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Frame Rating: High End GPUs Benchmarked at 4K Resolutions

Author: Ryan Shrout
Manufacturer: Various

How the Current Cards Stack Up in 4K

Our experiment with early testing of high end graphics cards on a 4K display has definitely been interesting.  After using $3000 graphics card configurations on a 50-in 3840x2160 monitor it is going to be a struggle to go back to smaller display and single lowly graphics card.  But alas, that is part of the job!

 

Single GPU Performance

In our testing we looked at four different single GPU options including the GeForce GTX 680, the GTX Titan and AMD's Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition.  While the GTX 680 and the HD 7970 both cost around $450, the GTX Titan is more than twice that with a $999 price tag, realistically putting it in a different category all together.  That being said, the GeForce GTX Titan is the single best GPU for gaming at 4K resolutions.  It was faster than all of the other single GPU variants by a significant margin and was able to do so without introducing any kind of frame latency issues you might see with dual-GPU options. 

The Radeon HD 7970 GHz Edition was the second best card and considering you can find it for less than half the price, it makes a compelling case at beating out the GTX Titan for 4K bragging rights.  It performed better than the GTX 680 2GB and GTX 680 4GB in our testing which follows the results we have seen at 2560x1440 previously.

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The GK110 GPU was seemingly built for 4K resolutions

Problems creep up for the Radeon HD 7970 if you consider going to the route of SLI or CrossFire.  While the GTX Titan and GTX 680 scale very well in most of our titles at 3840x2160, the Radeon HD 7970s in CrossFire suffer from runt frames and high frame time variance that result in either much lower than expected animation smoothness and/or stutter.  The GTX cards in SLI do not have this behavior resulting in a much better multi-card scaling proposition.  Yes, the prototype driver would help the HD 7970s out quite a bit, but that option is still weeks or months away.

 

Single Card Performance

If we limit our options to single cards, whether they be single GPU or dual-GPU, the battle is even more interesting.  Because AMD's new Radeon HD 7990 depends on CrossFire technology to perform, the 13.5 beta driver that still has the runt frame and frame time variance problems places it in a very bad light compared to NVIDIA options like the GeForce GTX Titan and the GeForce GTX 690. 

The GTX 690 is comprised of two NVIDIA GK104 GPUs that run in SLI, but NVIDIA's multi-GPU options do not demonstrate the same performance issues that CrossFire does thanks to hardware frame metering technology.  As it stands today, the GTX 690 is clearly the best card for 4K gaming under $1000.  Even better than the GK110 based Titan, the GTX 690 only suffers in a couple of cases with the 2GB frame buffer per GPU despite the 6GB that reside on Titan.  Most of the time the frame metering on the GTX 690 produces nearly as smooth animation with better frame rates.

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The GTX 690 sits as the best single card for 4K gaming today

If we take into account the prototype driver for the Radeon HD 7990, it makes a good case to take that spot away from the GTX 690.  With much more even frame distribution, the dual-Tahiti card looks like a better option in several games even though there is still much work to be had for the driver team to produce frame times as evenly as NVIDIA SLI does.  Long story short, even if the prototype driver were available today to consumers in its current form, I still think the GTX 690 would have the advantage.  But AMD is on the right track and with some more development they could make their card the better choice.

 

Final Thoughts

A single frame of a game at 1920x1080 produces 2.0 million pixels.  A single frame at 3840x2160 produces 8.3 million pixels.  The jump from a 1080p panel to something like the SEIKI 50-in 4K TV we got in last week greatly increases the computing power required for gaming.  Users that bought a single GTX 680 or single HD 7970 will find that newer games like Crysis 3 won't breach the 25 FPS level even with image quality settings dropped off the maximum levels a bit.  Even GTX Titan buyers will find that their card has a bit of a struggle to keep playable frame rates at this resolution.  Gamers that want the ultimate experience on a 4K display or TV will want to own a GTX 690 or better yet, a pair of GTX Titan cards running in SLI.  I guess if you are willing to invest in a 4K TV, you should be willing to invest in high performance graphics hardware as well.

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4K puppies!

For the hardware community, this is great news.  For years now we have lamented about the lack of expansion in the world of monitors; that we were seemingly stuck at 1080p as the game resolution going forward.  The advent of the Korean-made 27-in 2560x1440 monitors was one step in the right direction and 4K TVs breaking the $1500 level is yet another.  Despite the rivalry between them, both AMD and NVIDIA want these 3840x2160 displays to be cheaper and more widespread as it will push demand for higher performing graphics cards. 

I know many users will want my opinion on buying this specific TV for gaming at 4K, but I am hesitant to offer up a full recommendation.  I have definitely liked my time with it and found gaming on it be a solid experience, despite the 30 Hz refresh level of the panel itself.  You'll more than likely want to play games with Vsync on to avoid the doubled-up instances of visual tearing and if you do that, I think the quad-HD resolution of 4K is a sight to behold.

 

May 5, 2013 | 08:19 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

So as I understand this new 4k tech - for desktop use only - does HDMI 1.4 spec only support 30hz refresh rates? If so, that would mean some very stuttery mouse movements (such as the difference between using 1080i and 1080p on the desktop). Very jittery mouse movement.

