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I switched from 4K/60 to 1440p/165 – here are my thoughts

Up until recently, I did all my gaming, photo editing and content consumption on a single 4K monitor – the ASUS PQ321QE. Now, don’t get me wrong – it’s a brilliant 32-in 4K 60Hz IGZO panel – but I’d been after something with a few more gaming features for a while now. After all, when I’m not reviewing products I’m often playing games, so I thought I could definitely do better than the PQ321QE.

So, I went out and bought an AOC AGON AG271QG – 1440p, 165Hz, IPS and G-Sync – making it just what I was looking for in-terms of gaming features. So, how have I found the switch, and what would my advice be to anyone thinking about a new monitor purchase?

To answer those questions, I first need to break-down my usage of a desktop monitor. Essentially, I use my monitor for two main purposes: productivity and gaming. I’ll talk about my experience in both of those areas below.

Productivity

Given I write a lot of reviews here at KitGuru, as part of that I spend a lot of time in Photoshop editing the photos I take myself. Because of that, having an IPS monitor has always been a ‘must’ for me, as I simply need the enhanced colour accuracy and viewing angles. In that regard, both monitors I’ve been using have been excellent, but it is definitely here that I miss the 4K monitor most. Not because of the colours – but because of the detail.

After all, 4K is 3840×2160 (a total of over 8 million pixels), while 1440p is 2560×1440 (3.6 million pixels). With my DSLR taking photos at 6000×4000 (24MP), dropping down to the 1440p monitor has meant I do lose out on quite a lot of detail from my photos. Part of that is negated by the fact that our review photos are not uploaded at native resolution (we downsize them to a more workable 2048px width) but even so, general photo viewing is noticeably better on a 4K monitor.

The same can be said for 4K video. When I watch some of my favourite YouTubers, for instance, a lot of them now upload videos in 4K – detail I can’t fully take advantage of with my 1440p monitor.

Therefore, I present my first mini-conclusion: for those purely interested in content-creation, photography or photo editing, I would definitely recommend the increased pixel count of a 4K monitor. The extra sharpness is just vital for those tasks, and it is definitely something that I miss.

Gaming

However, productivity is only half the story, and when it comes to gaming there is a different outcome. My AGON AG271QG sports an overclockable refresh-rate of up to 165Hz which crushes the standard 60Hz of the older 4K ASUS panel.

When gaming, the difference really is night and day. Everything is just so much smoother at the higher refresh-rate, and G-Sync also keeps things nice and tear-free. I did notice tearing previously in the few instances where I managed over 60FPS at 4K, as I would never use V-sync due to the stuttering that occurs when the frame-rate drops below 60.

There are two points to mention about gaming, though, and the first does come back to loss of detail. I do notice the lessened detail at 1440p, compared against the 4K monitor, though I notice it far less while gaming than when photo editing. The picture is still nice and sharp, though, and I definitely prefer having slightly less detail but a much higher refresh-rate as the overall experience is simply more satisfying.

For those who are keen FPS gamers, the higher refresh-rate is far more important than the higher resolution, too, as it makes fast-paced aiming and firing much more manageable. The loss of detail won’t hurt your gaming performance, whereas 165Hz vs 60Hz does bring tangible performance improvements.

Matthew Wilson, our Senior News Editor, concurs. He tells me that he previously gamed at 4K/60, but eventually dropped the cash on a 1440p/144Hz ASUS ROG Swift. In his words, ‘it was a step forward for me. The picture isn’t quite as finely detailed but the difference in how smooth everything is, is a game-changer’.

Now, the second thing to mention when gaming is what system you have. Personally, I am lucky enough to have an i7-5820K, 16GB DDR4 and a GTX 1080 Ti so I have been able to hit both 4K/60 and 1440p/144+ frame-rates. However, for those with older rigs, there is a good chance that both 4K/60 and 1440p/144+ will be out-of-reach, so bear that in-mind. Even then, though, the G-Sync feature of my new AGON helps keep things smooth even when the frame-rate does dip, so that is something to consider.

