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1080p on a 1440p Monitor: Does It Look Bad? (Pros & Cons)

Wondering how good or bad 1080p will look on a 1440p monitor?

You can definitely run 1080p on a 1440p monitor, but image quality will be negatively impacted. The amount of blur, visual artifacts, etc will depend the quality of a monitor’s scalers. However, downscaling to 1080p on a 1440p monitor will increase video game framerate and performance.

That’s the short answer, but there are a number of important things to consider when trying to make sure everything looks good.

This quick guide will cover everything you need to know about how the downscaling will look, its pros/cons, and how it all works.

How Does 1080p Look on a 1440p Monitor?

You’ll get an okay image when you set a 1440p monitor to 1080p, but it’s certainly not ideal. A couple factors will determine how good a 1080p image looks on a 1440p display. Your monitor’s size will play a big part, along with scalers.

Monitor Size

Pixels get spread out on bigger screens, and you’ll see more blur and less detail as the screen’s size increases. You’ll still notice some issues on a smaller monitor, but the higher pixel density will help make those issues less noticeable.

For example, 1080p looks way better on a 24-inch monitor than it will on a 32-inch monitor.

Monitor Scalers

The next factor is your computer and/or monitor’s scalers. Scalers are programs that enlarge or shrink images to fit (nonnative) resolutions, and the quality of your monitor and/or computer’s scalers can play a big role in how a scaled image looks on the screen.

A good set of scalers can make upscaled or downscaled images look almost as good as on a screen with a matching resolution. A bad set of scalers will just upscale or downscale the image without trying to correct any blur or visual artifacts.

Pixel Mapping

Finally, the image quality will depend on whether you choose to go scale the image up or go for a 1:1 pixel map.

Pixel mapping—literally carving out a 1080p-sized chunk of your screen—will make a 1080p image look just as good as it would on a 1080p screen, but it’ll also leave big black bands of empty space around the picture. It’s a great option…if you don’t mind all the wasted screen space.

Most users find those black bars ugly or distracting, so you’ll only want to go for a 1:1 pixel map if you aren’t satisfied with the results of upscaling it to fit in 1440p.

Benefits of 1080p on a 1440p Monitor

Running 1080p on a 1440p display—or at least having the option—can be advantageous in a few situations: Gaming, streaming, and work.


PC Gaming Monitor & Gamer

Gaming, like anything else, requires tradeoffs. You probably know this already if you’re a PC gamer. Sometimes you need to turn down the graphics settings and turn off antialiasing to get a new game to run on an old system, or maybe you’ve turned off every lighting setting and water effect so you could squeeze out a few more frames per second (FPS). This situation is no different.

You already need a reasonably powerful computer (or at least one with a graphics card) to play games at 30 to 60 FPS in 1080p, and it’s nearly impossible to play games in 4K resolution at anything above 30 FPS. While 1440p isn’t as detailed and demanding as 4K, it’s still substantially more taxing than 1080p.

Note: We have a full guide comparing the pros and cons between opting for a high-refresh-rate monitor or a high-resolution 4k monitor. It covers everything you need to know about balancing frame rate and image quality/resolution.

You’ll need a powerful rig with an equally powerful GPU to run games in 1440p at 30 FPS, let alone at 60, 120, 144, and higher. This becomes doubly true when you’re playing fast-paced games with lots of onscreen action and special effects.

Luckily there’s a compromise: Drop the resolution from 1440p to 1080p and watch your framerate monitor climb into the triple digits. You could even go to 720p (or 900p) in some situations.

Playing at 1080p on a 1440p monitor has both big upsides and downsides. As stated above, the lower resolution will let you hit higher framerates without making your computer burst into flame, and 1080p is plenty detailed for most games, but you will have to put up with the graphical downsides that come from downscaling.

This might not matter if you don’t mind slightly blurry images, fuzzier details, but you may find that the downscaling process makes text hard or impossible to read, and your display’s scalers may add input lag that can throw off your game.

In spite of the downsides, however, having the option to play in 1440p, 1080p, or lower resolutions gives you a lot of flexibility that you wouldn’t have on a 1080p monitor. It’s up to you whether or not that flexibility is worth it.


Streaming Service on PC Monitor

You can play a lot of games in 1440p, but that’s not as true when it comes to streaming content. Not much content is available in anything above 1080p on the big streaming services, and the bandwidth required to stream in 1440p and above far outstrips what many people’s connections can provide.

A monitor with native 1440p resolution gives you the option of downscaling to 1080p or lower for streaming content while still letting you watch Blu-rays in 1440p.

