When you are designing your gaming setup, one of the most important items that you need to consider is your monitor. It’s what you’ll be looking at for hours and hours while you are gaming, and you want to ensure that you are as satisfied as possible with the images that dance in front of your face as you game.
The best resolution for gaming on a PC will depend on the GPU that you have and what your available budget is for purchasing a new one that can handle the more sophisticated monitors on the market. While the most popular resolution is undoubtedly 1080p, the current ideal for gamers is 1440p, and more and more gamers are looking to take up 4K.
But is a 4K gaming monitor worth it for gaming? Would you be able to tell the difference between a 1440p monitor and one that has 4K resolution? Let's find out...
What Exactly Is a 4K Monitor?
A 4K monitor, which is also called an ultra-high-definition or UHD monitor, is a monitor that supports 4K resolution. The next question you might be asking yourself is what is 4K resolution? The answer is quite simple.
The standard high-definition, which is 1080p and is found in HD television and Blu-Ray discs, is made up of an image that is 1920 pixels wide and 1080 pixels tall. In total, this creates an image that consists of more than 2 million pixels.
The width of an image that is displayed at 4K resolution contains nearly 4000 pixels. With 2160 pixels going up the vertical side, the total number of pixels on a 4K monitor is four times that of a standard monitor, meaning there are about 8 million pixels displayed in a 4K image.
4K Monitors for Professional Use
If you are a content creator, it can be quite tempting to pick up a 4K monitor, since you’d be able to offer your subscribers or clients incredible image quality. Photo and video editing will also be more enjoyable, as you will be viewing a higher quality image with more screen area and vivid details.
However, there are a number of factors that you should take into consideration before you go out and purchase a 4K monitor. Since the density of pixels is much higher in a 4K monitor, even on a 32-inch monitor, certain elements like icons and text will be tiny, which means you will need to scale the image up. Some applications in Windows don’t scale that well and can look quite unattractive.
With the high pixel density, in combination with the poor scaling support from certain software, like Photoshop, you would receive an extremely detailed image overview, but the interface would either be too small or too large in comparison to the rest of your screen. While this can be a bit annoying, it is still tolerable.
You will also need to consider your hardware. Rendering content in 4K requires a powerful GPU and CPU, as well as a lot of RAM, and you are going to need some additional storage depending on the format you use and the complexity of your content.
Even though 4K monitors are relatively inexpensive these days, the proper hardware to power them can be costly. When you consider that most of your viewers will be seeing your content in 1080p because it is still the standard, you might want to consider if 4K is truly worth it.
4K Monitors for Everyday Use
If you are looking for a monitor for the sole purpose of watching TV shows and films, to browse the internet, or for other basic activities, then a 4K monitor could be a viable solution. Some 4K monitors are actually less expensive than some 1440p displays.
Unless you plan to game, you also won’t need a very powerful system. Any 4th or 5th generation integrated graphics card from Intel will support 4K resolution, and you’ll also be able to watch 4K films without hassle. However, you may still want to pick up a dedicated graphics card - at least a budget-friendly one, like the NVIDIA GTX 1030.
You should also keep in mind that, if you wish to consume content in 4K by streaming it online, you will need an extremely quick internet connection - at least 25mbps. When you’re deciding on a 4K monitor, you should also take into account the panel, display size, connectivity, and more.
1440p and 4K for Gaming
1440p - a Favorable Upgrade
Getting your hands on a new 27-inch monitor for a gaming setup would be the ideal investment since it would let you pick a screen with a higher refresh rate and greater resolution. 1440p continues to grow in popularity as consumers and gamers upgrade to more powerful hardware for more budget-friendly prices.
The latest GPUs from AMD will be capable of running video games at 1440p, as well as 1080p, and will also be able to support VR. If you want to reliably estimate how your PC would handle 1440p gaming, measure its performance at 1080p.
If you are constantly hitting the limit of the refresh rate for your monitor, with 60Hz (60fps) being the standard, then making the change to a 1440p monitor might be the perfect upgrade for your experience. You should also look at benchmarks from reliable sources to determine how your setup and graphics card would handle the increased demand.