Conclusion

So, in a nutshell, the battle between the monitors looks like a draw – 4K is best for productivity, but high refresh-rate 1440p gaming is definitely superior to 4K/60FPS. It does come down to personal preference when deciding which to go for – but personally, I don’t regret making the switch one bit. My AG271QG still has great colour accuracy for my work, while gaming at 1440p/144hz (144fps with G-Sync, too) is simply a fantastic experience. I do miss the extra detail that a 4K monitor provides, particularly when watching videos, but for me the improved gaming experience outweighs that by far.

That being said, the days of 4K being limited to just 60Hz are now over. Launching later this year, we will see two new monitors from ASUS and Acer which will be 4K/144Hz, and that would be a truly phenomenal gaming experience – I can only imagine how immersive it would be to game with the detail of 4K coupled with the smoothness of a high refresh-rate monitor.

However, that brings us back to hardware limitations – not only will users have to shell out around $2000 for those monitors, but you would need a monster of a gaming rig to push 4K games at 144 frames per second. For the latest AAA titles, users would probably want to be looking at 2X GTX 1080s – at least – and ideally 2x GTX 1080 Tis. Two of those graphics cards alone will set you back another £1400+, so if you want to have 4K/144Hz, you will need very deep pockets indeed.

But, to conclude this article, I have opted for a high refresh-rate 1440p display over the extra detail that 4K provides. The good news is that 4K/144Hz monitors, for the ultimate gaming and productivity experience, are very nearly here. It will take time for the prices to come down to reasonable levels, but eventually we will get there. Until then, I’ll be very happy with my shiny new AGON AG271QG.

KitGuru says: Have any of you guys moved from 4K/60 to 1440p/144+ – or have you done the opposite? Let us know what you think in the comments, we would love to hear your thoughts.

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  • JMFR

    you don’t need to hit 144hz to take advantage of a 144hz 4k monitor, you only need to get higher than 60 hz!!

  • Zack Kouta Roxas

    I finally broke the 1080p 60Hz barrier this week and got a 1440p 144Hz with G-Sync monitor and oooooooooooh am gee I feel the same way I did the first time I used an SSD!
    While I haven’t used 4K in person, yet, I game way more than I work on my personal computer and wouldn’t give up the higher refresh rate.

  • Si C

    Having tried both then high Hz 1440p is def the way to go for gaming. I kinda chose the middle option with an Asus PG348Q and I’m glad I did, it’s a great middle ground B|

  • Rocky40

    Yea I don’t have a 4K monitor but instead a 1080p 130 inch screen with a projector that supports 120Hz granted it is not freesync or g-sync. I game from about 20 feet back from the screen so you do not notice any screen door effect that far back. I run most of my games with AMD’s VSR option @ 2560x1440p @60Hz or 120Hz depending on the game. If my system stays above 120hz in a game then that is my first go to choice as it is very very smooth.

    With Doom I played it @ VSR 3800x1800p @60Hz it was smooth as silk I tried 120Hz but in heavy fights once and awhile it would dip to 110FPS and you got some stutters. I found that even though the projector was out putting at 1080p with the VSR option it allowed for some very nice detail gain probably not as good as 4K but when I first seen Doom @ 3800x1800p I was very surprised how clear it was and how detailed it was. In the future I plan on hopefully getting one of those ultra wide 39 inch monitors with the curve I think that will be a nice replacement for my 130 inch screen for gaming. I will of coarse continue to use the big screen for movies as it is nice having a theater in your home. Just make some pop corn and your all set. 🙂

    Edit:
    I am not bragging just stating what I use and then again nothing to really brag about with just a 1080p screen even though it is pretty huge mind you…lol

  • Uno

    I changed from my 1080p 144hz screen to 1440p 144hz with Gsync (Dell 27 inch, one of the few ‘gaming’ screen I found that didn’t have an aweful aesthetic…) and I have no regrets, the resolution upgrade is very nice and while I don’t notice G-sync when its on, its very noticable when its accedentally turned off…

  • ReXoR

    My solution is simple on this basic problem…. Bought a 4k IPS monitor and bought a 1440p 144mhz monitor…. my problem vanished….

  • J.D. The Horseman

    120hz is all i need

  • khanmein

    VSR will cause shuttering & can’t represent the native resolution so you statement is half correct.

  • John

    You clearly don’t understand how this works. If your monitor is refreshing 144 times per second, then you want to be close to that in regards to frames per second.