Streaming on Twitch or other sites also benefit from this arrangement. Streaming in 1440p, 4K, or higher isn’t allowed on many services, and even fewer viewers will have the bandwidth available to watch content in such high resolutions. Many streamers choose to upload their footage in 1080p or lower for precisely this reason.

And while you could technically play in 1440p and upload footage in 1080p, you’ll probably want to play in the same resolution your viewers see. That way you’ll see exactly what your viewers see, and you’ll be able to run your games at higher framerates (which will help you play better and look cooler for your fans).


PC Monitor Editing Work

Running 1080p on a 1440p display won’t help boost your productivity, but having a 1440p display will. Many people have big monitors for the same reason people have multi-monitor setups: More space.

The increased detail of 1440p will let you make out fine details that you couldn’t see on 1080p or lower, so you’ll be able to have a bunch of windows onscreen at once without worrying about illegible text, fuzzy charts, or emails you have to zoom in to 150% to read.

Being able to drop from 1440p to 1080p can also help you conserve processing power when your computer is struggling to handle a big spreadsheet or finish rendering a project. Faster processing means more productivity, and more productivity means you can finish work and hop onto your favorite game that much sooner. This isn’t that big a benefit, but sometimes every little big helps.

Drawbacks of 1080p on a 1440p Monitor

There are only a couple big downsides to downscaling to 1080p on a 1440p monitor, and they’ve been fairly well covered above.

To recap, though, downscaling can: Make the picture look worse, introduce visual artifacts, cause text and details to look blurry, and possibly add input lag that could throw off your game. If you’re okay with all that then by all means, go for it.

How Downscaling Will Affect Your PC

Monitor Resolution Scale Example with 1440p

Every modern screen is comprised of a certain number of pixels—tiny light-emitting elements that turn on, off, and change color as needed—arranged in rows and columns.

A screen’s resolution is determined by the number of pixels it has, and most resolutions are named after the number of rows of pixels on the screen. That means a screen with native 1080p resolution has 1,080 rows of pixels, a screen with native 1440p has 1,440 rows of pixels, and so on.

This is true of screens of any size, so a 32-inch display with 1080p resolution has exactly the same number of pixels as a 50-inch display with native 1080p. It’s also the reason the picture on bigger displays seem a bit less detailed than their smaller cousins; there are fewer pixels per square inch (PPI) on a 50-inch display than on a 32-inch, and more pixels mean more detail.

The jump from 1080p to 1440p is bigger than you may think.

A 1080p display has 2,073,600 pixels (1,080 rows, 1,920 columns), while a 1440p screen has 3,686,400 (1,440 rows, 2,560 columns). That means a 1440p display has about 76% more pixels than a 1080p display, which translates to a 76% jump in detail and processing power required.

The same is also true going the other way: Running 1080p on a 1440p monitor only requires about 57% of the monitor’s pixels and, consequently, the processing power needed to render images in 1440p. So how do you fit a 1080p image on a 1440p screen?

Your computer uses either your CPU or your graphics card to render images, then either send them to your display(s) or directly to the internet if you’re streaming.

Seems straightforward enough, but only if the signal your computer is outputting is in the same resolution (or at least divides evenly into) as your monitor.

For example, let’s say you want to run a game at 1080p on a 1440p monitor. Your monitor has to find a way to display the 1080p images on a screen with 76% more pixels, so it uses algorithms called “video scalers” to transpose the 1080p images onto its 1440p screen.

How video scalers work is complicated, but the long and short of it is that video scalers use complex algorithms to make 1080p images fit on your 1440p display. This process is called “downscaling.”

Video scaling is very clever and complex, but it isn’t perfect. Downscaling can make the picture look blurry and stretched-out, and the fact that 1080p doesn’t divide evenly into 1440p makes it even harder for the video scalers to do their job.

If 1440p was twice as big as 1080p, for instance, the scaler could just double the size of the image and call it a day. Unfortunately 1440p is only 76% bigger than 1080p, so the scaler won’t be able to precisely transpose the 1080p image onto the 1440p screen.

That means there’s a bigger risk of blur and other visual artifacts that make the picture look substantially worse.

Final Tips & Recommendations

It’s absolutely possible to downscale to 1080p on a 1440p monitor. Video scalers built into your monitor and/or GPU will automatically make the image fit the screen, and many video scalers do a pretty good job of making the image look almost as good as it would on a screen with the same native resolution.

Other video scalers aren’t quite as sophisticated, however, so it’s worth looking into which ones your hardware use before you change your settings.

Hopefully this guide has helped you understand what downscaling looks like, how it works, and its upsides and downsides in a context that matters to you.

So do some research, weigh your options, and experiment until you find the solution that’s right for you!

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