Screen resolution explained: Quad HD vs 4K

What's the real difference between 4K, Quad HD, Full HD and 2K?
by
Screen resolution explained: Quad HD vs 4K
Samsung Galaxy S7 edge

How sharp are most mobile screens?

Phones with super sharp screens have taken off. But with confusing names like 2K, Quad HD (or sometimes QHD) and 4K flying around, it's difficult to know what’s what. Here’s our quick guide to understanding 2016’s latest screen tech.

The images on your phone screen are made up of hundreds of thousands of tiny dots of colour called pixels. Pixels can be any size but smaller pixels give things more definition. For a screen to qualify as High Definition (HD) it has to have a minimum number of pixels to make sure they’re tiny. That means they measure 1280 pixels by 720 pixels, so are called 720p.

But this isn’t the sharpest resolution we have in our phones right now. In 2013 we started to get Full HD screens with 1080p resolutions that measure 1920×1080 pixels, like the one on the Pixel, a phone by Google. And in 2014 we got our first Quad HD screens (which measure 2560x1440 pixels) now seen on the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S7 and the Pixel XL.

The pixels on these screens are so small that you can only see each block of colour if you really look for them. Now, we have the world's first 4K smartphone screen on the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium - that's unbelieavably sharp.

4K screens – 4096 × 2160 pixels

4K is the sharpest of the new resolutions that everyone’s talking about. The new Sony Xperia Z5 Premium (and likely all future 4K phones) doesn't use true 4K, though. Videos in 4K have odd proportions that would mean they would be squashed out of shape on a TV or smartphone. Instead, the new Sony uses Ultra HD, which is a slightly different standard.

Sony Xperia Z5 Premium

Ultra HD screens – 3840 × 2160 pixels

Ultra HD, or 2160p, has four times as many pixels as the 1080p Full HD standard that we’re used to. That’s why its technical name is Quad Full HD (QFHD). Some phones can already record video in this incredibly sharp standard. The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 was the first phone to shoot Ultra HD video. But it was marketed as 4K as there’s such a small difference between true 4K and Ultra HD.

Quad HD screens – 2560 × 1440 pixels

Quad HD (QHD) is the resolution that really took off year in 2015. It gets its name from being four times sharper than 720p HD. Be careful not to confuse Quad HD with qHD (using a lowercase Q), as this stands for quater HD - with a resoltuion measuring 960 x 540 pixels.

2K screens – 2048 × 1152 pixels

2K has been the minimum standard for blockbuster movies for about 10 years, but we’re not expecting it to ever make it big with smartphones. The reason is that it only gives a small boost in sharpness compared to 1080p Full HD, so most major smartphone makers will jump straight to QHD.

Retina Display

Retina display is a brand name for Apple’s screens, so doesn’t have a fixed resolution. But according to Apple, a Retina display is defined by pixel size. The pixels should be so small that you can’t see each one. So when you get a big Retina display like on the iPad Air, the resolution goes up so you have enough of the tiny pixels to fill the screen.

Popular screen resolutions

Standard Definition (SD) 720 × 480

qHD 960 x 540 pixels

HD 1280 × 720

Full HD 1920 × 1080

2K 2048 × 1152

Quad HD (QHD) 2560 × 1440

Quad Full HD (QFHD)/Ultra HD 3840 × 2160

4K 4096×2160

What are your thoughts? Join the conversation here…

comments powered by Disqus
Whether you want to record home movies or try something a little more daring, the Sony Xperia Z2 has
We wanted to find out why Sony put a 4K screen in a smartphone - the Xperia Z5 Premium - so we asked
This world's first 4K smartphone, the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium, is with us for a week. This is what yo

18 September, 2019
iOS 13 is the latest update to Apple's operating system, and it's packed with great...
10 September, 2019
Want to buy an iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro or an iPhone 11 Pro? Find out the specs and...
29 August, 2019
The next Apple smartphone is on its way. There are lots of rumours circulating, so...
19 August, 2019
We check out the Samsung Galaxy Note10 and Note10+, a power-packed smartphone with...
8 August, 2019
Samsung has officially launched the new Note 10 at their Galaxy Unpacked event in...

30 July, 2019
If your phone isn't automatically downloading the APN settings from your network,...
30 July, 2019
If you want to know how to connect a PS4 controller to an Android device, or you're...
30 July, 2019
If you've got a stuck notification at the top of your screen, here are a couple of...
30 July, 2019
If you're looking for your mobile PUK code, there are a couple of different ways...
29 July, 2019
There are lots of reasons why you might need to remove your Google account from your...
29 July, 2019
Can't play video on your Samsung Galaxy? Find out how to reset your app preferences...
16 July, 2019
Phone not charging properly? Take a look at these tips on what to do if your handset...
15 July, 2019
Google’s new feature lets you shoot perfect night-time photos on the new Pixel 3A....
11 July, 2019
Find out about the best features of the Samsung Galaxy A80 and how you can get the...
4 July, 2019
Always going over your data cap? Check out these top tips to help you limit your...
21 June, 2019
All the features to be expected from the latest Android operating system, and how...
20 June, 2019
Selfies are literally in the dictionary now. You can't avoid them so why not join...