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What Is 4K Resolution? A Basic Definition

BenQ EW3270U 32-inch UHD monitor

4K, aka Ultra HD (UHD), is a popular display resolution. Resolution explains how many pixels a display has in length x width format (the more, the better when choosing a PC monitor). The Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI), a group of motion picture studios that creates standards for digital cinema, defines 4K resolution as 4096 x 2160; however, this resolution is rare in PC monitors. You’ll usually see monitors labeled as 4K have a 3840 x 2160 resolution. However, this resolution is officially considered Ultra HD (UHD). As such, you will often run into monitors labeled as 4K/UHD.

Most modern GPUs support 4K/UHD output, though you'll need a fairly powerful graphics chip to play games in 4K/UHD. For this reason, a lot of gamers prefer running at 1080p resolution (1920 x 1080).

4K monitors are also plentiful and relatively affordable. However, if you want a monitor with a high refresh rate and 3840 x 2160 resolution, you will have to pay a premium. There are also a number of laptops that are available with 4K panels, including the Dell XPS 15 and Alienware 17.

Common Monitor Resolutions:

5K5120 x 2880
4K3840 x 2160 (typical monitor resolution)4096 x 2160 (official cinema resolution)
Ultra HD (UHD)3840 x 2160
Quad HD (QHD) aka Wide Quad HD (WQHD)2560 x 1440
2K2560 x 1440 (typical monitor resolution)2048 x 1080 (official cinema resolution)
WUXGA 1920 x 1200
Full HD (FHD) aka 1080p aka HD1920 x 1080
HD aka 720p1280 x 720

This article is part of the Tom's Hardware Glossary.

Further reading: