8K gaming monitors: why not expect it in 2023

8K is finally making its way to gaming monitors — or at least, that’s what Samsung’s new Odyssey Neo G9 2023 is pushing toward a new generation of gaming monitors. But 8K isn’t new per se – it’s been on the gaming mainstream for nearly three years with GPUs and consoles – so why haven’t we seen more 8K gaming monitors?

As the era of next-generation displays begins to dawn, 8K feels it has to become the next big game destination. But don’t buy the hype. It will be a long time before 8K gaming really catches on, and there are a few main reasons why.

what we have now

Samsung Odyssey Neo G9 (2023) Play Racing Simulator.

There is currently only one 8K monitor on the market – the Dell UltraSharp UP3218K that sells for an obscene $4,000. It’s not new either, having been released nearly six years ago at this point. This means it doesn’t have a connection like HDMI 2.1 or DisplayPort 2.1, and it’s locked to a 60Hz refresh rate.

Monitors are evolving year by year, so it’s strange that we haven’t seen more development in 8K on the monitor front. The most practical reason was communication standards. Even with a 60Hz refresh rate, an 8K display requires a data rate of about 50Gbps. HDMI 2.1, which supports about 45Gbps of data, only became widely supported in 2020, and DisplayPort 1.4 only supports about 26Gbps.

There is pressure to help monitors like the UltraSharp UP3218K, but there simply wasn’t a cable and port that could transfer the massive amount of data required by 8K resolution.

DisplayPort 2.1 changes that. It offers a data rate of 78Gbps, and with the connection’s support for 3:1 lossless compression, it can support 8K at 144Hz with High Dynamic Range (HDR) turned on. We didn’t have a port and cable that could transfer enough data for 8K gaming monitors when the UltraSharp UP3218K was released, but now we do.

The ecosystem surrounding DisplayPort 2.1 is the problem at the moment. The RX 7900 XTX and RX 7900 XT support AMD DisplayPort 2.1, and they’re very powerful GPUs, but Nvidia’s latest RTX 40-series graphics cards don’t. Likewise, Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 are locked to HDMI 2.1. This connection supports 8K at 60Hz, but these consoles aren’t powerful enough to push that resolution (they’re not even powerful enough to push native 4K).

Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 graphics processor.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Honestly, even the best graphics cards available today can’t drive 8K. The only reasonable GPU is the RTX 4090, and a large part of that is because the graphics card supports Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) 3 which can generate new frames using AI. It’s important to remember that 8K has four times as many pixels as 4K, and most GPUs still struggle with native 4K today.

To drive this point home, AMD has released exclusive 8K game footage from the future F lies Shortly before this article was published. Sounds impressive, but can you see the footage in 8K? Almost no one can, and that’s the problem.

At the very least, we’ll need to wait for the next generation of Nvidia GPUs before we have a full DisplayPort 2.1-enabled PC ecosystem, and even then, it might be a few more years before we see affordable DisplayPort 2.1-enabled monitors. Moreover, there is a more compelling reason why 8K has not yet reached the screen realm.

force demands

POWRUI 6-Port Extender with 2 USB Charging Ports.

If you’re a frequent Digital Wizard reader, you may have read that the European Union may actually ban 8K TVs next year. why? force demands. As the 8K Association, a group of 8K industry advocates, points out: “More backlight power is needed to create the same display on a screen. [brightness] as a 4K TV of equivalent size.

As the resolution increases, the size of each pixel becomes smaller. The smaller the pixel, the more light from the background is necessary to create reasonable brightness. That Dell 8K monitor? They usually consume about 90 watts of power. The 4K version is closer to 30 watts. That doesn’t sound bad—TVs can go over 100 watts and higher—but that’s the power required when the screen is on at all, not the maximum power possible. And gaming only amplifies these power requirements.

A premium 4K display like the Samsung Odyssey Neo G8 consumes more power (three times or more) than a typical 4K display due to its high refresh rate and local dimming. The cost of extra energy is minimal in most parts of the world, but more energy means more heat.

It is difficult to determine the amount of heat. We don’t have 8K gaming monitors with high refresh rates flying around. I fancy, but I imagine the high backlight requirements combined with premium features like high local dimming zones and high refresh rate have created a hurdle for 8K gaming monitors up to this point, the main factor being heat.

LED backlighting on the Apple Pro display.

There is no ignoring the environmental impact either. According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, computer games consume more electricity annually than an electric clothes dryer, water heater, and space heater, surpassed only by lighting, air conditioning, and refrigeration. Most of that power comes from the PC itself, but in an era of increasing GPU and CPU power requirements, it’s hard to justify adding more power through the display and forcing the system to work harder.

This is not an insoluble problem. LCD backlighting has become remarkably efficient, mainly because a lot of energy is wasted through the different phases of the screen. By contrast, OLED does not have this power loss, but OLED technology is not nearly as efficient at the moment. Further improvements to OLED could make it more energy efficient, and we’re already seeing that now. For example, eLeap is an emerging OLED technology that can significantly reduce power consumption by increasing the light throughput with each OLED pixel.

Between energy, heat, and environmental impact, there isn’t a single area that 8K gaming monitors absolutely kill. However, when combined, they are a major hurdle for higher refresh rate 8K displays, at least for the next few years.

8K gaming, finally

Side view of Odyssey Neo G9 2023 from Samsung.

We’re moving into a new era of gaming monitors, and the 2023 Samsung Odyssey Neo G9 is proof of that. However, it will take a few years for communication standards to widely support higher refresh rate 8K displays, as well as to develop efficiency standards to reduce the power requirements of such a high resolution.

One thing is for sure: monitor brands will continue to push 8K as the next destination for gaming. We’ve seen it for a few years on the front-end graphics card and console, and monitors are starting to catch up. In which case, it probably doesn’t pay to be an early adopter — there’s still a lot of development we need to see in 8K and hardware enabling it before it’s a viable option for gaming.

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