PS5 and Xbox Series X can game in 8K resolution. Should you care?

Update, Nov. 6: Read our reviews of the Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S and PS5.

Both the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5 have long lists of impressive specs. One of the biggest standouts is the possibility of 8K resolution, something available in only a handful of TVs. This jump in pixel count likely comes as a surprise to many, since 8K TV shows and movies are basically nonexistent. Heck, even 4K games are relatively rare and other 4K video is hard to find beyond movies and original shows on streaming services and Blu-ray discs.

While these consoles are technically capable of outputting an 8K signal, that’s not the entire story. In reality, the vast majority of games on the new consoles will be 4K at best, and those that claim 8K resolution will rarely be actual 8K. If this sounds confusing, it is. 

Don’t get me wrong, the PS5 and Series X deliver a huge leap in graphics quality over the current Xbox One X and PS4 Pro, let alone the earlier, lesser versions of those consoles. It’s just that 8K resolution will be less important, especially in the beginning, than other new capabilities like 120Hz frame rate input, variable refresh rate and other eye candy like ray tracing. 

Here’s what you need to know about all those new features.

8K is wildly optimistic

Screenshot by Rebecca Fleenor/CNET

Every new console in the 21st century has had an attention-grabbing, tech-pushing headline feature. With the PS2 and Xbox, it was 1080i. A few years later, the PS3 and Xbox 360 claimed 1080p. After that, the PS4 and Xbox One solidified the 1080p resolution, adding Ultra HD 4K gaming with the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X refreshes. (The One S can output 4K video, but not games.)

The reality is this was often “optimistic” given the consoles’ hardware, then largely overblown by the marketing departments. For example, only a handful of games took advantage of the PS2’s 1080i or the PS3’s 1080p. Only a small percentage of the total number of PS4 and Xbox One games currently take full advantage of the Pro and X’s ability for 4K. 

The truth is, as impressive as the newest consoles seem compared to their predecessors, they’re still limited by size and price. As such, they can only just barely do what they claim. Even high-end PC video cards, which cost more by themselves than the new consoles will in their entirety, struggle to create 8K video games. This has been the case with every generation of console. 

I’m not trying to ignite some banal PC-versus-console argument. What I’m saying is these magical Sony and Microsoft boxes aren’t magic, but scaled-back, midrange gaming PCs, roughly equivalent to a RX 5700 XT graphics card with a Ryzen 7 processor. As such, they have to come up with shortcuts to do what they claim. Which brings us to rendering versus scaling.

Scaling to 8K is a lot easier than rendering in true 8K

There are lots of ways to supply your TV with the millions of pixels it needs to create a picture. If you have a 4K TV, for example, you ideally want to send it true 4K resolution of 3,840×2,160 pixels. A true 4K version of a movie on Netflix or Vudu, or even better, from an Ultra HD Blu-ray, is one way to do this.

1080p on a 4K TV without upconversion… or 4K on an 8K television without upconversion.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Another way is to send your TV a lower-resolution video, like from a traditional HD resolution TV show, Blu-ray or DVD. If you do this, the TV upscales, or upconverts, the video so it has enough pixels to fill your screen. If your TV didn’t do this, you’d have a tiny image in the center surrounded by black.

Scaling is essentially what each console generation does to achieve its highest-resolution outputs. The game is rendered, i.e. created or “built,” at a lower resolution, and then upconverted before it’s sent to your TV. For example, the game is 1080p like a Blu-ray, but then upscaled by the PS4 or Xbox and sent as 4K to your TV. In many cases there’d be no real difference between a “4K” game like this played on a 4K TV, and the 1080p version of the same game played on the same TV. Sony, for instance, calls this “Native vs Adaptive” on the PS4 Pro.

