With the Xbox One X and PlayStation 4 Pro taking advantage of the 4K resolution, it’s time that we discuss what 4K resolution really is, and why 4K actually matters. To do so, we can’t just look at gaming, this resolution is a broad ordeal as it will affect the pieces of technology you purchase, and even the very way you view your movies.
To really understand it, you need to know that there are three main 4K resolution standards that are widely accepted. The first is UHD-1 or your UHD TV. This is the 4K standard for the TV you will have in your home. This resolution is also known as 2160p due to the resolution being 3840 x 2160 (16:9 or if you want to get technical 1.78:1 aspect ratio. This is double the horizontal and vertical resolution you would see on your standard 1080p television you more than likely have sitting in your front room. This is the standard video game developers and most media companies use to give that 4K look to their television shows and games.So think of this as your over-all standard for in-home entertainment. Next up is what we call the ultra-wide 4K standard or UW4K. This resolution is used for things such as your UHD Blu-ray discs and PC gaming monitors. So pretty standard for those of you who prefer to divulge in UHD movies and 4K gaming on PC. This resolution is commonly seen as 3840 x 1600. The aspect ratio breaks down to 12:5 or 2.4:1 or 21.6:9 depending on how you want to look at it. If you are looking at buying a 4K gaming monitor, this is what you’re goin gto be looking at.
Lastly we have what’s called DCI 5K. This standard is what film and production companies use to make 4K standard movies. This standard usually comes in at 4096 x 2160 pixels. As you can imagine this is twice as much as the previous standards and won’t be something you’ll want to concern yourself about. Since you’ll more than likely be focusing on UHD-1 or even UW4K depending on if you are console or PC gaming.
However, to really understand 4K? We will really need to discuss what resolution is. So lets take a peek at that.
What is Resolution?To be honest? Both are great questions. If you are looking at an image on your screen, you may realize it has a certain appearance. If you are gaming, you may notice depending on the screen size, the picture may appear pixelated, choppy, and even a bit ugly in all intents and purposes. This is because resolution is not what the game or image may be set for. Resolution on a PC or a TV is expressed in the amount of pixels on screen. In many ways you can think of resolution comparable to a picture you may purchase from a store such as Wal-Mart. When at the machine you can choose resolutions such as “Four by Six”, “Eight by Twelve” and so on.
The same goes for resolution on your screen. If you are gaming, you may notice that the PlayStaiton 4, Wii U, Xbox One, and even the Nintendo Switch by default state resolutions such as 480p, 720, and 1080p. If your TV is 4K, you may notice that 4K is an option if the console is capable of it. This is because the video outputs at 1920×1080 pixels. To shorten it, developers, and electronics companies have shortened it down to 1080p. The P standing for progressive scan, a technique that is used to draw every line of a single frame sequentially, from top to bottom, and within the space of a single refresh cycle. This is what provides a clean picture without any fragmentation or tearing.
Even with side-by-side comparisons of 4K images or video comparisons, not everyone can see 4K images. Some may not even see a difference in resolution quality.
You may note that if you have 720p, the resolution is somewhere close to 1280×720. This is because the image quality wasn’t as large or as clear. For some of you that are new to 4K, you may find yourself thrown off a bit. Mostly because “4K” can be a bit confusing since game or movie resolutions by default on your home screen will be at 2160p. The term 4K comes from the fact that there is an image running with a width of somewhere near 4,000 pixels with a height of somewhere near 2,000 pixels. That is for the gaming industry. If you are in the film industry it rounds out to 4,096 by 2,160 pixels, which is exactly twice as much as the height of standard 2K films and is wider than our normal widescreen aspect ratio of 16:9.
You can see an image below. The copyright does belong to Polygon and we do not claim rights to the image.
Now that I Know What 4K is, How Can I Enjoy 4K Gaming?
Now that we’ve discussed what 4K actually is, we need to know exactly what you can do in order to enjoy it within your living room. We do need to take a few things in consideration before we really discuss this part though. If you are sitting approximately 10-15 feet from a 50-inch television set, you won’t be able to see a difference in image quality, and it’s not because your eyes suck. Even someone with 20/20 vision won’t be able to distinctively tell the difference between either 1080p or 4K. If you really want to tell a resolution, you need to grab something bigger, on average it’ll need to be a TV between 60-65 inches. This is mostly due to the fact the resolution won’t change at all.
This is simply because you are too far away. To really enjoy 4K on a 50 inch TV, you’ll need to sit somewhere in the 6.5 to 7ft range. Something that can actually be quite hard on your eyes. Instead, you’ll want to opt for something a bit bigger, even if it means a few more dollars for the bang for the buck feel. Don’t feel bad, this isn’t really your fault as much as it is the fact 4K is extremely hard for our eyes to process on smaller screens.
If you really want to get the most out of 4K, make sure, even if you opt for the 50 inch approach, you’re going to want to grab a TV that uses either HDR/HDR10 (most support HDR 10) or you want to grab a TV that supports Dolby Vision. With this technology battle currently going, just know that the only company that actively supports HDR10 to its maximum capability is Microsoft’s Xbox One S, and without-a-doubt the Xbox One X.
Video Credits: Bitwit on YouTube. Just a disclaimer, he is not affiliated with B.A.G.R., but offers a great example of 4K and 1080P gameplay on one of today’s most demanding games.
To really get the most out of your 4K TV or monitor, you’re going to want to ensure you are running a console or GPU’s that take advantage of this capability. First off, for PC gamers, you’re going to want a high-end GPU. Nvidia’s GTX 1XXX family has done quite well for us here at Blast Away the Game Review. Using our MSI Game Ready Plus Nvidia GTX 1060, we’ve been able to hit 4K games running between 30-40 FPS, but take note that we did encounter framerate stutters and small drops on DOOM (2016) with Vulkan API. So the bigger, the better at this time.
If you want to get the most out of 4K on PC, you may want to grab Nvidia’s latest GPUs or even AMD’s as both have been burning tracks in the performance market. If you want to hit a steady 60fps? You’re going to want to fire up two video cards in either SLI or CrossFire. It’s your only option at this point since even a single GTX 1080 struggles to hit 60 fps with even todays most demanding games such as The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt and even Grand Theft Auto V.For console gamers you’ll want to ensure you have either a PlayStation 4 Pro or an Xbox One X (releasing this November). Since these two consoles are being optimized with a 4K experience, it’s good to think that the 4K future is being supported, and that both companies have the eyes on how to make this happen at affordable costs instead of throwing gamers under the bus and leaving them behind. For now, 4K is still in its early stage. Game developers are still getting a hang of how to deliver a 4K experience and do so without cutting themselves short.
If you are looking at 4K? You now have the base idea of what 4K is and how to take moderate advantage of this resolution. Lets just say, the future is bright, and 4K games will be a thing of the near future as 1080p begins to slowly fall out of the limelight.
About the Writer:
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Google+.