What is 4k Gaming?

4K Gaming. You may have heard this term thrown around and there’s no doubt it will be becoming more and more popular as technology improves.

In today’s post we’ll take a look at what exactly 4k gaming is, hardware that supports 4k, and what the future holds when it comes to gaming at ultra high def.

So, what is 4k gaming?

4K gaming is just regular gaming, but using a ultra-high definition display resolution called ‘4K’.

4K: It’s All About the (number of) Pixels

Display resolutions compared to 4K UHD
This image shows the relative sizes of popular screen resolutions compared to 4K

Most TVs and computer display monitors previously available in the most recent technology advance were full high definition standard, or 1080p (named for the number of vertical pixels on the display).

  • 1080p (AKA Full High Definition, or ‘Full HD’)
    • 1092 x  1080
    • Just over 2 million pixels

And now, enter 4K, the next generation of display monitors at an even higher resolution. Here are the specs when it comes to computer displays and TVs:

  • 4K (AKA Ultra High Definition, or ‘UHD’, also may be called 2160p)
    • 3840 x 2160
    • Around 8.3 million pixels

How 4K Affects Gamers

If you want to play games at ultra high definition, there are a few issues to be aware of, stemmed from one major difference:

Your display is now imaging over 4 times as many pixels as it would at full HD.

This simple change brings about new challenges for your hardware, especially for gamers:

  1. You’ll need a 4K enabled monitor itself. For gaming purposes, be sure to get one with a sufficient refresh rate of at least 60Hz.
  2. There is now a massive demand placed on your graphics card, which needs to now process and render an extra 6.3 million pixels (no trivial feat).
  3. Your mouse sensitivity will be changed as well due to the larger resolution. Make sure you have a suitably specced gaming mouse with enough DPI to handle the ultra high def.

Processing by your CPU and memory are not directly affected by having a larger resolution. There is still the same amount of items/objects in a particular frame. More pixels is purely more GPU load, not more CPU load.

Cost Vs. Benefits

Do you really need 4K gaming? As a relatively new technology (that’s still quite expensive), it’s worth weighing up the cost versus benefits of getting a 4K capable gaming machine.

There’s a point where more pixel density isn’t going to be noticeable, since the human eye can only resolve a finite distance. When pixels get too small, you simply won’t be able to discern a single pixel anymore (which is the goal of higher resolution displays). This is especially true as you get further away from the screen.

 

The closer you are to a screen, and the larger it is, the more need you have for a higher resolution. The bottom line? 4K is only really worth it if:

  1. You have a reasonably large screen size
  2. Your viewing distance from the screen is relatively close

This does put a lot of gamers in the ‘almost worth it’ category, especially if you are gaming on a large display.

The graph below will help you decide if 4K resolution is going to make a noticeable difference for you (it is based on a person with 20/20 vision being able to resolve two points at an angular separation of 1/60th of a degree apart).

If your display arrangement falls in the hatched blue area, then you may experience noticeable benefits from 4K, assuming you have 20/20 vision.

 

4K resolutions

Of course it’s not just about single pixel size, but pixel density.

A larger pixel density means more screen ‘real estate’; you have more usable room on the screen compared to the same screen at lower resolutions.

However, there is a limit to this too – more screen real estate is possible because everything becomes shrunk down. You don’t want to decrease the size of things too much to the point where you can’t even read them.

4K Capable Hardware

Here are some of our picks for 4K capable hardware:

Monitors For 4K Gaming

For screens, it’s more worthwhile to get a larger sized screen in order to realize the most benefit from UHD.

At the time of writing, UHD monitors come in a range of sizes from 24″ to 40″. Each size will offer a slightly different viewing experience as the pixel density varies with screen size.

While they are definitely up there on the pricing scale, here are a few options that have proved to be quite popular. First up, we have the Samsung U28D590D – a 28″ 4K display with generally quite positive reviews all-round. It is also the smallest size screen we’d recommend for 4K, unless you happen to sit very close to your computer screen.

4K monitor Samsung
Samsung U28D590D 28″ UHD Monitor (from Amazon.com)

 

If you’re after a larger screen, another option is the BenQ BL3201PH, which is a 32″ display that will really make your 4K experience an impressive one. This screen also has excellent reviews, however unfortunately it may be well outside most people’s price range.

Benq 32 inch UHD computer monitor
BenQ BL3201PH 32″ IPS LED 4K Monitor (from Amazon.com)

 

If you really have some money to spend though, you may as well go all-out and get yourself the biggest display you can find. We present the Philips 4065UC 4K monitor for your consideration:

4K 40 inch UHD computer monitor

Philips 4065UC 40 Inch UHD Computer Monitor (from Amazon.com)

 

TV Screens For 4K Gaming

At the moment, 4K capable monitor displays are fairly pricey. If you simply must have the 4K experience but don’t necessarily have a whole lot to spend, you might consider purchasing a TV screen over a computer monitor.TV screen as a monitor

Opting for a TV display with 4K resolution instead of a monitor can allow you to get a larger sized UHD resolution screen, at a significantly cheaper price than a 4K computer monitor. However, do be aware that the viewing quality may not be as clear at close distances (TV’s are generally designed to be viewed at a further distance and so are not made with the same quality as computer monitors). Also be aware of input lag which may be an issue with some TV screens.

This video discusses some of the main points you should consider when thinking of using a TV screen versus a computer monitor for your setup:

 

Which Gaming PC Builds Can Handle 4k Resolutions?

As mentioned previously, 4K gaming can be very taxing on your graphics card in particular.

Our $800 build is barely capable of entry level 4K gaming, but you’ll have to drop the game settings back a bit and run at a lower FPS. Stay tuned for our high end builds coming soon!

If you’re looking to upgrade just your graphics card, check out these video card candidates that can support 4K gaming.

Video Cards For 4K Gaming

These cards are top of the line and come with the price to represent that. We recommend choosing a powerful single card before trying to run multiple, less expensive cards.

GTX-Titan-Z

 

EVGA GeForce GTX TITAN Z

 

 

 

GTX-980-Ti

 

EVGA GeForce GTX 980 Ti

 

 

 

R9-Fury-X

Sapphire Radeon R9 Fury X

 

 

The Future of 4K Gaming

4K gaming is not yet that feasible for the average gamer. Unless you’ve got a pretty solid computer build, the additional rendering load of the larger number of pixels can make your computer performance not great, and in our opinion it’s not really worth sacrificing smooth gameplay for extra pixel density.

If you’re really interested in the 4K gaming experience, there’s a great post about it here, which includes some nice commentary and screenshots from a few games that demonstrates exactly what you can expect when it comes to gaming in UHD.

As for us, we’re waiting out until technology improves just that little bit more to bring UHD gaming down to a more affordable price level, but the 4K gaming age is definitely on its way.

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