4K displays have been the rage of the display market ever since their debut. The excessive pixel density presents the promise of displaying more details than ever before. Thanks, to the wide availability of 4K displays, the amount of 4K content has surged in recent years. Sure enough, a 4K resolution on a huge display looks absolutely breathtaking.
However, the difference between a 1080p display and a 4K display blurs ever so much as the screen size reduces. You wouldn’t notice the difference between the two at all if it was a mobile phone.
So this leads us to our question, is a 4K laptop worth it?
After all, a laptop’s screen is much smaller than the TV in your living room. So today, we’ll be discussing every little detail you should know before investing in a 4K laptop.
What is 4K?
4K refers to the display resolution of a screen. 4K displays have more or less 4,000 pixels horizontally. There are a variety of 4K resolutions out there, but the most popular is 3840 x 2160 which is usually called as 4K UHD for TVs and other media.
The popularity of 4K displays first rose around the years 2014 and 2015 when 4K TVs became more affordable to the masses. Presently, it is expected that more than half of all U.S. households own at least a single 4K display panel, with some even owning multiple.
2160p vs 4K
You might have seen some displays being advertised as 2160p, and you might think to yourself, “Is 2160p worse than 4K?” Actually, it depends. 2160p refers to the older naming convention that is based on the number of pixels in the vertical axis, rather than the horizontal one.
This means that 2160p advertised items have 2160 pixels on the vertical axis.
Now, even though a lot of 4K panels have 2160 pixels on the vertical axis, much like the aforementioned 3840 x 2160 4K UHD, not all 2160p advertised items are 4K, and not all 4K displays have 2160 pixels on their vertical axis.
Though some people refer to 4K as 2160p and vice versa, it not always the case.
For example, there are dash cams that are advertised as “4K” but only have a 2880 x 2160p resolution which is not anywhere near 4,000 pixels horizontally. So, make sure that you are truly buying a 4K display and not a 2160p display pretending to be 4K.
Screen size is an important factor when buying a display. Aside from the resolution, the screen size also plays a huge part in determining the quality of the picture. As a rule of thumb, the smaller the screen and the more pixels, the better the picture quality. This means that essentially, you can have a relatively better looking 720p picture on a small screen than a 1080p picture on a big screen.
Most laptops nowadays have screen sizes around 13” -17”. This is why 4K laptop screens look extremely beautiful and smooth. The small display of a laptop really helps the 4K resolution a lot. In some cases, you aren’t even able to see each individual pixel.
Aside from the resolution, there are also other factors that can affect the image quality of a display. Things such as color accuracy, brightness levels, and viewing angles can make or break a display.
Having a 4K laptop screen is not enough, if your maximum brightness is too low, the viewing angles are horrible, and the color accuracy is not good, you are not going to appreciate your 4K display.
Color accuracy just refers to how the display can output the specific color tone or shade that is sent by the signal. It just means that it will display red when it demands red and not a different shade of red. You can probably notice this when trying to do a Google search, the background should always be white, however, if you are using a display with poor color accuracy the background may be viewed as more of a yellowish-white than plain white.
Color accuracy is very important to photo and video editors to ensure that they are actually producing the colors they want. If the color accuracy of a display is terrible, it will also greatly affect your consumption of media since the colors will not be accurately displayed and you may have a harder time while watching videos and movies.
Brightness levels are simply the maximum light that the screen can produce. Brightness is usually measured in nits. The higher the number of nits, the brighter the display. Most laptops will have around 200-300 nits on average. Having a laptop with 300 nits is pretty solid while laptops with 500 nits and above are extremely good.
Viewing angles are just the angles at which you can look a display while still having a passable visual performance. Some displays look amazing when you are sitting directly in front of it, but look absolutely terrible once you start moving a little bit to the side.
For the most part, viewing angles on laptops are not that important since most of the time you are going to be using it while facing directly towards the screen. However, it is always better to choose a laptop with great viewing angles, so that you won’t have to adjust your laptop screen in order to find the best possible view.
Being able to run a 4K display takes a lot of processing and graphics power since it has a ton of pixels. This is why most 4K laptops should have great performing CPUs that are usable for more than just day-to-day tasks.
Most 4K laptops will have multiple core CPUs that run them, this is why most of them will also be advertised as an “editing” or “work” laptop since they already have the hardware for those workloads.
Many 4K laptops should easily be able to handle media consumption, photo and video editing, browsing the web, video calls, work tasks, among many other things. However, you might be limited to the games you can play and run.
