4K Monitors: Everything You Need to Know

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fung0

I'm looking forward to having a text display that truly is indistinguishable from high-quality print. (Retina isn't quite there yet, but the PPI is getting close.) But for gaming?

Games already have more detail than anyone really cares about. The best games these days are not the polygon-overload triple-A titles - they're indie games that barely use the screen technology we've already got. Even with the triple-A texturefests, you can't really see the pixels on your current HD display. You've got to go to a stupid-big screen, or press your nose up against the panel.

I agree with some of the other comments... more monitors, or wider monitors. Or how about better image quality? LCD technology still isn't delivering true blacks or a particularly good range of dark shades. And it's not totally blur-free (though I admit, I really don't notice the blur some people seem fixated on.) 4K won't shift any of these limitations. We're getting 4K just because it's easier for the manufacturers to shrink the pixels than to tackle the subtler, but more meaningful, challenges.

More pixels are always better, but the one thing this article proves pretty conclusively is that 4K is going to be a very bad investment for quite a while - say 2 or 3 years. At that point we'll suddenly find that all monitors, right down into the $200 range, are 4K, and that even $100 graphics cards support them pretty well, without liquid-helium cooling. And we'll realize that - like 3D - 4K just wasn't that big a deal.

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hornfire3

i've hit 4K while running PSP emulators on my new ASUS ROG G750JM-DS71 laptop, using only a single 2GB GTX 860M. it's still playable, but the avg fps dropped to 30. This is with 16xTXAA enabled. I also got a bad audio lag. The good side about 4K emulators is: the game i played (Ghost of Sparta) looks ridiculously amazing than before.

I understand that 4K emulator resolution is not real 4K, but still: i'd stay away from 4K gaming (in general) for now until technologies improve for another 5-6 years duration.

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dandoz

But what does that have to do with Eva Mendes in a Tshirt? And if I'm looking at that logo in my regular HD monitor, am I supposed to get a sense of what "4K" would feel like?

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Peanut Fox

It's a shot of Lara Croft from the latest Tomb Raider game.

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Renegade Knight

Everthing I've been reading is telling me that ultra wide monitors are the next big thing. Easier to drive with graphics cards. Replaces dual monitor setups with one ultra wide. Plus for those it removes the center bezel. Gamer budgets are going to follow immersion.

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ApathyCurve

Agreed. I've been using a multi-monitor gaming setup for years now, first with Eyefinity and now with Nvidia Surround. Add in TrackIR and it's all the immersion you'll ever need, far superior to merely increasing resolution. Like you, I see double-wide (so-called "ultrawide") monitors making a far bigger splash than 4K. Past a certain point, there is a limited usefulness to increasing resolution, resulting in diminishing returns on investment. For most users -- including gamers -- we're already past that point.

Looking through the electronic equivalent of a paper tube, no matter how fancy the tube, cannot imitate the way our eyes view the world. On the rare occasion that I play a non-Surround game, it doesn't last very long. I simply can't stand the feeling of claustrophobia which gaming on a single screen generates for me now that I'm used to much better range of vision and peripheral motion cues.

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DirtModeler

I'm all for it!

give me a single monitor that is the size of 3 monitors side-by-side, and do it in the 'curved' shape like the new TV's that are coming out. I'd totally be down with that.

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RUSENSITIVESWEETNESS

How about: "There's no single card solution that will afford playable frame rates at this resolution with any of the recent AAA titles—expect to shell out thousands for multi-GPU rigs and get barely tolerable frame rates."

GPUs are not ready for 4K, not unless all you do is word processing and web browsing. But thanks for the shameless pimping.

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/pq321q-4k-gaming,3620-6.html

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chaosdsm

Try: There's no "affordable" single card solutions....

Titan Z & Radeon R9 295x2 can both handle 4K resolution at 50FPS & higher in many games at maximum settings. A few other games will require reductions to AA to get above 50FPS.

http://www.guru3d.com/articles_pages/nvidia_geforce_gtx_titan_z_review,22.html

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Obsidian

This sums up the enormous hurdle for the AAA gaming community when it comes to 4k resolution. The price barrier to entry for the multi-card setup needed to push a modern FPS on a 4k monitor is a huge expense.

I'd rather game across 3 (small bezel) 24-inch HD monitors than a single 28-inch 4k display. If I could get an ultra-wide IPS monitor that could do this for me without the bezels I'd consider it.

GPUs have become more efficient, but we still haven't seen any single (reasonably priced) cards that can play triple-A FPS games at 4K resolution with consistently playable frame-rates.

SLI is really an inefficient use of power and money for the most part. We need some single card advancements that will help boost 4K accessibility to the masses of gamers that can't (or won't) spend $3000 to $5000 on a single PC build.

The Nvidia 800 series should have been out by now, not the re-branded old chips, but the actual new 870, 880 units. Much of the hardware development seems still focused on mobile or streaming technology.

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LatiosXT

The real problem I'm seeing is that the display industry is seemingly having a "tough time" trying to move on from 1080p. Even ultra-wide monitors, the ones that won't break your bank are 1080p (albeit 2560x1080). Everything beyond 1080p starts costing a lot more.

Though from a manufacturing standpoint, I can understand. Given the same surface area, there's a lot less chance of failure if you have less elements to build and test. Then again, I still don't see that as a good excuse to not move beyond 1080p.

