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Can You Play 4K Games/Videos on a Non 4K TV?


The movies and games being released right now are the highest quality possible. Remember when playing a video game looked like watching a cheaply animated kids show? Now, you can run around other worlds using a photo-realistic avatar and carry out complex missions. 

The film industry has progressed just as much. The Avengers films are crystal clear and the special effects are seamless and exciting. 

Technology has come a long way, but if your TV isn’t up to date with the newest video resolution, can you even watch and play 4K content? Here’s what you need to know. 

Can a Non 4K TV Play 4K?

two man playing Play Station

The answer to this is yes and no. 

You will not have the full 4K experience if your television isn’t compatible with that high level of resolution. Older TV’s were not designed to display content in a resolution that hadn’t been invented (or at least standardized yet). 

With that being said, you can play 4K videos on a non 4K TV. The videos should still play seamlessly and be just as entertaining. In terms of resolution, they should display a little higher than 1080p, but they will not be as clear as they could be. 

The technology needed to display 4K videos is different than that needed to play HD or lower resolution videos. HDR is relatively new to the tech world, so if your television wasn’t designed with that in mind, you will have to miss out and settle for 1080p, which has been around for much longer. 

Do You Need a 4K TV to Play 4K Games?

A 4K TV

For some, playing a video game is only fun if they can play it in the highest resolution possible. So what happens when a TV isn’t made to play at that high resolution? 

Similar to watching videos on a Non 4K TV, you can also get away with playing 4K games. When we talk about ‘4K’, we are only referring to the resolution of the screen, not the processing time or how fast or slow the graphics move. 

If you could only play 4K games on 4K TVs, game developers wouldn’t be able to sell their products to a big chunk of consumers.

4K is about four times clearer than 1080p. Therefore, we’d be lying if we said you weren’t going to be able to tell the difference. After all, one way people judge how good a video game is is by it’s graphics, so if you aren’t seeing them in their best light, you’re going to notice. 

Some video game consoles will output a 4K signal if one is unavailable on the TV. This should help improve your gaming experience. 

So, what can you expect from playing a 4K game on a non 4K TV? Well, the graphics will be slightly better than 1080p. They will be clear enough to see every important detail of the game and help you carry on completing your quest, scoring more goals, or whatever other achievement you’re playing towards. 

Is It Worth Buying the Game? 

A man playing game on Xbox

Is it worth spending a chunk of money on a game you aren’t even going to play in full 4K? We think it is. 

Chances are, you’ll probably get a newer TV at some point. And when you do, you’ll still be able to enjoy the 4K game you bought a few years ago. The last thing you want is to finally get your hands on a 4K TV, only to be stuck playing lower resolution games rendering the TV’s upgrade obsolete. 

It’s also important to ask yourself why you’re buying the game. Is it to have fun? Or to drool over the graphics? 

Other Things to Keep in Mind When Playing 4K Games

Let’s talk about HDMI cables for a minute. You can play a 4K movie or game on an older TV and enjoy the experience, but if you use an older generation HDMI cable, you’ll most likely end up disappointed. 

There are several HDMI generations, and you should aim to only use an HDMI 2.0 or newer. Older HDMI cables will lag and won’t transmit the audio and data well. 

This is particularly important when you’re playing video games. You must use a newer HDMI cable for video games; older cables won’t be able to cope. 

HDMI port behind a TV

Arguably, the HDMI cable choice is more important than the TV choice, so always be sure to check what kind of cable you’re using to hook up your video game console or laptop! The generation should be labeled somewhere on the cable, and brand new cables are almost always 2.0 or higher. 

You should also check if your video game console supports 4K. You might have purchased a 4K game, but if the console itself isn’t compatible, you’ll be left playing it at a lower resolution. Alternatively, if the console is 4K but the game is not, you have no chance of playing it in 4K– regardless of what kind of TV you have. 

Finally, we wouldn’t stress out too much about this. Do what you can to get the best resolution (newer TV, right HDMI cable, correct console) and then just enjoy playing! That’s the best part. 

Wrapping Things Up 

4K curve TV and game controller on gaming background

You can play 4K videos and games on a non 4K TV. Newer and older TV both plug into and transmit the video and audio similarly, so enjoying the content is almost always possible. 

There’s a lot of hype around monitors and TVs that display 4K (and even 8K) video. It’s certainly exciting– but it’s not necessary. Don’t feel pressured into spending your money, especially when the most important part is playing and enjoying the video and game. 

Once again, please have a look at the HDMI cable you’re using. This makes more of a difference than you might think. 

Do you have a non 4K TV? Have you still been able to enjoy and play all your content? Tell us all about it in the comments below! 

Good luck!


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