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4K vs 1080p: Which resolution is right for you?

Resolution is a key part of any new TV purchase, but it may not be as cut and dry as you'd expect.
September 17, 2021
Mi QLED TV 4K with Android TV interface
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

Upgrading to a new TV should be an exciting time, but it’s easier said than done. There are so many sizes and manufacturers to choose from that it can leave your head spinning. Beyond that, some TVs come with extras like an Amazon Fire TV or Chromecast built right in. Today we want to focus on a different battle, breaking down 4K vs 1080p to help you decide on your next TV resolution.

See also: The best TV deals

What is 1080p?

In the simplest of terms, 1080p indicates a display resolution with 1,080 vertical pixels. It also has 1,920 horizontal pixels for a total of around two million pixels. However, the “p” in 1080p doesn’t stand for pixels; instead, it indicates progressive scanning. That means that the entire image is transmitted at once instead of through a series of interlaced scans. Essentially, progressive scanning means that a 1080p TV offers a smoother picture as you won’t notice a flickering effect.

What is 4K?

If you thought two million pixels was plenty, a 4K TV packs 3,840 horizontal pixels paired with 2,160 vertical pixels. When it’s all said and done, you’re looking at about eight million pixels total on a 4K display. The “K” in 4K doesn’t have a technological meaning like the p in 1080p; rather, it refers to thousands. Specifically, it relates to the (nearly) 4,000 horizontal pixels.

See also: The best 4K monitors you can get on a budget

4K vs 1080p: The biggest differences

samsung neo qled tv smart trainer

Some of the main differences between 4K and 1080p TVs may seem obvious. However, it helps to break down each category for a better look at the 4K vs. 1080p debate. Here are a few of the key points to look into:


We can’t compare the differences between 4K and 1080p TVs without comparing the resolutions. With nearly four times as many pixels, you’ll notice significantly better details on a 4K TV. Of course, you’ll need a large enough TV that you can see the difference in sitting distance. In the battle of 4K vs 1080p resolution, the 4K TV has a clear advantage.


The extra pixels give 4K TVs the advantage when it comes to colors as well. They can achieve far more dynamic colors than 1080p TVs, and they can deliver deeper shadows too. You’ll also have to consider OLED and LCDs when you’re debating colors. They control the amount of light that reaches each pixel, which can significantly impact shadows.

It’s also worth noting that 4K is the way to go if you’re looking for special features like HDR.


We have to give 1080p TVs the edge in terms of content, at least for now. Sure, plenty of YouTube and Netflix shows offer 4K streaming, but it’s not universal quite yet. You’ll stand a better chance of finding content in 1080p, though it may upscale if you have a fancier TV. In addition, many new gaming consoles like the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 support 4K content, so gamers may want to splurge.

See also: Disney Plus 4K support | Does Amazon Prime Video support 4K? | Does Hulu support 4K?

Availability and cost

Now that we’re well into 2021, 4K TVs are really taking over the market. A quick search over at Best Buy reveals about two-dozen 1080p TVs while the retailer carries a whopping 278 4K options.

These days, the manufacturing costs of 4K panels for TVs have gone down significantly, and the savings are passed onto all of us. An excellent 4K TV can run you as low as $300 from manufacturers like TCL. These sets often have a Roku stick or AndroidTV built-in, so you won’t have to worry about finding a source for your next TV show binge. 1080p sets can cost as little as half as much, but you might miss out on size and smart features.

Why choose 1080p?

4K vs 1080p: 1080p benefits

One of the best reasons to choose a TV with a 1080p resolution is that you know what you’re getting. 1080p TVs have pretty much peaked, so you won’t have to worry about new features coming along. They’re also incredibly cheap, as we mentioned before. You can buy a 1080p TV and a new gaming console for less than what some 4K TVs will cost you.

Furthermore, there’s still a good bit of overlap between 1080p and 4K features. You’ll have access to most of the same smart TV apps, and you can plug your favorite streaming devices into either type of TV.

One final reason to stick with a 1080p TV is that not everything is broadcast in 4K quite yet. Most shows and live streams come in either 720p or 1080p, so your TV won’t have to upscale them.

Why choose 4K?

4K vs 1080p: 4K benefits
David Imel / Android Authority

While 1080p might be the past and part of the present, 4K TVs are the future. They’re still growing into their final forms, and you’ll only find powerful features like HDR on 4K TVs. While many platforms still stream in 1080p quality, many industry leaders are making the 4K switch. You can already find Netflix, Disney Plus, and YouTube content in 4K, and more platforms are sure to launch soon.

You may also want a 4K TV if you plan to get into next-gen gaming. While the PS5 and Xbox Series X and S are almost impossible to find, they already boast HDR and 4K support. You’ll also find 4K support on streaming devices like the Chromecast with Google TV and select Roku devices.

Even though 1080p TVs are currently cheaper than 4K units, the gap is narrowing. It’s easier than ever to find a 4K TV for just a few hundred bucks, and the more expensive options still blow 1080p TVs out of the water. 8K TVs are still in their earliest stages, so you should be pretty safe with a 4K TV for years to come.

4K vs 1080p: Decision time

Mi QLED TV 4K showing collections in patchwall
Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

So, we’ve gone through the main differences between 4K and 1080p TVs. Now you’re probably wondering which one you should buy. Well, we’d have to know more about your specific situation to give you a concrete recommendation. However, we’ve given you plenty of information to make an informed decision. It comes down to how much your wallet can handle because there are benefits to both TV types.

Of course, it’s no fun to sit on the fence of indecision. So we’ll do what we can to push you in one direction or the other. Those of you with healthy budgets of $300 or more should easily go for 4K TVs. If you’re not worried about cost, you may as well get the future-proof option. On the other hand, if you need a TV as soon as possible and you can’t afford much, then it’s best to stick with a 1080p TV. It saves you some money in the short term, and you can always save up for a nicer 4K resolution TV later.

Looking for a simple bedroom or guest TV? 1080p might be the way to go here, too, as these TV sizes are typically smaller, so the advantages of a 4K resolution might be less noticeable.

Well, that just about does it. Hopefully, you’ve decided on your next TV, and don’t forget that we have plenty of deals to help you out.