Next-generation 4K graphics have become the gift gamers can’t share. All the surrounding tech is in place to indulge in next-generation gameplay–but the internet just isn’t big enough to handle the load of sharing games online over video conferencing.
So, is 4K gaming worth it? Right now, no. Pretty much every aspect of your gaming system would have to be updated to get you there today, and you’d be playing on your lonesome.
Will 4K gaming be worth it in the near future? Absolutely. And you should be doing more than just wait. Every time you feel the need to upgrade or replace a TV screen, desktop component, webcam, or gaming console, you should be looking to future-proof yourself for the arrival of 4K.
In much the same way we had to get our house in order before making the jump from DVD to Blu-ray, or from standard definition to HD TV, so we should prepare for the leap to 4K gaming.
Trust me, it’ll be worth the hassle.
Is 4k Gaming Worth It and What’s So Great About 4K?
The appeal of 4K gaming is easier to see on a datasheet than it is online–unless you’re already set up to get it. A 4K display packs in four times as many pixels to an image as current HD does. By the numbers, that equates to a resolution of 3840×2160, as opposed to HD’s 1920×1080. As 4K uses more pixels in the same screen space, each is required to carry less information, and so can convey more vibrant colors, cleaner and rounder edges, and deeper blacks. In short, it’s four times more detailed and four times clearer than HD.
You’ll need a 4K-compatible screen to experience the difference, but Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube are already offering 4K streams if you’ve got a screen in place to handle it.
And screens designed for–not just compatible with–4K go even further. Coupled with High Dynamic Range technology that improves the contrast of a display and dramatically expands the available color pallet, 4K is not only more detailed than HD, but it makes shades and hues available that you’ve never seen on screen before.
HDR isn’t just for the wealthiest hobbyists either. It’s currently available in high-end smartphones, and the latest webcams–proving that the 4K gaming components are beginning to appear all around us.
Available 4K Gear
If you’re going to take my advice from earlier and start building your 4K experience piece by piece, you’ll find most of what you need is already on the shelf.
Logitech’s recently released Brio webcam, for instance, is the first commercially targeted camera to feature both 4K and HDR–and the resulting images are the best VC Daily has ever seen over a video conference. The Brio also comes with other future-proof features, including facial recognition, so that’s one item you can add to your 4K arsenal as soon as your current webcam starts to look a little dated.
4K displays make big demands on your computer’s graphics card and monitor, and there’s good news on that front as well. The rapid advancement of technology has seen prices steadily fall on some of the best components. Over the past two years, the price of an EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 card has dropped by $100, while Samsung’s 28-inch 4K monitor has fallen by $150. You can also find 4K TVs for under $500 and 4K desktop monitors for around $400 now that the technology is gaining in popularity.
Of course, buying those components all at once is a sizeable investment. Remain patient, however, and they become more affordable and can be used while you wait for the full 4K bloom. There are dozens of games currently configured for 4K, so the real wait is for broadband speeds and gaming servers to (literally) get up to speed.
4K Will Change Online Gaming
Gaming is at its best when it’s human vs. human, and the combatants (and their audience) can see and hear each other in real time. As glorious as 4K gaming looks, it isn’t practical to stream it online now. The data needed is far too heavy for the average U.S. connection.
The good news is that broadband speeds have been steadily increasing across the country. In the past ten years, the average connection has soared from 3.67 Mbps in 2007 to almost 19 Mbps in 2017. That’s remarkable growth, and, despite the FCC’s worrying statement that ten Mbps is a satisfactory minimum speed, things should only get faster with improved networks. The Google Fiber project, for example, could theoretically deliver speeds of up to 1,000 Mbps to the average suburban home–it provides a gleam of hope on the horizon, even though we’re fully aware that there’s unlikely to be a nationwide network anytime soon.
Still, the changes we’re seeing at every level suggest that 4K online gaming is inevitable. Once it arrives, we’ll see details and colors never experienced before on a monitor. Gaming at next-generation clarity could also open up new ways to play, making surroundings more relevant and interactive, and increasing the number of characters that can reasonably populate a screen at once.
Just be patient. 4K will be well worth the wait.