If you care about future-proofing, buying a 4K monitor now is a very good idea as long as you can also get a GPU that can run games in at least 2K.
If you prioritize performance, a 1080p monitor is still a better choice for now.
If you want to prioritize performance and future-proofing, get a 1440p monitor.
It wasn’t many years ago that 4K TV sets started rolling out.
The first ones to be released in 2013 were quite pricey, and there was little cause for consumers to go out and spend money on them.
4K content was virtually unheard of, and the hardware could deliver nowhere near the performance levels required to run games in 4K resolution back then.
Soon after, however, prices started decreasing, and 4K TVs drew ever closer to the mainstream consumer. This also heralded an important change in the world of gaming — a big resolution jump was imminent!
But of course, there are numerous advantages and disadvantages that would come with this impressive piece of tech, and we will do our best to cover them in this guide.
Let’s get started!
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How Different Is 4K?
Here’s a picture to illustrate just how large 4K resolution is:
As you can see, 4K has roughly four times as many pixels as a Full HD display does, hence the name. It is also often referred to as Ultra HD (UHD) or 2160p. Soon after its appearance, Sony and Microsoft scrambled to release “4K Ready” versions of their consoles, the PlayStation 4 Pro and the Xbox One X.
If you’re a PC gamer, you have probably considered the prospect of getting a 4K monitor at some point or another. As a matter of fact, this just might be a good time to get one considering we finally have decently priced, high-quality gaming 4K monitors.
Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of 4k to help you decide.
As you may know, a 24-inch diagonal is the “sweet spot” for Full HD monitors. Anything bigger and you’re bound to start noticing individual pixels and some unsightly aliasing, thus making such monitors ill-suited for viewing up close.
4K monitors, however, can produce extremely sharp images on much bigger screens without the pixels becoming visible to the naked eye. These monitors’ sweet spot currently stands at around 27 inches, as anything bigger would be uncomfortable for viewing up close, for obvious reasons.
With these bigger screens and a 4K resolution, you get a much bigger work surface without any loss in sharpness whatsoever. In fact, you’ll get a much sharper image than you would get on a 24-inch Full HD monitor. As for gaming, it greatly reduces aliasing and also allows you to see small details better.
Better In-Game Visuals
Some might say that there is no point in having a 4K resolution on a monitor as “small” as 27 inches, but that’s simply wrong.
With 4K, you get an amazing sense of depth to the picture, the kind of depth that borders on 3D but without the annoying side-effects of headaches, nausea or having to wear 3D glasses.
If you want to get a glimpse of what we’re talking about, just take a look at the following video:
The difference between 1080p and 2160p can be seen here even if you’re viewing the video on a 1080p display. As a matter of fact, even if you run a game in 4K on lower settings, it will look better than when maxed out in 1080p.
It Is Future-Proof?
4K displays were only introduced recently. As such, they will not be outdated anytime soon. Moreover, display technology is unlikely to improve significantly over the next couple of years, so you can feel free to invest in a quality 4K gaming monitor with no fear of it becoming dirt-cheap next year.
Truth be told, some companies are already rolling out 5K displays. Still, those and potentially higher resolutions will be aimed solely at professionals, considering we barely have hardware powerful enough to run games in 4K.
Speaking of which…
Requires Powerful Hardware
At the moment, the only graphics cards capable of running the latest AAA games in 4K are the GTX 1070 and GTX 1080, as well as their Ti variants. Naturally, the newer versions are recommended since they’re more recent and sport superior specs.
With a GTX 1070 Ti, you would be able to run most titles at over 30 FPS, while a GTX 1080 Ti is the only single GPU capable of running games in 4K at 60 FPS. Granted, you can rely on SLI or CrossFireX to get better 4K framerates, but that is hardly a cost-effective solution unless you’re pairing up a new 2K gaming card with the one you already own.
Not all games or programs support 4K resolutions. This will be especially true for older titles which would have to be upscaled in order to be displayed properly in 4K. In the end, an upscaled 1080p image will never look nearly as good as a native 2160p one.
Naturally, 4K monitors are expensive. And those suitable for gaming — even more so.
Bear in mind that you don’t need just 4K resolution. You also need a high refresh rate, low response time and relevant technology such as NVIDIA G-Sync or AMD FreeSync, and more. That said, don’t expect to find a good 4K gaming monitor for under 500$ unless you intend to get them used or happen to catch them at a discount.
So, finally, is a 4K monitor worth it? Definitely. They bring in-game visuals to a whole new level that is simply unachievable in 1080p. The more important question is: should you get one?
Now, that’s a tricky one. It all depends on your requirements and your situation. We can wholeheartedly recommend a 4K monitor if you’re putting together a powerful gaming rig that is targeting a 2K resolution or are merely upgrading your current PC for that purpose. This is because:
- 2K will look good on a 4K monitor.
- You can bump the resolution up to 4K when you want to and stick to 2K when you need performance.
- The price gap between the good 2K and 4K monitors is not too big.
- If you get a 2K monitor, you will need to upgrade to 4K relatively soon, which makes getting a 4K monitor right off the bat a more cost-effective solution in the long run.
Conversely, if you don’t plan on getting a 4K/2K-worthy GPU anytime soon and you need to get a new monitor, we recommend sticking with 1080p for now. Both the monitors and graphics cards will get more affordable over the next few years, and that might be a better opportunity for you to upgrade — especially if you’re on a tighter budget.