Can I use a 4K monitor with my laptop?

When you’re using a laptop, sometimes you might want to connect that laptop to an external monitor. This can be for a variety of different reasons, whether you’re just trying to connect the two temporarily to watch a film, or you’re trying to use your laptop with a monitor as a second screen.

With an abundance of more high resolution options popping up all over the place, a common question now is regarding 4K monitors. Are they fully compatible with laptops, or will they not work properly? Well, that’s what we’re going to look at today; whether you can use a 4K monitor with a laptop.

Can I use 4K monitor with my laptop?

The correct answer is that yes, in the majority of cases, you’re going to be able to use your laptop with a 4K monitor. And yes, you’ll be able to produce a 4K quality resolution image on that monitor, too.

Many people ask this question, as they’re not quite sure if the laptop will be able to output this information to the monitor. This is especially true if the laptop screen is 1080p, with many people assuming that the laptop won’t be able to then reproduce a higher resolution image onto the monitor.

The reality is that actually, the quality of the laptop’s screen won’t have an impact on whether you can output to a 4k monitor at all. Your resolution is definitely limited by the display that you use, so if your monitor is only 1080p, that’s what you’ll get. But that’s because your software adjusts to the resolution screen that you use with it.

The majority of laptops nowadays are specifically designed to be able to output a quality image onto a monitor, including resolutions of 4K. The laptop screen itself is just based on what you can afford within the device, and what’s easily transportable with you. As you can probably tell if you look for 4K laptops, their screens can be quite expensive.

No, what actually dictates the resolution of the image that your laptop can output is actually the graphics card, or the GPU. This is what defines the amount of pixels that your laptop can support, not the screen of your laptop or any other internal parts of the laptop either.

So, you’ll need to do some more research to find out the capabilities of your laptop, and whether it can output to a 4K display. The vast majority of laptops will be able to do this, especially if they’ve been released in recent years. But, it doesn’t hurt to check.

How can I find out what resolution my laptop supports?

You can easily find out the maximum resolution that your laptop supports by using Google.

For example, if I’m using a 2020 Macbook Air, then I can quickly search for the specifications of this model. Whilst searching you should be looking for something saying external display support, or 2nd display support. In the Macbook Air’s case, it’s listed under 2nd display support;


Here, we can easily see that the new Macbook Air will support a single external monitor showing pixels up to 6016×3384, also called 6K. Or, you can connect it to several external monitors at the same time and have it show in 4K resolution. Problem solved!

How do I make my external monitor high resolution?

If you connect your monitor to the external display and it isn’t showing up in the higher resolution, then there could be a few different reasons for this. The first one that springs to mind is the method of connection – for example, some laptops can output 4K resolution via a displayport, but not via a HDMI connection. So, this could be the cause of the issue.

This will also depend on the HDMI cable that you’re using. For example, older HDMI cables might not be able of 4k at all. The majority of cables (any that have been released since 2009) will be capable of 4k. But, they may not be able to display a faster refresh rate. Only newer HDMI cables can produce a 120Hz+ refresh rate.

You can also go into your settings and check what the resolution you’re getting is. In a Mac, this is easily found by going to System Preferences > Display, where you’ll be able to find your second screen’s resolution. On a Windows laptop, you can easily go into Display > Screen Resolution to find out these details too.

How do I choose an external monitor for my laptop?

Not every monitor is going to support 4K, but that’s not all you should consider. When you’re trying to decide what monitor to opt for with your laptop, then there are a few things that you’ll want to think about.

4k support – Of course, the main thing we’re going to look at here is that the monitor is capable of showing a 4k screen. This is probably the first thing to look at nowadays if you’re looking for a monitor, as a monitor that can run 4k is important for the future.
Ports- To get the right monitor, you need to ensure that it has the right ports for you to use as well. Most of the time, all you’re going to need is HDMI ports and a Displayport, but also consider if you need anything else to use with your other devices.
Screen size – After the resolution, the screen size is also worth thinking about. And of course, this is in relation to the resolution too. You might not need a monitor that supports 4k if you’re only using a small display, but on a larger monitor the resolution will be much more noticeable.


Overall, it’s clear to see that 4K is becoming more and more used amongst both the business users and also within the consumer market too. Much like IPS displays, 4K’s are here to stay for the foreseeable future as current reliable tech we can use to improve our viewing experience (I always recommend IPS display laptops above those without IPS technology).

An increasing number of products are being released that will be compatible with at least 4K resolution, including all the new gaming consoles. So, it makes sense that we start looking at 4K as the new standard if we’re wanting optimum quality in our viewing.

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About Jon

Hey, I'm Jon. I'm an engineer by trade, so it makes sense that I'm obsessed with anything technology related! On the weekends, you can find me playing around with my computers or fixing something around the house. Feel free to leave a comment if you want to get in touch.

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