How 4K Resolution Gaming Looks – Is It Really Worth It?

Ultra HD may be the future, but there’s still much ado about its present.

With the advent of next gen consoles i.e. the PlayStation 4 and the next Xbox, one term that has gained a lot of traction in the last few months is 4K gaming. Sony have earlier spoken about 4K gaming and while it won’t be hitting the PlayStation 4 at launch, it is in the pipeline for a few years later.

On the other hand Microsoft has revealed basically nothing about the next Xbox. Considering that the PS3 had the advantage over the Xbox 360 in being able to render 720p and 1080p outputs with video games, obviously it would help if the Big M somehow caught up

So, how does 4K gaming actually looks like? Is it really different from the 720p/1080p games we play on our PC and consoles? And most importantly do we actually need 4K resolution gaming?

The above gallery has compressed images. For uncompressed ones, please check out the following: Batman Arkham City, Dead Space 3, Crysis 3, Battlefield 3Borderlands 2, DiRT 3, Hitman Absolution, Deus Ex Human Revolution, FIFA 13, Metro 2033, PlanetSide 2, Mirror’s Edge, Portal 2, NFS: Shift, SimCity, Skyrim and The Witcher 2.

This images (via Reddit) are from recently released games like Hitman Absolution, Crysis 3, SimCity and more. Obviously they are running on a high end PC.

The above gallery illustrates just how 4K games look. Just as 1080p is meant to represent a 1920×1080 resolution, 4K essentially means an image or video with a resolution of 4096 pixels wide and 2160 pixels high. It can be typically seen in theatres like iMax for projecting an Ultra HD picture. Of course, the sharpness depends on the amount of pixels per inch or pixel density present. For example, most smartphones these days come with 1080p resolution but on a small 5 inch screen, the human eye is unable to tell the difference between these a regular 720p resolution after a point.

It all has to do with the pixels (of course there’s plenty of other technology that goes into a great picture, but that’s another story).

So imagine if you take an incredibly high amount of pixels and stretch it across a large display, say inches, this will allow the human eye to perceive a greater amount of details. It’s like taking a microscope to a real life object – so naturally to be able to showcase all that detail, you need to have a larger than normal viewing area. This is why iMax screens are bigger than typical movie theatre displays.

But here’s the thing: even if a game is capable of running at a 4K resolution, and has been optimized for the same, one with will need an Ultra HD TV display to take full advantage of it. Sure, you can make out an incredible amount of detail already, if the above screens are any indication. But regular TVs that output to 1080p won’t be able to output ALL of that detail – heck, processing it is another thing altogether – and the current crop of Ultra HD screens are expensive. Like tens-of-thousands-of-dollars expensive. We’re still in an era where 3D TVs cost a bomb. So while the next logical step to improving graphical performance is to move to a higher resolution, it’ll take a good long while before the manufacturing costs drop.

As for whether we need 4K gaming: Truth be told, you don’t need great graphics to make a great game. However, with most genres like first person shooters stuck in a rut that only devices like rectify, developers will be focusing more and more on presentation values to immerse gamers. As such, the visuals are still an incredibly important part of gameplay. Nothing says you’re in the game quite like an ultra-sharp resolution – and if you look at games like Mirror’s Edge or Crysis 3, that rely on their visuals to a different aesthetic extent, then the overall number of pixels on display makes a difference.

The best analogy is actually Borderlands 2 in 4K – like clearing away the smudges governing a highly detailed painting. It’s incredible to even consider that the game is actually utilizing a cel-shaded art style when the details are so crisp.

Will there be stellar gameplay experiences to match those details in the years to come? If the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Cyberpunk 2077, Thief and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag are any indication, then the future is certainly bright.

Credit: @BenPeterGriffin


  • Jack

    I stopped reading at this comment:
    “Considering that the PS3 had the advantage over the Xbox 360 in being able to render 720p and 1080p outputs with video games, obviously it would help if the Big M somehow caught up”

    The vast majority of games on Xbox 360 support native 720p, a handful support native 1080p, and there are (in fact) some cross platform games which support true 720p on Xbox 360 which are actually rendered at LOWER resolutions on the PS3 (GTA 4 is only 640p on PS3, while it’s true 720p on Xbox 360).
    PS3 has NO advantage over Xbox 360 with regards to rendering resolutions. Furthermore, Xbox actually has a more robust scaling chip than the PS3, so it’s also capable of upsampling or downsampling the native frame buffer to fit whatever resolution the end user’s display device is capable of running. This is contrary to PS3′s scaling chip which can only scale on one axis.
    Microsoft released Xbox 360 a full year before PS3 launched, and when PS3 finally did launch they had an inferior hardware design which bottlenecked the raw performance of the CELL CPU, so that the 360 actually had superior performance… and to this day, most 360 cross platform titles run better, look better, or both on 360 when compared to PS3… so if anything, it’s Sony that needs to “catch up”. Please review the facts, Ravi. “The big M” doesn’t need to “catch up”, Sony does.

