As PC gamers we live for the next big thing: the new graphics card that pushes image quality to new heights; the new effects that enhance fidelity and take us one step closer to the crest of the Uncanny Valley; and the revolutionary hardware that completely changes the way we experience and interact with games.
Looking at the history of the home computer, many of the devices, peripherals and features we now take for granted birthed new genres, new control methods, and new industries. The mouse opened our eyes to mind-blowing 360 degree movement and aiming; 3DFX Voodoo 3D Graphics Processing Units added color and jaw-dropping dynamic lighting to the dull, brown worlds of games; QSpy and other apps allowed us to test our skills against gamers near and far; high-speed internet eliminated lag and levelled the online killing fields; and high-definition monitors enabled PC developers to create wondrous sights full of detail in the 1990s, the likes of which couldn’t be seen on any other system.
Today we welcome a new innovation, one that will revolutionise the way you view your games. Companies call it Ultra HD, UHD, UHDTV, 4K Ultra HD, and 4K, but all you really need to know is that new "4K" 3840x2160 monitors feature four times as many pixels as the most commonly used 1920x1080 screens, opening your eyes to rich, superbly-detailed worlds at a time when consoles struggle to run at 1280x720. If you have a high-end GeForce GTX PC, you’re ready for the revolution. Just plug and play and you’ll receive a flawless experience that works immediately with no fuss. But why is it a revolution? What makes 4K the next big thing?
Simply put, when you play the latest blockbuster games at 1920x1080 on your top-end PC you’re not getting the complete experience - most developers create textures and other assets at much higher resolutions, and compress them when playing at lower screen resolutions. When you game on a 4K monitor you see all the detail. All the nuance.
The extra detail is jaw-dropping, but the biggest overall benefit of 4K is the massive increase in Pixels Per Degree of Vision (PPD). Folks in white coats believe an eye in good working order can distinguish 50 Pixels Per Degree of Vision, taking into account the amount of pixels per inch of screen, and the distance of the viewer from it. With gaming monitors we tend to sit far closer than we do with TVs, and so the screen begins to envelop our cone of vision.
Using the average eye quality and view distances determined by scientists, a 27 inch 1920x1080 monitor, the most popular size and resolution, has a PPD of 19.3, meaning there are 19.3 pixels to guide the eye per degree of vision when sat 20 inches away. When observed closely, the screen can appear grainy, and the individual pixels are easily distinguished. 30 inch 2560x1600 monitors, first introduced in 2006, improve matters somewhat, upping the PPD to 24.7, and the visible quality of the screen by 28%.
New 4K, 31.5 inch 3840x2160 monitors crank the PPD all the way up to an unprecedented 35.6, increasing the visible quality of the screen by 84% when compared to the 1920x1080, 27 inch screen. This tight grouping of pixels per degree of vision helps textures appear more realistic, makes text, numbers and HUDs amazingly sharp and defined, and makes individual pixels nigh on indistinguishable. Scientifically, your eyes begin to believe that the game rendered on-screen is as real as the Real World, drawing you in and immersing you like never before.
With a PPD of 35.6, the quality of 31.5 inch, 3840x2160 4K monitors is 84% higher than the quality of 27 inch, 1920x1080 HD monitors, significantly increasing the image quality of every single screen element.
If you follow tech you may have heard the lamentations of the consumer press, who are dismayed at the lack of 4K TV shows and movies (Sony’s media server being the one exception), forcing them to conclude that a 4K TV is pointless when there’s no 4K content to watch. No such problem here: a large number of polygonal games already support 4K, either natively or through config file changes, and each looks jaw-droppingly good. Failing that, GeForce drivers and NVIDIA Control Panel options enable users to quickly and easily scale content, and inject new resolution options into almost every game. The tech is established, works perfectly, and is again ready to use the moment you switch on the system and screen.
Of course, to play games at 4K you’re going to need a top-end system, one that features SLI GeForce GTX 770s, GTX 780s, or GTX SLI TITANs. Only these configurations have the performance to power games like Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, Batman: Arkham Origins, Call of Duty: Ghosts, and Watch_Dogs to their maximum potential. To ensure a flawless 4K experience NVIDIA is working closely with the developers of each game, and in addition to supporting 4K, we are working hand-in-hand with the developers to integrate exclusive, game-changing NVIDIA technologies like PhysX, TXAA, and HBAO+.
NVIDIA's Tom Petersen gives you the rundown on 4K gaming.
To date, only GeForce GTX graphics cards are capable of smoothly rendering action at 4K in multi-GPU configurations, a fact proven by the FCAT Frame Capture Analysis Tool, which has been adopted by leading press sites keen to show their readers exactly how a GPU performs, and whether the rendered action is smooth and stutter free. With FCAT, we have fine-tuned our 2-Way and 3-Way SLI configurations to give 4K gamers the ultimate experience, unmatched by any other platform, system, GPU, or console.
4K truly is the next big thing, and once you’ve seen and experienced its awesomeness you’ll never want to go back to plain Jane resolutions ever again. If you value your ‘enthusiast gamer’ badge and like to think of yourself as having the best of the best in PC gear, then you need a 4K system. You owe it to yourself. Unleash your SLI system and experience a future console gamers can only dream of.
If you’re new to the PC party, GeForce GTX SLI systems are the only way to experience 4K smoothly and stutter free, a fact verified by PC Perspective’s recent review of 4K gaming, which concluded with the following quote:
"Gamers that want the ultimate experience on a 4K display or TV will want to own a GTX 690, or better yet a pair of GTX Titan cards running in SLI. If you are willing to invest in a 4K TV, you should be willing to invest in high performance graphics hardware as well."