8K vs 4K vs 1080p video: what’s the difference and which resolution should you record in?

5
8K vs 4K vs 1080p video: what’s the difference and which resolution should you record in?
Mobile imaging technology keeps getting better, and so does the quality of video our phones can record. Resolution, in particular, has reached new milestones, with top phones capable of shooting even 8K video if 1080p or 4K is not detailed enough. Higher resolution means more pixels in your video, which translates to better detail and sharpness.

But what’s the difference between 1080p, 4K, and 8K resolution for video? You have these options on your phone, but which video resolution should you choose? Allow us to explain.

Jump to:


Let’s start with the basics. What do the terms 1080p, 4K, and 8K mean when it comes to video?

  • 1080p – also known as Full HD, 1080p video resolution provides an image size of 1920 by 1080 pixels. Most mid-range phones today come with 1080p displays, and so do cheaper TVs, laptops, and PC monitors. It is the most commonly used YouTube video resolution today. Movies on standard Blu Ray discs are of 1080p resolution.
  • 4K or UHD – these two terms are used to describe the same video resolution: 3840 by 2160 pixels. 4K is the highest resolution available on streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max or Amazon Prime TV. Most new TVs come with screens of this resolution. However, only a handful of phones with 4K displays have ever been released.
  • 8K – the highest resolution you’d find on a TV on the market translates to an image size of 7680 by 4320 pixels. It is still a new resolution standard, and while there are some TVs on the market that use it, these are still rare to find and pretty expensive.


Quality


In theory, a higher resolution means more pixels, and more pixels mean more details captured in your video. Compared to 1080p, 4K video has four times as many pixels, and 8K has 16 times as many for even more detailed video.

To visualize the difference, we used our Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra to capture three videos of the exact same scene - one in 1080p, one in 4K, and one in 8K resolution. This is the scene in question:

Then we extracted single frames for a side-by-side comparison and zoomed in on the highlighted area. Here's the difference:


The differences in quality between 1080p and 4K are major - to the point where in the 1080p snapshot we struggle to distinguish what we're looking at. With 4K, things are much better. The image is much sharper, though small details are still noticeably blurry.


Here is where things get interesting. In the 4K crop, it is impossible to read the text written on the machine, while in 8K, you can read some of it. Compared to 4K, it looks like there is a major difference once again.


But can you see the difference between 1080p, 4K, and 8K?


Technically, there is a big difference between the different resolutions. But in real life, it will be next to impossible to notice a difference on your phone between 4K and 8K. As for 1080p, if you have a phone with bigger than 6 inches display, with at least FHD+ resolution you will spot differences in comparison to 4K, with the latter giving you noticeably more detail. But if your phone isn't that big on display specs, you won't be able to distinguish the two resolutions from one another.

If you are interested if that stays the same with bigger screens, then the answer is no. It all depends on the resolution your TV or monitor has, so if its 1080p, you won't see a difference when playing 4K or 8K, unless you zoom in. If you do have a 1080p TV or a monitor, you won't be able to notice a difference between the three resolutions. But one day you are going to buy a new one, and chances are that it will be 4K, as this has become the standard in TVs and monitor. That makes 4K the better resolution to film in if you ever plan on watching those videos on a TV or a PC monitor.

Video size


In 2021, smartphones have more storage than ever. It is rare to see a smartphone with less than 64GB of storage. This increase in capacity also means that bigger videos are easier to store on your smartphone.

How much space do different resolutions take up on your smartphone? We tested two of the most popular flagship phones in 2021 and we have the answer.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, MB taken per minute of video:




iPhone 12 Pro Max, MB taken per minute of video:




With 128GB of storage, you can record around 17 hours of 1080p 30fps or 6 hours of 4K 30fps video footage in the H.264 format. If you choose the High-Efficiency H.265 one, you will be able to record around 30 hours of 1080p 30fps, 11 hours of 4K 30fps and 3 hours of 8K 24fps video footage.. Both these phones come with 128GB of storage on their base versions, so it is safe to say that even if you choose a resolution higher than 1080p, you will have plenty of storage to work with.

30fps vs 60fps. What does it mean?


FPS stands for frames per second. If you choose a higher fps video setting, your phone will record more frames per second, which will then make the video look smoother, but the video file size will be larger.

Here is a sample that we've made before of a 30fps video recorded with a smartphone:


As you can see, 30fps looks nice and reliable. This video format takes much less space than the 60fps one, but it also comes off as less smooth, as the difference in frame rate is vast.


The 60fps video sample looks good too, though shakes are more noticeable in this format. It also takes more space. At the end of the day it all depends on what you're filming. If you are filming static objects you don't really need 60fps, but if you are filming some event like a sports game the higher refresh rate becomes justified.

But do you even need 60fps? For most cases, 30fps is more than enough. Most videos on the internet are shot at 30fps. Most TV channels broadcast at the same framerate. The higher, 60 frames-per-second setting is a good choice if you are recording fast-moving scenes like sports, but it is less suitable for low-light situations. The 60fps setting also gives you the option to slow video down to 0.5x for an artistic effect without the video stuttering. 

Is higher resolution better than higher FPS?


Yes, higher resolution is almost always better if you need to choose between these two video options. If the choice is between 1080p at 60fps and 4K at 30fps, you will probably be better off with the second option because, all things considered, it is more future proof. If you are choosing between different FPS settings at the same resolution, then the choice will depend on the scene you want to record or how much storage you have left.


Which resolution should I choose?


Choose 1080p if you have a phone with less than 128GB of storage. For most social media platforms, like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, 1080p videos are more than enough. 

Choose 4K if you have 128GB of storage or more. For YouTube, the 4K video setting is definitely the best to choose because it is the best compromise between quality and size. For watching on a big TV or computer screen, 4K is once again the best option for current displays. The market is filled with different 4K screen products, and even if you still don’t have a product with this resolution, you will most likely purchase one soon.

Choose 8K if you always strike for perfection, want the best video in terms of details, and have at least 256GB of storage. But keep in mind that 8K recordings may come out shakier, which means you might need to use a tripod, especially if you plan to use the video professionally. Also, videos in 8K resolution take a lot of space, and some of the smartphones that can record 8K have trouble with overheating.


FCC OKs Cingular\'s purchase of AT&T Wireless