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Why Is My 4k TV Only Showing 1080p (Or 720p)?

You may be shocked that your 4k TV may not display 4k resolution but instead the old 1080p or 720p resolution. A 4k TV can display crisp Ultra High-Definition resolution upping the quality from the old 1080p and 720p resolutions to display a much better video quality. So why is your 4k TV only showing 1080p or 720p resolution?

Your 4k TV may only be showing 1080p or 720p as it may be incorrectly configured to display those resolutions, or the source connected to the TV may only support 1080p or 720p. If you are using your 4k TV as a monitor for your pc, it may be incorrectly set to display those lower resolutions.

Most of the time, you can fix the incorrect 1080p or 720p display in your 4k TV’s settings. If you are using your 4k TV as a monitor, you should be able to change the resolution from 1080p or 720p to 4k.

Unfortunately, in some cases, the source connected to the 4k TV can only display 1080p and 720p, which sadly cannot get changed to native 4k resolution. Below I elaborate on what is said above.

Why Is My 4k TV Not Displaying 4k But 1080p Or 720p?

There are a few reasons your 4k TV may display 1080p or the much inferior 720p instead of 4k resolution.

Your 4k TV may wrongly show 1080p or 720p instead of 4k because of an incorrect display configuration. The source connected to your 4k TV may only support 1080p or 720p instead of 4k. 

How To Change Your 4k TV’s Resolution In Its Settings?

In some cases, your 4k TV may have been set to only display content at lower resolutions like 1080p or 720p.

Luckily, this is a resolution problem that you can very quickly fix. Be aware that this adjustment depends on the source that you are using. These steps may vary from TV to TV, but they more or less follow the same process.

Below are the typical steps to change your TV from a lower resolution such as 720p or 1080p to 4k:

  1. Locate your 4k TV remote to adjust the display settings on your television.
  2. On your remote, find the button that allows you to access your 4k TV’s settings menu.
  3. In your 4k TV’s settings menu, locate the Output Resolution option and click it.
    1. The name of this setting may differ depending on the 4k TV and its manufacturer. Instead of Output Resolution, it may display as Resolution, Picture Mode, Display Setup, Aspect Ratio, or Zoom Mode.
  4. You will find a list of resolutions within the above option, including 720p, 1080p, and 4k. You will need to alter this setting on your 4k TV to its native 4k resolution from 1080p or 720p.
  5. A confirmation box may come up to confirm the resolution change, which you must agree to set the changes.
  6. If your 4k TV does not adjust to the selected native 4k resolution instantly, exit the settings menu, which should trigger the resolution change.

Your TV will now display its native 4k resolution.

The Media Source Connected To Your 4k TV May Not Support 4k

In a few cases, unfortunately, the media source connected to your TV may not support 4k resolution but instead only 1080p and 720p. Unfortunately, you can not do much to change the media source that only supports 1080p or 720p to native 4k resolution on your 4k TV.

Most Over-The-Air-Broadcast TV networks cannot support 4k resolution and only such resolutions as 1080p or 720p.

These TV networks are the ones that are received by an antenna connected to your TV. Such channels include NBC, The CW, and CBS. These resolutions, unfortunately, cannot be altered as the OTA channels do not support 4k.

You may be using a Blu-Ray player or Blu-Ray that only supports 1080p, not 4k. Only Ultra High-Definition compatible Blu-Ray players or UHD Blu-Ray discs support 4k resolution, not ordinary Blu-Ray players and Blu-Ray discs that are generally limited to 1080p and therefore cannot be changed.

If you are streaming media from a streaming service such as a YouTube video that only goes up to 1080p or 720p, you cannot change it to native 4k resolution as the source only supports the lower 720p or 1080p resolutions.

This limitation is generally the case with old uploaded videos on the streaming service. Occasionally YouTube may just be displaying the incorrect video resolution, which you can change in the video’s settings.

If the media source connected to the 4k TV only supports 720p or 1080p, it will not natively support 4k on your 4k TV and, unfortunately, cannot be changed to 4k.

How To Change Your PC Resolution To 4k?

Often when you connect your Windows PC to your 4k TV to use it as a monitor, it will not display your TV’s native 4k resolution. This problem is a quick one to remedy in your PC’s settings.

The steps to fix this fault in both Windows 10 and 11 are incredibly similar:

  1. Press the Start Button in the lower half of your screen and navigate to Settings.
  2. Within Settings, find the Display settings within the System tab.
  3. Within Windows 11, navigate to Display Resolution. In Windows 10, navigate to Scale And Layout, where you will find Display Resolution.
  4. From Display Resolution, select the 4k resolution option, which may be labeled as 3840 × 2160, which is the full resolution of 4k.

By following the steps above, your 4k TV will now correctly display 4k resolution for your PC connected to your 4k TV.

Try a soft reset

A soft reset, is where you turn off the TV and unplug it from the wall outlet. You then usually have to wait for 60 seconds then you can put the plug back in and turn the TV on again. Performing a soft reset clears a device’s internal memory of running programs, which often clears up any technical glitches.

Try a hard reset

A hard reset involves completely resetting the TV to its factory defaults. Most TV models have specific instructions. However, if you have a Samsung TV here are the steps to follow:

To perform a factory reset:

  1. Head to Settings > General.
  2. Select Reset.
  3. Enter your PIN > then select Reset.

Note: If you didn’t change your PIN initially the code is 0000

Conclusion

Your 4k TV may only be showing 1080p or 720p as it may not be correctly configured to display native 4k resolution, which you can quickly fix by changing the video resolution in your settings on your 4k TV. Sometimes the source that your 4k TV is attempting to display is only capable of 720p or 1080p. The limited resolutions are often the case with Blu-Ray players, discs, and Over-The-Air Broadcast TV.

If you are attempting to use your 4k TV as a monitor for your PC, ensure that your PC is correctly configured in its Display settings to show 4k resolution.

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4K_resolution

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_over-the-air_television_networks

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terrestrial_television

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/change-your-screen-resolution-in-windows-5effefe3-2eac-e306-0b5d-2073b765876b

https://www.gadgetreview.com/how-to-change-resolution-on-tv

https://www.lifewire.com/change-resolution-of-tv-5202182

https://www.lifewire.com/what-you-need-to-see-4k-1847330

https://www.quora.com/Why-are-films-not-displaying-as-4K-on-my-TV