4K resolution refers to a horizontal display resolution of approximately 4,000 pixels. Digital television and digital cinematography commonly use several different 4K resolutions. In television and consumer media, 3840 × 2160 (4K UHD) is the dominant 4K standard, whereas the movie projection industry uses 4096 × 2160 (DCI 4K).
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The 4K television market share increased as prices fell dramatically during 2014 and 2015. By 2020, more than half of U.S. households are expected to have 4K-capable TVs, a much faster adoption rate than that of Full HD (1080p).
Understand the limitations
Very few laptop computers have built-in screens which support 4K resolution, and the ones that do are prohibitively expensive to purchase if you don’t already have one. For the time being, 4K is predominately limited to desktop computers.
Another limitation is your computer’s power
4K video requires a large processor, plentiful RAM, and a modern video card; you can’t just attach a 4K monitor to your old PC and hope for the best.
Make sure that you have a 4K monitor
4K monitors come in several different shapes, sizes, and price ranges. Ideally, you’ll find a monitor with a 60HZ refresh rate, but any 4K monitor in your price range will do.
Unlike the disparity between 1080p and 1080i monitors, all 4K monitors will show you the same resolution under the same circumstances.
Buy a 4K-ready HDMI cable
You most likely already have an HDMI cable in your home, and all HDMI cables technically support 4K video. However, the most recent version of the HDMI cable—HDMI 2.0, or “high-speed HDMI”—supports up to 60 frames per second of 4K, while traditional HDMI cables only support 30 frames per second.
You can find HDMI 2.0 cables online for under $10 apiece, or you can find them in tech stores like Best Buy.
If you use a DisplayPort connection instead, opt for a DisplayPort 1.4 cable. Its specifications are the same as HDMI 2.0.
Use your 4K-ready cable to connect your monitor to your computer
Plug one end of the HDMI (or DisplayPort) cable into the back of your computer’s tower, then plug the other end into one of your monitor’s HDMI (or DisplayPort) ports.
Go to your 4K video
If you have the file for the 4K video that you want to watch on your computer, find it. Otherwise, you’ll have to download the file before proceeding.
Open your video in a video player that supports 4K
This will allow you to watch the video right on your desktop:
Windows – You can use the Movies & TV app to watch 4K videos. Right-click your 4K video, select Open with, and click Movies & TV.
Mac – You can use QuickTime to play 4K videos. Click your 4K video, click File, select Open With, and click the QuickTime option.
Make sure that you meet the requirements
In order to enjoy 4K video, your monitor must support 4K resolution, and you must have your monitor connected to your computer via an HDMI or DisplayPort cable. Your computer must also be able to process 4K video, which may be difficult for laptop and low-end desktop computers.
If you want to watch your 4K video in 60 frames per second, make sure that you have an HDMI 2.0 or DisplayPort 1.4 cable.
Consider connecting your computer to your router
Using an Ethernet cable to transfer your Internet connection directly into your computer rather than using Wi-Fi will ensure the smoothest possible streaming.
Close any large background programs or processes
Having extra programs, browsers, or processes (e.g., downloads or updates) running while attempting to watch 4K video in your browser will most likely cause the video to lag.
Find and open a video that supports 4K
Many shows and movies on Netflix support 4K, and you’ll find a significant amount of 4K content on YouTube and Vimeo.
Select 4K quality
This will vary depending on your service, but you’ll usually click a gear-shaped icon or click the current quality (e.g., 1080p) and then click the 4K or 2160p option.
Enjoy your 4K content
As long as you meet the hardware and software requirements to watch 4K video, you should be able to watch 4K video inside of your computer’s browser whenever you like.