4K is taking the world by storm, and more content than ever before is being released in 4K.
However, the vast majority of the content – both on YouTube, cable television and streaming services like Netflix is only available in 1080p.
Therefore, you may be wondering – does 1080p look bad on a 4K television? Will it appear blurry or pixelated, and would trying to view 1080p on a 4K monitor look bad?
These are excellent questions. In this article, we’ll cover everything that you need to know!
Does 1080p Content Look Bad On A 4K TV?
No, 1080p content does not look bad on a 4K television. In fact, the majority of 1080p content looks vastly improved when displayed on a 4K monitor!
This is due to a process called upscaling.
Essentially, 4K televisions take the 1080p content, and use algorithms to upscale the content to 4K. While it isn’t perfect and doesn’t look quite as good as content that was actually shot in 4K natively, it still offers a significant improvement over 1080p.
Without upscaling, 1080p content would only take up 1/4th of the space on your TV, with the rest of the screen being black. So, we’re thankful that upscaling technology exists!
That being said, modern TVs do more than just stretch the 1080p content out. If that’s all that happened, 1080p content would unfortunately look quite blurry.
Instead, TVs use algorithms to try and ‘guess’ how to fill in each pixel, to make the picture look as perfect as possible. The result is 1080p content looking much more crisp – even close to true 4K most of the time.
Note: Each model of TV will handle upscaling differently, and some brands tend to have better results than others. If you’ll be streaming 1080p content on your 4K TV and you don’t want it to look bad, be sure to shop around for 4K UHD TVs that have good upscaling. Most television enthusiasts agree that currently, Sony is the leader when it comes to upscaling. As a personal note, I have a smart TV in the Sony Bravia line, and it is fantastic!
Pixel Density Matters Too!
Although upgrading from 1080p to 4K quadruples the resolution (which is why 4K content looks so much better), another thing to keep in mind is the pixel density of your screen.
Pixel density is the total number of pictures in a given area. It is often measured by the square inch, commonly referred to as pixels per inch or PPI for short.
A 4K monitor will contain exactly the same number of pixels, regardless of the screen size – 3840 pixels wide, and 2160 pixels tall. However, the pixel density varies depending on the size of the screen.
Because the resolution stays the same, the pixel density decreases as the screen gets bigger. The pixels themselves get physically larger, but there is less of them in a given area.
For example, a 55″ 4K UHD TV has a pixel density of 80.11, but a 75″ 4K UHD TV has a pixel density of only 58.74.
This means that the image will look less sharp as the screen size increases.
However, 4K is still a significant upgrade, especially if you are upgrading from a 1080P screen of similar size. To put things in perspective, 1080p has a pixel density that is exactly half of 4K.
Do 1080p Video Games Look Bad On A 4K TV?
No. Just like with video content, games should not look bad on a 4K television either.
In fact, the majority of them should look much better due to the TV’s built-in upscaling technology, even if the game does not have 4K textures built into it.
That being said, the difference in quality may not be quite as good as streamed video content, or Blu-ray movies. This is because with video games, the content all has to be rendered in real-time, rather than being pre-recorded.
The difference in quality is more noticeable on some games than others. For example, retro games that use basic graphics may not look that much more sharp in 4K.
However, action and adventure games, as well as open-world RPGs may see a significant improvement in visual quality, even without changing the graphics settings within the game.
Is It Worth Buying A 4K TV?
Knowing everything we now know, you may be wondering – is it worth paying more money for a 4K tv, even if you’re going to be using a lot of 1080p content on it?
While this is largely a personal decision, we do recommend opting for a quality 4K television when possible.
More content is being released and remastered for 4K televisions, as adoption of them has grown drastically in recent years. More and more consumers are demanding content that is released in 4K, and major studios are paying attention. Even older shows and movies are being remastered and rereleased in 4K, meaning there’s more content than ever available for 4K televisions.
Additionally, modern gaming system such as Sony’s PlayStation 5 and Microsoft’s Xbox Series X are designed with 4K support in mind, meaning AAA gaming studios have followed suit as well.
Clearly, 4K televisions are more futureproof, and it’s likely that the release of 4K content will only grow over time. Whether you want to use your TV to browse YouTube or play the latest games, nearly everything about it will be better when opting for 4K.
However, there is one thing to keep in mind with 4K televisions, and that is data / bandwidth requirements.
Streaming 4K video uses significantly more data than streaming 1080p. In fact, streaming services recommend you have at least 25 Mbps of available bandwidth in order to stream in 4K. As a comparison, 1080p video may only require 5 Mbps.
So, if you live in a rural area or do not have fast internet, you may experience buffering while trying to stream 4K content.
That being said, 1080p content will still perform exactly the same as it would on a 1080P monitor. All upscaling of 1080p to 4K is done locally, without putting any strain on your internet connection. So, you can still experience an improvement by upgrading to a 4K television.
Note: It’s also worth mentioning that modern 4K televisions often have other significant improvements over 1080P TVs, including HDR support, better handling of motion, and better internal components.
Thankfully, even regular HD, 1080p content tends to look better on 4K UHD televisions, than on 1080p televisions.
Because modern upscaling technology is so powerful, you can gain a massive picture improvement with a quality 4K television, even if you aren’t using it to display 4K content.
Therefore, it’s worth upgrading to a 4K television for your next purchase. More and more content is becoming available for 4K, and it’s clearly where the industry is going. So, a quality 4K TV will serve you for years to come.
I hope that you’ve found this article helpful. If you have any other questions about televisions or monitors, please ask them using the comment form below.
Wishing you the best,
– James McAllister