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Your 1440p QHD monitor might be actually housing a 4K UHD panel

Are some QHD monitors actually UHD panels in disguise? (Source: Newegg)
Are some QHD monitors actually UHD panels in disguise? (Source: Newegg)
Surprising as it may seem, there is every possibility that the QHD monitor that you are using right now might in fact be a 4K panel. Supply shortages mean that OEMs could simply install a 4K panel, which are now almost as expensive or even cheaper than QHD panels and still be able to limit the output resolution via firmware. But how does one know whether the monitor has a native QHD panel or a 4K panel and does it affect regular usage?

Monitors sporting the QHD resolution (2560 x 1440) are increasingly turning out to be a sweet spot for gamers who prefer a balance between high resolution and high refresh rates. Although 4K monitors with 144 Hz refresh rates are now real, it will be sometime before they can get mainstream acceptance as the costs are sort of prohibitive for the average consumer at this point. However, what if we told you that your shiny new QHD panel is actually a 4K panel in disguise? Color us surprised as well.

The report comes from German media outlet Prad, which cites sources close to monitor panel manufacturers. The report claims that panel manufacturers could be looking at economics to decide what panel to include in a monitor. The sources say that the cost of producing a 27-inch 4K UHD panel (3840 x 2160) is now more or less in line with what would be incurred while producing a QHD panel of the same size. Therefore, if there is a supply shortage, OEMs simply prefer to substitute the QHD panel with a 4K one and still continue to market the final product as a QHD display with the necessary downscaling settings hardcoded in the firmware.

So if the report were to be true, theoretically, altering the firmware by some means should give you a 4K upgrade for free, right? Apparently not. Manufacturers have taken care of this and have made the firmware virtually impossible to alter. While this in itself is not a big deal and customers will hardly ever get to notice this, it does present a slightly worrying situation — you could be looking at a blurrier image if your QHD monitor has a 4K panel due to the downscaling process.

You need to really study the spec sheet to be sure you're actually getting a native QHD display. A QHD monitor has a pixel size of 0.23mm compared to 0.16mm in a 4K monitor. Manufacturers cannot lie in a spec sheet so if you notice your QHD monitor's pixel size listed at 0.16mm, you can safely assume that the panel inside is a 4K panel. Another way to examine this is to look at a test pattern (see image below) and see if the lines and shapes are crisp and sharp. If the firmware is downscaling the resolution to QHD on a 4K panel, the pattern will be visibly blurry. While many customers will not be noticing this loss in sharpness especially while consuming media or gaming, those who work with text might be able to spot the difference especially if the font is not anti-aliased for some reason.

Also, it is to be noted that since 4K panels at 144 Hz are yet to become mainstream, this substitution, if any, should only be affecting QHD panels at 60 Hz. Therefore, your QHD monitor at 144 Hz should, in all likelihood, be a native 1440p panel and not a downscaled 4K UHD one.

Prad does not name any specific manufacturers or monitor models that have had this substitution. It can be speculated, however, that in a sea of many 1440p monitors out there, at least some of them would be equipped with a 4K panel albeit clandestinely. 

Do you think it is right on the manufacturers' part to substitute panels? Do you use a QHD monitor and felt that the display could have been much crisper? Let us know in the comments below.

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Pixel comparison between native 1440p (above) and downscaled 1440p from UHD (below). (Source: Prad.de)
Pixel comparison between native 1440p (above) and downscaled 1440p from UHD (below). (Source: Prad.de)

Source(s)

Prad.de (German)

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2018 06 > Your 1440p QHD monitor might be actually housing a 4K UHD panel
Vaidyanathan Subramaniam, 2018-06-26 (Update: 2018-06-26)
Vaidyanathan Subramaniam
Vaidyanathan Subramaniam - News Editor
I am a cell and molecular biologist and computers have been an integral part of my life ever since I laid my hands on my first PC which was based on an Intel Celeron 266 MHz processor, 16 MB RAM and a modest 2 GB hard disk. Since then, I’ve seen my passion for technology evolve with the times. From traditional floppy based storage and running DOS commands for every other task, to the connected cloud and shared social experiences we take for granted today, I consider myself fortunate to have witnessed a sea change in the technology landscape. I honestly feel that the best is yet to come, when things like AI and cloud computing mature further. When I am not out finding the next big cure for cancer, I read and write about a lot of technology related stuff or go about ripping and re-assembling PCs and laptops.