Dan Ackerman/CNET

There are always a handful of games in each console generation that are specifically written for, and rendered at, the highest resolution possible by that console. High-resolution rendering comes at a cost, however. There is only so much performance available, and if a game designer is chasing pixels, the game will have to sacrifice some other aspect of graphics quality — like texture, polygon count, draw distance or frame rate. 

PS5 and Xbox Series X can game in 8K resolution. Should you care?Frame rate is the most concrete example of this sacrifice. A game can run at higher resolutions if there are fewer frames created per second. 4K at 60 frames per second requires a lot more processing power than 4K at 30 fps, which is harder than 1080p/60 and so on. Throughout the history of consoles, frame rate has been considered untouchable. Lower image quality was fine, but a choppy, slow frame rate was not. 

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Faced with limited hardware performance, budget, time, personpower and countless other considerations, game developers might optimize their game for a specific frame rate, usually 30, sometimes 60, so it “runs well” on a console, but settle for a lower resolution than what’s theoretically possible. 

That’s why very few games on the PS5 and Series X will render at 8K, even for 8K TVs. The majority will likely run at 4K/60, and upscale to 8K for the small percentage of people that will have 8K TVs now or throughout the life of the console.

What’s better than 8K? Higher and variable frame rates

One of the most impressive aspects of the next generation of consoles is not their ability to create higher resolutions. It’s their ability to run games at non-8K resolutions with higher frame rates.

Higher frame rates can create ultrasmooth, lifelike motion. With film-based fictional content that smoothness creates a soap opera effect that many people, including me, loathe. With nonfiction and reality-based programming, like sports, smoother motion looks great. Most video games also strive for graphical realism so the smoother they look, the better. 

Current consoles are locked at 60 frames per second (60Hz) since that’s the best most TVs can accept. Many TVs can use motion interpolation to smooth out any content, including games, but that’s basically the frame rate version of resolution upscaling we talked about in the last section. Remember, just because your TV is 120Hz, or advertises some higher number, doesn’t mean it can accept 120Hz from a source.

Both new consoles will have the ability to create 4K games at 120 frames per second. Again, games will have to be written to take advantage of this higher capability, so don’t expect every game to be 4K/120. There are some launch titles with this capability promised. Also, most TVs won’t be able to accept 4K/120, even if they are capable of that refresh rate. You’ll need to get a TV that can specifically handle it. Generally this will mean one that has HDMI 2.1, though not all TVs that have 2.1 will necessarily be able to handle 120Hz.

Nvidia’s G-Sync works similar to VRR. Ideally (1) the video card creates an image in enough time for the TV to refresh 60 times each second. Sometimes it takes longer to render the scene (2), so the TV is sent a duplicate of the previous frame. The image stutters and your mouse/controller movements become inaccurate. You could disable v-sync in your video settings so there’s less or no jutter, but the image tears (3). VRR, like G-Sync and ATI’s Freesync, lets the display and video card work together to figure out the best framerate (4).


Both consoles have another new feature called variable refresh rate. The idea is the game and the console can tell the TV to change its refresh rate on the fly — from its native 50, 60, 100 or 120 — to whatever’s required at the moment. 

For example, if a PlayStation 5 game has a lot going on and the frame rate starts to slow down, during a massive boss battle for instance, the TV will slow down its rate as well, waiting to refresh the screen until it receives the frame from the console. 

Until now the TV’s refresh was locked. The console would have to send something no matter what, every 60th of a second or whatever its refresh was. This could result in image tearing, which is exactly what it sounds like, the image looks like someone’s torn it across. It’s one of the more noticeable image artifacts. 

Not only does VRR minimize or eliminate that possibility of that artifact, but allows a bit more of a buffer for game designers. So if their entire game runs smoothly at 60fps except for a handful of intense situations, they can keep them all as-is without risking the image looking like Wolverine clawed it. There’s a limit to how slow the TV can go, but in general this will be a big improvement. If you’re a PC gamer, you’ll have heard of this tech before, Nvidia’s G-Sync and ATI’s FreeSync.