    • http://www.blackxino.blogspot.com/ Xino

      i find it funny how you are saying Microsoft released 360 with better chip and PS3 releasing later with a cheap weak chip.

      What’s the point?
      you would rather have:
      A. Expensive chip that doesn’t output many games in 720p and not making use of dobly surround sound effects?
      B. Having cheap chips that can make games like God of War 3, Heavy Rain and make use of 5.1 and 7.1 different softwares of Dobly releases?

      Sony need to catch up? Up to what? When xbox 360 was released what did it had? no internet, uses old skool dvd player, no wifi enabled as you need to buy the wireless device. PS3 was worth the price because it had a lot of stuff ready.

      No point still fighting over console wars.
      *ps3 has better games and exclusives
      *PSN is free to play games online and PSN+ is a dominating service
      *Ps3 on sale is catching up or already caught up with 360′s sale

      so it’s obvious who is wining the 7th gen race.

      :/

    • Grant Abbott

      Lies. 360 had native 1080P rendering even in the original console (although had no hdmi until later, could still be outputted in 1080P). Xbox 360 was always capable of 5.1 Native Audio (had digital audio in the original console). PS3 had wireless and blu-ray and cost more because of that. The fact the PS4 is changing to X86 hardware means the PS3 was a failure from a hardware perspective. Granted microsoft is also changing X86, the 360 was using power pc and more comparable hardware to computers which paid off in the end. And to your points at the end.

      - I like the PS3 Exclusives and I agree Sony had stronger 1st Party, I think M$ had strong 1st Party though.

      - More people talk on xbox live than PSN. but really it depends on your personality. If you love online gaming go for Xbox. If you love single player with occasional multiplayer go for PSN. If you are just for single player go for the console that has the games you want (and that may mean Nintendo, Wii had a lot of good games).

      - PS3 was always beating M$ in Japan for obvious reasons, Microsoft screwed up in Europe. Sony screwed up in America.

      It’s not “obvious” who is currently winning. Microsoft has more than doubled almost tripled their install base while Sony has lost nearly half of theirs. Both are basically tied. Nintendo is doing the best actually but like many said their focus on casual may hurt them with Wii U.
      I’m a M$ Fanboy but not blind to reality.

    • alan

      at firsth glance I thought you where a fanboy, but congrats on comenting rationally an not just yell: whoo!! xbxo better!!, I myself am a console fanboy, love ps3 hardware, wbox online play with halo, and every zelda and cannonic mario

    • http://www.blackxino.blogspot.com/ Xino

      *360 can output 1080p but how many games were made for 1080p? that is what we are talking about! Games not made in 1080p, when played on it, will look ugly and blurry!
      *Yes 360 supports 5.1 dobly. But have you ever used a ps3? I have ps3 and used to own 360 and ps3 has more software support for dobly. PS3 supports dolby MA, Digital, Pro, DTS HD, DD, True HD,
      *can you explain how the PS3 was an hardware failure, WITHOUT using your opinion. I want facts. Is that why ps3 has different variations and Microsoft had to come out with 360 s with wifi built in?
      *More people talk on Xbox live? oh and where does all the racist, annoying, gibberish etc comes from? Xbox live. People use mic on ps3 but they don’t wanna talk. I use Turtle Beach headsets and I don’t even use my mic because I can’t be assed. I hate talking and playing at same time.

      *Please enough opinion. PS3 currently catch up to 360 sales or already overlapped it. Nintendo is not doing good for the Wii U is failing.
      Check the news before commenting instead of using your opinion. People who gave you thumbs up are just Microsoft fanboys who don’t like the truth.

