4K TVs, frame rates and HDMI cables for consoles

4k gamingI, Sean, really strive to give you guys and gals some practical consumer advice on technology and gaming. I always seek to give you advice and opinions that you can go and test for yourself and see the difference. This is no different. Some of you may remember a little piece that I wrote about 2 months ago on why waiting to upgrade to a 4K TV was a smart choice and why I chose to wait.

I think it was pretty well received all things considered. I wasn’t wrong when I told you all that it would be a smart choice to wait as console games do not support native 4K content. This is the truth. After all, the magic number right now is native 1080p at 60 frames per second. With many developers still struggling to hit this consistently the reality of solid 4K console gaming is a long way off. I stand firmly by my opinion that upgrading strictly for the idea that upgrading for better resolution is a waste of time.

However, I fell into the trap of not really grasping the technology that is behind a good quality 4K TV. Put simply, a good quality 4K set will have a solid upconversion technology behind it. It will upscale the resolution to as close to 4K as it can. On a good quality set this will result in a huge increase in overall picture quality that will be immediately noticeable to the user. On a practical level, this will result in much higher and more defined and detailed picture on your games. The chart below gives a great visual to this upscale.

4k upscaleThis is why upconversion is a powerful technology! It really allows us to see the picture how it was designed to be seen. This picture from Battlefield is a great example of this effect on a practical level. It doesn’t give us better graphics but instead gives us a much more defined image of what is already there.

battlefield 4kUnderstanding this technology gives us a better idea of how our games will look after upgrading to a 4K set. One thing I can not stress enough in this area is that if you are going to upgrade you will need to make sure that you don’t just rush out and buy that $600 55″ set and expect it to be a good quality set. Chances are, it won’t be and you will be severely disappointed in how it looks.

To really take advantage of this upconversion for gaming, you will need to be looking at least at the medium range price point sets. Any of the top brand names have good quality upconversion technology behind them. LG, Samsung and Vizio are all solid performers in this area. Personally, I settled on a 65″ Vizio and the differences are dramatic from my old set to this new one. Even I was surprised by the immediate and noticeable difference. If you are considering upgrading to 4K I can unequivocally tell you that if you get a good set it will be worth it and you will wonder why you didn’t do it sooner! I hope you all make this upgrade sooner than later! Not to mention you can now watch true 4K content through the TV apps directly with Netflix and Amazon Video.

Now, I have to give you guys and gals some bad news. Unfortunately, that nice 60 frames per second that these developers are bragging about hitting. Chances are most of you aren’t getting anything more than 24 frames per second. How is that possible if the game is developed for 60 frames per second? It’s a tragic limitation of the past HDMI 1.4 which is capped at 24 frames per second. We just recently saw the upgrade to HDMI 2.0 from 1.4. Most of us have been stuck with HDMI 1.4 as both the Playstation 4 and Xbox One only use HDMI 1.4. which limits the native frames per second. Even if the game supports it, chances are that your TV will not. However, there are two things that you can do to help fix this. One doesn’t involve dropping $1000 on a new 4K TV.

Go out and buy a new HDMI 2.0 cable. Any one will work as long as it says “high speed” on the cable or the package that it comes in. This will help produce a faster response time on the picture. In some cases it can even eliminate picture lag from the console to the TV. Lag is real and often times it isn’t a fault of your internet connection. While this cheap fix won’t produce that nice 60 frames per second, it can make a big difference if you are still using a regular HDMI 1.4 cable.

The second fix is to upgrade to the 4K set. Many 4K sets will actually come with an HDMI output that is labeled for producing a true 4K signal at 60 frames per second. I can attest to that even though the Xbox still doesn’t reproduce a true 60 frames per second, there is a noticeable difference that I experienced from my old TV to my current set with games like Forza Motorsport 6 using this new HDMI output. The response from the console to the TV is much better. Playing through The Division, I have noticed that aiming is much more responsive and driving on Forza Motorsport 6 is a bit smoother as well.

4k hdmi portOnce again, I hope I have given you fine folks some good solid consumer advice and I hope you are able to take advantage of it. Peace!

[Words by Sean Gearhart]

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