Part of my extra-curricular testing post Computex this year put me in the hands of a Sharp 4K30 monitor for three days and with a variety of AMD and NVIDIA GPUs on an overclocked Haswell system.  With my test-bed SSD at hand and limited time, I was able to test my normal motherboard gaming benchmark suite at this crazy resolution (3840x2160) for several GPU combinations.  Many thanks to GIGABYTE for this brief but eye-opening opportunity.

The test setup is as follows:

Intel Core i7-4770K @ 4.2 GHz, High Performance Mode
Corsair Vengeance Pro 2x8GB DDR3-2800 11-14-14
GIGABYTE Z87X-OC Force (PLX 8747 enabled)
Windows 7 64-bit SP1
Drivers: GeForce 320.18 WHQL / Catalyst 13.6 Beta


GPU Model Cores / SPs MHz Memory Size MHz Memory Bus
GTX Titan GV-NTITAN-6GD-B 2688 837 6 GB 1500 384-bit
GTX 690 GV-N690D5-4GD-B 2x1536 915 2 x 2GB 1500 2x256-bit
GTX 680 GV-N680D5-2GD-B 1536 1006 2 GB 1500 256-bit
GTX 660 Ti GV-N66TOC-2GD 1344 1032 2 GB 1500 192-bit
GPU Model Cores / SPs MHz Memory Size MHz Memory Bus
HD 7990 GV-R799D5-6GD-B 2x2048 950 2 x 3GB 1500 2x384-bit
HD 7950 GV-R795WF3-3GD 1792 900 3GB 1250 384-bit
HD 7790 GV-R779OC-2GD 896 1075 2GB 1500 128-bit

For some of these GPUs we had several of the same model at hand to test.  As a result, we tested from one GTX Titan to four, 1x GTX 690, 1x and 2x GTX 680, 1x 660Ti, 1x 7990, 1x and 3x 7950, and 1x 7790.  There were several more groups of GPUs available, but alas we did not have time.  Also for the time being we are not doing any GPU analysis on many multi-AMD setups, which we know can have issues – as I have not got to grips with FCAT personally I thought it would be more beneficial to run numbers over learning new testing procedures.


As I only had my motherboard gaming tests available and little time to download fresh ones (you would be surprised at how slow in general Taiwan internet can be, especially during working hours), we have a standard array of Metro 2033, Dirt 3 and Sleeping Dogs.  Each one was run at 3840x2160 and maximum settings in our standard Gaming CPU procedures (maximum settings as the benchmark GUI allows).

Metro 2033, Max Settings, 3840x2160:

Metro 2033, 3840x2160, Max Settings

Straight off the bat is a bit of a shocker – to get 60 FPS we need FOUR Titans.  Three 7950s performed at 40 FPS, though there was plenty of microstutter visible during the run.  For both the low end cards, the 7790 and 660 Ti, the full quality textures did not seem to load properly.

Dirt 3, Max Settings, 3840x2160:

Dirt 3, 3840x2160, Max Settings

Dirt is a title that loves MHz and GPU power, and due to the engine is quite happy to run around 60 FPS on a single Titan.  Understandably this means that for almost every other card you need at least two GPUs to hit this number, more so if you have the opportunity to run 4K in 3D.

Sleeping Dogs, Max Settings, 3840x2160:

Sleeping Dogs, 3840x2160, Max Settings

Similarly to Metro, Sleeping Dogs (with full SSAA) can bring graphics cards down to their knees.  Interestingly during the benchmark some of the scenes that ran well were counterbalanced by the indoor manor scene which could run slower than 2 FPS on the more mid-range cards.  In order to feel a full 60 FPS average with max SSAA, we are looking at a quad-SLI setup with GTX Titans.


First of all, the minute you experience 4K with appropriate content it is worth a long double take.  With a native 4K screen and a decent frame rate, it looks stunning.  Although you have to sit further back to take it all in, it is fun to get up close and see just how good the image can be.  The only downside with my testing (apart from some of the low frame rates) is when the realisation that you are at 30 Hz kicks in.  The visual tearing of Dirt3 during high speed parts was hard to miss.

But the newer the game, and the more elaborate you wish to be with the advanced settings, then 4K is going to require horsepower and plenty of it.  Once 4K monitors hit a nice price point for 60 Hz panels (sub $1500), the gamers that like to splash out on their graphics cards will start jumping on the 4K screens.  I mention 60 Hz because the 30 Hz panel we were able to test on looked fairly poor in the high FPS Dirt3 scenarios, with clear tearing on the ground as the car raced through the scene.  Currently users in North America can get the Seiki 50” 4K30 monitor for around $1500, and they recently announced a 39” 4K30 monitor for around $700.  ASUS are releasing their 4K60 31.5” monitor later this year for around $3800 which might bring about the start of the resolution revolution, at least for the high-end prosumer space.

