Is it smart to watch a 4k video on a 1080p monitor versus watching it in 1080p (especially on youtube)? Is there any difference for the human eye?

6 Answers 6


No, there is no difference to the human eye (or exceptionally minimal). Your monitor can't display higher quality than it is capable of displaying. The only advantage you would have is if you were to zoom in on part of the image, you would have more detail when you zoomed in.

The exception to this is if the 4k stream uses enough extra bandwidth to reduce the number of artifacts present in the stream, but for a well configured stream this shouldn't be a significant factor. For Youtube settings, that may or may not be noticeable depending on your sensitivity to artifacts and the type of content you are viewing.

  • Is it in the case of youtube any different because they maybe use different compression ratios (favoring 4k)? Sep 25, 2014 at 9:04
  • @haywire If anything I'd expect higher compression on 4k. It takes more bandwidth, fewer people can use it and even fewer will notice extra small artifacts in a gigantic image. That's totally a guess though.
    – AJ Henderson
    Sep 25, 2014 at 15:55
  • Hmm.. so I still have no definite answer. It says "especially for youtube" in my question. :( thanks for your effort though! Sep 26, 2014 at 11:26
  • @haywire no problem. I hope someone can answer it more definitively for you. I was just letting you know what I do know. :)
    – AJ Henderson
    Sep 26, 2014 at 15:51
  • On YouTube, resolutions above 1080p, especially 4K, have a significantly higher bitrate, resulting in far less compression artifacts on a 1080p monitor. I generally consider YT's 1080p quality as poor for any more detailed video, but have been rather satisfied with 4K. See this video by a computer game critic where he recommends doing so.
    – user598527
    Jul 9, 2018 at 18:07

There's not a lot of point to it. You're using more network bandwidth to download it, and your computer is working harder to display it, but no, you get no additional visible quality from it. In fact, it's likely that you'll get lower quality because the computer has to downsample it before it can display it.


Others have said the answer is simply no, but that's not entirely true. You can get some slight improvement from downscaling; errors and artifacts in the stream will be less visible, but this slight improvement usually isn't worth the increased bandwidth usage and CPU usage. Effective downscaling also requires graphics which can manage it, Nvidia GTX GPUs can do this, I'm not sure about AMD or Intel graphics.


On youtube? It depends.

Youtube recompresses video uploads to reduce space and store a version of the video which requires the least CPU to decompress. I've uploaded 1080p videos which later look horrible in the youtube version. And the same happens with 4k video.

Having said that, it is very unlikely youtube will increase the quality of the video streams, which means 1080p video will always look as horrible as it looks now. So in a way, watching a 4k poorly compressed video stream on a 1080p monitor may look more pleasant if the video doesn't have much movement. When the video is still, a 4k low bandwidth video will be able to provide a more detailed picture which scaled down will look better than a low bandwidth 1080p video. But if you are looking at action footage, 4k youtube is only going to bring you higher visual artefacts.

A good example of how horrible youtube recompression is can be seen at

which is a 4k video comparison of the Samsung Galaxy Alpha and Sony Xperia Z3 Compact. Watch the 4k youtube video and then download the raw 4k footage from the provided mediafire links. The most noticeable artefacts are in the lower part of the screen representing the Sony Xperia version: the 4k youtube version shows terrible compression artefacts around the shadow of the cameraman, but the raw 4k version is smooth as silk and the soft shadows look gorgeous.

If that doesn't convince you, think of it this way: the download size for the 4k youtube version is around 600MiB, the download size for the raw 4k video is 1.5GiB. So essentially anything you watch on youtube is one third the quality you get from the camera.

As with the general question of watching 4k on a 1080p monitor, yes, there is difference, there are comparisons of video between prosumer 1080p cameras and mobile 4k cameras and the 4k mobile version downscaled to 1080 looks better because it has sharper edges. But of course the difference is more notable on a 4k screen, and as other say, really good 1080p cameras are still much better than crappy 4k ones.

  • Hey, welcome to Video Production, sorry to down vote, but this really doesn't seem to actually provide any information relevant to answering the question. You provide good coverage of if a 4k source is comparable to a 1080 source and you provide an ok description of the difference in youtube 4k re-encoding vs the original footage, but nothing in your post really touches on if it is better to watch 4k footage on a 1080p monitor or the scaled down 1080p version of the same footage, which is what the question seems to be asking about.
    – AJ Henderson
    Sep 29, 2014 at 16:29
  • Note that there are also some minor technical inaccuracies or points that are misleading. For example, while the file size is around 1/3 for the Youtube clip, that doesn't mean that there is necessarily 1/3 of the meaningful information. Rather, a small amount of low value information is discarded resulting in allowing far better compression of the remaining data, so less than 2/3 of the information is actually discarded, it is just made to be more compact and even the data that is discarded is selected for lack of importance.
    – AJ Henderson
    Sep 29, 2014 at 16:32
  • Similarly, many of the compression artifact in the lower version of the video are likely related to over-recompression. When compressing from a low quality source to another low quality source, it is more likely that artifact not visible to the eye in the first video will become apparent. If a high quality source 4k feed was used, then the quality of the encoding would be much better, even at the same file size since the encoding would be working on source and not artifacts as a starting point. This is why, as you observed, the problems are most noticeable on the Xperia.
    – AJ Henderson
    Sep 29, 2014 at 16:34
  • If you can add some details relevant to the question or explain why you think your take on the question is correct (I tried but couldn't see it) and fix the misleading points, then I'd be happy to change it from a down to an up.
    – AJ Henderson
    Sep 29, 2014 at 16:37

These answers are all very misleading, you'd think after 5 years someone would've told the truth, or did some research on this. Yes running your youtube videos over your monitors resolution WILL increase the clarity of the video. This is because youtube videos have a very low bit rate to allow for the platform to stream as many videos on an hourly basis that it does. As resolution increases for youtube playback, so does the bitrate, and so does definition, or clarity of the video. Im sure everyone has paused a 1080p youtube video when something is moving, and noticed a very harshly pixelated motion blur effect. This is greatly reduced at 1440p and 4k resolutions respectively, because more pixels are being pushed per second, being the bitrate.

  • Welcome! We try to keep things polite and positive here. Everyone is encouraged to review our Code of Conduct. Mar 25, 2019 at 0:36

Everyone who says that it's useless to watch 4k video on a 1080p monitor is wrong.

  • You don't understand what that video is saying. It is talking about cameras not displays. Consumer cameras shoot 4:2:0 instead of 4:2:2 or 4:4:4. This results in a loss of color information when shooting. 4k doesn't use the same 4:2:0 sub-sampling on consumer recordings for most of the 4k capable smart phones right now, so it looks better. If you played a 4:2:2 1080p video next to a 4:2:2 4k video, there would be no advantage to the 4k video unless the bitrate was proportionally higher.
    – AJ Henderson
    Dec 10, 2014 at 15:24

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