What Is a 4K Video Converter and When Might You Need One?

March 22, 2023 • Zachary Amos


It took a few years to reach a point of mainstream saturation, but these days, high-definition video is pretty much the standard to beat when it comes to accessible, crazy-lifelike visuals. Do you want to watch 4K video files on multiple devices? You might need a 4K video converter.

From computer monitors to living-room television sets, 4K is pretty much everywhere these days. You’re about to find out everything you need to know about 4K (also known as UHD), what it is, and the best way to convert 4K videos.

What Is the Definition of 4K?

First, it’s worthwhile to establish some common definitions for the terms being discussed here. So what is 4K resolution, exactly?

“4K” is a reference to the number of pixels along the horizontal dimension of a television or computer monitor. 4K is shorthand for “4,000,” which means 4K resolution measures at least 4,000 pixels horizontally.

Both the horizontal and vertical dimensions – the pixel count – can vary by industry and application. The two dominant 4K video resolution standards are as follows:

  • Consumer media and TV: 4K UHD (“Ultra HD”): 3840 x 2160 pixels
  • Moving picture projection: DCI 4K: 4096 x 2160 pixels

As with many consumer-level technologies – most especially, it seems, television sets – each passing year has seen 4K monitors and TVs become more affordable. One of the most pronounced drops in prices for 4K televisions occurred between 2014 and 2015.

Why Would I Need to Convert 4K Video?

4K is a resolution – not a video file format or a video codec. If you need to know how to convert 4K video, it’s probably because you want to be able to watch that same video – at that same resolution – on a different device or platform that doesn’t support the file’s current format or codec.

Some examples of common 4K video codecs (also called “containers”) include:

  • MP4
  • MTS/M2TS
  • MKV
  • XAVC
  • MXF
  • HEVC
  • AV1

Those are video codecs. What you might be more familiar with are video file formats. The most commonly used – here, that means “most likely to be compatible with your device” – 4K video file formats are:

  • MP4
  • MOV
  • MKV
  • WMV

Not all of these video file formats are compatible with all of the video codecs listed previously. Your needs will most likely be determined by the end device you plan on using to consume your video content. Choose the most widely compatible file format that works with your chosen devices, and then go from there.

A proper 4K video converter will be able to convert one file to another either on the basis of codec or file format. There’s a pretty good chance it’ll be able to help you create your own GIFs from video content, too. Of course, these days, all you need is Photoshop, YouTube, or an Apple device to do that.

What Is the Best 4K Video Converter for Each Platform?

If you’re still reading, then it’s pretty likely you’re looking to convert some of your own 4K videos. You’ll be spoiled for choices no matter what operating system you favor.


The macOS platform isn’t wanting for high-powered third-party video converters. Your choices below range from free to paid. Some of the free apps lack the UI polish of their paid counterparts, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have robust feature sets.

You’ll probably have to try out a couple of different ones before you find a good balance of price, capabilities, and ease of use. Here are four of the top 4K video converters available for macOS in 2022:

  • Adapter (Free)
  • Handbrake (Free)
  • VideoProc Converter (Paid)
  • DivX Converter (Paid)
  • VLC (Free)
  • Any Video Converter (Free to Paid)


Happily, there’s a lot of overlap in the market, in terms of macOS vs. Windows, when it comes to 4K video converters. Most of the top choices are available on both platforms, with a small handful of notable exceptions. Again, you’ll want to experiment with different 4K-capable video converters before you settle on one for your tech stack. Here are the top choices for Windows 11 users:

  • VideoProc (Paid)
  • HandBrake (Free)
  • DivX Converter (Paid)
  • Leawo Video Converter (Free to paid)
  • VLC (Free)
  • Any Video Converter (Free to Paid)

Now You Know What a 4K Video Converter Is

We’re publishing this piece at the end of 2022, and we’re still waiting on a truly universal video container – or file format, if you prefer – that plays everywhere, on every device, without a hiccup.

You’ll always be limited by the actual physical resolution of the screen you’re using. In other words, not every laptop, smartphone, or television has a 4K display. It might play a video of that resolution, but it won’t look like it would on a true 4K screen.

And you might run into the problem of certain video file formats playing perfectly fine on one device but being incompatible with another. Depending on your needs – like streaming HD video from a media server to a set-top box in the living room – your tech stack might do the converting on-the-fly, as it streams. That’s the case for media-server products like Plex, Kodi, Emby, and some others.

For those watching 4K video natively on handheld devices, personal computers, set-top boxes, gaming consoles, and other devices, you’ll need a reliable way to convert your 4K-resolution video files from one format to another. Now, you know where you begin your search for a 4K video converter.