4K Gaming Is Here And Possible, But Are You Willing To Pay For It?
When I first started reading stories about Ultra HD gaming, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a screen—even if it was one of those $700 models with one HDMI input and a 30 Hz limit. Then there was Asus’ 60 Hz monitor with its $3500 price tag. I know better than to deride the cost of cutting-edge hardware, so if the PQ321Q worked as advertised, I knew there’d be enthusiasts willing to buy it. But as with any new piece of technology, growing pains had to be overcome.
And they’re still being battled. Nvidia’s drivers have clearly come a long way, particularly with regard to DisplayID and getting Surround mode enabled automatically for easier setup. Asus is making the necessary adjustments in its firmware as well. We did run into some issues getting the latest beta driver installed, incorrectly-set resolutions, and intermittent screen flashing. However, I suspect a lot of that was caused by the DVI splitter inserted for FCAT testing. Switching it out for a single DisplayPort cable solved two of those three problems.
I’ll leave AMD out of this, except to say that the company is targeting the end of this year for its phase-two frame pacing driver, which should introduce Eyefinity, DirectX 9, and OpenGL support. Even if it’s relatively easy to get the PQ321Q configured on a Radeon card right now, spending $3500 on Asus’ monitor, only to drop a bunch of frames in a CrossFire-based configuration, doesn’t make sense. Stay tuned, though—we’re promised more from AMD very soon, and we're counting on this situation improving.
Perhaps the company’s position isn’t really troublesome (in a practical sense) after all, though. To get an idea of who’s buying 4K monitors right now, I had a conversation with Kelt Reeves over at Falcon Northwest, who let me know that nobody is—at least not from Falcon. Naturally, Kelt wants this technology to take off. You just saw that it clearly requires potent hardware, and Falcon is in the business of selling high-end systems. He agrees with me that two GeForce GTX 780s are pretty much the entry point for gaming at 3840x2160. But he’s been testing the PQ321Q for two months (using newer firmware than I have, even), and still isn’t comfortable enough with the outstanding bugs to offer his customers Ultra HD. Although 4K might become an option in the future, support as it exists today is still being treated as beta by Falcon Northwest. Early adopters have their warning.
In the future, we’ll see single-scalar 4K displays at 60 Hz, though it’s probable that tiled panels carry forward for some time. Monitor and graphics card companies consequently need to work out how to get this technology polished. You simply cannot have a monitor that reports itself capable of 20 different resolutions, but then crops them down rather than scaling.
These devices have only been around for a couple of months though. Give them time. The smart play is to hold off on Ultra HD for now. But if you have a friend with more money than patience who can’t help himself, definitely spend as much time as possible gaming at his place. Sitting in front of 3840x2160 will absolutely wreck 1920x1080 for you—even if you’re used to playing across three screens.