Again, you’ll need a TV that takes advantage of VRR. So we put together a list of the best TVs for PS5 and Xbox Series X and Series S with 4K, 120fps input and VRR.

Other eye candy

We talk about HDR a lot at CNET, both on the TV side and the content side. For games it has only recently expanded beyond the HDR rendering Valve pioneered over 15 years ago. True HDR, with its greater dynamic range for displays that can support it, came along for the 4K ride in the 4 Pro and Xbox X. A growing number of games are taking advantage of this, letting them look even better on HDR TVs. This is likely to expand in future games, as the capability is in both next-gen consoles from launch. With more and more TVs producing better and better HDR, games that can take advantage of that are more than welcome.

Then there’s ray-tracing, something that’s still causing many PC video cards to wheeze. Nvidia has a good explanation here. The short version is the potential for significantly more lifelike lighting effects in games. This video is a bit into the weeds, but it does a great job showing what’s going on.

Both consoles will have this capability as well, for games written to take advantage of it. Since both consoles are using modified versions of the same graphics chip, it will be interesting to see how they look playing the same games. Probably not a huge difference, but likely some.

Will you need a new TV? 

So what will you need to play the latest games on your Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5? Well… nothing. Your current TV will work just fine. If you can connect a PS4 or Xbox One to it, it will work fine with the next-gen consoles. You won’t need a new TV or new HDMI cables. If your current TV has HDR, it will play HDR games on the new consoles too. Ray-tracing is something rendered in the game, so that will look good on any TV.

If you want to take advantage of the new features like 8K, 120Hz and VRR, you will need a TV that supports it. 8K TVs are expensive now and will likely continue to be so in 2021 and beyond. Far more affordable are 4K TVs that support 120Hz and VRR. Many current midrange and higher-end 2019 and 2020 TVs, including models from LG, Samsung, Vizio and Sony, can handle these new extras. We have a list of all the 2020 models that have 4K, 120fps input and VRR. 

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And yes, you might need new cables, too.

HDMI 2.1 Ultra High Speed HDMI cables cables will transfer data at up to 48 gigabits per second.

HDMI Forum

‘Lowly’ 4K

Both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X look better than their predecessors. That’s obvious. How developers will take advantage of the jump in processing power will determine exactly how they look better. If a developer feels their game looks best being able to generate 8K resolution, that’s fine, but another developer might feel their game looks best at 4K/30 with more elaborate textures, better lighting, more polygons, and so on. Both games might look great. It’s easy to fall into the trap of tech specs and miss the artistry that goes into creating any game. 

Another factor is future-proofing. 8K TVs are expensive today and developers might not want to take advantage of 8K resolution in the first generation of games, but consoles last a long time and TV prices fall fast. Two or three or five years from now that higher resolution might actually be something that matters more, particularly on a gigantic — think 85-inch — TV. And by then you might be able to afford one since prices always drop.

The good news is that these games are going to look great on whatever your TV has now, and if you get a new TV, might look even better on that one.

As well as covering TV and other display tech, Geoff does photo tours of cool museums and locations around the world, including nuclear submarines, massive aircraft carriers, medieval castles, airplane graveyards and more. 

You can follow his exploits on Instagram and YouTube, and on his travel blog, BaldNomad. He also wrote a bestselling sci-fi novel about city-sized submarines, along with a sequel

— Update: 16-03-2023 — found an additional article Can the Xbox Series X Run 8K? from the website for the keyword 8k gaming on xbox series x.

One of the key features many gamers look at when considering whether they’ll buy a new console or PC graphics card is the video resolution it supports. 

Currently, a lot of gamers are playing at 1440p, but are looking to upgrade to 4K which is all the rave.

Even before they do that some consoles, such as the Xbox Series X, are being marketed as being able to support even higher resolutions such as 8K.

This brings us to the question…..

