What’s the best video resolution in today’s HD world? Is it like with cameras, wherein the more pixels or megapixels you have the better the image quality? Hold on there, cowboy. This isn’t necessarily the case. In fact, when debating “1080p vs 1440p vs 2160p: Which Is Better For You?”, it’s more of a monitor or HDTV concern than simply getting the highest resolution possible. In gaming terms, if you want Full HD, 2K, or even 4K resolutions, it mostly depends on how much budget you have and what GPU you own.
Only certain games run on 1440p or 2160p, but the majority of them go for the 1080p default, for example. So it depends on the game as well. This applies less to video. Most HD widescreen videos for TV series, projector, and movies follow the 1080p default or might go straight to 2160p 4K without bothering with 2K or QHD resolutions such as 1440p.
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Different Screen Resolutions Explained
Nowadays, the type of resolution you should get for a monitor is driven by the type of video quality you desire. We’re not limited to squinting at postage-sized, low-quality videos blown up to a pixilated mess. With that said, let’s discuss resolutions.
- The Lowdown on Resolution: 1080p is the current most popular configuration used nowadays, from HDTVs to computer monitors. It’s the VGA or 480i/576i of the HD era. 1440p and 2160p are acquiring their share of the pie but require Crysis-level graphics cards. Here are the most common resolutions you’ll be working with as you select the right monitor for your PC gaming needs.
- 720p: This is the 1280 x 720 resolution or High Definition (HD) option.
- 1080p: This is the 1920 x 1080 resolution or Full High Definition (FHD) option.
- 1440p: This is the 2560 x 1440 resolution or Widescreen Quad High Definition (WQHD or QHD) option.
- 4K or 2160p: This is the 3840 x 2160 resolution or Ultra High Definition (UHD) option.
- 8K or 4320p: This is the 7680 × 4320 resolution or Full Ultra High Definition (FUHD) option.
- The Resolution Debate Is More of a PC Thing: The resolution debate is more of a PC issue than an HDTV issue. This is because HDTVs are more standardized. It at first went for Full HD 1080p or native 720p that can be stretched to 1080p. It afterwards immediately leaped to 4K and is currently flirting with 8K and 10K. It is the PC gamers or users that debate whether 1080p is outdone by 1440p (2K) or 2160p (4K). For our money, the best 1080p gaming display is ASUS VG248QE, the best 1440p gaming display is Dell S2719DGF, and the best 2160p gaming display is Acer Predator XB271HK.
The History Before HD and The Best Displays Available
In the early days of digital media, when everyone was transitioning from analog resolutions of 800 x 600 or 640 x 480, there was really just one type of video although there were multiple video files available for them on the computer—AVI, WMV, or FLV. FLV came a little later around the time sites like YouTube became hugely popular.
You won’t have to worry (as much) about buffering (the bane of RealMedia or RM videos for RealPlayer) that took forever and has you squinting in order to tell what you’re looking at. Facebook and YouTube video as well as online news sites and educational portals now provide HD videos as a default, with at least 480p (or 144p) quality videos available for those with slower Internet. If you have a decent ISP service and fast hardware, that’s when you’ll get to really appreciate the quality leap from analog 480p/576p to digital 1080p, 1440p, or 2160p and beyond.
The Great Debate of 1080p vs. 1440p vs. 2160p
So which is the best monitor resolution for your PC gaming needs? 1080p, 2160p, or 1440p? Full HD, Ultra HD, or Quad HD? It mostly depends on your needs. It also depends on the pros and cons of going FHD, UHD, or QHD.
- All About Videos and Video Games: Resolution debates aren’t limited to videos for TV and movies anymore. It’s much simpler to avail of a 1080p or 4K HDTV for your Blu-Ray, DVD, or cable box entertainment options. Those detailed polygons and textures in action look much less like paper puppets and more like fully realized characters and backgrounds when your video game is running at a high frame rate that coincides with the resolution or pixel number of your monitor/TV. Some game consoles can’t take resolutions that are too high though.
