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Why You Shouldn’t Get Excited for 4K PC Gaming… Yet!

/ Jan 13th, 2014 No Comments

Why You Shouldn't Get Excited for 4k PC Gaming... Yet!

The big news for gamers coming out of CES 2014 from Las Vegas mainly focused on a lot of manufacturers introducing quality, affordable 4K monitors. While 4K televisions were all the rage two years ago at the show, neither 4K TVs nor monitors have yet to make any meaningful impact with relevant market penetration with consumers. Will that change? Well, with price points for solid 4K monitors finally dipping below the $800 price point, many gamers are seriously considering an upgrade. However, just getting a 4K monitor because it’s in your budget (and kudos if it is, baller) is not a good enough reason to buy one.

4K Monitors and What to Look For

Clearly, everyone will know that a 4K monitor should have a resolution of 3840×2160, a monumental upgrade for the average gamer who sits at 1080p right now (loosely referencing some stats Steam released months ago). One of the major problems for gamers is that most of these 27-28″ 4K monitors aren’t aimed at them, but rather for “professional” users, meaning photographer and videographers. For example, the new Dell 28 Ultra Monitor (P2815Q) was announced and will retail for a paltry $699. The bad news is that it only features 30Hz at maximum resolution, an absolute deal breaker for all gamers. The 5ms response time isn’t something to brag about either.

ASUS, a longtime leader in the world of PC hardware, also announced the ASUS PB278Q, a 28-inch 4K monitor at a reasonable $799 price point. It boasts a 1ms response time (perfect!) and will ship in the second quarter of this year. It also has a higher luminosity than the Dell but efforts to find specifics for HDMI 2.0 support or the 60Hz refresh rate (as rumored) have gone unfruitful to this point. Gamers should note that HDMI 2.0 allows a single cable to run between a PC and a monitor for 4K resolution, otherwise two cables (or a DisplayPort cable) would have to be used.

The Asus PB287Q supports 4K resolution and has a 1ms response time, for $699.

The Asus PB287Q supports 4K resolution and has a 1ms response time, for $699

The point is not all 4K monitors, even at rougly the same price points, are going to be worth the buy. Make sure you check the screen size, the luminosity, the response time, and the refresh rate. The lower the response time (1-3ms) and having a refresh rate of 60Hz is a must for gamers.

Oh… You Also Need a New Video Card

Unfortunately, those gamers that do not have a GeForce GTX 780, a GeForce Titan, or a brand new AMD Radeon R290x will be left in the dust. 4K gaming takes a huge toll on a PC, and it’s also assumed the PC in question has the CPU and RAM to handle the load that the GPU won’t handle. So, making the huge assumption you have a bemehouth PC rig, sans aformentioned video card, there is more money to invest assuming 10-20 FPS rates are unacceptable.

A quick look at the marketplace today yields the following prices:

GeForce Titan = $999
GeForce GTX 780 = $719
AMD Radeon HD R290x = $629

So not only do you need to throw down what will probably be $699 (minimum) for the monitor, you will need to upgrade your video card to the latest and greatest, which at a minimum will be $629, assuming you do not want to go for a CrossFire or SLI setup in which case, just double the video card price (fun!).

Games that Support 4K?

Believe it or not, there are actually a good amount of games out that already support 4K resolution. After a very quick look around the internet, here are some of the more recognizable PC titles that support 4K resolution. Feel free to add titles you know about in our comments, we’ll give a shoutout on Twitter to you for some great finds posted in our comments section as a thanks. Some of the games we found include Max Payne 3, Metro: Last Light, Battlefield 3, BioShock Infinite, Skyrim, Crysis 3, Grid 2, and Tomb Raider. Certainly there are more, but the point is made – there are indeed 4K-compliant games to be played on PC.

But is the Performance Decent?

In a word – no. Multiple authority sites like CNET and Tom’s Hardware have run through performance tests with 4K gaming and the results are not pretty. Frame rates for Battlefield 3 at 4K rez with a GeForce Titan (a thousand dollar card remember) yielded results of an average frame rate of 33.98, which is nowhere near 60FPS. Using an SLI setup with GTX 780 cards brought that number up to 57.7, which is close but no cigar. It seems across the board, there is no way to run a single card setup (although benchmarks for the R290X at 4K have yet to be done).

So What Now?

For those that happen to be independently wealthy and want to purchase an R290X CrossFire setup, there are hopes that this will be the way to “Do 4K Gaming on PC” in 2014. If you happen to be outside that illustrious group, 4K isn’t going to be viable. The monitors are almost there, unfortunately, the graphics and CPU power doesn’t seem to be following suit just yet. For those that want high performance PC gaming, stick to 1440p or 1600p, get yourself a single R290 card (which is “only” $512) and go wild. One day, 4K gaming on PC will become the norm, but it will be a few years before the cost and practically of such an investment will become justifiable.

Sean Gibson

Sean Gibson

Founder, Featured Contributor at Gaming Illustrated
Sean Gibson was the founder of Gaming Illustrated and served as Executive Editor and lead reviewer from 2002 to 2014. He no longer is affiliated with Gaming Illustrated, but remembers his time with the site fondly.
Sean Gibson
Sean Gibson
Sean Gibson

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