Can the Xbox Series X run 8K? Yes, the Xbox Series X does support 8K, but the performance target of the Series X is 4K resolution at up to 120 frames per second. True 8K will only be supported by a small number of games. These will likely be graphically low-intensity games such as 2D side-scrolling games.

While the Xbox Series X is being sold as an 8K output console it may be a while before you can truly enjoy 8K gaming on the Series X.  

This is because 8K content is currently only really available on YouTube and 8K TVs are nearly non-existent or come at an extremely high price point.

8K Gaming also requires huge amounts of processing power to run smoothly, which after looking at the specs on the Xbox Series X, I have doubts the console will be able to comfortably achieve.


Now that you know the Xbox Series X can support 8K, let’s delve deep into what 8K means and if you should rush out to get yourself an 8K TV.

What does 8K mean?

8K is currently the highest TV or monitor resolution available. It is also known as Ultra HD, Ultra High Definition (UHD), Super Hi-Vision, or UHD-2. Though it must be said, some of these other names have been used to describe 4K in the past. The sound and vision industry loves to complicate (confuse?) people’s lives by reusing old terms!

An 8K resolution is made up of 7680 x 4320 pixels. That equals 33,177,600 pixels. In camera terms, that’s 33.17 Megapixels. For comparison, the iPhone 12’s main rear camera is only 12 MegaPixels. So 8K is a lot of pixels!

Pixels are the tiny blocks that make up the image you see on your screen. And the more of these pixels packed into a TV or monitor the more detailed an image it has.

For example, a 4K TV will have 3840 x 2160 pixels for a total of 8,294,400 pixels. That’s only 8 Megapixels. That’s four times fewer pixels than what makes up 8K resolution. 

That is why a picture displayed on an 8K TV will be crispier than on 4K.

8K is so new that very few 8K TVs and monitors are available on the market, and those that are being sold are quite expensive.

Xbox Series X isn’t ready for 8k gaming

Unfortunately, if you already own one of the expensive and rare 8K displays you won’t be able to enjoy 8K output from the Xbox Series X.

This is despite 8K being marketed as one of the main features of the next-gen console. 

As mentioned above, 8K technology is still in its infancy, so currently, there are no Xbox games that support native 8K.

This is not surprising because 8K movies and TV shows are also almost non-existent.

Microsoft is also on record saying that the 8K feature on the Xbox Series X is not yet enabled.

A Microsoft Executive, when asked why this is the case, stated, “The Xbox Series X can output 8k, however, no media content or games that support 8K resolution are currently available. So, the 8K option has not been enabled in the Xbox Series X system settings at the moment. We designed the Xbox Series X with technology advancements taking place over the next 8 to 10 years in mind, therefore as the uptake of 8K increases the Series X will support it.” 

I think it is a good thing that Microsoft has made the Xbox Series X future-proof for when 8K content and games become available.

At least you’ll buy the Xbox Series X knowing you’ll not be forced to buy another console when 8K resolution is more widely adopted.

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When can we expect the first Xbox Series X 8K games?

At the moment 4K gaming is the talk of the town, and a lot of focus is on releasing more game titles that support 4K. Currently, there is only a handful that can do that natively. In fact, most “4K” games, render at a lower resolution, say 1800p, and then Xbox scales this lower resolution up to 4K.

So, I can’t say for sure when Xbox Series X games that will be able to fully output 8K resolution will be released.

Graphically simpler video games that support 8K may be occasionally released over the next few years but an 8K title blockbuster will likely be console generation away. Or, if we are lucky, a mid-generation console update akin to the PS4 Pro or the Xbox One X will give us true 8k support.

So I think an 8K game would require a more powerful machine than the Xbox Series X.

I say this because of the following reasons:

1: Even the most powerful gaming computers are having a difficult time running high-demand games at high resolutions seamlessly, so it is unlikely the Series X will be able to do a better job.

2: I believe that the GPU and CPU needed to reliably handle 8K at playable frame rates isn’t available yet and when available it is likely to be on PC first.

