4K Gaming on a Budget

By September 23, 2015Featured Articles

4K Vizio TV

The first question I think of when plugging in my new Vizio 50” 4K TV is, “How would it look as a monitor?” I currently have a 42” Vizio 1080p as a monitor which has been running for few years. It’s now time for an upgrade. Using a TV as a monitor is a cost-effective solution for multi-use areas, like a man cave where mine currently lives. They are convenient and playing first person shooters on a 50” 4k TV feels great, especially since your rifle is now the size of a, well, rifle!

Unfortunately, PC gaming with a TV has its downfalls, most significant being the refresh rate which is slower than most monitors. Going to a TV often means going down to 60Hz or even 30hz, which is simply too slow for gaming. Luckily for me this Vizio is rated for 120hz. Let’s see how it works.

Testing With a 7850 Radeon


My first step was to try the TV with my current build. I swapped out my old TV and plugged in the new beast. The first thing I noticed after plugging it in was I couldn’t get past 60 Hz at 1920×1080, which is fine, but not good enough. So I went back to look online for a solution. It appears using a Mini Display port to HDMI adapter can get me to 120Hz. So I picked up an adapter. While in 120Hz mode I saw a lot of artifacts. They weren’t the typical ones you would expect from an overheating video card, but rather strange things: Like the display would blank out for a second. Other weird things showed up while playing Nuclear Dawn. The class selector didn’t display the pictures of the units. There were lines covering text in Chrome which looked like the government was blanking out my shortcuts. So it was time to try something new.

Testing With a GTX 970

GTX 970

Switching to the 970 meant I’d be losing the adapter, and some of the headache with it. Right away the experience got better, no more random blank screens and the odd selector page was back to normal. While this did enable 1920×1080 at 120Hz, I was still stuck with 30Hz at 4k. It seems like this limitation is going to be here until it can be worked out between vendors. In the meantime, going from 60 to 120 Hz makes games much faster. Upgrading the video card improves the Hz and the speed of the games you’re playing.

The Screen Dilemma

HDMI Cable

The biggest problem is the disconnect between video card and TV manufacturers. While TV makers continue to push out HDMI 2.0 as the latest format, monitor and video card makers are sticking with Display Port. And while most video cards have HDMI, they often don’t mention what version it is. HDMI 2.0 will support 4k Monitors at 60Hz, and also 1920×1080 at 120Hz, which is what you’ll need to enjoy gaming on a TV.

Performance and Lag

While the TV looks great with Blu-ray and cable, getting a proper resolution and Hz is important.
Lag is the enemy of TV upgrades. Going from 60 to 30Hz hurts. Keep in mind you’re fighting against two forces, FPS and Hz. Going from HD to 4k brings Wolfenstein from an average of 60fps down to 30fps, but with a little tweaking of settings it is manageable. Playability depends on the types of games you want to play. Simulation games seem to run and play fine. I don’t think the twitch gamers would like it though. The nice thing is you always have 1920×1080 to fall back on.

What kind of monitor do you use? If you’re using a TV as a monitor tell us about it.

Join the discussion 11 Comments

  • incubusDD says:

    Games have to be capable of 4k. It makes no matter right now what video card let alone which 4k tv your playing on when the graphics for most games wont go above 720 let alone 1080. Even with scale-form, I’ve yet to find a game that has true HD graphics beyond 1080. Add injury to insult when most games don’t effectively take advantage of SMP(multi-core) and/or SLI/Crossifre. higher resolution doesn’t always equate to better visuals.

