4K gaming: early benchmarks reveal the rigs we'll need to play at ultra-resolutions

With Asus announcing pre-orders for their PQ321Q 4K PC monitor - at a wallet-sweating $3,500 - just how prepared are our rigs for 4K gaming? The answer, coming out of a quick benchmark test over at AnandTech , seems to be 'not very.'

Well, unless you're already rocking an ultra-enthusiast graphics card...or three.

I'm still waiting for Asus to sort me out with a high-res screen to test my suite of GPUs on, but while AnandTech were out at Taiwan's Computex trade show they set up with Gigabyte to test a Sharp 4K screen with a host of different graphics cards.

The results make interesting reading, though they only had a chance to run three games through the über high-res panel. They've tested the already GPU-melting Metro: Last Light , the high-res happy DiRT 3 and the surprisingly demanding Sleeping Dogs benchmarks.

The elder statesman that is DiRT 3 now seems eminently capable of running on a pocket calculator at decent frame rates, so it's no surprise to see it hitting playable frame rates at 3840 x 2160 on an AMD Radeon HD 7790. But Metro: Last Light and Sleeping Dogs (in high-res textured guise) are incredibly punishing games when the resolution is whacked up to the 4K native.

In Metro you're looking at the dual-GPU power of an AMD HD 7990 before you can push above 30FPS, with a GTX Titan languishing around 21FPS. Still, at that resolution you can actually see some decent scaling from multiple GTX Titans. If you've enough spare cash enough to be able to afford a 4K monitor right now, you might be able to drop another few grand on graphics cards.

Something else which comes to light from this test is that if you were hoping to be able to pick up a cheapo 4K telly you might well be disappointed when you plug your PC into it. A lot of the lower end 4K panels are only running at 30Hz, and it's evident that with that refresh rate you get a frightening amount of screen tearing in-game.

I suppose it's fortunate that it'll be a while before 4K panels become anything like affordable for the majority - we'll need all that time to save up for a decent GPU array. Hopefully we wont have to rely on multi-GPU setups to game happily at 4K when it does become more standard though, that way surely lies a world of pain.

Dave James
Managing Editor, Hardware

Dave has been gaming since the days of Zaxxon and Lady Bug on the Colecovision, and code books for the Commodore Vic 20 (Death Race 2000!). He built his first gaming PC at the tender age of 16, and finally finished bug-fixing the Cyrix-based system around a year later. When he dropped it out of the window. He first started writing for Official PlayStation Magazine and Xbox World many decades ago, then moved onto PC Format full-time, then PC Gamer, TechRadar, and T3 among others. Now he's back, writing about the nightmarish graphics card market, CPUs with more cores than sense, gaming laptops hotter than the sun, and SSDs more capacious than a Cybertruck.