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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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Scharon Harding has a special affinity for gaming peripherals (especially monitors), laptops and virtual reality. Previously, she covered business technology, including hardware, software, cyber security, cloud and other IT happenings, at Channelnomics, with bylines at CRN UK.