All I want to predict at this point is that driving screen resolutions up will have to cause a sharp increase in graphics card performance, as well as multi-card driver compatibility.  No matter the resolution, enthusiasts will want to run their games with all the eye candy, even if it takes three or four GTX Titans to get there.  For the rest of us right now on our one or two mid-to-high end GPUs, we might have to wait 2-3 years for the prices of the monitors to come down and the power of mid-range GPUs to go up.  These are exciting times, and we have not even touched what might happen in multiplayer.  The next question is the console placement – gaming at 4K would be severely restrictive when using the equivalent of a single 7850 on a Jaguar core, even if it does have a high memory bandwidth.  Roll on Playstation 5 and Xbox Two (Four?), when 4K TVs in the home might actually be a thing by 2023.

16:9 4K Comparison image from Wikipedia

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  • xTRICKYxx - Monday, July 1, 2013 - link

    Unoptimized game engines can be pretty good benchmarks. I've always wished you guys included an ARMA 3 benchmark (built-in benchmark support).
  • bminor13 - Monday, July 1, 2013 - link

    Well since that game hasn't been finished yet, any performance tests would probably lose meaning over time, as they optimize the engine and whatnot. Maybe they'll include it after the game gets released.
  • yougotkicked - Monday, July 1, 2013 - link

    I have to wonder how much improvement might be made with better engine programming. I realize that a lot of work has already gone into making game engines very efficient, but with the growth of GPGPU computing over the last few years there is a lot more work being done on GPU computing in general. Perhaps some creative programming may get us playable framerates at 4k sooner than we expect.
  • silenceisgolden - Monday, July 1, 2013 - link

    XBox Two (Four?) just made my day.
  • Aegwyn11 - Monday, July 1, 2013 - link

    This isn't 4K (4096x2160). Its UHD (3840x2160). UHD is exactly four times HD (1920x1080).
  • jadedcorliss - Monday, July 1, 2013 - link

    It seems like UHD or 3840x2160 is going to be a common resolution at some point and will be referred to as 4k.
  • Aegwyn11 - Monday, July 1, 2013 - link

    The problem here is that 4K is an existing term that refers to a digital cinema format that's been around for many years. Just because some screw up the terminology doesn't make it okay.
  • Gigaplex - Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - link

    The terminology regarding resolutions has been FUBAR for a very long time.
  • mapesdhs - Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - link

    Aegwyn11 is right.

    I asked a friend of mine at a movie studio about this last year. I hope he won't mind
    my quoting his very informative reply...

    "The differences between "HD" and "2K" are not just a matter of spatial
    dimensions. Although modern (ie. digital) HD is always either 1920x1080
    or 1280x720; there are a multitude of both frame and field rates - in
    fact over a dozen for each format (although the most widely used
    presently are 50Hz and 59.94Hz interlaced). The colour space for HD
    video is invariability 10-bit per component; linear.

    By contrast, 2K is generally regarded as a nebulous resolution - it can
    mean either 2048x1556, 2048x1536, 2048x3072, 1828x1556, 1828x1332 and at
    least six additional dimensions... The reason for such confusion is that
    when Kodak released their Cineon film scanner / workstation / printer
    system back in 1992 (and thus single-handedly invented both the concept
    and technology of the digital film intermediate) these figures
    represented the quarter resolutions of various 16mm / 35mm / 65mm film

    For example, when scanning a full aperture 4-performation 35mm film frame
    at 6m (ie. noise level and thus differences are indistinguishable to the
    human eye) the 24.892mm x 18.669mm frame is sampled into a 4096x3112
    pixel image (4K); a quarter of which is 2048x1556. Additionally, in
    scanned film data colour space is almost always 10-bit per component
    logarithmic (roughly equivalent to 14-bit linear). Interestingly, new
    Kodak Vision3 film stocks are capable of recording two additional stops
    (in the shoulder section of the sensiometric curve); which require 16-bit
    per component linear scans to record highlights without clipping!

    Have you launched Cineon on any of your IRIX hosts? Kodak were so clever
    they practically spawned an entire industry (it was years ahead of its
    time - hence the quarter resolutions) ..."

  • jesh462 - Monday, July 1, 2013 - link

    I'd rather see benchmarks for the Oculus Rift at 1080p, the consumer version. I don't know why any PC gamer cares about 4k displays when the Oculus Rift is coming out so soon.

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