OPINION – 2017 has just kicked off, and it feels like already a Holiday season regarding game output. Horizon Zero Dawn, Nier Automata, Nioh are all coming out in the span of two months. It is a great time to be a PS4 owner, and especially great to be a PS4 Pro owner since it enhances the general IQ of the games, and checkerboard rendering has been cited as a great technique to reach 4K gaming for Sony (at least until the all-powerful PS5 comes out).
Microsoft’s answer for the lack of power is none other than Project Scorpio claiming it will provide players with True 4K experiences (or however the developers will wish to use the power of Scorpio), who knows as the machine is still up in the air regarding final design. Finally, there’s AMD on the PC front trying to push 4K gaming affordable with Ryzen their new CPU brand, and their Vega codenamed GPU lineup.
All three have their aces up their sleeve, well at least two of them have Sony already played their card with PS4 Pro to be the first in the race of 4K gaming. The question is though is it worth to jump into 4K gaming with the big two console manufacturers, or should we just shell out the godly amount of money this year for a PC? Well who knows, but let’s look at some of my experiences I had with console gaming on a 4K TV (without all these fancy iterations) which is an LG UH8500 series.
The TV Land
Before we jump into how it feels to play on a 4K TV, we need to talk about a problem that will make your head spin when trying to select a 4K TV to buy. No, it is not about the price, as a first rule, you cannot really enjoy 4K without throwing huge sums of money. As any TV without HDR and other fun technical explanations (Dolby Vision) will not be worth it. Hell, it took me a week to figure out which TV to get, what are the specs, and the budget that I can allow myself.
The real wrench in the cog for trying to figure out which 4K TV to buy is not just the budget, but the user reviews, and professional reviews. I thought trying to figure out what PC to build was difficult, but buying a 4K TV is a bit more difficult. Still, I recommend not to hit under 1000USD or 800 GBP in my opinion. The cost will also depend on the screen size, and whether you want IPS or OLED (though it will probably be IPS since OLED will cost your soul). Also, read about the TV’s input lag when it comes to gaming, as that is highly critical, as too much delay will ruin games such as fighting games.
Once you have your TV before sitting down and plugging the PS4 Pro / Xbox One S, or the next thingy (aka Project Scorpio), you’ll have to not only read the manual for your brand new Super Smart 4K TV, but you’ll have to set it up. Not regarding assembly, but rather messing around with the picture, HDR, and other settings. All TVs have pre-determined settings, but there are instances where manually selecting the properties will yield better results. Whew, with that out of the way, and with everything set up, let us play some video games.
The PS4 (non-pro version)
Playing on the PlayStation 4 on 4K TV was an interesting experience, to say the least. It is not the biggest TV ever, as it clocks in at 49”, but it does its job fairly well, as it is equipped with 3D, HDR (10bit), and all the latest tech that can be stuffed into TV as mentioned above. After playing The Division, Destiny, Sniper Elite 4, Nioh, and a few other games, I have come to the conclusion that while a 4K TV is great, the games for it do not really make the most of it, due to the PS4’s power limitation.
While playing on a PS4, I felt that the games looked the same as if I were playing on a 1080P screen. Not only that, some of the games felt off, and maybe even a bit worse due to the way the TV tried to upscale the details. Yes yes I know I am not playing the game on PS4 Pro, but we’ll get to that soon enough. However, the TV did an excellent job with colors and handled them well compared to my old television. The technology inside them, especially when they handle color I feel is much more important at times than the 4K marketing.
So what is the difference than on a PS4 Pro then? Sadly I do not know that, as I opted to skip on the PS4 Pro as I decided to wait a bit on the whole new 4K / Checkerboard rendering. Was it worth the wait to not jump head first into this? In short… kinda? In the long run, I feel that while PS4 Pro looks to be an upgrade that is good for a 4K TV, it feels as if it is just there to provide better anti-aliasing. That’s all there is to it at the end of the day. There is a bit quicker loading time, and some of the games might look a bit tiny bit better (regarding effects+HDR), but at the end of the day, this is a patchwork on the fact that most games do not look that good on a 4K TV.
The art assets and effects will look the same and HDR will bring out better colors, but you cannot really hide the fact that, even with all the patching, and extra small CPU /GPU power the game ain’t going to look that different.
If you do not have a PS4 yet, go for the PRO version (if you can), as it seems that Sony might have underestimated the need for this type of PS4 for 4K gaming.
Xbox One S
Since we’re talking about 4K gaming, let’s talk about Microsoft’s half measure in this situation. The Xbox One S. This console is an upgraded version of the original Xbox One release, with a much sleeker form, HDR support, and 4K upscaling for games, plus it also has an Ultra-Bluray Drive. While it has a bit more power compared to the original Xbox One S, but not as much as the PS4 Pro. The upscaling technology for the Xbox One S is superb, and work rather well for current generation games.
Still, I’m not feeling it, sure it upscales, but for instances, Hitman does not look any better compared to the original Xbox One. HDR looks nice ever since that update, but other than that it really does not do much for my 4K TV. Speaking of games, as Xbox supports backward compatible games I thought I would try them out, to see how they look on a 4K TV. Well, Xbox 360 backward-compatible games will not scale that super great. Not because of the TV or the console, but due to the difference in technology at the time between HD and SD pictures. Plus most of the Xbox 360 games do not look that great nowadays.
The issues are still the same, even if the console upscales, the assets, and most of the models are not 4K. Sure Gears of War 4 will run in “4K Upscale”, but in the end, HDR does carry the game more.
If you do not have a UHD Bluray Player and are not enticed by the PS4 Pro, go with the Xbox One S, or just wait and see what Phil Spencer does with Project Scorpio.
PC Gaming while initially sounds costly, the benefits will reap in the long term. Lower prices, lower sales, but how does that compare to 4K Gaming. Well while there is competition between Sony and MS, this has been missing from the PC scene for awhile now. As such Intel and Nvidia has run away with CPU and GPU prices, making affordable 4K gaming to be a bit of a difficult for the mainstream.
Ryzen (AMD’s new CPU line), and VEGA (AMD’s new GPU line) might change this in the long term. While no official benchmarks are out, industry insiders are impressed with AMD’s Ryzen and should provide a cheaper alternative for Intel’s CPUs, now all that is left to wait for benchmarks, and for Vega to hit, and 2017 might be a great year for 4K gaming on consoles and PCs.
The Final Question
If you already have a 4K TV, though, and have not invested in a console, but feel the itch for it, maybe go for the PS4 Pro. If you are the patient type, however, wait for more Project Scorpio information, as that might not turn out to be a half-step in achieving 4K. For the PC enthusiast, with cash to burn wait until mid-year when the first 4K HDR monitors hit the shelves. As up until 2017, there were no HDR monitors available, but now we are finally going to be able to experience what 4K TV users have been for the past few years.
In the end, I would caution patience for 4K gaming, especially on the console front with Project Scorpio on the horizon.