One of the things I would like you to associate with me is a skepticism of 4K gaming. I play in 4K on my PC using a 32-inch monitor that I sit a few feet away from, and that is great. But outside of that scenario, the 2160p resolution is wasted on our feeble human eyes — especially when it comes with a sacrifice to framerate and graphical effects. And yet, I admit that Nvidia’s marketing got to me when it showed gamers playing 8K games using the new RTX 3090.
The idea of gaming at such fidelity is exciting. One of the elements that makes exploring 3D worlds so enthralling are the details, and — well, you can get a lot of that at 4320p.
But 8K gaming is still, of course, absurd. And the lengths that Nvidia had to go to show it off is evidence of that.
In its RTX 3090 promotional video, Nvidia had a number of livestreamers and influencers sit down to experience gaming at 4320p. The results seemed to impress everyone involved. The participants provided a lot of gasps and exclamations.
But to get that reaction, the event had those influencers sitting just feet away from an 80-inch 8K LG OLED. And it takes something that extreme to get even the minimal benefits of that resolution. Even at 80 inches, you’d have to sit within 3 feet of the panel to notice a difference in pixel density between 4K and 8K.
Now, I’m not saying I don’t want to play games this way. I’d love to try it. And if I had an unlimited budget, maybe I’d dedicate a room in my manor to something like this. But even then, I would know that is silly.
RTX 3090 is the beginning of the end for resolution
While 8K gaming is a silly pursuit, Nvidia’s demonstration is important for other reasons. The company’s DLSS technology is coming into its own now. This is the deep-learning super-sampling that enables Nvidia GPUs to rebuild a lower resolution image into something with significantly more detail.
Nvidia has spent the last two years working on DLSS, and it’s the one thing that makes 8K and even 4K gaming make some sense.
In the RTX 3090’s 8K-gaming demo, Nvidia ran the games at 1440p and then used DLSS to upscale them to 4320p. This is crucial because it frees up the video card to focus on rendering frames quickly and with lots of graphical effects.
Nvidia did run the games at native 8K for its demonstration participants, but that caused performance to dip below 20 frames per second. Even that framerate is amazing and indicative of the RTX 3090’s power.
But DLSS is so capable that it transforms ultra-high resolutions from a luxury into a senseless option. Thomas Edison promised to make electricity so cheap that only the rich would burn candles, and now Nvidia is doing the same with resolution. DLSS makes 4K and 8K so cheap that only the rich will run them natively.
I’m hopeful that this will push us past resolution. We don’t really need anything higher than 4K for gaming, but we certainly don’t need 8K. But if achieving those resolutions is as simple as turning on DLSS, then we can take them for granted.
I doubt talk about resolution will disappear overnight — the terms “4K” and “8K” are too effective in marketing. But I think this is the beginning of the end for the obsession with this one metric.