Very Few Play PC Games At Resolutions Beyond 1080P – AMD and NVIDIA Fight For 4K Dominance

NVIDIA and AMD has been talking about 4K gaming quite a bit these days. What is 4K? 4K refers to ultra-high definition (UHD) resolution displays that are around 4 times the resolution of 1080p Blu-ray! A typical 4K monitor will use a 3840 x 2160 resolution and requires either an HDMI or DisplayPort connection. Right now the HDMI 1.4 standard allows for 4K at 30Hz, but the recently announced HDMI 2.0 standard will support 4K at 60Hz. DisplayPort 1.2 can support 4K at 60Hz using Multi-Stream Transport (MST) right now, but in the future Single Stream Transport (SST) will be possible on some hardware (AMD says they are ready now, but there are no transceivers for the panels yet). The ASUS PQ321Q is one of the first desktop displays capable of displaying a full 3840x2160p signal at 60Hz, either via DisplayPort 1.2 or using dual HDMI 1.4 connections. The recently released ASUS PQ321Q monitor has opened to the door to UHD gaming, but costs staggering $3,499 shipped


We believe that PC gaming will be moving beyond 1080P and will eventually get to 2160P or ‘4K’ resolutions, but it will take some time to get there. Marketing slides from NVIDIA and AMD show the transition starting in 2013. NVIDIA is currently doing a GeForce GTX Battlebox program, where they are partnering with top-tier system builders like Maingear and Falcon Northwest to build ‘next-generation’ gaming machines that are ready to take on 4K. These machines aren’t exactly inexpensive though as the Maingear F131 starts at $2438 and the Shift starts at $4037

GeForce GTX Battlebox program

So, that leads us to question who plays PC games at resolutions beyond 1080P? AMD and NVIDIA have started marketing 4K monitors, so we figured we’d take a look at who is already running beyond 1080P. To help answer that question we turn to Valve Software and look at their results for the September 2013 Steam Hardware and Software Survey.

Primary Display Resolution

We spoke with Doug Lombardi, Valve VP of marketing, and found out that the sample size for the September 2013 was 596,000 users. This is a very large sample size of the gaming community and it gives us a good look at what resolution gamers are playing at.  The most popular resolution is by far 1920 x 1080 with nearly 32% or ~190,500  gamers playing at that screen setting. (We are assuming that all of the users are on a single monitor setup to make the math simple) Moving beyond 1080P gaming there are 2.61% or 15,600 gamers playing at 1920 x 1200 and 0.94% or 5,600 gaming on a 1440P display. The thing that shouldn’t come to a shock to anyone is that 4K  (3840 x 2160) doesn’t even show up yet on the hardware survey! It likely falls in the ‘other’ category in the hardware survey due to how few are using a 4K monitor. Also notice that the percentage change is all red, which means there is was no growth last month at any of these resolutions. That is odd as everything you hear about these days online is moving beyond 1080P! 

The number of gamers that play at resolutions beyond 1080P is surprisingly low, but the discrete GPU makers hope to change that with their current and new high-end video cards!


AMD is on the verge of releasing the AMD Radeon R9 290X video card and says that it is designed for UltraHD (4K) gaming. This is the first time we have seen a video card launched at 4K gaming, so it will be interesting to see how many gamers out there are willing to drop around $650 (based on online rumors) for an AMD Radeon R9 290X and around $3500 for a 4K monitor.

NVIDIA on the other hand has been busy promoting their 4K battleboxes that we already talked about and has been talking with some select press and tipping them off about the issues AMD is having at 4K on their older cards.

For its part, Nvidia called together several of us in the press last week, got us set up to use FCAT with 4K monitors, and pointed us toward some specific issues with their competition. One the big issues Nvidia emphasized in this context is how Radeons using dual HDMI outputs to drive a 4K display can exhibit vertical tearing right smack in the middle of the screen, where the two tiles meet, because they’re not being refreshed in sync.

NVIDIA will likely be making a larger 4K gaming push in 2014 when they roll out the GeForce 800 series that will be powered by the Maxwell GPU architecture. AMD and NVIDIA both believe that 4K is the next ‘big thing’ when it comes to PC gaming and are fully behind the technology. That means the marketing departments will be locked in battle for years to come, so step aside 3D monitors and in-game physics! 

  • Hvd

    only pc elitist do.90% of gamers use 1080p and dont have the pcto run 1440p 144hz. which is mainly for fps’s like cod and counter strike.there isnt any need right now for most gamers to get 1440p

  • AJ

    Better to buy the Toshiba P55t laptop for 800$ for a UHD experience

  • Broc kelley

    I don’t know about you people, but I’m spending less than $3500 and that’s for all the displays and the pc itself… where do you fools buy your stuff?