From another stance in regards to gaming... why does it HAVE to be at the native resolution? I mean, yes, not running at the native resolution introduces ugly interpolation, even if you have a nice evenly divisible resolution. But 1080p on my 1440p never really bothered me. To me, at the moment, you can get a 4K monitor and enjoy the content you more than likely have it display anyway: GUIs (which are a joke for any modern GPU to render, even at 4K).

Heck, given a large enough 4K monitor, you can still play around with 21:9 resolutions and such.

GPUs have always been playing catch up with monitor tech at least until quite a few years ago when display manufacturers decided 1080p was good enough and squatted on it.

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tetris42

Gaming at non-native resolutions just look blurry to me, it's not like the old days on a CRT where it still came through well. What I'd like to see though would be more support from GPU makers to support different scaling methods, so if you used nearest neighbor scaling you could have a 4k monitor run effectively at 1080 and it would look totally sharp, just with larger pixels. It would let you keep the 1080 for gaming as an option, but 4k for other applications.

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devin3627

don't dare run anti-aliasing at anything over 2x on 4k resolution. 16x as well should be 64x anti-aliasing. it just wont work.

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SEALBoy

Wait... you mention that DisplayPort and HDMI both top out at 60Hz at 4K resolution.

Am I missing something here? What's the point of a 144Hz 4K monitor (like the Asus) if you can never send that signal to it?

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wkwilley2

I think that all goes back to when they were wrapping up the article. It seems as thought the capabilities of the monitors is far ahead of what the GPU's are capable of. Which is not a bad thing necessarily, cause you could buy a sweet 4K monitor now, then a year down the road, buy the GPU(s) that could run it properly, once they're devloped, proven out, and the standard allow for higher framerates than 60hz.

I know with my GPU, a 6870 Radeon....it would be an extremely underwhelming experience in 4K, but with a "390X" or "395X2", it could be awesome.

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Crandaddy

I have read this article several (yes, several) times in my monthly subscription mag. This is one of the BEST articles on 4K I have read. I am ready to move up to 4K, but the part section "The GPUs" was very depressing, not so much the price, but the performance. Yes, if I go with the R9 290X Crossfire... But I don't have room for Crossfire set up (i7 3930K / 16 GB DDR3 / Sabertooth X79 / X-Fi Audio / Adapter Card (Taking up my Crossfire PCIe)/ Antec 1200 / Radeon HD 7950 / PC Power & Cooling 950 PSU.)

I have tried to find information on the next generation GPUs from AMD & Nvidia, but at best I get the feeling that I am going to be on hold until sometime in 2015.

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joshnorem

I'm glad you liked it! Best you can do right now is get the Radeon R9 295X2, but if you want a single card solution you'll need to wait for the next-gen to arrive.

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gregkolodny

A 295x2 is a single card solution, but I think you ment to to say single GPU. Even then, I doubt that an 880 will have the power needed to push games at 4K. Maybe the Maxwell Titan may finally answer the need of a single GPU to handle 4K. Maybe. Still, that may not come out till next year.

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joshnorem

Right, single-GPU. My bad :)

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gregkolodny

What about a 295X2? All you need is one x16 PCIe lane and a place for a 120mm fan. Plus $1500.

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LatiosXT

Well at a certain point adding more resolution in a fixed space won't offer much benefit. Most tech publications are starting to question the need to push 1440p on 5" handsets. 4K 24" monitors are even pushing the 1:1 practicality (you could use it at 1:1, if you don't mind squinting).

I have a 720p 4.5" handset and it still looks more amazing than the 1080p 15" laptop I had.

If monitor sizes remain at 30" maximum, then I say 8K is going to be stopping point for resolution bumps before it becomes impractical. It's like why we stopped with 24-bit audio and color. (Yes I know there's 30-bit and higher color resolutions, but this is mostly to just prevent errors from accumulating)

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DirtModeler

bah.. 5-7 years from now the eMachines boxes at Walmart will come bundled with a 4k monitor and integrated graphics that can drive it decently.

It's only a matter of time... 4k will be commonplace...

then there will be 10k..

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EKRboi

All great info! I'm into the year-ish long process of overhauling my "battle station" as my wallet allows. My "budget" for my babies is much higher than I should let it be.. but it's worth it, it's one of the things that brings me joy in life.

The backlight on my aging single 1080p monitor took a dump on me right around the time I began pondering my next build. So I had a decision to make.. one large chunk of change on 1 mid range "affordable" 4k monitor or split it up between 3 of the best 1080p monitors I could afford. After researching and coming to many of the conclusions MPC did, I decided that financially 4k gaming the way I would want to do it was just not realistically within my reach and I went with 3 1080p monitors. I'm sure glad I did because surround/eyefinity gaming is freaking great! Not to mention the usefulness of having multiple montiors for many other things. Ill never go back to a single monitor unless someone makes a sweet (and large) 16:3 display ;) (take notes monitor makers) Next up, z99, ddr4 and a couple of maxwell gpus and ill be set for a while I hope.

What I am most looking forward to is where I hope the technology is in 4ish years when I may be looking at another complete overhaul. I'm hoping for very affordable gaming oriented 4k displays and single gpus that eat 4k for breakfast. 11520x2160 gaming WILL be GLORIOUS ;)

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tetris42

Between Windows crappy scaling support and the GPU insanity required to run it for gaming, it just doesn't seem worth it yet.

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USraging

I agree with you. I remember about 5 years ago buying a 16:10 aspect 1920x1200 res monitor for gaming. The problem was that a lot of the games that i played did not support the res and aspect, so most of the time i was forced to use res and aspect's that did not look right for the games.