4K vs 8K monitors: Which one should you buy?

4K vs 8K: Man using ViewSonic VP3286 8K monitor to edit video
(Image credit: Viewsonic)

We may be talking about 4K vs 8K now, but it wasn't long ago that Full HD screens seemed like the last word in high-quality imagery. Things move fast in the world of tech, and nowadays 4K is the norm for both still and moving content. This means design studios and freelancers alike are looking to upgrade, so they can produce assets at a level of detail their clients will be happy with, and edit everything with pixel-by-pixel resolution.

So whether you’re an illustrator, a 3D artist, photographer, graphic designer or developer, it’s worth considering upgrading your monitor to 4K. And luckily for you, we've put together a list of the best 4K monitors out there. But should you just stop there? What about investing in one of the best 5K and best 8K monitors instead? This should all help you decide the best answer to 4K vs 8K for you.

Granted, at the moment there’s not much in the way of 8K content. But if recent history teaches us anything, that situation isn’t likely to last. 

How important is 8K right now?

8K broadcasting has already begun in Japan, and it surely won’t be too long before 8K media replaces 4K as the standard everywhere. So it may seem tempting to future-proof yourself right now. Plus, even a lot of 4K content is in practice now shot in 8K. That's because it's easier to crop and edit your footage and images without ultimate loss of quality.

On the other hand, 8K monitors are very expensive, and you don’t have a lot of choice in terms of models. Indeed, at time of writing, there’s one 8K monitor you can buy – the 49-inch Dell UltraSharp 32 8K Monitor – though others may have joined it by the time you read this article.

Note, too, that there aren’t many computers containing graphics chips that support 8K yet. Nor is there much content you can enjoy on it for your own entertainment, outside of a few YouTube videos. Although then again, a good 8K monitor will upscale existing 4K videos, so there’s that to consider too.

Confusing isn’t it? So read on, as we give you some more information to help make your decision on 4K vs 8K. Starting with the obvious question...

How many pixels is 4K?

4K vs 8K: The Dell Ultrasharp U3219Q

The Dell Ultrasharp U3219Q 4K monitor (Image credit: Dell )

Put simply, 4K is a picture made up of 3,840×2,160 pixels, adding up to 8,294,400 in total. This is precisely four times as many pixels as Full HD, which is 1,920×1,080 pixels (2,073,600 in total). 4K is also commonly referred to as 4K UHD and/or 2160p.

4K is increasingly becoming the norm in TV streaming, gaming and computing. However, many people initially can’t tell the difference between HD and 4K, as both provide a very clear and precise picture. 

Typically, though, once people shift back to HD after prolonged exposure to 4K, the difference becomes more obvious.

How many pixels is 8K?

8K raises the pixel density to 7,680×4,320 pixels, a total of 33,177,600. That means your picture will be four times as detailed as 4K, and 16 times as detailed as in HD. 8K is also known as 8K UHD or 4320p.

Note that these measures are the industry standard, but they’re not adhered to religiously by all manufacturers. Many devices are described as HD, 4K and 8K despite not matching these figures perfectly. Also be aware that you can now get 5K and 6K monitors: the 27-inch iMac's display is 5K, for example. 4K vs 8K got a whole lot more confusing! 

Despite the huge increase in pixels-per-inch, the difference between 4K and 8K may seem slight to the naked eye. It will become more marked, however, the bigger the screen you’re viewing it on, and make a more obvious difference when the picture is projected at large size. 

It’s also possible that when more creators switch to 8K, they’ll shoot footage that focuses more on capturing small details and rich colours, making the differences between 4K and 8K more obvious.

How much is a 4K monitor?

4K vs 8K: Samsung 4K monitor

Samsung's 4K Ultra HD 28-inch LED Monitor (Image credit: Samsung)

Now that 4K monitors are becoming popular, they’re becoming increasingly affordable. At time of writing, for example, Walmart in the US has a BenQ 28-inch 4K monitor for $299 and Currys in the UK has a Samsung 4K Ultra HD 28-inch LED Monitor at £249. Check our guide to the best cheap 4K monitor deals for further bargains.

These discount models aren’t the best 4K monitors available today, of course. So if quality is more important to you than price, you’ll be looking more around the £400-£800 mark… and upwards. For example, for video editing and 3D work, we recommend the BenQ PD3200U, a 32in 4K monitor that’s currently at Amazon for just shy of £600.

How much is an 8K monitor?

A lot of companies have 8K monitors in the pipeline, including ViewSonic’s VP3286-8K, which was announced at CES in January. That 32-inch 8K monitor is set to go on sale this summer, at a price of $5,000.

There’s only one model of 8K monitor, though, available to buy at time of writing, And as you’d expect, it’s not cheap. The 49-inch Dell UltraSharp 32 8K Monitor will set you back $3,999.99 / £3,477.60. So, when looking at 4K vs 8K as of 2021, the answer may be made for you. 

Conclusion: Should you buy a 4K or 8K monitor?

4K vs 8K: Dell 8K monitor

Dell's UltraSharp 32 8K Monitor (Image credit: Dell)

Right now, the answer to 4K vs 8K is a pretty straightforward one. Unless your clients are specifically demanding 8K content that you need to edit with utter precision, you’re better off with a 4K monitor.

There’s only one 8K monitor on the market, and it’s very expensive. And this reflects the reality that, outside of Japan at least, the demand for it isn’t yet there, even amongst designers, animators, 3D artists and photo editors. 

Yes, it’s nice to have the cool new thing. But unless you have money to burn, we suggest you hold off until prices start to come down. That will happen as 8K content becomes more common, and when other companies besides Dell start producing 8K monitors. But things probably won’t move far in that direction for at least a year. So we predict the battle of 4K vs 8K will be one-sided until at least the end of 2022. 

What about future-proofing? Well that may prove to be a double-edged sword. Just as we saw happen with 4K, the second and third generation of 8K monitors are likely to be not just cheaper, but better at processing and displaying 8K content, in all sorts of ways we can't imagine yet. In fact, current 8K monitors may not even work very well with future 8K content, because this media remains in its infancy and is still developing its standard protocols.

The good news, however, is that are great deals to be had on 4K devices in the meantime. Check out our guide to the best 4K monitors to choose the one that’s right for you. 

Alternatively, if you’ve just won the lottery, have a specific reason to get an 8K monitor, or just love being an early adopter, the Dell UltraSharp 32 8K Monitor is a great choice to start with.

The best deals on 4K and 8K monitors

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Tom May

Tom May is an award-winning journalist and editor specialising in design, photography and technology. Author of the Amazon #1 bestseller Great TED Talks: Creativity, published by Pavilion Books, Tom was previously editor of Professional Photography magazine, associate editor at Creative Bloq, and deputy editor at net magazine. Today, he is a regular contributor to Creative Bloq and its sister sites Digital Camera World, T3.com and Tech Radar. He also writes for Creative Boom and works on content marketing projects.