Firstly, in order to decide between an ultra-wide monitor or a 4K, you should take into account that a 4K resolution demands a more powerful computer rig than the ultra-wide monitor does. While both types of monitors offer a lot of extra workspace, the ultra-wide is more recommended for multi-tasking, as having multiple applications open on a 4K display would be hard to read, unless you scale it.
The ultra-wide (21:9) resolution commonly amounts to either 3440×1440 or 2560×1080 which gives you a lot of extra horizontal space to spread out your worksheets and numerous applications for work. At first, you may not even like the way your ultra-wide monitor looks as it can appear too wide for its vertical size, but you will get used to it eventually. After that, you will wonder how you ever got around without it. Nowadays, there are even some 3840×1600 ultra-wide resolution monitors for the bigger sized screens.
The 4K or Ultra HD resolution is 3840×2160 and while it may give you extra space as well, you would need to scale your interface in order to clearly see text and windows since most common screen sizes for 4K monitors are either 24-inch or 27-inch. After all, with 4K resolution, you’d be able to display four 1080p videos on one screen. This may sound very appealing especially considering the fact that 4K monitors’ price has significantly dropped recently. However, for 4K gaming, you would need a high-end computer rig in order to fully enjoy the content.
UltraWide Monitors for Gaming
The good thing about ultra-wide monitors for gaming is that you won’t need to upgrade your computer rig in order to enjoy the smooth performance of video games. In fact, if your computer is powerful enough to fluidly run games at 1440p, it will be able to do so at 3840×1440 resolution as well. The only significant issue here is whether video games that you play support the ultra-wide 21:9 aspect ratio.
While some video games may appear to be perfectly made for the ultra-wide resolution, others will have to enforce the pillarboxing which adds black borders at the sides of the screen. This is the case with the most of older video games unless you can find a patch or a fan-made add-on which solves this issue. Nevertheless, even some newer games do not support this aspect ratio.
So, if you wish to purchase an ultra-wide monitor for its stunningly immersive gaming experience, be sure to check out whether your favorite games support the 21:9 format. Nowadays, there are ultra-wide monitors that support up to 144Hz rate and come with the adaptive sync technology. Additionally, ultra-wide monitors can be curved as well which can significantly increase the immersive experience of gaming allowing you to keep an eye on lurking enemies without movies your head or eyes as much.
It’s safe to say that if you like the overall appearance of the ultra-wide monitor and your favorite games support the 21:9 aspect ratio, you should definitely go for it. The fact that they don’t require as demanding computer rig as 4K monitors do and that they are quite affordable should make your decision even easier. LG even has some budget ultra-wide monitors available as well, such as the LG 25UM58.
4K Monitors for Gaming
Unlike ultra-wide monitors, if you wish to play the latest video games at maxed out settings on a 4K resolution monitor, you will need to have the high-end computer rig. Firstly, in order to push any 4K video game a little over 60Hz, you will need, for instance, at least two Nvidia 1080 graphics cards or one Titan X. Even if you had the top-tier computer equipment, video games might appear otherworldly beautiful, but you still wouldn’t be able to achieve the buttery smooth performance. Well, at least not until the new gaming monitors announced at the CES 2017, the Acer Predator XB272-HDR and the ASUS PG27uQ, are released. These will be the very first 4K 144Hz monitors with the adaptive sync technology.
However, in order to use the true potential of these ultimate gaming monitors, you would have to wait for the next generation graphics cards to be released as well. Therefore, if you really have your eyes set on a 4K monitor, I would advise you to at least wait for the new graphics card to be released. Once that happens and you can see how much they will cost and what they’ll be all capable of, you can make your choice with more certainty.
Alas, if you already have the top-tier computer rig and simply can’t wait to put it to the 4K test, you wouldn’t make a wrong choice as you would, after all, have a future-proof 4K resolution monitor, but you will be limited to 60Hz. If you plan on building up the entire computer setup with the latest graphics cards, you would end up having to replace them fairly soon in order to get a much better performance.
When it comes to video games compatibility, 4K monitors share the same issue as the ultra-wide. Just like some games don’t support the 21:9 aspect ratio, some don’t support 4K resolution. Therefore, you will have to select a lower resolution which still may look better than playing with black borders on the sides.
UltraWide vs 4K for everyday use
As you can see in the picture, a bigger inch ultra-wide monitor would still be shorter than a lesser inch regular monitor. This may look awkward to you at first, but once you get accustomed to it, you will start to appreciate the extra horizontal space more. When it comes to professional work, you will have more space available for all your windows to be opened at once alleviating you from frequently swapping between applications. Programmers who need more vertical space than horizontal should consider an ultra-wide monitor capable of rotating and displaying in the portrait position for the maximum space for their codes.
Keep in mind, however, that if your work is strictly focused on just one application like a browser, for instance, you would have to get used to all the excessive space at the sides which may not look pretty. You will be forced to fill the free space with something, which might actually work better for you eventually. All I’m saying is that an ultra-wide monitor may take some time getting used to. However, the second you play a movie or an ultra-wide video game, you will be impressed just how immersive the viewing experience gets.
As previously mentioned, the most of the affordable 4K resolution monitors feature a screen size between 24-inches to 30-inches which means that text and applications will appear rather tiny. In order to gain a more readable display, you would have to use windows’ scaling option. The intensity of scaling would mostly depend on your eyesight and how close your monitor is to you. Nevertheless, you would still have extra space for all your multi-tasking activities and 4K movies will give you an amazing cinematic experience.
When it comes to gaming, both 4K and 21:9 monitors will undoubtedly offer you a stunning and immersive gaming experience. Before deciding on either one, make sure that your favorite video games support the 4K resolution or the 21:9 aspect ratio as well as whether your computer equipment can deliver a decent performance out of the monitors. As far as everyday use is concerned, nowadays there is a plenty of content available for both monitors, although there might be slightly more 4K content. Either way, it’s not possible to deem either one as the best choice since the choice depends on your hardware, video game compatibility and, among other things, your personal preference.
If you really can’t decide between the two, you could wait for 4K ultra-wide monitors to be released. Although such thing is not actually announced by any monitor manufacturer and since a monitor with such specifications would have a 5120×2160 resolution, it would technically be a 5K ultra-wide monitor which would demand quite an expensive computer rig. Nevertheless, if we just take a look at what kind of monitors were announced at the CES 2017, such as the world’s first 8K monitor, a 5K ultra-wide monitor wouldn’t be so surprising.