At long last, 8K is making its way to gaming monitors – or at least, that’s what Samsung’s new Odyssey Neo G9 2023 is pushing towards a new generation of gaming displays. But 8K itself isn’t new — it’s been in the mainstream gaming conscience for about three years, along with GPUs and consoles — so why haven’t we seen 8K gaming monitors?
As the era of next-generation displays begins to emerge, 8K seems destined to become the next big gaming destination. But don’t buy the hype. It’s going to take a long time for 8K gaming to really catch on, and there are some big reasons why.
what do we have now
There is currently one 8K monitor on the market – Dell’s UltraSharp UP3218K which sells for $4,000. This is not a new thing, releasing about six years ago. This means it doesn’t have connectivity like HDMI 2.1 or DisplayPort 2.1, and is locked to a 60Hz refresh rate.
Monitors evolve year after year, so it’s strange that we haven’t seen more development in 8K on the monitor front. The most practical reason has been the connection standard. Even at a 60Hz refresh rate, an 8K monitor requires a data rate of around 50 Gbps. HDMI 2.1, which supports around 45 Gbps data, only became widely supported in 2020, and DisplayPort 1.4 only supports around 26 Gbps.
Compression is there to help monitors like the UltraSharp UP3218K, but simply put there isn’t a cable and port that can transfer massive amounts of data for 8K resolution.
DisplayPort 2.1 changes that. It offers data rates of up to 78Gbps, and with the connection’s support for 3:1 lossless compression, it can support 8K at 144Hz when High Dynamic Range (HDR) is turned on. When the UltraSharp UP3218K was released we didn’t have ports and cables that could transfer enough data for an 8K gaming monitor, but now we do.
The problem right now is the ecosystem around DisplayPort 2.1. AMD’s RX 7900 XTX and RX 7900 XT support DisplayPort 2.1, and they’re wildly powerful GPUs, but Nvidia’s latest RTX 40-series graphics cards don’t. Similarly, the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 are locked to HDMI 2.1. That connection supports 8K at 60Hz, but these consoles aren’t powerful enough to drive that resolution (they’re not powerful enough to drive native 4K).
Frankly, even the best graphics cards available today can’t drive 8K. The only GPU that’s fair is the RTX 4090, and a big part of that is because that graphics card supports Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) 3 that can generate new frames with AI. It’s important to remember that 8K contains four times as many pixels as 4K, and most GPUs today still struggle with native 4K.
To drive the point home, AMD released upcoming 8K gaming footage P.’s lie Shortly before this article was published. It looks impressive, but can you watch the footage in 8K? Almost nobody can, and that’s the problem.
At the very least, we’ll have to wait for the next generation of Nvidia GPUs before we have a full PC ecosystem supporting DisplayPort 2.1, and even then, before we see monitors supporting DisplayPort 2.1 at a reasonable price It may be a few more years. On top of that, there’s a pretty pressing reason why 8K hasn’t made it into the world of monitors yet.
If you’re a frequent Digital Trade reader, you may have read that the European Union may ban 8K TVs, effective next year. Why? electricity demand. As the 8K Association, a group of 8K industry advocates, states: “More backlight power is required to produce the same on-screen [brightness] As a 4K TV of equivalent size.
As the resolution increases, the size of each pixel becomes smaller. And the smaller the pixel, the more light is required from the backlight to produce the proper brightness. That Dell 8K monitor? It typically consumes around 90 watts of power. The 4K version draws closer to 30W. That doesn’t sound bad – TVs can easily go above and beyond 100W – but this is the required power when the screen is at all, not the maximum possible power. And gaming only increases these power demands.
A premium 4K display like the Samsung Odyssey Neo G8 consumes significantly more power (up to three times or more) as a normal 4K display due to a higher refresh rate and local dimming. The cost of the extra electricity is negligible in most parts of the world, but more electricity means more heat.
It’s hard to say how hot it is. We don’t have 8K gaming monitors with high refresh rates. I’m speculating, but I think the high backlight demands combined with premium features like large local dimming zones and high refresh rates have hindered 8K gaming monitors up to this point, and a significant factor in this is heat.
There is also no ignoring the environmental impact. According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, PC gaming consumes more electricity annually than electric clothes dryers, water heaters and space heaters combined, being surpassed only by lighting, air conditioning and refrigeration. Much of that energy comes from the PC itself, but in an age of ever-increasing demand for GPUs and CPUs, it’s hard to add more power by way of performance and force your system to work even harder.
This is not an unresolved issue. LCD backlights have become remarkably efficient, and this is mainly because a lot of energy is wasted going through the various stages of the screen. In contrast, OLED doesn’t have that energy loss, but OLED technology just isn’t as efficient. Further optimizations to OLED could make it more energy efficient, and we’re already seeing that. For example, Elip is an emerging OLED technology that can substantially reduce energy consumption by increasing the light flux with each OLED pixel.
Between power, heat, and environmental impact, there isn’t a single area that completely overwhelms an 8K gaming monitor. When they’re combined, though, they represent a major hurdle for high refresh rate 8K monitors, at least for the next few years.
8K gaming, finally
We’re entering a new era of gaming monitors, and the 2023 Samsung Odyssey Neo G9 is proof of that. However, it will still take a few years for connection standards to widely support high refresh rate 8K displays, as well as efficiency standards to develop to reduce the power demands of such high resolutions.
One thing is certain: Monitor brands will continue to push 8K as gaming’s next destination. We’ve seen this on the graphics card and console front for a few years now, and monitors are starting to catch up. In this case, it probably won’t pay off to be an early adopter — there’s still a lot of development we need to see in 8K and the hardware it enables before it’s a viable option for gaming.