Gaming on a 4K Laptop
Gaming on a 4K laptop can be quite hard. Pushing that many pixels while processing the game’s graphics and information would require some really high-end hardware to achieve great frame rates.
If your laptop has an RTX 2080 paired with a great CPU you can probably get at least 60 FPS on most games, as long as you don’t run into any overheating issues. With other GPUs such as the RTX 2070 or RTX 2060 you might have to lower some settings, or in some cases the resolution in order to get great frame rates, depending on how demanding the game you’re playing is.
For esports games, you shouldn’t run into any trouble, since those are very easy games to run. However, once you get into the AAA gaming territory you’ll likely run into a few problems and will have to settle for lower settings. Nevertheless, you can definitely game on a 4K laptop as long as you have the proper hardware to do so.
Laptops were made to become a compact and portable version of PCs that was able to do everything that a PC does. Laptops have been growing in popularity over recent years since they were becoming more and more powerful and comparable to their desktop brothers.
4K laptops are required to have powerful hardware that can properly take advantage of the display. This is why 4K laptops are usually heavier, and bulkier compared to regular laptops since powerful hardware also requires a lot of cooling as well.
The extra weight and bulk might make it a bit harder to carry around all day without putting too much stress on your arms, so it’s advisable to carry it in a backpack. Just a little something to keep in mind.
The price of 4K laptops is definitely not something you can overlook. These laptops often cost thousands of dollars and your wallet will most likely suffer if you are in the market for a 4K laptop. The 4K screen alone is very expensive, match it with some relatively high-end hardware to power the laptop, and you’ve got yourself a machine worth more than a thousand dollars.
The lowest you should probably spend on a 4K laptop would be around $1300. Anything around $1000 or lower would probably result in a bad experience, and would likely not have a powerful CPU or GPU, and would almost always end up in a disappointing and expensive mistake.
I’d say that the sweet spot is somewhere around $1700-$2000 which is a relatively decent price that can perform well. There are also a ton of 4K laptops within that price range giving you a ton of different varieties to choose from.
4k vs 1080p Laptop: Which one is better?
Most laptops will either have a resolution of 4K or 1080p. Unfortunately, 1440p has received no love from the laptop industry. Laptop manufacturers have focused on creating laptops with the cheaper 1080p resolution or the luxurious 4K, with no in-betweens. So, the choice comes down to 4K or 1080p.
4K vs 1080p: Hardware
The biggest difference between a 4K laptop and a 1080p laptop is, of course, their displays. The 4K laptop screen offers way more pixels that provides a clearer and smoother picture that can just leave you in absolute awe when watching high-resolution videos and movies. While the 1080p laptop display is a lower resolution that can leave you with a few unwanted fuzzy edges and pixelated pictures.
With that being said, 1080p isn’t bad, it’s just that 4K is way better. Choosing 1080p is still a really good option, especially on smaller laptops where the resolution won’t make too much of a difference.
Aside from the displays, everything you can find on a 4K laptop is also available on a 1080p laptop. From the high-end GPUs to the multi-core CPUs, multiple sticks of RAM, speedy and high capacity storage, and even the extra RGB flare. This means, that you’re not losing out on the hardware end, aside from the resolution difference.
4K vs 1080p: Availability & Pricing
In terms of availability, you can pretty much choose from thousands of 1080p laptops in the market. There is an abundance of 1080p laptops that get released every year, with the latest and greatest hardware, so you’ll have no problem choosing one that suits your needs.
Thanks to the growing popularity of 4K resolution, the number of 4K laptops have been rising in recent years. You can also choose from hundreds of different 4K laptops, from different manufacturers. Surely, you’ll be able to find one that fits you as well.
The pricing of 4K and 1080p laptops is a tricky subject. The contrast in pricing between 1080p and 4K laptops is quite vast. 1080p laptops are known to be very cheap, you can get a decent one for everyday tasks for around $400, while a decent 4K laptop will cost you at least $1000. A solid 1080p laptop budget will start at around $1000, while a solid 4K laptop will be priced at around $2000.
If you’re on a budget and want the best bang for your buck laptop, a 1080p laptop is the best choice for you. However, if money isn’t a problem and you want the best experience possible with clear and crisp visuals, a 4K laptop is the way to go.
4K vs 1080p: Everyday Use
When it comes to usability and portability both 1080p and 4K laptops are great. They allow you to accomplish tasks on the go and allow you to work on things even if you are not at home. For video editing and photo editing, I suggest getting a good 4K laptop with great color accuracy to ensure the best possible display you can get.