    Examples: Wargaming games, EnMasse Games ( scale-form via Unreal3 engine), etc

    • Karl Thomas says:

      You’re right, almost no Games on the Market use more than 2 Cores. The good news is one of the advanced features of Intel’s Skylake CPUs is they have a new instruction set that is essentially the opposite of Hyper-Threading. It grabs the idle Cores and uses them all to process the work at hand more efficiently. So the individual Cores act more like separate Processors. Able to work on multiple threads as before, but also able to more effectively work together on a single thread…

      • incubusDD says:

        That great for everyone who has one of those CPu but then you get into an issue where companies are optimizing for a specific CPU instead of an architecture. SMP processing has been around for decades. If game mfg would optimize for a newer instruction set along with multi-threading, it would make the game more available across the board. The same can be said about crossfire/sli. For those games the utilize directx ( 95%+), just have alternate fram rendering as a config option. The whole idea of using DirectX was to make it easier for devs to get their games to market. On the CPU side, if you optimize for sse3(compiler option) and not for a specific CPU, games are playable from a more widespread audience, which for the company equates for more sales.

        My system & TV:

        TV: Sony Bravia 65″ 4k
        Custom Built System:
        Video Card: Asus R9 290X ( I have another but need to upgrade my PSU)
        AMD FX-9590 w/ 120MM self contained water cooler
        32G Kingston HyperX
        HDD’s: 240G SSD (OS)/ 1TB Samsung 850 (games/programs/storage)
        Asus Sabertooth Gen3/R2 MB
        Asus BD Burner
        Case: HAF 912
        PSU: Silent Gold pro 800W

  • solonosoul says:

    I have a 42″ seki 4k. On a budget that was an upgrade from my 42″ 6yr old lcd vizio that went out on me recently, that I loved and looked good enough for me, this tv was half the cost of that old vizio. It looks amazing with my hd cable box and blurays but as a monitor on my dell xps 8700 with the stock nvidia card, 635 (I think) it’s horrible playing movies and forget even thinking about gaming. The lag is disgusting. I made things bearable by stripping the nvidia 3d settings to a bare minimum everything, overclocking the video card, utilizing the hdmi 2.0 port and using the less appealing looking game mode on the tv. Most games are slightly more tolerable but still playable but the very small minute lag between audio and video when watching movies is so annoying and very noticable. I have learned my lesson when it comes to pairing a 4k tv to a computer as a monitor and next time I’ll do my homework. I was pretty naive about the lag issues with 4k tvs. The tv comes with a vga computer port but what’s the sense of having a 4k television and hooking it up to a vga port? It’s almost just insulting that it’s even there in the first place. I’d try it out of curiousity it but I already have two vga ports and a dvi port being used.

  • 4k regardless of the games limits is breath taking… Its so sharp and crisp, both so expensive to run at 60hz 60fps

    • incubusDD says:

      This is not entirely true, even if you tv upscales. World of tanks & World of Warships is a great example of this as the display looks the same in 1080P as it does in 4k. Tera, from EnMasse differs because of scaleform where there is a visible difference, even if not by much.

  • Anthony says:

    I have this TV. HDMI 2.0 is the HDMI port 5. The 9 series Nvidia cards are the only ones that have HDMI 2.0. AMD doesn’t have 2.0. I can play 4K games at 60hz. Not sure what you were doing wrong

    • incubusDD says:

      I think you may be misunderstanding. There is a huge difference in cranking up your resolution to 4k and native 4k graphics. I dont know of any games that come with graphics that are in native 4k resolution. If there is one, please share. Also, not sure what you mean with AMD as I’m getting 60Hz to my Sony 4k TV using an Asus R9 290x.

      • Anthony says:

        Two off the top of my head is Shadow of Mordor and Battlefield 4. Shadow has a high res texture pack which is native 4k. Battlefield 4 also supports 4k textures.

  • The problem of getting 30hz is a limitation of HDMI v1.4. HDMI 2.0 fixes this issue and allows 4K resolution at 60hz. The gtx 970 supports 2.0 but I am not sure about the tv.

  • David M says:

    I am getting a 1080 FTW Video Card/4790K CPU Stock Fan/16Gigs of Corsair Vengeance XMP Quad Channel/ 750 Watt Power Supply/ Been running 750TI Card With a New Vizio 50″ 120hz refresh rate. I am older than most so my expertise is Limited . I am able to use my remote to go from PC to 4K TV . I only hope the 1080 is a huge improvement Your comments are appreciated ! I forgot to put in a sata drive and 2 dvd Burners Liteon and LG BluRAY burner

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