- Streaming Plans Make-Up Major Purchase Decisions: When availing of VPN packages to safeguard your PC from hackers and keep your data anonymous, you usually choose them by the amount of data needed for your specific streaming plans. The video quality is obviously affected by your streaming plans, with the higher quality ones requiring huge amounts of bandwidth. In regards to the debate of 1080p vs. 1440p vs. 2160p or 4K, this cyclic discussion is more about trade-offs regarding if a certain resolution for your TV, computer, or game console needs is worth the money or not.
- A Debate on Screen Size: The resolutions play a huge role in making your games look more real or at least more immersive just short of you splurging on a virtual reality headset. With that said, there is such a thing as going overboard. It might be a waste of money to go 4K video on a game or BD if your screen size is no bigger than your standard widescreen TV set. You can only really see the quality of 4K, 2160p, or even 1440p if your screen is the right size to fit all those hundreds of thousands or millions of pixels. Not to mention, GPU scaling can also make your gameplay lag more at higher resolutions.
- Monitor Frame Rate Considerations: The higher your resolution the more high-quality and detailed every frame of animation or video you see. However, to see that HD, UHD, or QHD in realistic or watchable motion, your computer or its GPU should be able to handle higher frame rates.
This is also true of monitors. If your monitor is a lower-grade VGA one instead of a high-grade HDMI one with the right HDMI specification, your video might falter, flicker, or move in a jerky way even if your GPU is working on all cylinders (so to speak). Most screens at 1080p are 60 Hz. To get 120 Hz screens with an output of 120 frames per second, you have to invest a lot more cash, so make sure you need such screens with the kind of games you’re playing in the first place.
- 1080p vs. 4K—Is The Upgrade Worth It? Even when following the general rule of thumb of waiting for cutting-edge technology to be affordable, you should be aware that 4K or 2160p displays and monitors are still quite high-end and your wallet can tell immediately just how high-end they are. They’re a relatively newer level of technology that has the general public adopting a wait-and-see attitude.
It’s because even though we’re headed to a 4K UHD future for sure, consumers are still wondering if certain monitors or brands will become either the next HD-DVD (a flop format) or the next Blu-Ray (the format everyone eventually adapted because of the popularity of the built-in BD player within the PlayStation 3). The change between 1080p to 4K is only noticeable at certain games or certain machines, plus not too many games are going UHD, instead opting for FHD or QHD.
- The Current Sweet Spot: As far as PC is concerned, the current resolution sweet spot is 1440p. This sweet spot doesn’t exist in console gaming with HDTVs. You either get 1080p or you get 4K. No in-between. 2K gaming is considered a sweet spot for the best computer monitors because the industry is slowly moving away from the old default of Full HD but it’s not quite there yet with 4K, so you can use 1440p PCs, GPUs, and monitors as your transitional period where you won’t have to sell a kidney in order to get “better than Full HD” graphics. A lot of GPUs support 1440p or QHD resolutions and many games can go 1440p in 2020 compared to even just 3-5 years ago.
Go with what your HDTV or monitor as well as the projector works best with. In HDTV terms, it’s either Full HD 1080p or Ultra HD 4K. None of this 1440p or 2160p debate business that’s mostly a PC gaming issue.
In PC terms, it’s all about matching your resolution with your GPU. Some PCs don’t play well with 4K or 2K. Many modern PCs default to Full HD 1080p. If you want to get better HD graphics with more detail and quality from your games, it might be more prudent to go 1440p first before making that 2160p leap. Why? Not that many games are doing 4K as of yet and many so-called 4K games run decently on 1440p instead. We’re approaching the time when 4K becomes the default, but as of this writing, 1440p is a good transitional resolution between the old guard 1080p and the new guard 2160p.
- “4k vs. 1080p vs. 1440p: is 4k Worth it?“, The Tech Lounge HomeBlog, June 13, 2020
- Rich Edmonds, “1080p vs. 1440p vs. 4K: Which resolution is best for gaming?“, Windows Central, September 5, 2020