Resolution and gaming go hand in hand and many people often wonder about the best resolution when using a big screen projector to game. After all, many users may be familiar with resolutions on smaller form factor TVs and monitors, but projectors remain relatively niche in gaming. But they’re growing in popularity due to low input lag and features like true 4K HDR, which is excellent for gaming on current gen consoles, namely PS5 and Xbox Series X. Certainly, PCs can also be hooked up to projectors, and in the latter the trade off between visual fidelity and resolution is even more obvious, plus more at the control of users.
Video games have always had to balance graphical detail and visual effects with resolution, or pixel count. The more advanced the graphics and the higher the resolution, the heavier the processing load on the hardware used. This often leads to games becoming unplayable, or running at very low frame rates. Thus, there needs to be a balance, and as we see with many titles on PS5 and Xbox Series, developers often provide a choice between fidelity mode in 4K 30Hz and a performance mode, which is 1080p or 1440p in 60Hz, typically. This embodies the trade off we mentioned just now.
So, when deciding to go for a gaming projector, you may ask yourself whether you should invest in a costlier 4K model or simply opt for a 1080p projector, which could be good enough. We’re here to help.
Think of resolution as the makeup of the canvass upon which your games are displayed. Digital screens have dedicated pixel counts, unlike old analog displays. Calculating the total number of pixels is easy, as the format resolutions are described in is a simple equation of pixel counts along the vertical and horizontal axes of the screen. Full HD 1080p is 1920 x 1080, or just over two million pixels. Ultra HD 4K is 3840 x 2160, which amounts to 8.3 million pixels. Based on pixels alone, 4K requires four times more graphics processing power in theory than 1080p, and offers four times more detail.
Even on a very big screen, if you sit far enough away, resolution matters less and less, while visual fidelity or graphical detail will still matter. For example, a 60” 4K display from over ten feet away looks identical to a 1080p display to most people. The sharper image offered by 4K looks indistinguishable from 1080p or even 720p given enough distance. Thus, you should consider your planned seating arrangement. To get the full benefit of a 4K gaming projector, you should have a more compact environment, while with 1080p you can sit further away.
On a related note, the greater the resolution, the bigger the screen should be. While sitting very close to a large screen may cause discomfort for some people, there’s no denying that closer seating plus bigger screen and high resolution equal the best possible combination for detail and sharpness. We’ve discussed this topic in previous articles.
Obviously resolution, but 4K models tend to be more upmarket and therefore have more features overall. We’ve summed up the key points in this table:
Much more affordable
Price premium for 4K
2MP/1920 x 1080p
8.3MP/3840 x 2160p
Less detailed / further away
Much more detailed / closer up
Average / medium to large
High / large screen
Refresh rate support
1080p 120Hz/240Hz (downscaled or supersampled)
As you can see, 1080p projectors have the advantage of being more affordable and supporting more flexible seating arrangements without missing out on resolution or visual fidelity. Sure, you can sit far away from a 4K projector, but you’ll be wasting the resolution and detail advantage.
Also, 1080p gaming projectors support very high refresh rates because achieving those frame rates is doable with 1080p using current hardware. Conversely, 4K 60Hz remains the norm, with current consoles like PS5 and Xbox Series X yet to offer 4K 120Hz in any game. On the plus side for 4K projectors, nothing stops them from acting as 1080p models if you so prefer, with the very high refresh rates intact. However, a 1080p projector simply can’t do 4K, so keep that in mind, as this is a one way street, so to speak.
As with anything else related to technology and hobbies, the best resolution for you depends on how you game. If you prefer highly responsive gaming and place an emphasis on multiplayer, then we recommend going with a 1080p gaming projector.
Full HD 1080p: having games run in 1080p at up to 120Hz with as a little as 8ms total input lag on a 120” screen is a marvel. If you don’t mind a lower pixel count, and mostly do first person shooters, hero shooters, racing games, and sports titles, then this is something worth thinking about. In competitive multiplayer you want responsive and clear visuals above all else. A fast 1080p projector will do that, as highly detailed textures, ray tracing, or advanced image effects aren’t a priority. Mind you, nothing is stopping that 1080p gaming projector from showcasing lovely single player games with full detail turned on. If we’re being honest, 1080p still looks great, and as we said from further way most people can’t tell the difference.
The BenQ TH685i has everything you need for modern 1080p projector gaming.
UHD 4K: assuming you have your seating location right, 4K projectors offer the most impressive visuals available, especially models with wide color gamut support and strong brightness to enable proper HDR. These are the projectors that truly showcase the beauty and detail of the biggest AAA titles. If you’re mostly into single player games and enjoy taking in the sights, then go with 4K. You know what you prize most. If you find yourself exploring in open world games or stopping to admire scenery in a first person game, then you should choose 4K. With 4K 60Hz at around 16ms input lag, good 4K gaming projectors for PS5 are a perfect fit, as they are for Xbox Series X. And with current technology, they’re just as responsive as the best TVs. One wild card to consider is other media. Namely, streaming and Blu-ray. If you're a movie and TV show fan, then that makes the choice easier, because content now is heavily leaning towards 4K, and doesn't look as good in 1080p.
If you look at the BenQ X3000i, you’ll have a better idea of what a good 4K gaming projector for PS5 and Xbox Series X offers. In addition to 4K 60Hz HDR and smart features, there’s the low total input lag, and professionally-calibrated color performance of each unit at the factory. Colors and their accuracy play an increasingly important role in gaming, especially open world games with dynamic weather, day night cycle, and different environments from forests and deserts to oceans and snowy peaks. Every shade and hue matters, and the X3000i’s 4LED design uses CinematicColor technology to maintain utmost wide color gamut precision. For fans of good graphics, that’s a real treat.
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There’s a lot more that goes into graphics performance, especially if you’re considering hooking up a PC to a gaming projector. But we’ve covered the main points. The ones to keep in mind is that if you prefer response and primarily play fast-paced games like shooters and racers, then perhaps a good 1080p projector will be enough.
If you’re a connoisseur of good visuals and immersive single player games, then we’d recommend going with a 4K gaming projector to get the most out of the work put into each frame by the graphics team.
Also, gamers who are into streaming apps and Blu-ray disc should strongly consider investing in a 4K projector to get a visually impressive platform for more of their entertainment than just gaming.
So what's your resolution? We hope this article helped you make a decision and that you’ll resolve to get the best gaming projector for you!
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