She feels hot to the touch. Her breathing has become more laboured and noticeable. And she is getting slower at responding. It’s difficult to admit, but it looks like it might be the time — time to upgrade to next-gen.
My PlayStation 4 has loyally served me for a good five years and still works, but it is evident that the machine is coming to the end of the road. The fan now sounds as though Elon Musk is launching a Space X rocket in my room and waiting for the UI to catch up is akin to waiting for paint to dry.
The new consoles are now available to the public, but while their arrival serves as an apt time to start the changing of the guard, it might not be the only thing that requires a change.
The cost of next-gen gaming does not end simply with the new consoles; for the full experience, you’re going to need to have to make additional purchases. After all, it makes little sense getting a sports car if you are only limited to driving at 70km/h.
For now, there are two big things to consider before you start your next-gen gaming experience: 4K and HDMI 2.1.
Let’s start with 4K — it’s the big buzz word that comes with the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X/S. Though Sony and Microsoft’s new machines are perfectly capable of playing in Full HD, it is made to be enjoyed using 4K technology. For the PS5 in particular, there is no in-between with the lack of 1440p support, you either upgrade to 4K for more crisp visuals or languish with 1080p resolution. So if you don’t already have a 4K, it’s time to do some shopping.
Of course, it isn’t so simple that you can just pick any 4K TV and be done with it.
In addition to the better visuals, the new consoles are now unbound to the frame rate limitations from before and can now display faster frame rates. Games are already starting to take full advantage of the increased power and are now offering 60 and even 120 fps options for people. This is where HDMI 2.1 comes in.
HDMI 2.1 is the newest standard for HDMI ports and essentially allows the TV to project a 4K resolution with a 120Hz refresh rate where before you had to sacrifice one for the other; now you get both visuals and speed.
Getting a TV with an HDMI 2.1 input sounds easy enough but finding one is another matter. Since HDMI 2.1 is still a relatively new technology, not many TVs have it yet, and the dearth of them means the ones that do will cost a pretty penny.
Take for instance, the LG CX OLED TV.
It is one such TV that not only delivers 4K resolution, but also comes with HDMI 2.1, and it is also touted as the best TV to use for the next-gen consoles.
Viewing media on the LG CX is a visual feast. Images come out crisp and sharp in 4K but also have that vibrancy that OLED panels offer as it works in tandem with the HDR capabilities of the TV.
But then you get to combine that with HDMI 2.1, and it gets even better. With the upgrade in refresh rate, you get to see the increased frame rate in a buttery smooth motion with the help of HDMI VRR (variable refresh rate), which prevents screen tearing from the sudden jump in frame rate.
Along with that, there is a game mode option which reduces the input lag for whenever you play games so that gameplay reactions now correspond more quickly to your actions.
All of these features make for a perfect new TV that should last you the entirety of the new console’s lifetime, but perfection has a cost — in fact, a cool S$4,099 at least.
There are other options of course, but the landscape for 4K televisions with HDMI 2.1 is still scarce. But if you are one that only has a small gaming set-up in your home, the monitor scene is no better.
Typically, monitors — especially the gaming-focused ones — have been able to showcase high refresh rates for some time and there is an abundance of them on the market right now, with some even going up as far as 240Hz for that competitive edge.
Unfortunately, how it achieves that feat is through Displayport rather than HDMI; HDMI 2.1 ports are not yet widely available for monitors. The same goes for adapters, and they also bring a loss in quality and features if you do use them.
4K is also still relatively new to monitors and tend to be quite expensive, especially when compared to TVs which are not only bigger, but sometimes can even be cheaper.
Those with the cash will be able to enjoy the new improvements that the gaming consoles present. But if you are still trying to be frugal with your money, it’s best to wait until the technology catches up and more companies are able to implement them into their products.
While it is enticing to jump straight in right now with the next-gen trend, you will lose out on what the new consoles are capable of.
Photos by Brandon Neo and Darren Choing of the DANAMIC team. Additional visuals courtesy of Microsoft.