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4K vs 1080p projector for outdoor home theater

When choosing a projector, the most important specifications for most outdoor movie event managers are brightness and resolution. While everything is relatively clear with brightness, the resolution raises a number of questions.

Major question becomes: is it worth overpaying for a 4K projector, or should you go for a Full HD unit?

4K resolution is 4 times the resolution of full HD 1080p

What is the main difference between 1080p and 4k projectors?

To begin with, it pays to understand what the difference between 4K projectors and Full HD is? The main difference between them is the number of pixels on the matrix. 

  • In Full HD projectors: 1920 horizontally and 1080 vertically. 
  • In 4K projectors: 3840 and 2160 respectively. 

A beam of light passing through the matrix projects an image onto the screen. This means that the picture will have greater clarity, as well as a margin for scalability. However, this all applies to ideal conditions for using 4K.

4K vs. 1080p Projector - quick comparison

  4K Full HD projector 1080p Full HD projector
Resolution 3840x2160  1920x1080
Price (similar brightness) $2,499  $1,179


white 4K projector - side view

Detailed comparison of 4K and 1080p projectors

  1. Cost

The cost of 4K and Full HD projectors varies on average twice if we are talking about projectors in the same segment, but with different resolutions.

  1. Image quality

The quality of the picture in 4K projectors is certainly better. But you can clearly notice it only using high-quality 4K content filmed with a 4K camera, and not upscaled using software.

  1. Resolution 

Full HD resolution is 1920x1080, while 4K resolution is 3840x2160.

  1. Brightness 

The brightness of your outdoor movie projector largely depends on the power of the light source that is inside the projector and the quality of the lenses used in it. So the number of pixels in the matrix does not play a decisive role here.

  1. Contrast Ratio

The contrast depends on the quality of the matrix.

  1. Screen Type 

A number of manufacturers offer special screens for 4K projectors. Their coatings have a different canvas dispersion. But this technicality will not give the viewer the same effect in the picture as a good light source in the projector and its optical system will.

  1. Screen Size and Viewing Distance 

Sure, 4K projectors allow you to project the best picture onto a larger screen, but you should always keep in mind the important nuance around the quality of the signal source -- its original 4K. 

For very large screens, you need more light. So the combination of a powerful 4K projector and high-quality signal will give you the best picture on a big outdoor movie screen.

On the other hand, being at a sufficient distance from the screen, most viewers will not notice the difference between high-quality Full HD and 4K.

  1. Individual Viewing Experience 

Of course, if the budget allows, it is better to use a 4K projector. Such a projector will retain its relevance longer and you will be able to watch your 4K content in original quality.

And yet we at Big Screen Pro suggest you pay attention not to the 4K inscription of the model you are considering, but to the type of its light source -- LED, Laser -- and the projector's declared brightness.

Home Cinema Theater: Projector or LED-LCD?

  1. Installation 

Some 4K projectors are heavier in weight, but in most cases you can find out whether a projector supports 4K only by the inscription on it and by its model. Note also that the 4K connection requires a cable that has a 4K ready classification.

  1. Input Lag 

Since a projector does not use a buffer for the signal as such, but is actually an image output device, you will not have a delay in signal output either in Full HD or in 4K -- even if the signal is processed by an additional processor inside the projector.

  1. Content and streaming 

As was already pointed out, if your content is Full HD, it will be displayed equally on both projectors. The difference will be noticeable only with the 4K content. Most likely, your Full HD projector will be able to accept a 4K signal (depending on the projector), but the image quality will still be Full HD.

Note that some Full HD projectors will not be able to process 4K signals and you are likely to see a message that this signal is not supported.

Are 4K Projectors better than 1080p? 

4K projectors, due to the time it takes to roll out the next generation of projection technology, will be more relevant for longer and give you a better picture, the only question is your current budget.

full HD content vs UHD 4K content

Is 4K and 1080p projector Image difference obvious enough to get noticed by a human eye?

A 4K image is indeed better than Full HD (with a 4K signal source), however, the farther you are from the screen, the less noticeable the difference will be. Sure, the digitization will be higher, but, say, people with poor eyesight will hardly notice it.

Is it possible to use a projector outside during the day?

Which one to choose for outdoor home theater? 

For outdoor cinemas, we recommend using a Full HD projector with increased brightness, as the latter greatly affects the perception of the image. This certainly applies to when you optimize your budget.

If the unit cost is not a stumbling block, then feel free to choose a 4K projector with the maximum available brightness.

FAQs about 4K vs. 1080p projectors

There are no special conditions for using 4K projectors compared to Full HD, the main thing to remember is that a 4K projector will be able to take an image with a resolution of 4K and lower, and a number of Full HD projectors will not be able to output a signal with a resolution higher than Full HD, converting it to Full HD.

How much does a 4K projector cost? 

The difference in the cost of 4K and Full HD projectors of the same brand with the same brightness and optics is about twice higher than is the case of a 1080p projector with the similar brightness.

Can you play 4K movies with 1080p projectors? 

Some projectors can take a 4K image and convert it to Full HD. But this depends on the specifications. Always check this option with the manufacturer when choosing a projector. Or ask our team to help you choose the best option for you.

Do 4K projectors support HDR? 

Almost all modern manufacturers of 4K projectors claim that they support HDR, but due to the nature of HDR technology, sometimes this can be nothing more than marketing. Always check which HDR technology your projector supports.

difference between HDR and SDR image quality

Is 1080p resolution good for an outdoor movie projector? 

From experience, Full HD is sufficient for outdoor film screenings, as long as the projector has enough brightness for your screen size.

Check out our article: how many lumens is good for an outdoor movie projector.

Do I need to upgrade to a 4K projector for outdoor movies? 

It all depends on your budget. Some outdoor movie equipment users require the projector to support 4K. And if you are a professional outdoor movie manager you should be ready for this option.

Most customers choose Full HD laser projectors as a good price/quality ratio. But if your content consists mostly of 4K, then yes, it's worth switching to 4K.

Does keystone correction affect the resolution? 

This function is designed to align the image, not change its resolution. So no, keystone correction does not affect the resolution.


With the introduction of 4K and 8K technology, 4K projectors are seen as a basic option to buy. However, most projectors on the market currently have Full HD resolution, due to the fact that the Full HD image has high quality characteristics and -- when used for screening films under the stars -- this resolution is enough.

Choose 4K projectors only if you are sure that there is enough original 4K content for your outdoor movie cinema, and there is no option but to downgrade to Full HD.
Currently you may get two models of 4K projectors from Big Screen Pro:
Optoma ZK400 (4000 lumens)
Optoma ZK507 (5000 lumens)

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