different aspect ratios namely Flat or 1.85:1 and Scope or 2:39:1.

As for the Flat films the pixel resolution is 3996 x 2160 but that of the Scope films it is 4096 x 1716 pixels.

Do You Need a Special HDMI Cable for 4K?

No, you do not need special HDMI or High-Definition Multimedia Interface cables for 4K. It is true that different standards of the HDMI cable standards will have some notable impact on the resolution and color of the images still it is not required for 4K.

However, it is easier said than understood and needs some further explanation.

Typically you can connect your computer to a 4K monitor via the DisplayPort. You may even use a standard HDMI cable to connect it to an Ultra HD monitor, and here is the catch.

Typically, the modern HDMI cables come in four different variants and specs such as:

  • Standard speed cables with Ethernet
  • Standard speed cables without Ethernet
  • High speed cables with Ethernet and
  • High speed cables without Ethernet.
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Here, the standard cables will be able to support 1080p resolution but not 4K. On the other hand, the high speed cables can even handle anything higher than Full HD.

The connector type will also determine the speed of the connection and display outcome. For example:

  • The HDMI 1.4 connector will support 3820 x 2160 pixel resolutions at only 30 frames per second
  • The HDMI 2.0 connector can support video outputs at Ultra HD resolution at about 60 frames per second
  • The HDMI 2.0a connector is capable of handling HDR or High Dynamic Range videos and
  • The latest HDMI 2.1 can handle 4K resolution at 120 frames per second and even 8K resolution at 60 frames per second.

So, the bottom line is if the standard HDMI cable you have can handle 1080p resolution, it will be able to handle 4K resolution as well but maybe the frame rate will not be very high.

This means that if you do not want then you do not need to go all out and buy an expensive special HDMI cable for your 4K monitor.

And, of course, there is the DisplayPort that you can always use to connect it since this special port will be able to carry 4K video as well as audio signals quite easily and efficiently even from the most high-performing graphics cards to the 4K monitor without any visible artifacts or delays in rendering the images.

Questions & Answers:

Is 4K Resolution Better than 1080p?

Yes, it is in the sense that the image is much clearer and smoother. In a 4K image the details are a lot more vivid and so are the colors.

Even if you look at the image very closely you will hardly notice any blurred edges of the objects or texts displayed as you may find in a 1080p resolution.

Is 1920 x 1080 Considered 4K?

As said earlier, 4K resolution signifies 3840 x 2160 pixels which is about 8 million pixels and is much, much more pixels in an image in comparison to 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution.

So, you certainly cannot consider 1920 x 1080 to be 4K resolution which is in fact four times lower than Full HD.

Is 4K 2560 x 1440?

No, certainly not. Typically, a 2560 × 1440 pixel resolution signifies that the width of the image is 2560 pixels and the height of it is 1440 pixels.

However, in 4K or 3860 × 2160 pixel resolution, the width of the image is 3860 pixels and the height is 2160 pixels. So, there is a stark difference between the two types of resolutions.


It can be concluded that 4K resolution is much better to watch in comparison to Full HD resolution or others in more than one way as this article points out.

However, there may not be too much 4K content available as of now but, rest assured, the scenario is poised to change pretty soon.

About Dominic Cooper

Dominic CooperDominic Cooper, a TTU graduate is a computer hardware expert. His only passion is to find out the nitty gritty of all computers since childhood. He has over 12 years of experience in writing, computer testing, and research. He is not very fond of social media. Follow Him at Linkedin

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