Monitor shopping can be a burdensome task for beginning builders; you have to first discern between different resolutions and refresh rates, and then narrow down what monitor works best for your budget and needs.
That being said, 4k 60Hz monitors are ultimately better than 1440p 144Hz monitors in terms of resolution clarity. The increased pixel concentration allows for a finer, clearer display than a 1440p could offer. With only 60Hz, however, even a 4k monitor will have trouble with very demanding games, whereas a 144Hz monitor would not.
To make an informed decision on which monitor you should purchase, you need to first understand the difference between these two types of monitors. With that base knowledge, you can begin to figure out what your needs are for a monitor and narrow your search accordingly.
In this article, I’ll discuss all of these topics. Let’s get into it.
What is Screen Resolution?
Screen resolution is a measurement that represents the number of pixels on your screen. The higher the screen resolution, the finer the detail and the crisper the images are displayed.
The “p” in “1440p” stands for “progressive scan”. Progressive scan is the alternative method of video display to interlaced, the main difference being that progressive scan displays even and odd lines of images simultaneously, while interlaced displays one after the other.
The difference between progressive scan and interlaced (designated by an “i”, like 1440i) is hard to notice on large screens, such as TVs. You’ll be able to notice it on a PC monitor, and progressive scan results in an ultimately smoother gaming experience than interlaced.
The number before the letter represents how many pixels are displayed vertically. In this instance, 1440p has 1440 pixels on the vertical axis, with 2560 pixels displayed horizontally.
Difference Between 1440p and 4k
Now that you have an understanding of the basics of screen resolution, you can start to digest the difference between 1440p and 4k.
“4k” is essentially a colloquial way of referring to its resolution, which is 3860×2160. The rapidly antiquating 1080p monitor would be considered “2k”, as a 4k monitor has double its vertical pixel display.
1440p is commonly referred to as QuadHD, with 4k being referred to as Full QuadHD. So, with a 1440p monitor, you get pretty close to a 4k resolution for a bit less money, and the difference can be negligible to less picky PC gamers.
Something to keep in mind is that the larger your screen, the more noticeable the difference in resolutions will be. With a 24” 1440p monitor, you get roughly the same visual clarity as a 32” 4k monitor. Keep this in mind as you’re shopping to fully utilize your budget.
What Does Hz Mean?
With your newfound base knowledge of screen resolutions and the difference between 1440p and 4k, you can begin to understand how Hz plays into the overall smoothness of your gameplay.
In essence, Hz refers to the refresh rate of your monitor. Hz is a measurement of how many times the images on your screen refresh per second; the higher your Hz, or refresh rate, the smoother your gameplay will be.
So, what’s the difference between 144Hz and 60Hz?
Difference Between 144Hz and 60Hz
The key difference between these two refresh rates is their speed. As mentioned above, the higher your refresh rate is, the smoother your overall gameplay will be.
At 144Hz, your monitor (without adaptive sync technologies) will refresh the display consistently 144 times per second. If your GPU is outputting a higher or lower FPS by a wide margin, you’ll run into issues like screen tearing and stuttering.
At 60Hz, you’re only getting a screen refresh 60 times per second. This limits the smoothness of your gameplay with demanding titles, but at 4k resolution, the environment will come out clearer than with 1440p.
The refresh rate won’t affect your screen’s resolution, only your monitor’s ability to sync its refresh rate with the GPU’s FPS output to display the smoothest game possible. The higher your refresh rate, the easier that will be for demanding games.
Keep in mind, however, that with variable refresh rate technologies like Nvidia’s G-Sync and AMD’s Freesync, you can mitigate these output delays to reduce visual errors.
Which is Better for You?
Understanding the difference between a 1440p 144Hz monitor and a 4k 60Hz monitor is one thing, but how do those differences affect certain types of gamers?
In the end, you want to buy a setup that allows you to play your favorite games the way you want to, which means different things for different gamers.
If you frequently play graphically demanding games like The Witcher 3, and you prefer a good blend of graphics performance and smooth gameplay, you’ll likely be content with a 1440p 144Hz monitor.
The resolution is clear enough to portray the finer in-game environmental details, and with a higher refresh rate, the game will look smoother on your display than on a 4k 60Hz monitor.
Alternatively, if your focus is on stunning displays for moderately demanding games, a 4k 60Hz monitor might be worth the investment for you.
You get a higher resolution, which results in crystal-clear visuals in-game, but a lower refresh rate, which might make playing demanding games difficult, depending on your GPU.
You can always purchase a more capable graphics card to complement your monitor, but if you’re looking for affordable graphics cards that will work seamlessly with a 4k 60Hz monitor, you’ll have a hard time making ends meet.
Ultimately, a 4k 60Hz is only worth it if you have a recent generation of GPU and, even then, the refresh rate might be too low to play certain games on your preferred settings. If your budget isn’t too tight, I’d recommend looking at 4k monitors with higher refresh rates, though those tend to be on the more expensive side.
Indie Gamers/Casual PC Users
Most indie games are not very demanding on your system, which makes either choice of monitor a good option, depending on your usage.
If you use your PC almost entirely for gaming purposes and you can live without 4k resolution, a 1440p 144Hz monitor will be more affordable and you get a high enough refresh rate for any game you want to play and a good resolution to boot.
If you use your PC for 4k editing or other purposes that require a high resolution, opt for the 4k monitor, but don’t anticipate being able to play very demanding games on max 4k settings.
Alternatively, if you’re an indie gamer who craves crystal-clear display and doesn’t run extremely demanding games, a 4k monitor might be the move for you as well.
In the end, it really all comes down to what types of games you like, and your preferences for resolution and smoothness.
Does 4k Really Look Better Than 1440p?
Categorically, yes. 4k has a higher concentration of pixels, which means it produces a better visual display than 1440p. That being said, some games might look great in 4k, but with too low of a refresh rate, you get choppier gameplay which might diminish the 4k effect you crave.
It also somewhat depends on the monitor you’re looking at. There are 1440p monitors that look better than 4k monitors when running games at high settings; again, it really depends on what game you’re playing.
How Can I Boost My Monitor’s Performance?
There are a few key ways to increase the performance of your monitor in a pinch:
- Variable Refresh Rate Technology: With variable refresh rate technologies, such as G-Sync and Freesync, your monitor will adjust its refresh rate to be as close to your GPU’s FPS output, resulting in a smoother gameplay experience.
- Game Settings: By reducing your in-game display settings, you can get a smoother experience at lower resolutions, which makes the game more playable. If you are dead-set on crystal-clear visuals, however, this method won’t help you much.
- Monitor Settings: If you’re gaming on a Windows PC, you can enable Game Mode in your Windows settings, which will help your monitor match the FPS output of your graphics card. It’s not as effective as variable refresh rate technology, but it will get the job done for those on a budget.
The difference between 1440p 144Hz monitors and 4k 60Hz monitors is primarily screen resolution and refresh rate, but the ways that these differences affect gamers vary from person to person.
For gamers with a penchant for graphically demanding games at high settings, you’ll likely want a higher refresh rate, regardless of resolution.
Conversely, those who just want great visuals at whatever cost would be better off with a 4k monitor, though if your goal is to get smooth gameplay, you’ll want a higher refresh rate than 60Hz.
As you continue shopping for a new gaming monitor, try and determine what types of games you like to play, what your budget is, and the rest of your PC’s components. You can often find a setup that will draw the maximum power from your system that your games require without burning a big, monitor-sized hole in your pocket.