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What Is 4K / UHD Resolution? A Basic Definition

(Image credit: Daniel Krason/Shutterstock)

4K, also known as 2160p and UHD, is a popular display resolution. Resolution explains how many pixels a display has in width x height format, and the more pixels a screen has, the sharper its image should look. The Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI), a group of motion picture studios that creates standards for digital cinema, defines 4K resolution as 4096 x 2160, but this resolution is rare in consumer products. You’ll usually see PC monitors, laptops and TVs labeled as 4K have a 3840 x 2160 resolution. However, this resolution is officially considered Ultra HD (UHD). As such, you'll often see displays labeled as 4K/UHD.

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

There are a numerous high-end laptops with 4K screens available. There is also a lot of 4K monitors on the market today, and they can be relatively affordable. However, if you want a 4K gaming monitor with a high refresh rate (120Hz or more), you'l have to pay a premium. 

Common PC Display Resolutions

5K5120 x 2880
4K3840 x 2160 (typical monitor resolution); 4096 x 2160 (official cinema resolution)
Ultra HD (UHD)3840 x 2160
QHD aka WQHD aka 1440p2560 x 1440
2K2560 x 1440 (typical monitor resolution); 2048 x 1080 (official cinema resolution)
WUXGA 1920 x 1200
Full HD aka FHD aka 1080p1920 x 1080
HD aka 720p1280 x 720

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

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