  • Uberkill160

    I’m not sure if this is a viable replacement for an actual monitor, but there are 4k televisions at relatively low costs available all over the place. I’ve looked at a few, and this one seems to be one of the first 4k tvs that aren’t prohibitively expensive. However, if you just look around a bit (i.e. type in 4k monitor in Amazon) you will come up with quite a few inexpensive 4k tvs. I even found a fifty inch one for around 800 bucks.

  • Tomshardware

    There’s no GPU which supports 4K properly yet, even the R9 290X can’t break 30fps in modern games at 4K.

    • Kyle Brey

      Nvidia has some cool beta drivers for breaking the 30fps barrier…a little iffy sometimes lol, but works pretty well with SLI set up, I posted above about my experience.

  • Guest

    I’m always curious to know how these statistics are made.. Are they counting abandoned accounts that were made on Steam 5+ years ago or are these results based off accounts that are used frequently?

  • Jeremy Badessa

    I’m pretty sure that most of the people in that 32% 1080p bracket don’t use higher resolutions because they don’t have displays that support higher than 1080p. My 30″ monitor supports 2560 x 1600 cost me $1000+ about a year ago, and it was on sale. That dwarfs the cost of most new video cards, and that’s only half the pixels of the standard 4K resolution.

  • nosuchthing

    My PC is fast enough to play >1080p today… Kindly direct me towards a Monitor with >1080p, 120hz+ and less than 2ms latency and I will join this new revolution of graphics you speak of… otherwise im just downgrading…

  • Jake

    Cheapest x290 around here is 516 EUR with delivery and cheapest DELL UltraSharp U2713HM 2560×1440 monitor is 528 EUR with delivery, so you will be paying 1044 EUR for unltra sharp IPS monitor plus GPU upgrade if you are upgrading from zero. Not THAT expensive and in lower VAT and distance country you will pay even less.

  • discoeels

    I’m thinking that they are trying to announce that they will be ready for 4K gaming and they are putting lots of energy into marketing, partly because of the heafty price tag it will originally have. I feel there will be some of the same thing when DDR4 release

  • godrilla

    $3500 just for 4k monitor and plus the hardware to run games at that resolution is even outside most enthusiast price range.

    • s3bsta

      Yeah nvidia should be trying to get some 32″ Lightboost monitors pushed instead. I’m sure it would be a hell of lot cheaper

  • shadus

    How close do I have to start to my monitor to see the difference between 4K and 1080P? I understand with computer monitors why we might need 4K but the push for a 4K televisions is ridiculous.

  • Andy

    4k will be norm by 2016! 😀

  • Kyle

    Looks like I’m special, I’m one of the 0.15%

  • domahman

    4K just barely started for gaming. duh!

    • godrilla

      I believe the only monitor available was the asus 4k one last month, so thats is an understatement.

  • Zach B.

    “596,000 users”

    That’s what? 0.0001% of the gaming community? I’d like to see results for all Steam users (with or without their consent).

    But being this is brand new, cutting edge technology. It is going to be expensive for most for a year or two. Afterwards it’ll start to be just as common as 1080P.

    • James

      Severely late comment, but if it were 1% of the gaming community, that would mean 57 million people use Steam, let alone 0.0001% – which I suppose was an exaggeration. But, people who have advanced setups are much MORE likely to opt in to the hardware survey, it’s the regular people who are less likely to do it. So I don’t think it’s skewed at all percentage wise, and if it is, it’s in favor of higher end displays.

  • s3bsta

    Frankly I’d rather they push 3D to be standard than gunning for 4k. It’s far more affordable than 4k and the visual results simply blow 4k out of the water. Crysis 3 and Batman Arkham City in 3D look honestly mindblowing.

    • Joseph Thebigragu Plaza

      Some people get sick while watching 3d tv’s. Also, the price will come down on it just like hd TVs and blu ray players. Plus, there’s more resolution than a 3d tv.

      • s3bsta

        I’m not talking 3DTVs, I’m talking 120hz/3D Vision PC Gaming. Theres a big difference to bog 30fps 3DTVs. Nothing wrong with 4k tho but just wished they promoted 3D more. If more people actually saw it they’d be pretty surprised how amazing it is compared to 3DTVs even cinema 3D is nothing compared to it.

        • Joseph Thebigragu Plaza

          3d is 3d.

        • godrilla

          If you haven’t experienced 120hz monitor with 3d vision then you haven’t experienced the best in 3d experience currently which is more premium experience than anything else “3d”.

        • Ian Bruton

          True, however I have one of these monitors and I still think 3D is average at best

        • Joseph Thebigragu Plaza

          I run a 600hz plasma. 120 is garbage.

        • godrilla

          No its not you are mistaken, your monitor only has maximum 60 hz input so anything else is bs!

