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The Current State of 4K Display Technology

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What to look out for when switching to high resolution display technology for display enthusiasts, creative professionals and hardcore gamers

Author: Scott Larson
Date: 2016-12-29

4k Display Promo Image

Attribution: Extra Comfort - Asus Inc. - License: Unknown

Content creator's push to simulate reality as close as possible in the digital world is continuing to drive display technology to higher levels of resolution and clarity.

The right high resolution display offers more screen space to work with, a clearer picture and less strain on the eyes. Whether or not it’s of value to you will depend on your requirements, I.E the quality of the display, compatibility with the applications you use and the money you are willing to spend on your current hardware to make 4k display technology happen.

Depending on your requirements and budget, Display products are the most important part of the device's usability experience in my professional opinion. My reasons have to do with the health of the customer. Eye strain is one of those symptoms that can often be left unaddressed. Eye damage usually crops up unnoticed and usually doesn't become apparent until years afterwards, and by then its too late. Its a very subtle issue for most people due to the fact that its very hard to consciously recognize what the right display characteristics are for your particular needs. I usually recommend a 22in display or larger for Standard or High Definition displays (HD). But with the release of Ultra High Definition (UHD) displays like 4K, a 22in display isn't going to cut it due to scaling issues. You can find out more about this limitation and many others in the rest of this article, which can help you make a more informed decision before considering a purchase.

What you need to know about 4K display Technology

4k resolutions comparison photo

Attribution: 4k resolutions comparison - - License: Unknown

4K technology refers to the pixel resolution the display will output. Usually in the ball park of 4000x2000. This resolution exceeds most current display resolutions by a factor of 2 or 3. A typical computer setup with 4K technology has a max resolution of 4096x2160. At 8.3 megapixels that's double the resolution of most HD displays.

4k Resolution Difference Photo

Attribution: 4k Resolution Difference - - License: Unknown

A 4K display technology allows you to work with video or photos at the image format's native resolutions without scaling. Not huge deal for home users, but great for creative publishing. Pushing that kind of resolution though your current hardware released in the last two years shouldn't be a problem for most home and business users who plan on doing productivity work. For gamers and creative professionals, handling that kind of resolution could require better hardware configurations.

If you are considering upgrading to a new monitor and want to take advantage of 4K displays, some planning might be helpful to save yourself some time and headache trying to get everything working as you expect. 4K technology is still relatively new and there are some caveats that, if not address before hand can cause you a lot of trouble in the long run.

Home and business users want to make sure they have a fairly new PC, built within the last 2 years. You will need a graphics card, or an on-board video chip that supports a DisplayPort or HDMI Interface to get the actual 4K resolution. If you are a gamer or creative professional you will need support for DisplayPort or HDMI 1.4 or higher on both ends of a certified cable to get 60FPS or higher.

Display Panel Types

You will want to consider the panel display type. There are two flavors:

TN (Twisted Nematic), IPS (In-Plane Switching), and IGZO (Indium Gallium Zinc Oxide). TN panels usually priced the lowest, followed by IPS panels, then IGZO.

  • TN panels are typically used by mainstream users and offer the fastest response times. The trade off in this technology is the color accuracy is not as good and you tend to lose brightness and clarity when viewing the display at an angle. For most power users, this isn’t ideal.

  • IPS panels have very good viewing angles and color reproduction, but response times are somewhat slower than in TN panels. This isn't very noticeable for home or office users, but could be for video artists and gamers who require a fast response time between the mouse input and the content displayed on the screen.

  • IGZO Tech A different transistor type in the panel’s backplane (versus more commonly used amorphous Silicon, or aSI) that offers better power characteristics and less mass, and a faster response time which is ideal for use in desktop video/graphics or gaming environment.

 Gamers will need to consider some other characteristics of the display such as the refresh rate, the response time, and the internal scaling type. You want to look for a minimum refresh rate of 60Hz and a recommended 144Hz. The response time should be under 4ms, but 1ms is better.

Under all circumstances make sure you get a certified DisplayPort cable to insure proper compatibility. Its too easy to purchase a cable (or even actually receive one with the display) that is not VESA compliant. Back in 2014 even OEM manufacturers of desktops were shipping cables with PC’s that were not certified. This caused all sorts of problems like blue screens, and display power issues, including problems with the dc current to be back-fed to the graphics card. This caused abnormal behavior in the system and possible damage to the video card, don’t let this happen to you. Go certified, always.

Image of DisplayPort Cable

I recommend purchasing cables from Accell. They specialize in selling only certified cables. This advise is to help you narrow down the possibility of getting a bad cable by searching for non-manufacturer specific cables on 3rd party distributors like Amazon or Newegg. Always check for the [DP] logo on the cable connectors, that’s a good indicator if its certified.

4k Display Size -vs Resolution

In order to get a true benefit out of 4K resolution requires having a display large enough to render content without the use of scaling. If you purchase a monitor with a higher resolution capability but do not change the actual size of the monitor you end up having to scale up the size of the desktop screen content: fonts, icons and user elements to match what you are accustom to or to prevent eye strain. In my opinion this defeats the purpose of going with a high resolution display by causing pixelation and further eye strain. The recommended display size for 4K resolution is 28 inches. Any lower and you have issues with scaling. Any higher and you have pixelation which can cause eye strain.

Choosing a display that's right for you can can get a bit tricky. Especially if you want to drive more than one display, requiring the right muti-display video card to make all the magic happen. Listed below is some recommended 4K displays to chose from, If you have any questions don't hesitate to contact me, or submit a quote for more information. I can help you sort all this out so you don't have to.

Dr. Radut | prod_recom_article