    If you want to take advantage of the monitor refresh rate, then you need to be holding well over 100fps to get over 100hz. Ideally you want a system that can push a constant 120-144fps in whatever game you are playing. I wouldn’t be wanting to hold 61fps for instance as you would be better off just using a 60hz panel.

  • John

    good for you, but as you might imagine, not everyone can afford two monitors (and would be better putting the money into one) or even have deskspace for two. but nice to hear. congrats.

  • John

    1440p 120hz or 1440p 144hz is a nice compromise between 1080p and 4k. you get a much better resolution than 1080p and can still get the high refresh rates. both of those require quite powerful graphics cards – what are you using?

  • John

    what graphics card(s) are you using?

  • ET3D

    I was surprised at how usable [email protected] is, using a G4560 with native graphics for a while. Not that I tried any 4K gaming with Intel integrated graphics. 🙂 But I’m glad I’m back to an RX 460.

  • Uno

    I’m using a GTX 1080 that I bought because my 780 couldn’t run Doom at high settings over even 40 fps… Also some other games were having issues and a friend needed a GPU for his build, so win/win :p With watercooling and good overclock, it was overkill for 1080p 144hz… So I did my next upgrade :p

  • Si C

    4k powerhouse 😉 😀

  • JMFR

    you clearly missed where the author of the article says this is a GSYNC panel, it’s in the first line of his article:

    ” So, I went out and bought an AOC AGON AG271QG – 1440p, 165Hz, IPS and G-Sync …”

    Variable refresh rate is a thing, go read about it.

  • Zack Kouta Roxas

    GTX 1070. I should’ve waited a little longer and just gone full out but oh well.

  • John

    I understand variable refresh rate, but running a game at 61fps won’t suddenly upscale to give you 144hz. In an ideal world you want well over a solid 100 fps to translate into smooth frame rates close to (or ideally) at the refresh of the panel. G-SYNC synchronizes the display to the output of the GPU, so ‘anything above 60fps’ or 60hz does NOT mean you will be running optimally at 144hz it just means you should not experience tearing. you said ‘to take advantage of a 144hz monitor you only need to get higher than 60 hz (60fps) – not much point paying all that cash to run at a refresh of 61-65, you want well over 100, or ideally a solid 144 to get the most from the hardware.

  • JMFR

    who said it would “upscale”?

    ok, looking back over my first post, maybe i should have qualified this as:

    ” … to take advantage of a 144hz VRR monitor … ”

    and my mistake for not putting VRR in there, would save confusion and arguing.

  • JMFR

    welcome to the wonderful world of VRR gaming! I’ve been a club member for over a year now 🙂

  • Ronnery Amon

    If there was official confirmation that these upcoming 27″ 4K 144hz monitors were in fact are coming out at $2,000, I would purchase a 2K monitory right now in a heartbeat. But I’m holding out on the hopes to be surprised and cost in the $1,200 range.

  • Andy White

    4k 144Hz Gsync HDR will soon be the holy grail

  • GarBlaine04

    Exactly this.

  • ReXoR

    it is not as expensive as you think if you do your research….

  • Greg Lindstrom

    i dunno if i could go from my predator 32″ down to a 27″. hopefully there will be a 32″ model.

  • Impulse_Vigil

    Hmm, I’ve been flip flopping forever over what to upgrade to from my old 3x 24″ 1920×1200 Eyefinity setup, your suggestion is actually worth some thought… Would push the budget but it’s not something I can hash out over time. Ultra wides and/or a 27″ as my main display just didn’t seem like a big enough step right now.

    Heck, at first I was shooting for a 40″ to avoid scaling issues but that’s just kinda like kicking the can down the road, and I’m not sure I’d be happy with a big 40″+ and a single smaller 24″ as far as productivity and egonomics. I think I’m just gonna go for a 32″ 4K now and keep a couple of the 24″ around it for the time being…

    Then I’ll consider replacing the 24″s with a second 4K high refresh rate display when more choices show up and if the GPU horsepower is accessible (or a 1440p if not or if it takes too long). Dual 4Ks or 4K + 1440 would be pretty nice productivity-wise (even after factoring in scaling) and I could choose to game on one or the other depending on their sizes and the type of game. Thanks for the suggestion!