The release of the first 4K monitor back in 2013 opened an opportunity for gamers to experience gaming at a whole new level. Sony and Microsoft even jumped on the bandwagon soon after, now releasing new versions of their PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X that are not only 4K ready, but also offer 120 frames per second gaming as well.
Since then, more and more 4K monitors have been released, dropping prices across the theoretical 4K board significantly. That being said, it’s important to keep in mind that to actually run 4K graphics you will require a pretty hefty PC – with a powerful graphics card at its heart. Even so, one question looms: is it really worth getting a 4K monitor for gaming?
While using the 1080p as a benchmark, we analyze the pros and cons of upgrading to a 4K monitor below.
And if you already know what you’re looking for, then maybe you’d like to check out our best gaming monitor recommendations.
Watch Our Video Rundown
Even today, 1080p monitors are still widely used amongst the gaming community – especially for more competitive titles that require quick response over glossy visuals. In fact, professional esports gamers actually prefer gaming on a 1080p monitor, with their primary concerns being FPS, response time, and refresh rates. You see, 1080p monitors are easier to drive higher frame rates on – making them the perfect choice for smooth gameplay – albeit not as visually attractive.
You also need to factor in the strain a 4K gaming monitor actually puts on your PC – they’re much more demanding than 1080p. A monitor’s resolution is the maximum number of pixels it has. The more pixels it has the more graphically demanding it is on your PC. So, for competitive gamers and esports professionals, why 1080p might not look as crisp as 4K, the smoothness and responsiveness certainly make up the difference.
Right now, the market is flooded with a sea of affordable 1080p monitors, all with a variety of different specifications that help tailor them to your specific needs. Furthermore, with the release of high-end 1440p and 4k monitors now readily available, the overall market price for 1080p monitors has dropped significantly.
While you might think we only care about 1080p competitive gaming, make no mistake, we think gaming on a 4K monitor is truly outstanding. If you switch over, you’ll soon be captivated by the intense color and stunning visual experience.
Monitors running at a 4K resolution have four times the pixel count as a similarly sized 1080p monitor. This means you’ll not only experience great picture quality and image clarity but a tonne more desk real-estate too.
Much like the 1080p monitor, we decided to take the time to test and review the best 4k monitors available in today’s market – below is our number one pick, ticking all the right boxes when it comes to an immersive 4K display.
1080p Vs. 4K Monitor: The Difference
Choosing a new gaming monitor is never easy. These bits of kit cost a pretty penny, and with so many different options available, it can be really hard to make sure you get the best for your hard-earned cash. To see if gaming in 4K is worth it, let’s go over the key differences between 1080p and 4K – hopefully giving you the tools to make the most informed decision.
If you’re looking to game at 1080p, then you’re best off using a 21.5″- 27″ monitor. Anything that’s larger than that and the pixel density starts to become poor for that particular resolution.
However, if you’re looking to experience the absolute best graphics available on the market, then you’ll want a 4K gaming monitor. To really take advantage of the technology, you will need a monitor that’s larger than 24”. It may be possible to experience 4K resolution on a 24” monitor (you know, if you can actually find one to purchase), but at that size, the text will be very hard to read. When it comes to 4K gaming, ideally, a 27” or above is the preferred size.
Here’s one of our benchmarking videos for the RTX 2060 GPU. While this graphics card is powerful, it’s still not considered strong enough to take on the challenges that 4K introduces. That said, it still gives you a clear indication of the in-game differences between the two resolutions.
1080p may be “Full HD,” but 4K is “Ultra HD” – and, much like Street Fighter, Ultra is always better (for picture quality anyway).
As you can see from the video above, when your graphics are set too low on a 4K monitor, the shadows don’t look that great. Even so, it still displays outstanding color quality and image clarity.
Long Term / Future Proof
You still can’t go wrong with investing in a 1080p monitor these days, mainly because they offer excellent refresh rates and response times – two essential specifications when gaming on a competitive level. That being said, due to the recent drop in some 4K monitor prices, now might be the perfect time to purchase a monitor for single-player story-based gaming.
4K gaming has already caught on in the mainstream, so there are no worries about this type of technology disappearing any time soon. And since it’s still relatively new, you should be able to enjoy playing games in 4K without any worries about upgrading your monitor anytime soon. Sure there are 5K monitors out there, but we don’t have the hardware yet to utilize those, which leads to our next criteria.
Most decent graphics cards nowadays can run games at 1080p over 60 FPS in most AAA games.
But, if you wish to play AAA games in 4K resolution, you’re going to have to invest in one of the higher performance GPUs. Think RTX 3080, for example. The computational power that is required to run 4K efficiently is much higher than what 1080p requires. Anything less than an RTX 3070 isn’t going to be worth the investment.
