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 a whole new level. Sony and Microsoft even jumped on the bandwagon soon after by releasing new versions of their PS4 and Xbox One consoles by making them 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). Even so, one question looms large: 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 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.
When referencing the professional eSports scene, players are deciding to go for 1080p over 4K for several different reasons which vary from higher FPS, overall monitor size, and general feel. Large 4k monitors sound great, but in general, require more computational power and (as silly as it sounds) give your eyes more work to do. This isn't a problem when you're gaming on a hobby level, but when your a professional gamer, everything makes a difference.
The fact that there are so many 1080p gaming monitors out there is something you should also be aware of. This means it's relatively 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.
BenQ ZOWIE XL2740 240Hz
Out of all the 1080p gaming monitors we’ve tested, the BenQ ZOWIE XL2740 is our personal pick because it simply beats the rest of the competition. It has a whopping 240Hz refresh rate and lightning 1ms response time. It's a truly fantastic monitor that is fit for pros and enthusiasts alike. Just make sure you have a DisplayPort connection to utilize the 240Hz refresh.
While you might think we are 1080p stalwarts thanks to the above section, 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 overall immersive experience.
Monitors running at a 4K resolution have four 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, 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 which ticks all the boxes you would want from a top 4k display.
ASUS ROG Swift PG27UQ
One thing we personally love about the ASUS ROG Swift PG27UQ is the fact that it's 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!
Furthermore, it has an excellent 144Hz refresh rate and 4ms response time.
1080p vs 4K monitor: The Difference
If you’re looking to game at 1080p, then you’re best off using a 24-27" monitor. Anything that’s larger than that and you’re bound to start seeing individual pixels.
However, if you’re looking to experience the absolute best graphics available on the market, then you’ll want a 4K 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, but at that size, the text will be very hard to read. Ideally, a 27” or above 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, mainly because they offer excellent refresh rates and response times, which are essential when gaming on a competitive level. This being said, considering how cheap 4K monitors have become, it’s likely that you’re interested in getting one anyway.
4K has already caught on in the mainstream, so there are no worries of it disappearing at this point. 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 2080ti, for example. The computational power that is required to run 4k efficiently is much higher than what 1080p requires. Anything less than a 2060/vega 56 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||Normal Series Cost||Ti Series Cost|
|RTX 2080||$700-$800||$1100 - $1300|
|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 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, 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 $400 - $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 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 some benefits and advantages over the 4k display gamers out there.
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 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 soon.
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, and you’ll never have any regrets… probably.