Next-gen gaming on a next-gen TV

GamingNextGen

The next gen consoles are arriving, with the Xbox One last week and the PS4 this week. So with the launch of the next generation, it’s a good time to consider what our displays will be like over the lifespan of this generation of gaming consoles. Last time around we moved from 576i, affectionately known as SD, up to HD at 1080p. The change was severe and an easy sell for gamers, it was time for a HDTV.

As we move towards 2014, most Australian homes now have 1080p capable TVs. The big movement in the industry is 4K TVs, officially now known as UHDTVs, they are screaming to a price point of affordability a lot faster than most of us expected. One of the biggest question for both Microsoft and Sony was how many pixels the next generation consoles can push.

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The answer is that both will support 4K output for video playback. Even though they feature 8-core CPUs, 8GB RAM and a beasty Radeon 7000-series GPU, 4K gaming seems unachievable. With the expected console lifespan being 7-10 years, this is definitely disappointing but understandable when you consider the processing power required to push 3840 x 2160 pixels at 60fps.

It turns out the release of the Xbox One coincided with the time I had LG’s 55” UHDTV for review, so this was a great opportunity to try

Next-gen Gaming on a next-gen TV

I feel like we were lied to by Microsoft, while touting the console’s 4K capabilities at E3, nowhere in the lead up to the release of the Xbox One did they announce that 4K wouldn’t be available at launch. The Xbox One display options are currently only 1080p and 720p and if you haven’t heard much outrage over this, it’s likely because most people can’t test this.

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So with a lack of native 4K support from the Xbox One HDMI output, the LG UHDTV is left to do its best job of upscaling. The truth of the matter is that gaming looks fantastic at 55”, even with your butt parked closer to the TV on a bean bag. One issue I did find with the TV is that it needed to be changed to the ‘Game’ picture mode to reduce input lag, once this was changed, the experience was fantastic.

So what if we were gaming on the 84” monster? At that point UHDTV becomes much less of a want and more of a need. Just like SD content blown up to 55” looks terrible, so does 720 or even 1080p content stretched to 84”. Microsoft will add support for 4K output from the Xbox One, we just don’t have a date and it should have been here at launch.

You can expect the Xbox One to become one of the main sources of 4K content for your living room as Netflix start offering select content in 4K, Xbox Video and other competing services will have to follow suit.  As we talked about earlier, the price of these TVs are dropping faster than Miley Cyrus’ clothes. This means over the life of the Xbox One and the PS4, large UHDTVs will definitely become common place. Over the next few years, it’ll be kind of silly that we can’t game in 4K on 4K capable devices, but with the hardware of a console set in place, it’s likely the job will come down to developers to come up with software efficiencies that eek the necessary performance out of this batch of hardware.

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For those in the Sony camp that are reading this and laughing at Microsoft’s miss-step, the news isn’t great for the PS4 either. While not yet out in Australia, the same issue has been discovered by users in the United States. Sadly the PS4 also doesn’t support 4K at launch. While I don’t think many people rushed to buy a UHDTV just for gaming, I do think these companies should have been a lot more transparent about which of the features would be available at launch.

After watching true 4K content, there’s no comparison with an upscaled 1080p, it’s night and day and while games like Forza 5 are a stunning visual update, when 4K gaming does arrive, it be a fundamentally different experience. The hardware does exist today, but not at the price point consumers demand for these consoles, you’ll need to turn to PC gaming to achieve that. 

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