How to set up your gaming PC on a 4K TV

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Gaming monitors are great, but it’s hard to beat that gorgeous 4K TV you have in the living room. With a good controller and the Steam Big Picture mode, you can enjoy a great PC gaming experience right on your TV.

But most TVs today are 4K, and that presents a few challenges, especially if you don’t have the money to get started on a 4K-capable gaming rig. TVs released in 2021 will see gaming-centric HDMI 2.1 features like variable refresh rate and low-latency auto mode more than ever. But even without one of these sets, you can make your games look great (and perform well) with a few simple tweaks.


Connect to the right ports

Before you do anything else, make sure you plug your PC into the correct HDMI port. Some TVs only support 4K at 60Hz on certain inputs, and even if your computer can’t support 4K gaming at 60fps, you’ll still want as much bandwidth as possible. So consult your TV manual or the input labels on the back and plug your PC into a port that supports 4K resolutions at 60Hz, ideally via HDMI 2.0 or (if available) 2.1.

If you’re having trouble, you can also try another cable, preferably one labeled Premium High Speed ​​or 18 Gbps for HDMI 2.0 and Ultra Premium High Speed ​​or 48 Gbps for HDMI 2.1, as described in our guide. cables.


Activate game mode

game mode

I recommend setting your TV to gaming mode. This can seriously reduce input lag, so your controls are smooth and responsive instead of sinking into molasses. You may have to dig into your TV’s settings to find it, as it’s different for every TV (and some cheaper sets may not even have the option), but Game Mode is usually worth it.

If you have a newer TV, it may have an option to automatically switch to game mode, but if you don’t, there are a few ways to mimic this feature. For example, if your PC and consoles are plugged into a receiver with two outputs, you can plug those two outputs into your TV, with one of your TV inputs set to game mode and the other set to game mode. classic movie.

If you have a universal remote like one of Logitech’s Harmony series, you may be able to program a series of button presses that turn game mode on and off when you initiate activity for your gaming machines. The imitation of autoplay mode will vary from setup to setup, but it’s worth it if you don’t want to manually activate it every time.


Define your TV’s input settings

tv settings

Each input on your TV has its own special settings, and you may need to change a few for optimal output. For example, if you label the entry as “PC” instead of “Game Console” you may get better picture quality (although how this is implemented varies from set to set. other, so try it and turn it off to see what you prefer).

You’ll probably also want to enable HDR mode for this input (which may be called HDMI UHD Color, HDMI Deep Color, or something similar), even if you don’t plan on playing HDR games. To learn more about HDR games on PC, see our guide to using HDR in Windows 10.

If you find that the taskbar is cut off at the bottom of the screen, you will also want to turn off all overscan settings on your TV. You may need to do a bit of Google research for your specific TV model to determine its best PC settings, but the results are worth it. The aspect ratio and the size of the image can also be the cause; set the television to Just Scan, 1: 1 or As Is.


Use resolution scaling, if available

scaling resolution

Here’s where things get interesting. Not everyone has a PC powerful enough for 4K gaming, but if your TV is 4K, you don’t want to just set your PC’s resolution to 1080p because some things will look blurry. Instead, you’ll want your PC to output 4K resolution at all times, after which we can use a few tips to scale your games from a lower resolution, similar to what the Xbox One X and PS4 do. Pro. You’ll get a better overall picture than just running your PC at 1080p, but with similar performance.

First, right click on the Windows desktop and choose Display Settings. Scroll down to Display resolution and set it to 3840 by 2160 (it should say “Recommended” in parentheses next to it). This will ensure that your PC is outputting a 4K signal.

Launch a game and enter its video or display settings. Ideally, it will have a parameter called Resolution Scaling (sometimes called Render Scale or something similar). This setting is usually a percentage value, and it will render game graphics at a lower resolution while keeping other parts of the UI at super crisp 4K.

For example, you would set your game’s resolution to 3840 x 2160 and then change the resolution scale to 70%, which would give you the performance of running the game at 2688 x 1512 with mini-maps. and sharper HUD elements.

Some games may have even more options to bridge this gap, like Watch Dogs 2’s time filtering or Doom Eternal’s adaptive resolution, which can adjust resolution on the fly to keep you at a certain frame rate. Experiment with these options, when you find them, to see what you prefer. Just make sure Windows and the game are set to 3840 to 2160 before tweaking other things.


Create custom resolutions

custom resolution

Unfortunately, not all games have the above scaling features. For games that don’t, you can fall back on a slightly more complex tip.

By default, your TV probably only recognizes a few 16: 9: 1920 by 1080 (aka 1080p), 2560 by 1440 (aka 1440p), and 3840 by 2160 (4K) resolutions. However, by creating a few custom resolutions between these standards, you can make the graphics look better without reducing your performance.

I recommend choosing a few resolutions from this list. If your graphics card can handle 1080p gaming but struggles at 1440p, for example, you can choose to add 2176 by 1224 or 2432 by 1368. If your computer can handle 1440p but 4K is just too much , 2,944 x 1,656, and 3,200 x 1,800 are popular options that look almost as good as 4K without such a big impact on performance.

The map you own will change the way you set custom resolutions:

Nvidia: If you are using an Nvidia card, right click on the Nvidia icon in your system tray and click on the Nvidia Control Panel option. Under Adjust desktop size and position, change the Scale to GPU drop-down list, set the scaling mode to aspect ratio, and check the Override scaling mode box. ‘ladder.

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Then go to the Change Resolution window in the sidebar and click on the Customize box. Check the Enable non-display-exposed resolutions checkbox, then click Create custom resolution to add new resolutions to your graphics card.

AMD: If you are using an AMD card, right click on the AMD icon in your system tray and click on the Open Radeon software option. Click on the Display tab and, under your TV, enable GPU scaling. Then, next to Custom Resolutions on the right side of the window, click Create. Enter the desired resolution in the upper boxes and click Save to save your new resolution.


Custom resolution utility

Custom resolution utility

If the above options don’t work for you (they worked on some of my test machines but not others), you’ll need to use a third-party tool called the Custom Resolution Utility (CRU). Enable GPU scaling as described above, then download and launch CRU.

Choose your TV from the drop-down menu at the top, then under the Detailed Resolutions box, click Add to add your custom resolutions. (If you’re having trouble, you can learn more about using CRU on its discussion thread at monitortests.com.) When you’re done adding resolutions, restart your computer.

You may need to change the schedules and other advanced options of these tools for your custom resolutions to work. For example, I had to change my sync standard to CVT – Suppression reduction in AMD settings or Automatic – LCD standard in CRU.

If you have problems and your TV does not display the desktop, restart in Safe Mode, erase any custom resolutions you created and try again. Your mileage may vary with this method depending on your TV and PC.

I found my desktop PC to work great with my LG TV using both Nvidia and AMD video cards, but a laptop with Nvidia would not work with the same custom resolution settings on the same TV. Life is a mystery.


Troubleshoot and experiment

graphics settings

Once your custom resolutions are set up and working, start a game and navigate to its video settings. You should see that your new custom resolutions appear in the menu. Try a few and see which one gives you the best balance of performance and graphics fidelity in this game, and off you go to the races.

Again, this will all take some experimentation, and what works for my TV may not work for yours as they all have different features and upconverters. Try out different things and see what works best for you. Hopefully you will get a better picture than 1080p, even if you can’t quite hit the true 4K.


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