        • Joseph Thebigragu Plaza

          Right…I use to sell plasma screens. They have the fastest refresh rate out of all TVs besides 4k

        • s3bsta

          A 600hz Plasma TV is still capped to 60hz using HDMI as godrilla said. You cannot get anything higher than 60 frames per second input. This is why 3D is rubbish on a 3DTV as it’s then split further to 30fps per eye. PC is double that rate so it’s a true 60fps per eye using DVI-D connections. Plasma frame rates are merely interpolated to match the refresh rate. Like upscaling SD to HD.

        • Joseph Thebigragu Plaza

          They make hdmi cables that do 600. Either way. I have had both LCD and plasma. I notice the difference and that’s all that matters to me.

        • s3bsta

          That’s the panel’s refresh rate. HDMI 1.4c specification is capped at 60hz maximum.

          2D video signals yes, not 3D – LCD or plasma 3DTVs are limited by the same 60hz cap and no different. 3DTVs are poor imitations of 3D compared to 3D Vision monitors.

        • Joseph Thebigragu Plaza

          Either way. The articles about 2d TVs mainly. 4k, LCD, led, plasma.

        • godrilla

          Ok if your 600hz monitor only supports 60 frames per second or 60 hz connection input to media source anything else is bs

        • Joseph Thebigragu Plaza

          My tv supports it and they make cables to support it. Past that, I can notice it with my eyes. I don’t care what others can or can’t see. Shit, most can’t even tell the difference between 720 and 1080 when watching them side by side. (I can)

        • godrilla

          Dual dvi or display port does support 120hz but you tv doesn’t support those inputs.

        • Joseph Thebigragu Plaza

          And you know what inputs my tv supports all because it’s plasma?

        • s3bsta

          Stop claiming they do 600hz cables. They do not – end of story. High Speed HDMI has nothing to do 600hz refresh rate specific to your panel and only supports 1080p60 signals.

        • Joseph Thebigragu Plaza

          Your completely right. They just list the refresh rates it can handle on the cables for fun.

        • s3bsta

          Yep marketing bs plain and simple. As I’ve said several times the HDMI 1.4 spec does not carry 600hz signals so it’s irrelevant what it says on the box – it’s just outright wrong.

        • Joseph Thebigragu Plaza

          Even if it isn’t “actually 600hz” point still stands that a plasma tv is faster. It is designed to handle motion better. You cant even really compare LCD/led refresh rate to plasma; they project images completely different.

        • s3bsta

          Not in 3D as I said before. We were talking 3D Vision Monitors on PC @ 120hz/fps where it’s a REAL frame rate per second not simply the refresh rate on the HDTV panel. 3D on a 600hz plasma is 30fps/60hz and nowhere near 120fps real motion.

          It’s even arguable plasma’s are better than LCD in 2D PC gaming as 4k LCD monitors as mentioned in this article are likely to be way faster than a 4k plasma’s as their latencies are way lower. Typically 40 times lower than even the best HDTVs is the current norm.

        • Joseph Thebigragu Plaza

          Never was talking about 3d or 4k. Just the standards that most people have, nor computer monitors. Waaaay off topic. 4k is a whole nother beast that I have yet to experience or read up on. My statement was directed at what we mainly use now LCD, led and plasma.

        • godrilla

          all tvs plasma or not support maximum input 60 hz!

        • Joseph Thebigragu Plaza
        • Kyle Brey

          Actually, HDMI 1.4 cable ONLY supports UP TO 60hz…I’m not sure what your reading or IF your actually reading…Just look at the 4k TV’s/monitors, for me, who OWNS a 4k monitor, I have to use TWO HDMI cables to get the FULL 120Hz the monitor can handle, that’s 60Hz PER cable BECAUSE HDMI 1.4 can only HANDLE 60Hz. Nothing more. You can read things all day. But I actually HAVE these items and HAVE the experience/hands on knowledge involved here. You SOLD TV’s…Your job and training didn’t teach you anything about the TV’s, your job and training was to make the company money, and in fact, your training would have led you to NOT sell Plasma because they are cheaper and net less profit for the company. Oh, I use to sell TV’s too so I know that one too. Your arguing with multiple people who DON’T agree with your wild attempt at knowing anything. How about you stop eating up this thread and go learn some stuff then come back when you have something relevant to say.

        • Ian Bruton

          The problem with 3D is that it is a matter preference. Some people love it some people hate it and then there is all the rest in between.

          4K is an absolute eventuality. It WILL eventually be “affordable” to have a 4K TV/monitor. And nobody will ever say “I prefer 1080p to 4K” where as quite a lot of people will say “I prefer 2D to 3D”.

