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February 22, 2013

Quick Look: DirectX 11 Gaming in 4K on Windows 8

Anyone that’s into PC gaming knows that display and graphics are core to the gaming experience. Imagine if you could take your 24”-27” 1080p display and quadruple the surface area and pixel count. Now imagine playing your favorite DirectX 11 games on this display. This may sound like fantasy, but it’s not. 4K Ultra-HD TVs and monitors have 2 times the horizontal and vertical resolution compared with 1080p. While most people can’t buy these kinds of displays today, it’s just a matter of time before 4K displays are readily available.

I recently got ahold of a 55” 4K Ultra-HD Toshiba TV (see related stories here, and here), and was curious to try some DirectX 11 games with this giant TV on Windows 8. But I had some questions: Would PC games run well in 4K? Would details and textures scale to an ultra-high resolution display? What would the gameplay experience feel like on a 55” display? It was time to try it out. I decided I would try a DirectX 11 game that I had experience with on multiple machines with different display setups and resolutions: Max Payne 3. I already had a high-spec gaming PC setup running Windows 8 and an AMD 7970 connected to the 4K TV and three other displays. After installing Max Payne 3 on this PC, it was time to experience PC gaming like never before.

Max Payne 3 Gameplay 4K Gavin 600

Max Payne 3 running full screen on a 55” 4K Ultra-HD Toshiba TV

The result: this game holds up to 4K Ultra-HD resolution very well! Due to limitations with HDMI 1.4a, I was not able to test this game beyond 30 Hz display refresh, but in terms of detail and rendering things looked really amazing.

To put this DirectX 11 gaming experience in perspective, let’s compare the number of pixels for the following displays: 720p, 1080p, WQHD, and 4K Ultra-HD:

















4K Ultra-HD




If you look at this table (and do some simple calculations) you’ll find that 4K Ultra-HD has exactly 9 times the pixels as 720p, 4 times the pixels as 1080p, and 2.25 times the pixels as WQHD. With the TV measuring 55” diagonally, and considering PPI, this TV is basically a 2×2 array of four 27.5” 1080p displays. WOW.

Max Payne Graphics Settings 600

Graphics Settings used for test running Max Payne 3 at 4K Ultra-HD resolution

I was impressed by how well this game ran well at 4K Ultra-HD resolution using a single graphics card which was also driving 3 other displays. While this test showed me what DirectX 11 graphics can look like at amazingly high resolutions, I would love to experience this at 2160p60 (4K Ultra-HD display running at 60hz). At 2160p60, the motion and effects would be even smoother. With 60hz/60fps performance combined with large scale and high resolution, you’d have the ultimate PC gaming experience.

It was really exciting to see this first glimpse of DirectX gaming on Windows 8 at 4K resolution, and I’m really eager to see these 4K Ultra-HD TVs (and 4K monitors) become more readily available. It will certainly be a big breakthrough for PC gaming and graphics!

If you’re interested to see this setup in action, I put together a video showing the 4K Ultra-HD Max Payne 3 demo, check it out:

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