We have been seeing an increase in the resolution of display panels for a long time now, and even though many of us thought that things will stop at 1080P resolution, they did not. New panels came with 1440P resolution a few years ago and then 4K resolution came. 4K resolution is a big step up from 1440P resolution, although 1440P resolution still fits the needs of most users.

Nowadays, most mainstream high-end gaming displays come with a 4K resolution with a 60 Hz refresh rate or 1440P resolution with a 144Hz or 165Hz refresh rate. The graphical requirements of both of these displays are quite the same, although many people go for 4K displays, as the viewing experience of a 4K panel is just mind-boggling. 

First of all, let us have a look at the basic terminologies of the displays.

Can you play 1440p on 4K Monitor?

Yes you can play 1440p games on a 4K monitor but there are lots of stuff going on in displays the following are the basic terminologies you should know about.

Resolution: Resolution is among the most important aspect of a display. The display has tons of small-sized dots known as pixels that are colored and they are the reason for the image on the screen. Now, the more these pixels are, the more detail there will be on the screen. For a 4K panel, there are 3840 pixels on the x-axis and 2160 pixels on the y-axis. For the 1440P panel, there are 2560 pixels on the x-axis and 1440 pixels on the y-axis.

Refresh Rate: The refresh rate is another very important aspect of a monitor. For gaming, you have to have a high refresh-rate monitor. The refresh rate tells about the frequency of the image on the screen. The image on the monitor changes a lot of times every second. The more frequent it changes, the more smooth the overall experience feels. Most gaming monitors come with 144 Hz or 165 Hz panels, although 4K monitors usually have a 60 Hz refresh rate.

Pixel Pitch: The pixel pitch is quite a relevant concept to the resolution of the display and relates to the pixel density of the screen. The pixel pitch is the physical distance between two adjacent pixels and that dictates the PPI of the screen too, also known as pixel per inch. The higher the pixel density is, the more detailed it will feel from a certain distance. 

Upscaling: Upscaling is a pretty interesting concept used in displays. Now, when you buy a high-end display with a great super-sharp resolution, you came to know that your graphics card is not able to keep up with the display, and there is a huge FPS drop in gaming at this resolution. Now, it would be a ruckus if you would be stuck with that resolution. 

Modern LCDs cannot change the number of pixels like the old CRT monitors, which is why you are stuck with the number of pixels on the screen, however, you can upscale the image, which means that the computer will treat the display as a lower-resolution display, while the display will be handling the upscaling, i.e. fitting lower number of pixels on its actual number of pixels.

Downscaling: Downscaling is quite a similar concept to upscaling but the larger source is downscaled on the computer before going to the monitor so that it can be viewed. For example, a 4K video is downscaled on the PC to view at a 1440P screen. 

Upsampling: Upsampling is a much different concept and here, the source is sampled at a higher resolution than the monitor is capable of, and then the downscaling is done so that the monitor can show it. The processing is done at the graphics card’s end. Upsampling allows higher resolution rendering on lower-resolution displays, which greatly increases the overall image quality, as various artifacts like aliasing, etc. get minimized.

Some of the most common display resolutions are given below.

Sr. No. Resolution Type Resolution Pixels (Width x Height) Aspect Ratio
1 Standard Definition (SD) 480P 640 x 480 4:3
2 High Definition (HD) 720P 1280 x 720 16:9
3 Full HD (FHD) 1080P 1920 x 1080 16:9
4 Quad HD (QHD) 1440P 2560 x 1440 16:9
5 Ultra HD (UHD) 2160P 3840 x 2160 16:9

Is 4K resolution really Necessary?

It is true that 4K resolution provides a much better detail compared to 1440P resolution but can we even notice that detail? That is a question many ask and the answer is quite simple. If you have a relatively large screen where the PPI is not as high, 4K resolution is pretty much worth it, especially for viewing movies and videos, etc. However, if you have a small-sized screen, such as a 24-inch or 27-inch 4K screen, its high pixel density will make it quite similar to a 1440P screen in visual details. 

Playing 1440P Content on a 4K monitor

The 4K monitors are no doubt astonishing, and you never forget the first look of a 4K monitor. However, looking at 1440P content on a 4K monitor might not feel as good as 4K content or even 1440P content on a 1440P monitor. Let us have a detailed look at various kinds of content on viewing at a 4K screen.

The reason for this is that the computer cannot perfectly project 2560 pixels of 1440P source on 3840 pixels of a 4K monitor (width). The same goes for the height, and 1440 pixels cannot be perfectly projected on 2160 pixels of the 4K screen. In order to do this, the computer does some processing that blurs the image, thus resulting in lower image quality than viewing 1440P content on a native 1440P monitor.

