Why 4K is a waste of time for console gamers

4k tvLike many of my fellow console gamers I have been seriously asking myself if it is worth the cost to upgrade to a 4K TV this year. Those of you that know me (Séan Gearhart) or have read my contributions are keenly aware that I am a pretty big tech junkie. Especially when it comes to my TV selection for gaming.

I have spent months agonizing over this decision and I want to tell you why I have decided not to upgrade. I will apologize to PC gamers as we are all aware that this does not really apply to you guys and gals. We know 4K is very exciting on PC and looks tremendous. You will just have to humor this console gamer on this one. This is just my opinion and is in no way reflective of the opinions of the admins here at 4-One.

Every time I go into a store or get online I can’t escape the advertisements offering reasonably priced 4K TVs. You walk into an electronics retailer and you stand in front of the 4K sets and you have to pick your jaw up off the floor. Its all very exciting, especially considering how great so many of the games are starting to look now. The TV’s are actually very reasonably priced anymore.

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Over the holidays retailers like Walmart were advertising 55″ LG 4K sets for $698. Pretty much a steal for that price and size of TV. We would be crazy to pass that up, right? Well, actually, No. We wouldn’t be. Not as it relates to gaming directly. Herein lies the dilemma.

Currently, neither the PlayStation 4 or the Xbox One will output a native 4K signal when it comes to games. In fact, the only application on my Xbox One that will utilize 4K functionality, that I am aware of is Netflix. Netflix does have some ultra high definition (UHD) programming available but it is a very sparse selection. That being said, if you do not have a fast internet connection speed then you will not be able to stream 4K programming even if you have the TV to watch it on.

Some higher end 4K sets will force an upscale option. The Xbox One and PlayStation will still only send a native signal of the game you are playing to the TV, regardless of whether the TV tries to upscale the image or not. Sometimes this upscaling can actually result in a downgrade of the visual fidelity causing a worse picture than if you keep using your current 1080p or 720p set. Upscaling is one of those things that is a case of, “you get what you pay for”. The higher the price of the set the better chance that upscaling will look better, but don’t be fooled. It still isn’t going to turn your Xbox One or PlayStation 4 into the next best 4K gaming system.

The short version here is that upscaling still won’t make your games look any better. It is just not technically possible at this time because of how the consoles are built. There is a chance, albeit a very slight one, that it might make your Blu-Ray movies look a little better and perhaps some of your streaming movies as well but those are the only areas where you might notice any appreciable difference. The jump from 1080p programming to 4K is not nearly as pronounced as the jump from standard definition to 1080p was. With the quality of some 1080p sets they are almost as good as some 4K sets in terms of the quality of the picture you will see. Keep in mind that you can have a really washed out 4K picture with awful black levels and color representation if you buy a low end 4K set.

On the flipside, the opposite can be true if you buy a high end 1080p set. A higher resolution does not automatically equate to a higher quality picture. You can stick a Ferrari badge on a Dino and in the end it still isn’t a Ferrari, its still a Fiat. The question comes down to whether or not, as a console gamer you want to make the purchase for having the option to watch the limited amount of 4k streaming from Netflix or any other video provider that offers this option. Currently, Xbox Video does not even offer 4K movie or show rentals. For me, the answer has to be no.

My 1080p 60″ Vizio offers a simply amazing picture and to upgrade to a 60″ 4K set that offers the visual fidelity of my current set will hit my bank account for somewhere around the $1500 range. That is far too much money to spend to watch a few Netflix shows in 4K. Until the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are capable of outputting a native 4K signal for our games there will not really be any reason for console gamers to dish out the kind of money for a 4K set in the hopes that it will make your games look better. Let’s be honest here, how many people buy an Xbox One or PlayStation 4 to watch Netflix? My advice is save your money and buy more games. That is an expense we can all get behind!

[Words by Seán Gearhart, a friend and fan of 4-One Gaming]

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