Gaming at 4K: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Since Amazon had the Seiki 39″ 4K TV for a great price last week, I picked it up in the hopes of gaming at 4K. I have a reasonably decent PC with an NVidia 670 that can drive 4K monitors, so that part worked well, but there are some issues.

The monitor itself is a great piece of equipment. It is very vivid, with amazingly deep blacks (like almost no backlight bleedthrough). The color is pretty off, but with some calibration on my PC, it looks good. The downside of 4K is that it can only be driven at 30Hz over HDMI. There are some higher end 4K monitors with DisplayPort that may be able to do 60Hz, but they are much more expensive. Having a 3840×2160 desktop is so amazingly spectacular that I was, and still am, tempted to bring it into work so I can be more productive there. And with my first gaming experience with the monitor, that thought was reinforced. Since I spent the weekend mostly doing things around the house, I haven’t done an exhaustive survey of games on the 4K monitor, but I’ll share what I learned.

The first game I tried was Lord of the Rings Online, which can drive the monitor at native resolution and at 30Hz. The problem was that there was some odd and very distracting smearing during movement, particularly on grass and flowers and such. It was so distracting that I couldn’t stand it, so I switched back to 1920×1080 at 60Hz. Sadly, this is lower than the 2560×1440 resolution of my previous monitor, so I was losing out a bit. And since the lower resolution was at such a large size now (39″ vs. 27″), it looked muddy and unappealing. At that point, I was ready to declare failure and bring the thing into work.

Then I tried Sins of a Solar Empire, which won’t even try 4K resolution, so I gave that up, just reinforcing my plan to ditch the monitor at work.

I tried Skyrim on a lark, and it looked amazing! It played like crap, but it looked fantastic at 4K. For some reason, though, the game was super sluggish and annoying. Again, my though was that I was not going to continue using the monitor for gaming.

Finally, I tried Star Trek Online, and it was perfect at 4K. It looked great, and it played just like before. I tried both space and ground scenarios and it looked amazing. I presume the newer graphics engine in STO vs. LOTRO made the difference, but clearly MMORPGs can run perfectly well at 4K and 30Hz. That convinced me that maybe I need to rethink my plans for the monitor.

Last night, I played more LOTRO as I am trying to get my poor Rune Keeper through Lothlorien and on to higher levels. Again, it was only at 1920×1080 on this large monitor, but I quickly came to like it. Sure, it is lower resolution that I used to play at, but it now filled my vision, so was more immersive.

In short, gaming isn’t quite ready for 4K, but if you get a good enough deal on a 4K monitor, it is a nifty thing.

I will post pictures and screen shots when I get a chance.

Comments are closed.