I am far less interested in what this new "inexpensive" new Seiki monitor can do for me in gaming and more for what it is capable of as far as desktop productivity. If my mouse if jumping around, or when trying to relocate a window, is terribly jittery and craptacular - then I will be waiting for the next gen of graphics support that will enable smooth desktop useage.

I am inclined to believe that it "should" be smooth, considering that 'eyefinity" can handle 6x1080p monitors smoothly. I would certainly love to replace the need for 6 monitors with 2 of these - which would technically provide more usable space.

Any input on this greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

May 6, 2013 | 05:11 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I found this just now browsing my bookmarks.

http://benchmark3d.com/micro-stutter-checker

May 8, 2013 | 11:54 AM - Posted by BHawthorne (not verified)

It amuses me that the 30hz limitation is unimportant in the review. It shows a fundamental lack of understanding on people's computing needs. Get back with me when we have DisplayPort 1.2 on the thing and some real bandwidth to push practical hz.

May 10, 2013 | 11:23 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I have this display hooked into a WC titan/ OC 3770K rig. Once you get into the service menu and turn off the TV signal processing crap and adjust the lighting, the Seiki works wonderfully as a monitor for anything windows 2D... No mouse lag or skipping whatsoever. So its QED from that perspective... Simply astonishing clarity and real estate.

Gaming? Again, disable all the tV SP crap... You are still limited by 1) signal transmission tech, and 2) this $1100 panel (yes... Search for it) can only do 30Hz refresh at UHD. At lower rez it does much higher refresh. 60Hz UHD will be a year or more before it's "affordable". At 1440p this panel looks amazing when gaming.

May 12, 2013 | 10:54 AM - Posted by Ted G (not verified)

Question for you...
I purchased this TV and have a 4K up-scaling receiver. I would like to try it on my computer but my GTX 550 can't run that resolution. I am not a gamer but do a lot with photoshop & video editing. Is there a less expensive solution for video cards (must have HDMI out)? There isn't a lot on the internet about this subject.

May 12, 2013 | 12:33 PM - Posted by Ted G (not verified)

Question for you...
I purchased this TV and have a 4K up-scaling receiver. I would like to try it on my computer but my GTX 550 can't run that resolution. I am not a gamer but do a lot with photoshop & video editing. Is there a less expensive solution for video cards (must have HDMI out)? There isn't a lot on the internet about this subject.

May 12, 2013 | 01:39 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

For desktop work, any low end 7-series AMD or 6-series NVidia should do it. You really do not need a high end card for windows desktop work.

Seiki just pubed a firmware update that some say addresses occasional (and very panel specific) handshake loos (1sec) BUT it knocks out the audio! Seiki responded that they are working on the problem. Seems like a lot of postprocessing and special EFX pros are buying these. (see reduser.net forum).

May 12, 2013 | 01:40 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

check reduser.net forum

May 13, 2013 | 05:32 AM - Posted by Ted G (not verified)

Thanks

July 9, 2013 | 06:20 PM - Posted by Amtrak (not verified)

Which Radeon 7990 did you use and did it require an adapter to do HDMI?

July 9, 2013 | 10:52 PM - Posted by Mattycee (not verified)

I grabbed on these Seiki TV's and currently am using it as a monitor. I have a GTX680 and am looking at upgrading to a GTX690.
What I wanted to make sure is that the DVI-D to HMDI adapter is enough to run the full resolution of the TV? I am sure that it is as you have tested it as I dont think that GTX690's have HDMI do they?

Hope you can advise?

Thanks

July 31, 2013 | 02:44 AM - Posted by Anonying (not verified)

teeeeheeeeeee

August 4, 2013 | 04:47 PM - Posted by Nikos (not verified)

Who would "invest in a 4K TV", taking into consideration that prices will only go down over time?

September 7, 2013 | 07:56 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

anything
My seiki 39" can do 2560x1440 @100hz
1920x1080 @120hz using gtx 680 4gb sli. I have come across this website a lot and watched the lengthy videos without ever finding this important piece of information. (create the resolutions and test them on the NVidia control panel).

September 19, 2013 | 05:08 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

AA is useless in 4K screen, even most of ps3 games don't use aa at 720P.

October 27, 2013 | 10:32 PM - Posted by Rob (not verified)

No point in running 4k? Haha what a joke I run quad sli GTX690's and a 4k panel and there is no way in hell I would ever consider dropping back to a lower resolution. The difference is massive

March 29, 2014 | 12:21 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

LOL try and play at 5760x1080

July 23, 2014 | 09:00 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I got a seiki 4k tv 39in led and with vsync off yes I get screen tearing in some parts but with the 7990 it scales extremely well. It looks fantastic batman arkham origins looks phenomenal and it plays great. Crysis 3 I had to limit to medium settings and it played great as well. As long as you disable vsync you'll get similar fps to playing in 60hz. I got the tv on sale at tigerdirect for 300 bucks! Hell might as well try it! If you have the gpu to push it you will see a difference. All of my friends that came over did they were highly impressed.

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