Picking up a monitor with a greater refresh rate will allow your graphics card to replenish the image on your screen quicker, which eliminates tearing and blurring in fast-moving images.
Video - Are 4K Monitors Finally Worth It?
4K or Nothing
4K resolutions are a completely different ball game. As we have already discussed, this format is extremely demanding, and you should only invest in a 4K monitor if you have a sufficiently powerful graphics card. We aren’t talking about high-end specs - we're talking about totally monstrous setups.
Even the new RTX 280 Ti from NVIDIA can struggle with displaying 4K content. Remember that you will have to aim for increased frame rates and increasing your graphics options and resolution if you want to improve your overall gaming experience.
100fps at the highest detail possible on a 1440p monitor would be far better than 20fps on a 4K monitor.
When you are considering switching over to the ultra-HD side of things, you could also look into multiple-card configurations and SLI. However, if you don’t have the room to upgrade to a larger display or just feel that it would be unnecessary, your full HD, 21-inch setup is more than able to immerse you in any virtual world.
It all comes down to budget, personal preference, and your available computing power. When you are on the hunt for a new monitor, you will have to determine your available budget not only for the display itself but also for the necessary hardware that will be able to run 4K content.
If you already have a powerful card, and your frames are stable in 1080p, or you have a new NVIDIA GTX graphics card on the way, then 1440p is a great option that won’t give you any hassles.
Explaining the Terminology
We’ve thrown around quite a few words throughout this article that you may not be familiar with, so we’re going to break down the definitions of each of them so that you may become familiar with them.
A monitor’s refresh rate is the number of times every second that the image being displayed must be refreshed to prevent flickering when seen by the naked eye. If your graphics card is able to refresh an image on a 120Hz monitor 120 times every second, your viewing experience will be nearly unmatched.
However, if your PC can’t push through a more demanding game, you’re going to see more stuttering and possibly some tearing artifacts as your GPU and monitor fall out of sync. You can avoid this by using G-Sync and FreeSync technology.
The response time of a monitor is measured in milliseconds and is a representation of the speed at which your monitor can move from gray-to-gray, which is calculated by its manufacturer. It is recommended that you have a 5 millisecond response time or lower to mitigate ghosting.
Owning a monitor with a high response time can lead to some picture ghosting, which is another obstacle that you’ll face on your journey to total immersion. Naturally, a lower refresh rate will often be balanced with a higher price tag.
G-Sync and FreeSync
These are the systems that have been developed by NVIDIA and AMD, respectively. They provide smoother gaming, help mitigate ‘screen tearing’, and also decrease input delay. In essence, the graphics card and monitor communicate with each other to adapt the current refresh rate, which ensures that the image shown on the screen is synchronized with the image that is rendered.
If the card or monitor is beyond the other, this will cause screen tearing to appear. An ideal gaming monitor would have the desired screen size and resolution, a refresh rate of 120Hz or higher, a response time of 2 milliseconds or lower, and either support for G-Sync or FreeSync.
While NVIDIA GPUs support G-Sync, and AMD GPUs work with FreeSync, the former has started to certify certain FreeSync monitors to work with its GPUs.
Why Should You Consider Buying a 4K Monitor?
More pixels inside of a given area of real estate means that the images and videos you view will have increased vibrancy, clarity, and sharpness. 4K resolution also allows monitors to be made in increasingly bigger sizes without losing picture quality or screen resolution.
While the increase in the clarity of the images viewed is the driving factor for most people who decide to buy a 4K monitor, you should also note that more and more content is being made in 4K resolution. Soon enough, ultra-HD content and viewing will be the new standard. However, it’s important to consider the elements that we’ve mentioned in this article.
So is a 4k gaming monitor worth it? While it can be tempting to go out there and purchase that latest and greatest 4K monitor on the market to get the best picture quality possible, there are various other factors that will influence the effectiveness of your 4K monitor. We hope that you have found this article helpful and that you’ll be able to make an informed decision about your next monitor purchase.