    • Grant Abbott

      Most PS3 games aren’t in 1080P as well. But there are a few for both consoles. PS3 has slightly better audio support. But it unnoticeable to 98% of users (unless they have high end audio).
      “I hate talking and playing at the same time” now you are putting your opinion into it. Like i Said if that’s what you like do PS3. But Majority of people are not anti-social.
      It’s too soon to judge with Wii U, but yeah right now it’s not doing that great but let’s wait until Nintendo has their big games out before saying RIP.
      I do check the news or I wouldn’t be here now would I? lol
      Still prefer my PSP over my 3DS btw, just for custom firmware and play emulators on it rofl

  • hakesterman

    ” 3D Tv’s still cost a Bomb “, you must be on a Different planet. You can buy one on Earth for under $1000.00 for a 47 Inches. We paid $2,200 for a non 3D TV two years ago. 4K Games will be Awsome, Can’t Wait.

    • Russell Gorall

      I paid $600 for a 47″ LG 3D LED recently. Not a smart TV, but I was shocked at how much the prices have come down.

  • Russell Gorall

    Considering 98% of AAA games don’t run at 1080p, you may want to work on that first. And 60 frames per second. Ask John Carmack for help.

    • http://www.blackxino.blogspot.com/ Xino

      John Carmack is no longer the king of Graphics, the guy did not even know about vortex collision in graphics or is it (Voxels)? When trying to debunk the Euclideon Unlimited Graphics.

      But I agree with you, many games don’t even run at full 1080p without looking ugly, not in 60fps and not many have good 3D effects.

    • J Blackrupert

      poor consoler….there there…maybe in a few years

      Must suck to be stuck in 2006

    • Dakan45

      Yes we know that consoles suck so badly that run gamse on low and a 5 year old pc can run them at max with 60 fps and 1080p

  • xmanx

    people spend $2000 on a fucking 3D Tv which is dead tech anyway, and then they say PC is expensive lolz!

    • Dakan45

      which wont cost you more than 1200 to absolutly pwn everything. Infact if you make a 600 pc right now, you are good to go. My 5 year old pc runs games far better than the old consoles.

    • John Bossert

      I spent $650(Before discount) on a 42″ 3DTV that’s Internet Enabled over two years ago. After my fiancée got her discount for working at the store that price went below $600.

      You can find the same TV now for $549 without a discount. These $2,000 3DTV comments are nothing short of ridiculous and uninformed.

  • PixelSword

    – and if you look at games like Mirror’s Edge or Crysis 3, that rely on
    their visuals to a different aesthetic extent, then the overall number
    of pixels on display makes a difference.

    THAN… Not “then”!

    Ugh! The education level of some people who think they’re going to be journalists is appalling!!!

  • Dakan45

    I doubt those consoels will achieve such resolutiosn anytime soon.

  • DudeBro1990

    So how does anyone on this site make comments on 4k, if they aren’t viewing anything in 4k? How can you make such bold statemnts (most of which are wrong I might add) without having the proper hardware to see the content?

    And you cant tell the difference between 1080p and 720p on a 5 inch smartphone? Get your eyes checked.

    How does this place write such crap?

    And the 360 can no only render 720p, but 1080p as well. What a horribly written piece.

    • Hugo Stiglitz

      There’s only 1 game on 360 that is native 1080p or even above 720p. That’s what he meant

      PS3 has a few of them. Wipeout HD, Full Auto 2, Ridge Racer 7, and GT5

      I think that’s what he meant.

  • a real video gamer

    LOL THE “”"NEXT GEN CONSOLES”"” LTFOL????

    ONLY WIIU IS “”NEXT GEN”" A DUALSHOCK IS NOT LOL NEXT GENERATION ITS PS1 FOR CRYING OUT LOUD !!!!!!!!!!!!

    lol ps4 is bastardizing gaming wiiu is evolving gaming and any of the 3 can do 1080p native and a 4k out video signal with a simple os update LOL

    considering both Mario kart 8 and xeno wiiu utterly destroyed ps4s visuals at e3 2013

    lol “”"”"”the next gen systems and no mention of the only actual ng system the wiiu”"”

    a black box and a dualshock is next gen FANBOY SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP

  • MG

    I know this article is a couple of months old but jeez, do some technical research dude. 4K desktop displays w/ displayport are $3,500 (Asus, capable of 60Hz @3840×2160), not tens of thousands as the author claims. Yes, the large 84″ 4K screens are still $20K but with only HDMI you wouldn’t run games on them anyway (the new 55″ Sony 4K TVs are $5K btw). The price will only continue to drop and likely fairly quickly as they ramp 4K panel production.

    I have a i7-4770K running with dual Titans driving the above Asus 4K display and although have only looked at Grid & Tomb Raider so far, it looks pretty damn good. :)

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