For basic tasks such as word processing, creating presentations, and browsing the web, a 1080p laptop should be more than enough.
Gaming on a laptop is another topic. It is harder to run games at higher resolutions due to the additional processing power needed to push more pixels. This is why I think that it is best to get a high-end 1080p laptop if your primary purpose is gaming. You can get way higher frames with the same hardware in 1080p than in 4K.
Although the argument can be made that you can simply lower the in-game resolution to 1080p on 4K laptops in order to get better frames, 4K laptops with high refresh rates are hard to find and are very expensive. While there are tons of 1080p laptops with high refresh rates, with some going as high as 360Hz. Higher refresh rates will allow you to have a smoother and better experience in-game which is why I suggest getting a high refresh rate 1080p laptop instead of a 4K laptop for gaming.
4K vs 1080p: Verdict
Both 1080p and 4K laptops are great in their own rights. You can’t go wrong with either, as long as you have decent hardware. 1080p laptops will always be cheaper than 4K laptops which makes it a better budget option since you can get more out of your money. High refresh rate 1080p laptops are also great for gaming and will most likely give you the best gaming experience.
A 4K laptop screen is just stunning to look at. If your workload focuses on creating and editing videos, watching movies, and a little bit of gaming on the side, you won’t regret getting a 4K laptop. Just keep in mind that 4K laptops can get very expensive, and it will cost you thousands to get a solid one.
Recommended 4K Laptops
Once you have already made up your mind and are ready to experience 4K on a laptop, these are our top suggestions that you surely won’t regret buying.
This is a good budget option that offers decent performance as well. It has a 15.6” AMOLED 4K laptop screen with great color accuracy, an Intel i7-9750H 6core 12thread processor matched with a GTX 1660Ti to help run the 4K display. It comes with 16GB of RAM, which should be plenty for today’s standards, and a fast 512GB NVme SSD for storage. It also has plenty of jacks like the HDMI 2.0, a mini-DP 1.4 port, 3 USB ports, and a Thunderbolt 3 port, together with an SD card reader.
This is a great gaming and workstation that doesn’t break the bank. It offers some really great flexibility together with some great hardware that can’t be matched within this price point. It’s a great-looking laptop with some RGB as well which gives it some extra flare.
This laptop has a 15.6” 4K OLED screen with a 1ms response time and great color range making it great for both gaming and productivity workloads. It has an Intel i7-10750H 6core 12thread processor, matched with a solid performing RTX 2070 Max-Q with the ability to turn RTX on for a more cinematic gaming experience. This is matched with 16GB of RAM and a 512GB NVMe SSD. It also has multiple USB Type-A and Type-C ports, a Thunderbolt 3 port, and an HDMI port.
The Razer Blade 15 is a good middle-ground laptop that offers high-end hardware to be able to handle any productivity workloads or gaming with ease. It also has a clean looking aluminum finish to provide a sturdier exterior.
The MSI GT76 Titan truly lives up to its name and is a titan when it comes to both gaming and productivity. It has a larger 17.3” 4K UHD screen that has an IPS-level 100% Adobe RGB rating that displays stunning pictures with accurate colors. Inside the laptop is an Intel i9-10900K 10core 20thread CPU together with an RTX 2080 Super. You also get 64GB of RAM and 2 1TB NVMe SSDs for mass storage. It has 4 USB Type-A ports, a Type-C port, a Thunderbolt 3 port, a mini-DisplayPort, and an HDMI port.
This laptop is an absolute beast that can run anything you throw at it, from workloads to gaming. This titan can do it all. It’s gonna hurt your wallet a lot but there’s not a lot of laptops nor desktops out there that can outperform this monster.
4K laptops are here to stay and they are growing in numbers each year. They offer crisp and clear picture quality that provides an unparalleled viewing experience. The only downside to 4K laptops are their prices. They require powerful hardware in order to run the already expensive 4K screen which makes them more expensive than 1080p laptops.
This brings us back to the question, are 4K laptops worth it? Well, it depends. If you value the display quality, then yes by all means. If you want the best of the best, top of the line hardware, again, yes 4K laptops are simply amazing. However, if you are on a budget and want the best value for your money, 1080p is the way to go. If you are a competitive gamer, high refresh-rate 1080p laptops will likely provide you with more value than 4K displays.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to preference, usage, and budget. 1080p and 4K laptops both have their own strengths and weaknesses and are amazing in their own rights. You can’t go wrong with choosing one over the other, and you’ll surely be satisfied no matter which laptop you choose.