As Fast As Possible
Both 4K and ultrawide monitors offer an immersive and engaging viewing experience. However, while 4K resolution provides you with more pixels, it’s also more demanding to drive and you are limited to 60 FPS. Ultrawide monitors are the middle-ground between a high resolution and a high refresh rate. In the end, it’s up to your personal preference.
Torn between getting an ultrawide display or a 4K monitor? The choice is definitely tough as both types of screens have their upsides and downsides.
Besides your own personal preference between the two regarding their design and appearance, there are additional things you should consider, that’s why we’ll fill you in on everything you need to know before making your final decision.
21:9 vs 16:9 – What’s the Difference?
The ultra-wide (21:9) resolutions commonly amount to 3440×1440 or 2560×1080 pixels which gives you extra horizontal space in comparison to their respective standard 16:9 resolutions of 2560×1440 and 1920×1080.
Some bigger ultrawide monitors feature even higher screen resolutions such as 3840×1600 and 5120×2160; the latter is considered as 5K ultrawide – kind of a combination between 4K and ultrawide.
Moving on, 4K Ultra HD resolution has 3840×2160 pixels – that’s over three million pixels more than 3440×1440 which in turn offers a more detailed and crisp image quality.
Ultrawide monitors are usually curved, some more aggressively than the others, but there are also some that are flat for those who are worried that the screen curvature would mess up the color accuracy or distort and blur the lines on-screen.
Regardless, this isn’t an issue as these curved monitors are built with the above-mentioned points in mind. As long as you are sitting in front of the monitor, you won’t encounter any color inconsistency, however, lines will be skewed which can be inconvenient depending on what type of content creation you do.
The 21:9 aspect ratio also provides you with more screen real estate for your spreadsheets and applications but if you want the most screen space for productivity purposes, you’d be better off with a dual 16:9 monitor setup.
If you’re a video editor, on the other hand, an ultra-wide display will be of great help as due to the extra horizontal space, you can have a more comprehensive view of the timeline as well as more space for your preview/effect windows.
At first, you may not even like the way your ultra-wide monitor looks as it can appear too wide for its vertical size, but you will get used to it eventually. After that, you will wonder how you ever got around without it.
Upgrading to a 4K UHD display from 1080p or even 1440p may also take some time getting used to as even on a 32-inch screen, the 4K resolution provides you with a high pixel density making everything on your desktop tiny.
So, you will need to scale the interface by a certain amount to make small items such as icons and text easily readable. A problem occurs when some applications don’t scale well or not at all, leaving you with a messy desktop with either too small or too large elements.
As you can see, both choices have their downsides. The upsides? Watching compatible content at the native resolution. With a 21:9 ultrawide display, movies are closer to their native aspect ratio at which they were shot (2.39:1).
On the other hand, there’s a lot of 4K content nowadays available as well allowing you to relish your favorite shows and games in crystal-clear quality with maximum detail.
4K vs UltraWide For Gaming
To start with, we’ll focus on the negative aspects of both types of monitors which should make it easier for you to choose.
The main downside of a 4K gaming monitor is that both the display and the current-generation hardware supports 4K only up to 60Hz. Moreover, such high resolution is so power-hungry that maxing out picture settings in the latest titles will drastically limit your frame rate depending on your hardware.
Ultimately, you get an otherworldly image quality but a somewhat dull performance. So, why would you settle for a great image quality with a mediocre performance, when with the same CPU/GPU build you could get a bit softer picture but a lot better performance with a 2560×1440 144Hz monitor?
Well, if you don’t care about fast-paced gameplay and rather enjoy perfect visuals and scenery, 4K is definitely for you; otherwise, you should get a lower resolution monitor with a higher refresh rate. So, where are the ultrawide gaming monitors in all this? In short, they are in between the 144Hz+ and 4K gaming displays.
Since they feature fewer pixels, there’s more room left for refresh rates. Nowadays, you can get a 3440×1440 ultrawide display with up to 120Hz which will provide you with an engaging image quality plus the added immersion of the curved and ultra-wide screen. Furthermore, you will be able to enjoy high frame rates and fluid fast-paced action.
Not all games support the 21:9 format which will result in a stretched image or black bars at the sides of your screen. What’s more, even some newer competitive games such as StarCraft II don’t support the ultrawide format as it’d be an unfair advantage against other players. So, make sure your favorite games support 21:9 resolutions before you get one.
In the end, you should choose between 4K and ultrawide according to what type of content you’ll be watching the most. There’s no use in getting an ultrawide monitor if none of your games support the 21:9 format; just as it makes no sense to get a 4K display if your PC rig can’t do it justice.
Rob is a software engineer with a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Denver. He now works full-time on writing for DisplayNinja while coding his own projects on the side.