Video games in 4K/UHD

Everybody’s talking about 4K resolution. Cameras and screens improve in weekly cycles, movies and streaming content are produced in 4K. Accordingly, there are also video games in this resolution – both for PC and consoles. We explain which possibilities there are and which technical requirements have to be met.

Things to know about 4K, Ultra HD (UHD) and HDR

As in the television business, the terms 4K, Ultra HD and HDR are used extremely often – although not everything is factually correct. It’s comparable to the graphics in video games.

The industry speaks of upscaling, native 4K, HDR – as long as it sounds innovative and modern. Half truths hide behind it, because real UHD resolution is not used everywhere. Various techniques can be used to maintain the performance of the console or PC.

Real UHD requires a lot from consoles and PCs, as content can only be partially pre-rendered and most of it has to be generated in real time. The components of a PC and a console run at peak performance and must be correspondingly powerful.

Video games for PC in 4K

A boy with headphones plays video games on the computer.
Gaming on the PC in 4K – Does it have to be? According to a survey, the majority is satisfied with Full HD. ©Anastassiya

According to the monthly hardware/software survey by Steam, only about 1.6% of all players play on Steam with a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels. The clear majority, about 62%, play in Full HD, i.e. 1920 x 1080 pixels. This is probably due to the fact that the requirements for a PC with UHD resolution are extremely high. The required parts of the computer (graphics card, CPU, graphics memory, hard disks, etc.) are very expensive.

After all, the technology is at least available and games move up bit by bit. The biggest production studios and publishers have recently started to produce their titles in native 4K resolution. For example “Fortnite“, “Battlefield 1”, “Grand Theft Auto V” or “Project Cars”.

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Video games for consoles in 4K

For many years, 4K was not an option for console players – but that changed with the introduction of Playstation 4 Pro in November 2016. This did not mean that all available video games could now be played in 4K. Only a handful supports native 4K resolution. For example “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” or “The Last Of Us Remastered”. Microsoft also offers UHD resolution: Both Xbox One S and Xbox One X are capable of this. The upcoming next-gen consoles Playstation 5 and Xbox Project Scarlett will clearly surpass this again.

This is the graphic difference between Full HD and 4K using the example of TES V: Skyrim.

Experts believe that the new Xbox will appear in two variants: 1. the gamer variant for demanding use with resolutions up to 8K and 120 fps. Its code name is “Anaconda”. The cheaper, more family-friendly variant has the code name “Lockhart”. These two models could be the respective successors of the powerful Xbox One X and the more beginner-friendly Xbox One S. The new Xbox One X is the most powerful Xbox One X. For this information, however, we do not guarantee.

What is very important to confessing gamers is the frame rate – the number of frames per second. In some of the games mentioned, the frame rate at 4K resolution is “only” 30 fps, which passionate gamers call not very fluid. At each value below, the human eye detects individual frames, losing the video effect. Up to now, very few video games on the console have managed 60 fps at the same high resolution. With performance-oriented gaming, even 100 fps or more are possible on the computer.

Playstation 4 Games in 4K

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Xbox One Games in 4K

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Estimated cost for PC and console

 ConsolePricePCPrice
ConsolePlaystation 4 Pro$384.99//
Monitor4K TV, e.g. Samsung Q60R 43"$697.00Samsung-U28E590D$299.99
ControllerSony Dualshock 4price included//
Mouse + Keyboard//Gaming keyboard and mouse$26.99
CPUAMD x86-64 AMD 8-coreprice includedAMD x86-64 AMD 8-core (FX-8350)$74.99
GPUAMD Radeon Polaris GPUprice includedAMD Radeon Polaris GPU (RX 480)$179.00
Hard drive1 TBprice included1 TB$48.63
RAM8GB GDDR5price included8GB DDR3$39.99
Rest//Chassis, cables, motherboard, cooler, power supply etc.≈ $300
Gaming loudspeakersOptional/Logitech Z906$252.52
Windows 10 key//Windows 10 Home key$139.00
Disc driveBlu-ray disc driveprice includedLG Blu-ray disc drive$64.68
TotalPlaystation 4 Pro + amazing 4K TV$1091.99Entry-level Gaming PC + 4K monitor and great sound system!$1425.79
A man plays video games on the couch on a console.
Consoles are more intended for occasional gamers. © Andrey Popov

For the comparative test (as of June 2019) we have adopted a Playstation 4 Pro and put together a PC with comparable technical specifications. While the PC has to be assembled and installed, the Playstation 4 Pro is immediately ready for use.

If you don’t have a TV yet, a 4K TV isn’t exactly cheap – but it’s versatile and not just for gaming. In addition to the existing parts that are built into the PS4 Pro, a pair of gaming speakers is also included with the PC. With the PS4, these are optional, because gaming speakers will sound better than the sound of a 4K TV.

Tricks for higher resolution

Checkerboard rendering

Some video games cheat themselves on UHD resolution using a technique called checkerboard rendering. This practice is not to be confused with upscaling. Its purpose is to reduce the load on the GPU and graphics card and keep them running at peak performance. Checkerboard rendering is most easily explained using the example of the chessboard.

The black fields of an entire image are rendered in 4K, while the white fields are not rendered in the resolution. In the next frame white and black can be swapped again. This means that half of all pixels in each frame are rendered in ultra-high resolution. This results in a very high-quality image for the user, which, strictly speaking, is not a 4K image.

YouTuber Wild Ponies explains checkerboard rendering in this video.

Upscaling

Upscaling, on the other hand, is a completely different way of generating 4K resolution. With this method, low-resolution images can be converted to higher resolutions. The free pixels next to existing pixels are filled with color values calculated from the existing pixels. The result is not always very qualitative, as the upscaling must not take any time. Checkerboard rendering usually looks better when gaming, as frames are to be displayed in real time.

Video games on PC or consoles?

Gaming on a computer or console is very different, although the same video games can be played. Both variants are aimed at different target groups who have different needs and desires. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of both options.

Games on PC

  • Flexibly adaptable to your own needs
  • Steady downward compatibility
  • Designed for beginners and professional needs
  • Multifunctionality
  • Higher performance achievable
  • Mods
  • Gaming with keyboard or controller
  • Online gaming
  • More expensive than gaming consoles

Games on console

  • Exclusive titles
  • Comfortable gambling from the couch
  • Meant for casual gaming
  • More compact
  • Easier operation
  • Entertainment station with Netflix & Co.
  • Online gaming
  • Games are more expensive than games for PC
  • Rarely downward compatible
  • Not upgradeable

With these console bundles you can save money!

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Produktpreise und -verfügbarkeit sind zum angegebenen Datum / Uhrzeit korrekt und können sich ändern. Alle Preis- und Verfügbarkeitsinformationen auf zum Zeitpunkt des Kaufs gelten für den Kauf dieses Produkts.

This post is also available in: deDeutsch


* Approximate price incl. VAT, plus shipping costs // Last updated on 23. October 2019 at 6:09. Please note that prices shown here may have changed in the meantime. All data without guarantee.
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