1080p vs 4K Gaming: Is Gaming at 4K Worth It?
The release of the first 4K monitor back in 2013 opened an opportunity for gamers to experience gaming at its most beautiful yet. Sony and Microsoft even jumped on the bandwagon soon after by releasing new versions of their PS4 and Xbox One consoles, respectively, that were 4K-Ready.
Since then, more and more 4K monitors have been released and prices have dropped significantly (although it’s important to keep in mind that to run 4K graphics it also costs hundreds of extra dollars for the required GPU as well). Even so, one question looms large: is it really worth getting a 4K monitor for gaming?
Using the longstanding standard bearer, 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 look through the 20 best gaming monitors, which we bought, tested, and hand-picked ourselves.
Gaming at 1080p
Using a monitor with a 1080p resolution is still the standard for gaming these days. In fact, professional eSports gamers prefer gaming on a 1080p monitor.
It isn’t just about the frame rate-- which you can push much higher at 1080p than at 4K-- but it’s because you need a monitor that’s larger than 24” for a 4K resolution. Larger monitors may sound great but this puts competitive gamers at a great disadvantage because of the large area the eye needs to travel.
The fact that there are so many 1080p gaming monitors out there is something you should also be aware of. This means it is easy to find a good deal, but just as easy to fall victim to a low-quality monitor. If you’re in the market for a new 1080p monitor, then you can’t go wrong with one of our personal favorites.
Out of all the 1080p gaming monitors we’ve tested, the ASUS VG248QE is our personal pick because of two things: it’s a 144Hz/1ms 1080p gaming monitor at a really, really cheap entry point. It does the job out of the box but just make sure you have a spare DisplayPort or DVI-dual link cable to handle the 144Hz refresh rate.
While you might think we are 1080p stalwarts thanks to the above section, you should make no mistake: gaming on a 4K monitor is outstanding. If you switch over, you'll see how great the color quality and depth is right away.
Monitors running at a 4K resolution have 4 times the pixel count as a similarly sized 1080p monitor. This means you will have better overall clarity and image quality.
Much like the 1080p monitor, when we reviewed 21 different monitors earlier this year, we found several great 4K monitors. Or you can just check out our favorite below.
AOC AGON AG271UG
One thing we personally love about the AGON AG271UG is the fact that this is an IPS monitor. As most of us know (and if you don’t, we wrote a whole article comparing IPS and TN panels), IPS monitors have far better image quality than TN panels. This means your monitor will be able to better take advantage of those monster graphics!
1080p vs 4K monitor: The Difference
If you’re looking to game at 1080p, then you’re best off using a 24” monitor. Anything that’s larger than that and you’re bound to start seeing individual pixels.
If you’re interested in experiencing the absolute best graphics available on the market, then you’ll want a 4K monitor. To really take advantage of the technology, however, you will need a monitor that’s larger than 24”. It may be possible to experience 4K resolution on a 24” monitor but at that size, the text will be very hard to read. Ideally, a 27” monitor is preferred.
VIDEO COMPARISON LINK:
1080p may be “Full HD” but 4K is “Ultra HD”. And, much like Street Fighter, Ultra is better.
As you can see from the video above, when your graphics are set to low on a 4K monitor, the shadows don’t look that great. Even so, it still displays outstanding color quality and depth.
Long Term / Future Proof
You still can’t go wrong with investing in a 1080p monitor these days, but considering how cheap 4K monitors have become, it’s likely that you’re interested in getting one.
4K has already caught on in the mainstream, so there are no worries of it disappearing at this point. And since it is still new, you should be able to enjoy playing games in 4K without any worries of upgrading your monitor anytime soon. Sure there are 5K monitors out there but we just don’t have the hardware yet to utilize those, which leads to our next criteria.
Most decent graphics cards nowadays are able to run games at 1080p over 60 FPS in most AAA games.
But, if you wish to play AAA games in 4K resolution, you need a GTX 1070 or a GTX 1080, as well as their Ti variants. To date, these are the only graphics cards capable of running 4K resolution. In fact, the GTX 1080 Ti is the only graphics card capable of running AAA games at 60 FPS in 4K resolution.
|GPU||Normal Series Cost||Ti Series Cost|
|GTX 1080||$600 - $500||$900 - $700|
|GTX 1070||$560 - $460||$430 - $400|
This means the price of a 4K monitor exceeds just the monitor itself but extends to the tech needed to make it work as intended.
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 are natively supported 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 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.
You can get a decent 1080p monitor with less than $200. Prices vary depending on the monitor’s refresh rate, adaptive sync technology, response time, 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 $500 - $400 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 time.
Should I Get a 1080p or a 4K for Gaming?
It all boils down to preference and what you’re using it for, really.
If you wish to play competitive games, I’d recommend a 1080p monitor. This should give you the benefit and advantage of being able to play effectively.
A 4K monitor may sound great but the fact that it needs to be larger puts competitive gamers at a disadvantage.
If you’re not into competitive games or graphical quality is what matters more 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 soon.
However, there are a number of 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 and you’ll never have any regrets… probably.