          3D is more of a gimmick where as 4K is a standard which will eventually become a requirement in movies and games. People buy 3D monitors just to game in 2D @ 120Hz whereas nobody will buy a 4K TV just to watch 1080p although it’s there as an option

        • shadus

          But 4k is gimmick at least when it comes to tv. Nobody sits close enough to their tv to see the individual pixels in 1080p unless your sitting less 6 feet away from a 65″ screen. Which if you are you have a bigger problem then seeing pixels. On a computer monitor it might make sense for people sitting 6″ to a foot away. Don’t buy a product for marketing hype read up on what it actually changes.

        • Joseph Thebigragu Plaza

          I have a 42″ 1080p plasma that I sit 5-6 feet away from and can see the pixels. Guess I have good eyesight.

        • Kyle Brey

          But, its a fact that plasma, at 600 Hz, DOES look kind of crappy on small screens. 42″ is pretty small in todays market. Plasma shouldn’t even be a thought on anything smaller than a 50″ screen. I have a 50″ Plasma and it looks 100 times better than my 42″ led ever did.

        • Ian Bruton

          With that logic you could argue that 1080p is a gimmick. Heck you could even say that TV’s are a gimmick. A TV is a luxury item, and to put a limit on how luxurious that luxury item can be is a bit silly don’t you think?

          Have you ever looked at a macbook pro retina screen? Whether you are a mac fan or not, it’s just downright ignorant to claim that looking at the retina screen on a mac is the same as looking at a standard resolution screen of the same size. The retina screen is much more appealing to the eyes. Movies and games are much more enjoyable to look at.

          I have a 50″ 1080p TV in my house and sit roughly 9′-10′ away and while the TV looks great I can see where improvements can be made. I can also say that when I can afford a 65″ 4K TV that I will be buying one, and it will be going in the same room so I will be sitting the same distance away, so a higher DPI screen is going to be very welcome and WILL look much better than 1080p

          Christ sure we have 4″ 1080p screen in our PHONES now, so why not have 4K on out 65″ TVs?

        • shadus

          That’s actually the point, Most tvs under 40″ don’t gain anything from 1080p. Consumers need to research before buying. Marketing will use catch phase, false statstics, misleading numbers all to make the consumer believe that they are getting a vastly better product when they may not be, in fact it may not fit their needs at all. If you want a 65″ 4k tv go ahead buy it but make sure it fits your needs first.

          And to be fair I over exaggerated my numbers from before. Here is a good comparasion chart.

        • Ian Bruton

          Yeah I completely agree that there is no need to get a 40 inch 4K TV if you’re sitting 12 feet away. And if I’m going to be fair I’d be much more interested in a 31.5 inch 4K monitor for my computer than a TV, and I’ll be waiting for 120Hz at that (I know, I know, I’ll be waiting a looooong time!)

        • godrilla

          4k will bring glasses free 3d experience but at the expense of lower resolution, and who would want that.

        • s3bsta

          Yeah unfortunately most people associate 3D from their only experience – cinema 3D or a 3DTV and THAT is a gimmick.
          Standard 3D is chalk and cheese when compared to Nvidia’s 3D Vision Gaming.
          Part of that is to do with frame rate. 3D is not believable, induces motion sickness and is very ineffective at 60hz (with only 30fps per eye)
          Nvidia’s solution running @ 120hz (60fps per eye) is a absolute sight to behold and not a gimmick by any stretch. It’s as tangible as something in front of you.

          Even if one still had problems with the 3D, it’s worthwhile simply for the 120hz in 2D gameplay also so it’s not just about 3D.

          4K is an eventuality but what I’m saying is I think you’ll find 3D Vision 2/120hz much more cost effective and impressive than 4k right now. And nothing like any 3D you’ve tried anyway else.

        • Ian Bruton

          Well you see now, this is kinda my point about it being preference. I have had 2 3D enabled monitors myself and I have tried a good few games in 3D vision and 3D vision 2 on them and on friends computers. I wasn’t blown away, in fact I was a little disappointed if I’m honest.

          I think 3D has a long way to go before it gets to a level where it will have that “WOW” factor. That said I also won’t be getting a 4K monitor until it does 120Hz as I don’t think it would be worth it, so I could just be really fussy! :S

        • s3bsta

          Maybe you were just playing the wrong games 🙂 Or possibly the screen size as I play on the 27″ ASUS 3D Vision 2 monitor. I don’t think 24 would be as effective.

          Every person I’ve demonstrated Crysis 3, Trine 2 and Arkham City to were blown away. Several mates purchased the same monitor specifically after seeing it. For me the WOW is hear and now 🙂

    • 63Jax

      i can’t stand 3d, ughhhh

    • godrilla

      Try trine 2 in 3d holy moly the best 2d game in 3d if that makes sense.

      • s3bsta

        Yeah mate! You’re right. I’d have to include that with Crysis3 and Arkham City actually. The 3D made the levels as real as something right in front of me. Absolutely amazing 3D!