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4K vs. 1080p TV

What’s the difference between a 4K TV and a 1080p TV?

We truly live in a golden age of content. Thanks to streaming services, the rate at which studios release television shows and movies is faster than ever. With the influx of high-quality content to watch, you’ve likely found yourself considering a new TV to watch it all on.

If you’re in the market for a new TV, you may be wondering whether or not you should invest in a 4K TV. When we talk about 4k, 1080p or even 720p, what we’re talking about is the number of pixels on the TV’s screen, but, believe it or not, there is a lot more to making the right decision than just the pixel count.


Since the first 4K TV hit the market in 2012, it has officially become mainstream. 4K TV offers a staggering 3840 by 2160 resolution, but several other features make these TVs stand out. If you’re looking to purchase a 4K TV, you can expect to spend between $250-$3000.

What you’ll love about 4K TVs

Superior Resolution: Higher resolution TVs have smaller pixels than lower resolution TVs; therefore, more pixels fit on the screen. By definition, 4K TVs have a horizontal pixel count of exactly 4,000, making them stand out against the competition, but many TVs advertised as 4K only have 3,840 horizontal pixels. Still, you likely won’t be able to tell the difference between a TV with 4,000 horizontal pixels vs. one with only 3,840 unless you use a magnifying glass.

High Dynamic Range (HDR): HDR significantly improves the overall picture quality and the vibrance of the colors on your screen. The color contrast is also dramatically improved, meaning colors will truly stand out against one another. It’s important to note, not all 4K content supports HDR, but most Blu-Rays and 4K streaming services offer a wide selection of HDR content.

OLED, XLED and QLED Panels: Although 4K TVs offer superior resolution, many of them light the pixels in clusters, which can cause color bleeding and lower the resolution. Samsung’s QLED and Vizio’s XLED 4K TVs use a unique approach to lighting, preventing the color from bleeding and ensuring you get the most out of your 4K experience.  LG’s and Sony’s OLED 4K TVs light each pixel individually and turn individual pixels off to produce black. OLED TVs are among the most expensive ones available, but you can’t beat them in picture quality.

What you should consider about 4K TVs

In many cases, content isn’t available in 4K, meaning that even though you have a 4K TV, it doesn’t improve the resolution of the show you’re watching. Most television stations don’t broadcast in 4K, so if you watch lots of cable TV, 4K might be unnecessary. 4K TVs are also significantly more expensive than their 1080p counterparts.

1080p on 4K TV

Since television is not broadcast in 4K, you might be wondering what 1080p resolution looks like on a 4K TV. The truth is, there is virtually no difference between watching a 1080p program on a 4K TV and a 1080p TV. They will look the same. 

Most 4K TVs have a feature called “upscaling” or “upconverting” to convert any incoming source file to fit the 4K screen. Although upscaling can improve picture quality, you would likely have to sit very close and examine the picture very closely to notice a difference.

Which 4K TV is best?

Samsung QN90A Neo QLED 4K Smart TV 

This feature-packed 4K TV boasts a superior cinematic viewing experience, thanks to its impressive color-contrast, dynamic audio system and glare-free screen. The ultra-slim QN90A also features a wide range of pre-installed apps and a wide viewing angle.

Sold by Amazon and Samsung

1080p TV

1080p TVs are significantly more affordable than 4K TVs and still produce crisp HD images. Most television shows and streaming services stream in 1080p, making it an excellent choice for any household. A capable 1080p TV can set you back $100-$300.

What you’ll love about 1080p TVs

  • Excellent resolution: 1080p TVs have a resolution of 1920 by 1080, which produces a clear, crisp picture that your family will love.
  • Affordable smart TV capabilities: Buying a 4K smart TV can set you back $1,000 or more. However, you can buy a 1080p TV with full smart TV capabilities for less than $300.
  • Compatibility: Nearly everything is broadcast in 1080p, meaning you don’t pay for any unnecessary features with a 1080p TV.

What you should consider about 1080p TVs

Although 1080p TVs are considered HD, they don’t typically offer HDR features like their 4K counterparts. You’ll still get a clear picture, but there will almost always be some color-bleeding in the pixels.

If television makes the switch to 4K broadcasting soon, you may end up having to purchase a 4K TV anyway if you want the most out of your broadcasting experience.

Which 1080p TV  is the best?

Samsung N5300 Smart Full HD TV 

This 1080p TV produces a crystal-clear picture that rivals many other 1080p options. The N5300 includes a massive array of apps, two HDMI ports and razor-sharp color contrast, despite not being an HDR TV.

Sold by Samsung

Should you get a 4K or 1080p TV?

If you are an avid Blu-Ray watcher or use 4K-friendly streaming services, buying a 4K TV is ideal. Purchasing a 4K TV also future-proofs your household should television stations ever broadcast in 4K.

If you spend more time watching cable television than you do Blu-Rays or use a streaming service that doesn’t have a wide range of 4K content, you’ll save a ton of money by choosing a 1080p TV.


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Cody Stewart writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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