Below are some of the cards we feel will run 4K games at varying degrees of performance:
GPU Series Cost
|GPU||Normal Series Cost||Ti Series Cost|
|RTX 3090||$1550 to $1580||N/A|
|RTX 3080||$750 to $780||N/A|
|RTX 3070||$540 to $600||N/A|
|RTX 2080||$700-$800||$1100 – $1300|
|AMD RX 6900XT||$999||N/A|
|AMD RX 6800XT||$679||N/A|
|AMD RX 6800||$579||N/A|
|GTX 1080||$600 – $500||$900 – $700|
|RTX 2070||$450 – $550||N/A|
|GTX 1070||$560 – $460||$430 – $400|
|Radeon VII||$600 – $700||N/A|
|VEGA 64||$350 – $450||N/A|
|RTX 2060||$350 – $400||N/A|
This means the price of a 4K monitor setup is much more than just a monitor purchase. You have to take into consideration the overall cost of the build if that requires upgrades.
Much like graphics cards, almost any decent monitor you could get today, depending on the brand and features, is guaranteed to run in 1080p.
Moreover, almost all AAA games have native support in 1080p.
But if you get a 4K monitor, it’s not guaranteed that you can play all of your games in 4K.
This is especially true with older games, mainly because images are basically upscaled instead of being displayed in true 4K. And, of course, there’s the possibility that the older game just doesn’t have high enough quality art assets to take advantage of 4K.
This being said, almost all of your modern AAA game titles will support 4K.
You can get a decent 1080p monitor for less than $200. Prices will vary though depending on the monitor’s refresh rate, adaptive sync technology, response time, panel technology, and brand.
On the other hand, while 4K monitors have drastically dropped in price from over $600 (and even up to $1000) down to around $300 – $500 these days, they are still expensive compared to 1080p monitors. And that’s before you even stop to consider advanced features such as refresh rate, adaptive sync technology, or response times.
Should I Get A 1080p Or 4K Monitor For Gaming?
It all boils down to preference and what you’re using it for, really. If you play competitively or aspire to take part in esports, I’d recommend a 1080p monitor. This should give you some benefits and advantages over the 4k display gamers out there and at a fraction of the cost too.
A 4K monitor may sound great, but the fact that it needs to be larger puts esports gamers at a disadvantage in the competitive sphere as anything larger than 27″ can be problematic.
If you’re not into competitive games and graphical quality is what truly matters to you, then a 4K monitor will definitely be a smart investment. With the popularity of 4K rising, it’s likely that this is going to be the new 1080p standard in the future.
However, there are several factors that you need to consider, including whether or not you have the hardware that’s capable of displaying a 4K resolution. You’ll also need to consider whether you want to get a TN panel or IPS panel.
But, if hardware and money aren’t an issue, get a 4K gaming monitor, the results are stunning and you won’t regret it.
Is 4K better than 1080p for gaming?
While you may assume that a 4K resolution is better for gaming, this is not necessarily the case. While 4K can provide some fantastic detail and gameplay, 1080p still remains the firm favorite amongst the majority of gamers.
This is because 1080p gaming provides good refresh rates and the majority of monitors use a 1080p resolution. In many cases gaming at 4K can cause your gameplay to be hindered and slowed down.
The visuals of 4K gaming are better and more vibrant and crisp in comparison to 1080p. However, 1080p is still the standard, and when you game at this resolution the performance is better overall. This is because the resolution is not working as much, and it is the optimum for gaming.
For future-proofing purposes, 4K is the better option. But, in general, we would recommend sticking to a 1080p resolution for gaming.
Can you really tell the difference between 1080p and 4K?
There is a lot of talk surrounding if 4K is better in comparison to 1080p. When comparing them both, the main differences can only be seen when you are close to the screen. From afar, the difference is minimal.
On the whole, a 4K resolution does have significantly more pixels in comparison to a 1080p resolution. While you may not be able to notice the differences when using these resolutions separately, if you put the both resolutions side by side, you will be more likely to notice the differences.
With 4K resolutions, the images tend to be a lot more detailed and crisp. In addition to this, the color will be vibrant and the overall picture will be more realistic.
Do 1080p games look worse on 4K?
As 4K does provide a better resolution than the 1080p, you may assume that 1080p games will look better when using 4K. However, this is not actually the case. This is because 1080p games are intended to be used with a 1080p resolution, and they are not built for 4K use.
As you are attempting to use a lower resolution game with a higher resolution monitor or TV, the images that are displayed will be blurrier than when you play the game on a 1080p resolution.
If you are using a higher resolution monitor or TV with a lower resolution game, this will not improve the set resolution of the game.