Gaming in 4K: Is it Worth it?
By: Derek Strickland
A next-generation standard in visual performance is on its way, ushering in a new wave of visual clarity for entertainment. Due to exorbitant launch costs, 4K UHD has been out of the mainstream consumer’s reach, making it another inaccessible commodity.
With the recent fall in 4K monitor prices, PC gamers are curious if this is the right time to adopt the new tech. To answer this we’ll take a look at the pros and cons of Ultra HD and how it compares in performance, value and fidelity to today’s visual standard.
The real cost of 4K gaming
4K can earnestly reduce jaggies and anti-aliasing artifacts, letting a game’s true colors shine through in brilliant displays.
But this graphical prowess comes at a cost, and as cost is usually something that perturbs the ilk of everyday gamers, 4K isn’t for everyone.
Enthusiast PC gamers, on the other hand, are driven by their hobby–performance is indeed an art form, and as such, they’re willing to sacrifice a portion of their wallet for gaming predominance. It is also gaming enthusiasts that will instantly notice one of 4K’s main drawbacks: it requires some serious hardware to hit 60 frames-per-second.
Today’s enthusiast gaming rigs can comfortably run full 1080p HD in 60 fps on Ultra settings, providing for blistering fast and responsive in-game performance. This is largely due to the time that the hardware has had to catch up with the current HD standard.
To become a practical gaming solution for everyone, hardware will need that same timeframe to adapt to this new environment. As it stands it’s still too early to adopt 4K simply because of a wealth of issues that range from high hardware requirements, OS menu scaling problems, and in-game image scaling discrepancies.
Modern PC gamers have become accustomed to a certain standard–that is the age-old 1080p 60fps creed. But 4K can only fully sustain one of these fronts, leaving 30fps the normal range for many AAA games.
There are ways to push the frames-per-second past this by rigging up a series of GPU’s in tandem, but this could take up to $1000 of hardware plus a lot of tedious software and hardware tweaks.
What’s more is that 4K isn’t compatible with older operating systems like Windows 7. Even in Windows 8.1 images can be strained and scaled improperly, leading to some seriously tiny menus. Now with four times as much space any desktop will have teeny icons, but this is a direct result of the hardware and software not being adequately optimized for the new resolution.
While 4K can show an old game in an entirely new dimension, it also can muddle things up quite a bit too. Things like menu interfaces and in-game text can be scaled terribly and erratically, leading to some steadily building headaches. Essentially it’s up to users to find fixes around these glitches and bugs, and most of the time the solutions simply aren’t there.
Conclusion: Not there yet, but maybe soon
4K is definitely an alluring prospect and is something that’s best left on the horizon for practical everyday gamers. The enthusiasts who find sport and hobby in pushing their gaming hardware to the limit can find enjoyment in the new graphical resolution, but for the rest of us Ultra HD is best left in the future rather than the present.
Today 4K monitors like the Samsung U28D590D can be had for as little as $559 (which is small potatoes compared to their initial $1000+ price tags).
But when we take into account that being an enthusiast PC gamer is pretty much a must, the 4K experience will cost you a lot more than just picking up a new monitor off of Newegg–it’ll take a decent gaming rig and you’ll almost assuredly run into unforeseen roadblocks or annoyances that come with the territory of new tech.
The early adopters of 4K are paving the way for the resolution to become the new standard in gaming, but it might take some time before it’s ready for the general populace. For now, Ultra HD should be treated as experimental rather than performance-driven gaming: it’s a look into the future, but as we all know too well, no looking glass is without its flaws.