Movies/Videos

When it comes to movies, there is the least amount of artifacts when viewing a 1440P source on a 4K monitor. The computer automatically does upscaling when the video is launched, and there are tons of techniques that tend to minimize ringing, aliasing, blur, etc. 

For example, a renowned Codec Pack such as K-Lite Mega Codec Pack comes with lots of video renderers, each having its own pros and cons, where some of them are faster but provide lower image quality while others provide top-notch image quality with lots of customization such as MadVR.

Overall, the experience of viewing 1440P movies or videos is not much different from viewing it natively on a 1440P monitor due to these software enhancements.

Games

Now, games are quite a lot different from viewing movies. In games, graphics are rendered in real-time, and that introduces a lot of issues such as aliasing, which affects the whole gaming experience. When you play games on 1440P resolution on a 4K screen, the image becomes quite blurry. In fact, for some people, it might even feel unplayable due to being so blurry. You can counter this blurriness with various techniques such as AMD Image Sharpening, although it won’t be nearly as good as when you play games at 1440P resolution natively on a 1440P monitor. Apart from the blurriness, there is a lot of aliasing on 1440P resolution, where it is quite negligible on 4K resolution. 

Overall, the gaming experience of a 4K monitor is astonishing as long as you don’t use lower than 4K resolution. If you must have to lower the resolution during gaming, try checking 1080P resolution, as it consists of half amount of pixels both in width and height. This way, the monitor will be able to upscale with a ratio of 2:1 perfectly, avoiding any issues of blurriness in the image. 

How to resolve blurriness with 1440P on a 4K monitor

Even though it seems like it is not a solvable issue, it can easily be solved but there is a small compromise with it. Most monitors come with the option of choosing the scaling of the image. Usually, there are three options available; one-to-one ratio, fit-screen, and stretch-screen. 

The one-to-one ratio will solve the issue of a blurry image when viewing 1440P content on a 4K monitor. This means that the 1440 pixels height-wise are projected exactly on 1440 pixels on the 4K monitor, leaving 720 pixels remaining to be off. This goes for all the pixels on the screen, and you would have a similar image as given below.

1440p on 4K Problem1

The fit-screen option will upscale the content to the aspect ratio of the monitor but it will not stretch the image. For example, when you use a 2560 x 1080 content on a 4K monitor, and use the fit-screen option, the 2560 pixels will be aligned with the 3840 pixels of the 4K monitor but the 1080 pixels (height) will not be fully stretched to 2160 pixels. In short, the aspect ratio of the source will be kept the same while upscaling the image to the 4K screen. You can check the following image for a better understanding.

1440p on 4K Problem2

The stretch-screen option is used when you want to use the entire space of the monitor, and are willing to deform the source’s aspect ratio. In that case, the image might be stretched more on one side, which does not provide a good viewing experience. For example, when you have a 3840 x 1440 source, and view it on a 4K monitor with the stretch-screen option, the 1440 pixels height-wise will be stretched to 2160, which will greatly.

1440p on 4K Problem3

Final Words

A 4K monitor is a great upgrade for enthusiasts who are looking to maximize the image quality and want a top-notch experience. However, when the graphics cards are not able to keep up with the monitors, providing low FPS on 4K resolution on high settings, users have no other choice than to reduce the resolution down to 1440P or 1080P. 

Since 1080P resolution has exactly half the number of pixels in both width and height when compared to 4K resolution, the upscaling of 1080P content is easily achievable without introducing blurriness. However, things are quite different with 1440P resolution and if you render games on 1440P resolution and view it on a 4K monitor, you will have to suffer from lots of blurriness. This blurriness, although present when watching movies or videos, is much more noticeable in gaming and highly affects realism and immersion.

We have depicted a great way of eliminating that blurriness in gaming with compromise on the viewing area size. You will have to select the one-to-one ratio option in the upscaling settings of the monitor, which will allow you to do gaming at 1440P resolution with a smaller viewing area. 

Overall, you will be able to enjoy 4K movies on your 4K screen without affecting your gaming experience much and if you still feel that this is not worth the hassle, you can go for a dual-screen setup by buying a high-refresh-rate 1440P panel which will not only be able to provide you with a lower resolution than the 4K resolution but you will also be able to enjoy high-refresh-rate gaming.

Kevin Penson
Love to build gaming rigs, play games and do benchmarks on them and write about them. That's all that I've in my hobbies.