3: Every new console is often launched with attention-grabbing technology. For example, the Xbox was sold as a 1080i console, the Xbox 360 claimed 1080p, then the Xbox One added Ultra HD 4K. The reality however is these consoles barely did what they claimed due to their hardware. Only a few Xbox One games run at native 4K. 

So it wouldn’t be surprising if the Xbox Series X doesn’t fully live up to the 8K hype.

What you could look forward to is some backward compatible games from the Xbox 360 or Xbox One getting 8K resolution enhancements within 2021.

Why the Xbox Series X supporting 8K may not be a good thing

If you’re an avid gamer I’m sure you already know that the best resolution doesn’t always give you the best gameplay. Why is that?

Well, it’s usually because on console higher resolutions usually equal lower frame rates. And higher frame rates usually contribute far more to improving the gameplay experience than an absurdly high, and needless, boost to resolution that 8K will give.

That’s why you’ll find many gamers preferring a lower resolution, say 1440p which can give you a refresh rate of up to 165Hz.

From my gaming experience, running 4K at a steady 60 frames per second is challenging And this just gets worse at 8K because you’ll need four times the processing power as compared to rendering in 4K just to maintain the same frame rate.

So while a higher resolution of 8K is welcome it’s not practical as it will result in less smooth picture rendering which affects your overall gaming experience.

— Update: 20-03-2023 — found an additional article Is 8K gaming on the Xbox Series X worth it? from the website for the keyword 8k gaming on xbox series x.

As we should know by now, the Xbox Series X video game console from Microsoft supports 8K gaming. The question is, should gamers who can afford to go out and purchase monitors or televisions with support for 8K?

8K gaming on the Xbox Series X

Now, while it is possible to play games at 4K on the newest console from Microsoft, we are willing to go out on a limb to say it is not yet worth the time and effort to own an 8K output device. At the moment, there aren’t many games on the Xbox Series X that can go up to that resolution.

Furthermore, the ones that can aren’t pushing the console graphically, nor are they delivering gameplay that is out of this world.

Very difficult for PCs to render games in 8K

At the moment, 4K gaming is the new talk of the town. Microsoft has been pushing this since the Xbox One X, but only a handful of titles actually managed to hit that milestone. And that is not a surprise because not even the most expensive commercial gaming GPU can push games at 4K at a steady 60 frames per second.

So, if the more powerful gaming computers are having issues with rendering the most demand games at 4K resolution, then obviously, 8K is a no. With that in mind, what chance does the Xbox Series X have? Relatively minuscule if you ask us.

The sacrifice of framerate when 8K is active

Most gamers will tell you that frame-rate trumps resolution any day of the week, which is one of the main reasons why 8K doesn’t make sense as of right now. A lot of games have serious problems running at a clean 60 frames-per-second when in 4K; therefore, one can only assume these same titles would suffer significantly in 8K.

Not only that, but the push to have games in 4K seem to have reduced impressive graphics in games in favor of the higher resolution. The same goes for 8K, and even more so if developers want to have a steady 60 frames per second.

Best to scale video games to 8K

If developers really want their games to be played in 8K resolution, their best bet is to upscale the titles instead. Yes, there will be slight differences when a game is upscaled, but if you’re just playing and not looking out for minor issues with rendering, then chances are you won’t notice a thing.

Seeing as only a tiny percentage of gamers own 8K TVs, we doubt many developers will support 8K upscaling. However, things could change in the coming years as more people feel the need to invest in higher resolution that surpasses 4K.

In conclusion

At the end of the day, 8K does not make sense for the Xbox Series X or any other video game console or PC, for that matter. The GPU and CPU resources aren’t available yet, although we expect PC gaming to tackle 8K long before consoles.

So, if you really want to play your favorite games in 8K, then consider a Windows 10 gaming PC because as the years go by, things will change in your favor.


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