When it comes to gaming, graphics are king. As a result, everyone is racing to have the smoothest, most detailed, and most vibrant graphics you can get for your money.
But unfortunately (and perhaps surprisingly), one place where people don’t often focus their graphics money is their monitors.
While many people know to get the newest, fastest graphics cards, monitors can sometimes fall by the wayside in the conversation. But they’re equally as crucial as your graphics card!
After all, if your monitor doesn’t have enough pixels, it doesn’t matter what your graphics card can output; you won’t be able to see it. So, let’s take a look at the difference between 4K 60 Hz monitors and 1440p 144 Hz monitors to see which one you should add to your setup!
4K? 1440p? 60 Hz? What Do All These Numbers and Letters Mean?
Monitors are typically measured on two axes, the number of pixels present on the screen—also known as the resolution—and the number of times the screen can refresh the image by drawing a new animation frame.
- Resolution is typically measured in pixels, while refresh rate is measured in Hertz.
Resolution: What Is It? What’s a Good Resolution for Gaming?
Resolution determines how detailed the image you see on your screen is.
Take, for example, one single pixel in the colour red. If more pixels surround that red pixel, we can get more colour detail regarding the rest of the image.
However, suppose that pixel is responsible for too much of the image due to lack of pixel density. In that case, the image will start to look blurry and lack detail.
The blurriness of an image can also be caused by a screen that is too large compared to the image being displayed. For example, this can occur when a person watches a low-resolution video on a large screen. In these cases, the smaller pixels are being expanded to a larger display, causing the video to blur because the image is too small and being blown up to the size of the screen.
Resolution is typically measured using the height of the image (1440p is a resolution of 2560×1440.) But more recent resolutions have become so large that we are now measuring them in how many multiples of 1080 (the original “full HD resolution”) the resolution contains.
4K video has a few other standards that must be met before the video can be listed as 4K for playback. They are as follows.
- A resolution of at least 3840×2160 pixels or higher
- 10-bit colour depth that allows for at least 1,024 shades of each primary colour: red, green, and blue.
- High dynamic range (HDR) footage for maximum colour accuracy and high-resolution contrast.
- Both peak brightness and black level, either more than 1,000 nits peak brightness and less than 0.05 nits black level or more than 540 nits peak brightness and less than 0.0005 nits black level.
Now, this is relative to the footage being shown, not the device it’s being shown on. Devices that cannot receive and play 4K footage will not be able to see all the nuanced factors that go into making 4K footage.
There is also 4K upscaled footage, which is merely regular footage upscaled to a higher resolution to be played on a 4K device. This upscaled footage is not the same as true 4K footage, designed only to be played on natively compatible devices.
The other axis that monitors are measured on is their refresh rate.
When your computer outputs an animation, the monitor must draw each animation frame individually. Now, this happens extremely quickly; your eyes will never be able to see it in motion unless your monitor is broken.
This measurement uses Hertz as the unit of measure. Each Hertz is one picture that the screen can draw per second. So, a 60 Hz monitor can draw 60 images in a second.
Now many gamers choose to forego refresh rate for a higher resolution. But this isn’t the best way to play all games.
You see, a monitor with a higher refresh rate will display more animation frames when playing games. For some games which rely heavily on frame data, such as fighting games, you want to prioritize the refresh rate to provide your eyes with the most possible frame data you can muster.
Even if your computer can run a game at 120 frames per second, if the monitor can’t refresh more than 60 times a second, you won’t see all 120 frames the game generates.
So for people who rely on frame data or professional gamers who may use frame data even when it’s unnecessary, a 60 Hz monitor is unplayably slow. They aren’t getting all the data they need to be able to see to play the game at a high level.
Which Is Better: 4K 60 Hz or 1440p 144 Hz?
Which is “better” will largely be determined by what games you intend to play on your new monitor.
For example, suppose you play a lot of games competitively or prefer games that use a lot of frame data in their meta games. In that case, you’ll want to downgrade the resolution and go for the 144 Hz monitor. This setup will provide you with buttery smooth graphics and all the frame data your little heart desires.
However, suppose you’re in a situation where you play mostly single-player games or don’t play any games competitively. In that case, you might want to choose a 4K 60Hz monitor.
Human eyes see at around 60 “frames” per second. So at 60Hz, you’ll see smooth graphics that don’t skip or stutter and get the ultra high-definition video you deserve!
Many gamers report that they prefer a monitor with a high refresh rate over one with a high resolution. This preference is likely because computer monitors are typically small enough that the high resolution you get is condensed and not necessarily worth the drop in frames if you’re gaming.
However, suppose you’re looking at televisions or other super-large monitors. In that case, you’ll get the most out of them if you spring for a monitor with a super-high definition and a reasonable refresh rate.
TL;DR: If you play games competitively, a 144 Hz monitor is what you should be looking for. If you play primarily single-player games, a 4K monitor is going to give more of a boost to graphical quality. If you’re looking at TVs, you definitely want to choose a 4K TV as this will provide the most high-fidelity graphics at that screen size. Computer monitors may lose out a bit when showing 4K graphics as the screens are much smaller.
Finding the right monitor for your setup is hard. So, it makes sense to want to do a lot of research and find the perfect fit for your current setup.
Both 4K 60 Hz and 1440p 144 Hz monitors are incredibly high quality and provide an excellent viewing experience.
Of course, there are different situations where one might prefer one over the other. Still, they’re both excellent choices in their respective fields!