Screen Resolution: FHD vs UHD

Make sense of full HD, ultra HD, 1080p, and 4k screen resolutions

FHD vs UHD Example
Samsung

Shopping for a TV, display, or home theater, you might have come across the terms FHD and UHD, often alongside numbers like 720p, 1080i, and 1080p. Don't let your eyes glaze over because these definitions are important, affecting both the price and quality of a display.

Overall Findings

1080p/FHD
  • Full High Definition 1080p resolution.

  • 1,920 x 1,080 pixels.

  • Distinguishes from high-definition (HD), which includes both 720p (1280 x 720) and 1080i (1920×1080 interlaced) resolutions.

  • Unlike 1080i, which has the same pixel resolution, FHD (1080p) uses progressive scanning, which is better for motion and fast-moving content.

  • Common for small televisions.

4K/UHD
  • Includes 4K UHD and 8K UHD resolutions.

  • 4K UHD: 3,840 x 2,160 pixels.

  • 8K UHD: 7680 x 4320 pixel.

  • Technically, 4K UHD is not 4K resolution but it's close enough. (4K resolution is 4096 x 2160.)

  • 4K UHD includes four times as many pixels as, or twice the resolution of, FHD. Also uses progressive-scan display for accurate motion rendering.

  • Common for large televisions.

By all measures, UHD delivers a higher-quality, higher-resolution image than FHD (1080p). The trade-off is that UHD costs more. If you're more concerned about budget than resolution, FHD offers a perfectly fine viewing experience. UHD (4K) slightly elevates that experience, especially on larger screens.

A 1080p TV is an FHD TV. FHD stands for Full HD or Full High Definition and refers to 1080p video resolution, which is 1,920-pixel columns by 1,080-pixel rows. That equates to 2,073,600 total pixels or about 2 megapixels. The "p" in 1080p refers to progressive scanning, which means each row of pixels is scanned in sequential order. This differs from interlaced, as in "1080i," which scans pixel rows in an alternate order, which can cause motion blurring.

UHD stands for Ultra HD or Ultra High Definition. It is sometimes referred to as "4K," although UHD resolution is not necessarily 4K resolution. The two most common types of UHD are 4K UHD and 8K UHD. Both are progressive-scan displays, but 4K UHD is more common and more affordable. 4K UHD's resolution is 3,840 x 2160, which equates to 8,294,400 pixels, or about 8 megapixels. The resolution for 8K UHD is 7680 × 4320 pixels or about 33 megapixels.

4K is more accurately 4096 x 2160 pixels, which is slightly wider with the same height. The total number of pixels is 8,847,360. This standard is used in commercial cinema.

UHD has four times the pixels (or twice the columns and rows) as FHD. That means four FHD images can fit into the space of one UHD image, doubling the overall resolution. 

UHD TVs primarily use LCD (including LED/LCD and QLED) or OLED technologies. Although UHD is based on resolution, TV makers have added some capabilities, such as HDR and wide color gamut, to deliver a bigger visual punch than improved resolution would on its own.

Samsung FHD TV Example
Samsung

Content Availability: FHD vs. UHD

1080p/FHD
  • Blu-ray Disc: Unless specified as UHD, all Blu-ray content is natively 1080p.

  • Streaming content: Most streaming services like Netflix and Hulu have different plans you can select depending on what quality resolution you want.

  • TVs and Displays: Most televisions, displays, and monitors made today—including some of the cheap ones—feature 1080p resolution.

  • Digital cameras: Most cameras—including mirrorless, DSLR, and webcams, as well as built-in laptop and smartphone cameras—offer 1080p or higher.

  • Video game consoles: Most video game consoles support FHD but upscale content from games that are rendered in lower resolutions.

  • Mobile devices: Some high-end smartphones and many tablet devices have full 1080p resolution.

4K/UHD
  • UHD Blu-ray Disc: To watch 4K Blu-ray content you need a UHD Blu-ray player and discs.

  • Cable and Satellite Services: Comcast and Altice are the only cable services that offer UHD content but the selection is limited. For satellite networks, UHD content is available through both Direct TV and Dish Network.

  • UHD Streaming: Netflix, Vudu, and Amazon Prime Video offer some UHD content. These services are available on streaming devices like Roku Stick, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, and Google Chromecast, as well as select UHD Smart TVs. An internet speed of 15 to 25mbps is required for stable viewing.

To view content in FHD you need all the platforms and connections in the supply chain to support FHD. The same goes for UHD. That means the TV, the content, the HDMI cable, the connection speed, and the streaming device or media player all need to be UHD-compatible.

