When comparing TV screens, editing videos, or choosing a computer monitor, we often hear the word resolution. It refers to the video quality you receive and becomes one of the most important factors when making a decision. For almost a decade, 4K remains a gold standard of high-quality videos although there are already a few rivals on the way. For example, 2160p. In this guide, we’ll discuss the 2160p vs 4K confrontation and do the i’s to help you make a final decision.
What is 4K?
The simplest way to describe a resolution is to explain what the numbers in its title mean. The 4K format is rather self-explanatory as it stands for 4,000 – the number of horizontal display pixels. As a rule, this format refers to a 4,096 x 2,160 resolution which equals 8 million active pixels. The first number indicates horizontal resolution in pixels and the second one – the vertical one. Just imagine: this resolution is four times better than a 1080p display! Of course, it is a real pleasure watching a movie or a TV show in a 4K format.
However, if you look at descriptions of modern displays, you might notice that most of them have a slightly worse resolution of 3,840 x 2,160. As you see, it can’t be referred to as 4K, but the term has already been adapted and widely used across manufacturers. Why so? The answer is simple: sometimes, a 4,096 x 2,160 screen distorts or stretches the image and you notice black boxes on both sizes.
What is 2160p?
Don’t rush to change the video quality because 2160p might be the resolution you have been looking for. 2160p is a rather new format which was first introduced in 2003. That year, the world was shaken by Dalsa Origin, the first digital camera with 2160p cinematography. But the changes didn’t happen overnight, and it took the industry almost 10 years to implement the new resolution.
2160p describes screens with a 2,160-pixel vertical resolution. Letter p means progressive scan or non-interlaced display. Progressive scanning is a format where image frame lines are drawn in sequence, unlike interlaced videos, where lines come in an alternating way. Sounds too complicated? Then just remember that 2160p relies on vertical resolution and 4K – on the horizontal one. Thus, most 2160p displays are also 4K.
What is UHD?
Another quite common term you will come across is UHD, which stands for ultra-high definition. Basically, it is interchangeable with 4K because its display has a 3,840 x 2,160 resolution. Considering that most 4K screens have the same resolution, retailers often refer to 4K as UHD and vice versa. Sometimes, you may also hear 4K UHD regarding 3,840 x 2,160 displays which also have a rather difficult-to-pronounce title UHDTV1.
The difference between 4K and 2160p
Although rather often both formats are considered identical, there are several minor differences including resolution, total pixel count, and usage. Knowing what sets 4K and 2160p apart will help you make an informed decision. Below, we discuss these differences in detail.
Let us start with the most obvious feature – resolution. 4K stands for a 4,096 x 2,160 pixels resolution and has aspect ratios from 1.90:1 to 1.85.1 depending on how the picture is cropped. 2160p has an average aspect ratio of 1.77:1, so 4K is a bit larger. But keep in mind that many display manufacturers trick their customers and call 3,840 x 2,160 resolution 4K even though it is not correct.
Another difference between 4K and 2160p lies in the overall pixel count. Above, we have already discussed their resolutions which naturally lead to different pixel counts. For example, at 2160p displays it equals 8,294,000. 4K screens have a bigger pixel count – 8,847,360. The difference is quite impressive – 550,000 pixels. Even if the ratio is cropped to 1.85:1, 4K still has a better resolution of 8,631,360 pixels.
All users are different and so are their goals. Some people need a laptop or a tablet, while others – a home cinema or a projector. And the choice of resolution will be completely different. As a rule, 2160p or 4K UHD as it is often called, is mostly used for smartphones, personal computers, and TVs. 4K is more professional and suits larger screens and projectors. If you need advanced technologies for bigger displays, search for a DCI label. When making a decision, ask sales assistants for a quick demonstration.
Interesting facts about screen resolutions
To choose the right display or support a conversation, you might need extra facts about the subject. And we are ready to give it to you:
- The first televisions introduced around the 1930s had only 24 and 96 lines;
- Nowadays, most computer displays surpass TVs in quality, but it wasn’t always like that. In the 1980s, users had to plug their computers into their TV sets to get a display;
- In the early 1990s, computer monitors were more square compared to cinema projectors. Monitors usually had 4:3 aspect ratios and projectors – 2.39:1 or 1.85:1. These days you will hardly find a 4:3 or 5:4 screen;
- While there are 8K (4320p), 4K (2160p), and 2K (1080p) resolutions, 1K is absent. It would stand for 768p resolution which is much smaller than any modern display has to offer;
- In 2015, Sharp introduced the first 8K TV set with a 7,680 x 4,320 resolution.
The 2160p vs 4k confrontation won’t end any time soon, so you should choose a resolution that suits your needs and budget. Regular users might not even notice a difference between the two formats because they both work with WCG and HDR, large uncompressed videos and offer customers full immersion into the video. We hope that our article was useful and now you are ready to make a decision.