To be able to play on your PC in 4K (3840 x 2160) resolution, you will need to choose good components, ones adapted to this high- performance requirement task.
We will be looking at graphics cards, processors, but also at displays.
At the end, we will break out the calculator to tally the prices!
What graphics card should you choose for playing in 4K?
- The entry level card for playing in 4K would be the GTX 1070, available for around 500€. However, we do not recommend it for playing in 4K since it will struggle to go beyond 40 FPS in Ultra / High modes.
Except in the case of a GTX 1070 SLI configuration, the GTX 1070 is not the card you should buy if you are looking to play in 4K. In fact, the GTX 1070 is much better suited for playing in 2K.
- Next in line is the Geforce GTX 1080 (without SLI) which costs between 600 and 800€. At the moment, it seems to be the only viable solution for reaching 3840×2160 resolution with maximum detail.
However, you should not expect to be able to run at more than 50 / 55 FPS in Ultra mode in very heavy AAA games. We are fast arriving at the conclusion that one graphics card is just not enough to be able to comfortably play in 4K resolution.
- A GTX 1070 SLI configuration (budget requirement of around 1 000€), will give you more power than a single GTX 1080, allowing for a frame rate of around 60 to 70 FPS in Ultra 4K in games with even the greatest resource requirements.
- You will have understood by now that the performance of even a single GTX 1080 is already quite good. However, putting two GTX 1080 cards together is even better! (it will cost you around 1,300$). With this configuration, you will be able to play at more than 90 FPS in Ultra mode with many AAA games.
Just for fun you could even try reaching 5K resolution!
Budget – graphics card:
- Minimum: GTX 1080 = 500/650$ (competition between brands)
- Recommended: SLI GTX 1080 = 1000/1300$
What processor should you buy for playing in 4K?
Intel will launch, in January 2017, its 7th generation of processors (Kaby Lake) which will be tasked with democratizing 4K UHD. But, until then, what processor should you choose?
In order to avoid the “Limited CPU” phenomenon which occurs between the CPU and GPU, the necessity of moving towards a powerful Intel Core i7 type processor seems obvious.
4K resolution requires that the CPU perform intense calculations, something which the Intel i5 processors are just not cut-out to do.
The Intel Core i7 6700K is therefore a recommended processor for this purpose. It goes without saying that you will also require a high-end Ventirad (or Watermod AIO) in order to cool down such a beast of a processor.
Budget – processor:
- i7 6700K = 345/360$ (fluctuating price)
Budget – cooler:
- High-end cooler > 60$
- High-end Liquid AIO > 110$
The fine-print for SLI configurations:
If you choose to go for a two GTX 1070 or GTX 1080 SLI configuration, this will have several impacts on the choice of your computer’s other components.
- You will require a large format PC Case in order to allow for good thermal dissipation.
- You will need to choose a Power Supply capable of handling a GTX 1070 / GTX 1080 SLI configuration. (750 Watts / 1000 Watts)
- You will need to purchase an SLI bridge adapted to the configuration.
Budget – details:
- PC case > 50$
- 750 W power supply > 70$ / 1000 W power supply > 90$
4K Monitor (27 inches and up)
Buying a good quality 4K gaming monitor is a sizable investment, but it should not be ruled out if you are looking to avoid disappointment.
Entry-level 4K displays cost around 390€ (Without Freesync, G-sync or IPS), but this type of display will not give you exceptional performance.
You will really need to spend upwards of 800$ for a 4K IPS display worthy of that name. You will find them in our selection of the best PC gaming displays.
So, what kind of budget will you need to play in 4K?
- An entry-level 4K configuration (if such a thing can even be said…): GTX 1080 (500/ 650$) + i7K (350$) + 4K display (800$).
The 3 main elements will cost you anywhere from 1650$ to 1800$
- Recommended 4K configuration: SLI GTX 1080 (1000$/1300$) + i7K (350$) + high-end 4K display (1000$) .
These 3 elements will cost you from between 2350$ and 2600$
As I’m sure you’ve already suspected, aside from these elements, you will still need to purchase all of the other components (preferably high-end ones) required to accompany this trio.
You will therefore need to allocate yourself a budget of around 3000/3500$ in order to acquire a powerful 4K gaming PC. This is far from being an inconsequential sum!
If you are open to playing with some restrictions (no Full Ultra mode), you will still require a PC costing around 2000$.
In conclusion, 4K resolution remains a luxury for the moment! You will probably find it a better investment to optimize your game play in 2K rather than struggling with an inadequate 4K configuration.
Best Gaming Laptop