Most broadcast and cable TV content is not available in either 1080p/FHD or 4K/UHD. Most stations and cable providers broadcast in 720p or 1080i HD. That being said, the next-generation broadcast standard (ATSC 3.0) promises to deliver over-the-air transmissions in 4K resolution, as well as HD and SD.

A Full HD TV can display lower resolution signals via video upscaling or processing. Upscaling is not the same as true FHD but can provide a better image. Upscaling quality varies by brand and model and is available in both TVs and video game consoles.

Samsung UHD TV Example
Samsung

FHD vs. UHD: What Kind of Cables and Connections Can Be Used?

1080p/FHD
  • High-speed HDMI cable.

  • Component Video (restricted to SD resolution after 2011).

  • USB.

  • Ethernet.

  • Wi-Fi.

  • Chromecast/Amazon Fire TV Stick.

4K/UHD
  • High-speed HDMI cable.

  • USB.

  • Ethernet.

  • Wi-Fi. (Requires fast speeds.)

  • Chromecast/Amazon Fire TV Stick. (Requires fast speeds.)

Whether wired or wireless, video signals require proper connections to deliver content in their native format. Most displays have a host of other connectivity options.

Wired Connections

HDMI: This is the standard wired connection for FHD and UHD source devices. There are four types of HDMI cables, but for the purpose of FHD and UHD you need only concern yourself with one: those labeled "High-Speed." High-speed HDMI cables can carry both FHD and UHD content, and work with all Blu-ray/Ultra HD Blu-ray players, most media streamers, cable and satellite boxes, video game consoles, PCs, and laptops. 

Source devices with Display Port, DVI, VGA connections can be connected to an FHD or UHD TV's HDMI inputs via adapters or adapter cables. It is very rare to find a TV with a DisplayPort connection, but you may find DVI and/or VGA connections on some older FHD and UHD TVs.

Composite Video: Analog source devices—such as a VCRs, DVD recorders, analog camcorders, and DVD players without HDMI outputs—can be connected to most FHD and UHD TVs using a composite video connection, but the signals will reduce to standard definition (480i). Composite video connections cannot pass HD analog or digital video signals.

Component Video: This connection uses three RCA connectors with Red, Green, and Blue ends. Component video connections were developed to transfer resolutions up to 1080p. Since 2011, however, they have been restricted to standard definition (SD).

USB: Many FHD and UHD TVs provide at least one USB port. Some TVs may include this only for service use, but most allow playback of still images, video, and audio files via plug-in flash drives. 

Some smart FHD and UHD TVs allow connection of a USB keyboard or mouse to navigate menus, making it easier to browse apps or enter login credentials.

Ethernet: Available on some FHD or UHD smart TVs, Ethernet (aka LAN) allows you to connect the TV to a network via a router. Once connected to the internet the TV can install firmware updates, play digital media, and stream movies and TV shows.

Wireless Connections

Wi-Fi: Most Smart FHD and UHD TVs offer Wi-Fi connectivity. For streaming UHD content, the faster the service the better. Connection speeds are more inconsistent with Wi-Fi than with Ethernet, so unless there is a very speedy connection UHD content may sometimes stream at lower resolutions. Especially slow connections can reduce FHD content as well.

Screen Mirroring/Casting: Screen mirroring devices like Chromecast and Amazon Fire TV Stick allow you to cast screen content from a smartphone, tablet, or PC. Just like with other platforms, you will need the casting device and the streaming content to support your desired resolution. Because casting devices work over Wi-Fi, sufficient speeds are required to render high-resolution content.

FHD vs. UHD: The Bottom Line

4K Resolution Comparison Chart
OPPO Digital

UHD is the cream of the crop when it comes to image quality, and more and more content and technology will be standardized to UHD in the coming years. That said, FHD is still a high0quality viewing experience, one that many people will find exceptional. If you're deciding between the two, keep the following in mind:

  • It's now rare to find an FHD TV in a screen size larger than 49-inches or a UHD TV with a screen size smaller than 40-inches. Make sure the size you choose fits your viewing environment.  
  • Make sure you have access to content that is equipped for FHD or UHD viewing. That includes HDMI connections, cable or satellite packages, streaming services, Blu-ray standards, and internet speeds. 
  • Make sure that the FHD or UHD TV provides the connections you need for other devices you intend to connect, such as antennas, disc players, streaming devices, and video game consoles. 
  • FHD and UHD TVs come in a wide range of prices from a couple of hundred dollars to several thousand. The price scales with screen size but also display tech, resolution, and smart features.