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Can I use a 4k TV as a gaming monitor?

Almost everyone would like to have a cinema feeling in the living room. This desire is often at least a bit closer with a new TV. But before buying it, the key question to be resolved is: Should it be a 4K UHD device with around eight million pixels, or is a cheaper Full HD TV with two million pixels enough – after all, ultra-high resolution content is still in short supply. You can read our reviews of the best console gaming monitors.      

The content offering is growing slowly

In addition to pay-TV Sky, which broadcasts football games in 4K, only special-interest channels such as UHD1, Insight TV and Fashion 4K as well as the shopping channels Pearl.tv 4K and QVC UHD broadcast their first UHD TV bites via satellite. RTL offers Formula 1 races, all other TV stations such as ARD and ZDF have not jumped on the trend and plan only for the 2022 World Cup regular UHD broadcasts. Anyone who prefers to stream movies and series anyway, gets at least in the services Netflix and Amazon Video for selected content at its own expense. Netflix requires a more expensive premium subscription (currently 13.99 euros). If you want to stream 4K content, you also need fast internet connection: Netflix recommends a minimum bandwidth of 25 megabits per second (Mbps), with Amazon Instant Video it should definitely be 15 Mbps. Those who still buy films on disk get a currently considerable and growing selection of 4K films on the UHD Blu-ray. However, you need a UHD Blu-ray player in addition to a corresponding TV to watch the high-resolution movies on the TV. This costs about 200 euros, but is also included in the Xbox One S game console, which has been available for over two years, and the Xbox One X, which is based on 4K gaming.  

The picture is not necessarily sharper

“The pictures are rich in detail, and even TVs with a screen size of 140 centimetres, despite their size, show a fine pixel structure,” says Stiftung Warentest attesting to 4K TVs’ quality. However, so the restriction, neither the richness of detail nor the finer pixel structure revolutionized the viewing experience. This is due on the one hand to the footage, which is usually available only to full HD resolution, on the other hand on too large seat pitch of the audience. In a test of the consumer protection organisation with 24 subjects, most remained at the usual viewing distance – so bled the extra pixel power. As a rule of thumb: For 4K TVs, the optimal distance is one and a half times the picture height, so you have to sit pretty close to the device to really notice the sharpness.  

HDR is the magic word

Differences between Full HD and 4K would have recognised the tester only by the image enhancement HDR used in some 4K TVs. High Dynamic Range allows for much higher-contrast images and lets the colours shine. “Small differences in brightness and the finest shades, such as the gradient in the blue sky, which disappear in normal HD playback, remain visible with HDR. The picture is crisper, the colors look more natural, “says the foundation. However, there are also Full HDTV with HDR technology, so the argument goes in both directions. To be able to really use HDR, you must first activate the function on most televisions for each source, ie receiver or other players. In the case of manufacturers such as Sony, LG, Samsung , and Philips, the function is unfortunately partly hidden. Philips and LG list HDR in the general settings menu, but hide it behind the terms “HDMI Ultra HD” or “Ultra HD Deep Color”. For Samsung, enable HDR as follows: Settings > Picture > Expert Settings > Turn on HDMI UHD Color for the HDMI port you are using. For Sony: Settings> External Inputs > HDMI Signal Format > Optimized Format .  

What you need to know about HDR on TV

In order to get more out of conventional Blu-rays or TV broadcasts, the so-called upscaler plays an important role. It scales HDTV images up to four times the resolution on a 4K TV. “For increased TV enjoyment, the upscaler has to be so powerful that it can conjure up the worse HDTV signal with a gain in sharpness and detail on the 4K screen,” explains Bernd Weeser-Krell from the “PC World”.  

Which technique should the TV have?

In addition, one should take a look at the processor. The power decides how well the pictures are scaled and how fast the TV works. This includes not only station changes, but also the navigation through the numerous multimedia offers of Smart TVs with Internet connection. Basically, 4K TVs have a more complex internal signal processing than HD devices. To be prepared for the next few years, the new flat-TV de Leuw should have at least one HDMI port that accepts 60 and not just 30 frames per second. Important is also the HDMI standard 2.0, duty for the playback of UHD content is the copy protection HDCP 2.2. When streaming Ultra HD movies is nothing without H.265 codec, but as good as all 4K TVs since the year 2016 is integrated.

OLED display: Expensive, but good

In addition to flat-screen TVs with LED backlighting, more and more OLED devices with organic light emitting diodes are conquering the market. “Because the technology works without backlighting – an OLED screen lights up – OLED televisions provide a much better contrast,” explains Weeser-Krell. “Unpowered pixels remain absolutely black, while LCD TVs always emit some light in the backlight and black appears as anthracite.” OLED devices also feature a more populous color display and extremely fast response times. Disadvantages are the higher price and the limited life of the luminous dots.  

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