Thinking of buying a new monitor? Confused about whether to choose a 4k or an ultrawide monitor? As monitors are huge investments, it is imperative to understand the difference between these two types of displays.
Both 4k and ultrawide monitors are good in their own rights but the key factor to assess while choosing between them is understanding the difference between these monitors, their advantages/disadvantages, and practical implications.
Do not worry as we will delve into each factor so that you can make a proper assessment of which monitor suits your needs the best.
What is a 4k Monitor?
The keyword here is 4k referring to 4000, but what does the 4000 refer to?
Every display has a certain number of pixels. Eg: a display can be 1280 * 720p (Basic HD) ,1920*1080 (Full HD) etc
It refers to the number of pixels present in that monitor. For a long time, 1920*1080 pixels (FHD) were considered the standard for a good display resolution. This has changed with the introduction of 4k as it sports an approximate pixel of 3840*2160.
So, in simple terms, you could consider a 4k monitor (commonly referred to as Ultra HD or UHD) as a display that has approximately 4 times the number of pixels when compared to a traditional Full HD display. Another way of looking at is it has around 8 million pixels approximately.
Higher the number of pixels, more details can be displayed, making the displayed image crisper and high-quality.
The 4k monitors also use an aspect ratio of 16:9 which means the ratio of the width and height of the display is 16:9. For every 16 units of horizontal space in the monitor, we get 9 units of vertical space for display.
Fun fact:We refer to HD resolution as 720p taken from 1280*720p or Full HD as 1080 p taken from 1920*1080p. But for 4K we describe the resolution from its horizontal pixels rather than the vertical number of pixels.
So, if someone comes up to you and tells you, I have a monitor of 1080p, understand the display’s vertical number of pixels is 1080p, but if they tell you that they have a monitor 4K monitor, the horizontal number of pixels is close to 4000.
What is an Ultrawide Monitor?
The monitor is aptly named after its design. It is a monitor that has a widescreen compared to normal computer monitors. Ever see those long monitors in YouTube gaming videos, that’s the one.
The standard number of pixels that ultrawide monitors display is 3440*1440 (most popular) or 2560*1080.
This means the monitors follow an aspect ratio of 21:9. Still confused? Eg: a monitor has a pixel number of 3440*1440. When you divide 3440 by 1440, you get the exact same result as dividing 21/9.
An ultrawide monitors aspect ratio of 21:9 means for every 12 units of horizontal units; we get 9 units of vertical space.
But the question arises, is the 21:9 ratio the only possibility? No! as technology has progressed, we now have the option of getting ultrawide monitors with a 32:9 ratio and a pixel combination of 5120*1440 or 3840*1200. These monitors are commonly referred to as super ultrawide.
Just remember the horizontal side of the monitor is what gives it the name ultrawide. In terms of design, we currently have both flat and curved versions of ultrawide monitors on the market.
4k Monitors VS UltraWide Monitors
We will try to compare different scenarios on how these monitors can be used and judge the possibilities and understand how it works in practical applications.
4k Monitors generally tend to be in sizes from 24 inches to 43 inches. In terms of Ultrawide monitors, they generally range from 32 to 49 inches.
These are just the most used sizes in the markets, there are of course outliers in the market. For eg: HP Omen X Emperium is 65 inches big.
Quality of Visuals
In terms of the quality of visuals, 4k takes the spot. The colors are crisper and high-quality. Professionals who work with visuals specifically are recommended to use a 4k Monitor.
Ultrawide monitors generally have fewer pixels in comparison but please understand it’s not like the picture looks bad in ultrawide.
Under normal circumstances, it doesn’t make a difference but for people who specifically work with 4K content, the monitor needs to be able to display it in its original resolution.
However, having said all that, we now also have the option of getting ultrawide 5K screens with a 32:9 aspect ratio. So those monitors can display 4K content easily.
We also recommend users buy monitors with HDR, and SRGB technology for better color gamut and contrast.
Most contents in circulation are still mostly in the 16:9 aspect ratio. As 4K monitors are made in this aspect ratio, the pictures cover the whole screen. In ultrawide monitors, the content shot in 16:9 only cover a section of the monitor.
We either must tolerate black borders around the video, or we can use a windowed mode where the rest of the background screen will still appear.
Now we have started getting 21:9 aspect ratios too, such content in an ultrawide monitor is amazing to look at but still the majority is done in 16:9. Eg: Most movies are shot in 21:9, whereas most TV shows are made in 16:9.
If black borders bug you out, it’s best to go for a 4K. If you don’t need that full-screen effect, ultrawide will be more than fine.
Now gaming can be debated as there are arguments for both sides of the coin. In our personal experience, we recommend 4k monitors or 5K ultrawide monitors for games that are centered on stories, and role play. Basically, games where there is no online competition in real-time.
Games like Witcher, Red Dead Redemption, Elden Ring, and God of War would be amazing on 4K monitors.
However, remember monitors with a higher number of pixels generally tend to have a low refresh rate. Refresh rate is basically the monitor’s ability to display new information through pixels in a second.
Eg: Most 4k monitors are advertised at 60 to 75 Hz. This means a display of 60hz can refresh the pixels 60 times in a second at 4k resolution. Please understand that the refresh rate is not the same as the frame rate per second.
4k Monitors will have higher pixel numbers but lower refresh rates, Ultrawide monitors have lower pixels but a higher refresh rate. 4k Monitors also heavily depend on your graphics card. As there are more pixels to constantly refresh, we recommend at least a GTX 1080 or higher.
For games where there is competition in real-time like call of Duty, Apex Legends, and Valorant, we highly recommend using ultrawide monitors. We can get refresh rates of 144-240Hz.
So, If you already have a 4k monitor, you do not need to worry. If there are lags during first-person shooter games, we can drop the resolution to improve gameplay.
Fewer pixels after reducing resolution means the strain to refresh them is less so you can have better chances in the game but this poses another fundamental question. What is the point of a 4K monitor if we cannot play stuff in 4K?
For users planning on getting a new monitor. We recommend getting ones with VSync capabilities. It doesn’t matter if it’s G-sync or FreeSync options. Just make sure the monitor allows this.
V-sync as the name suggests syncs the refresh rate of the graphics card with the monitor to minimize screen tearing, input lag, etc.
Ultrawide takes this in the bag. 4k monitors are flat in nature whereas, in ultrawide, we have options of curved ones. These monitors are immersive and will make you feel as if the screen is surrounding you.
Movies, games, and videos if supported in this format will provide you with an unparalleled experience. Also due to the extra space, games that support a 21:9 aspect ratio or games that use Field of view sliders can provide gamers with an extra advantage because they can see more around them.
Multipurpose / Everyday Use / Work
Ultra-wide monitors steal the spot when we talk about multitasking. As the screen are longer, we can use a single monitor to display stuff that would take 2-3 other monitors under normal circumstances. This is excellent for twitch streamers, or anyone that needs multiple tabs of screens displayed simultaneously.
For video editing, both monitors have their own unique selling points. 4k monitors are best when using high resolutions videos.
Eg: if the content is shot in 4K but our monitor doesn’t support a 4K display while editing, what is the point?
In terms of the process of editing, ultra-wide does seem to have a better timeline view of the video. This phenomenon is very evident in software like premiere pro.
It’s more spread out giving a comfortable working space for the editor, but the core factor about video editing is the video itself, so, we side with the 4k monitor in such cases.
We can however get an ultra-wide 5k monitor and have the best of both worlds.
On ultra-wide curved monitors, lines or any other straight objects might look a bit skewed due to the curve. This can be detrimental for professionals who work with lines or design. We do not get these problems in 4k monitors.
Generally, Ultrawide screens will be more expensive as there is more of the screen to be manufactured compared to 4k Monitors. This however doesn’t hold true in all instances. Prices will fluctuate according to the following factors:
- Refresh Rate
- Size of the Screen
- The total amount of pixels
- V-sync capabilities.
Both 4K Monitors and ultra-wide monitors generally can range from around $250 to $4000.
Which Monitor to buy?
In the end, many factors come into play. We however recommend using ultra-wide monitors if you are a person in need of a monitor for work, programming, and competitive fast-paced games with other online players.
If you are centered on visual editing, photography, or anything that requires high-quality colors, etc., We recommend using a 4K monitor. We also recommend 4k’s if you are into explorative single-player games.
However, at the end of the day, it depends on what you like and is comfortable with. Let us know which monitor you get.