“Full HD, 1080P” is a phrase many of us in the electronics consumer world understand. It refers to the number of pixels on a screen in a given area, in this case, just over 2 million pixels. This translates to a clear, defined image that allows us to see quite a bit of detail. Examining a low resolution screen (say, 480P, standard TV resolution from a few years ago) and comparing the video quality to full HD yields nearly immediate realization of the improvement. Images on the HD screen are clear. Fuzzy, grainy, pixelated content simply doesn’t look as good. With 4K, the latest buzzword in consumer electronics, we have advertisers promising four times the detail of full HD, or greater than 8 million pixels.
In a previous article I examined the diminishing returns of 4K content compared to full HD as it pertains to the entertainment sphere. Here I want to discuss the productivity gains 4K offers people in the computing world. Dragging around, resizing and scrolling through windows takes time. We do it because we only have so much room on our computer monitors. 4K increases the amount of room we have 4-fold, providing the equivalent of four full HD screens in one seamless area. In the working environment, a 4K screen should take up as much screen space (minus the screen bezel) as the four monitors it would be replacing in order for you to see the productivity gains I’ve realized. Imagine stacking 2 monitors on top of one another, then putting another two similarly stacked monitors beside them. If you use 24” monitors and appreciate the size and image, you should get between a 40” and a 50” 4K to see a similar image with a four-fold increase in surface area. I find that sitting about 3’ from the screen is comfortable. At 3’ it is difficult to see individual pixels on a 60” 4K screen with 20-20 vision. This represents ideal conditions for viewing. This size calculator should help you choose the optimal screen size for your viewing environment.
The sweet spot in price point for these 4K monitors is between 40” (currently $600) and 55” (currently $1000). Refresh rate is also a concern. Make sure you get a 4K screen capable of natively displaying 60Hz (60 frames per second) for use as a computer monitor as manipulating a mouse at 30Hz feels sluggish. Remember, you’ll need both a video card capable of displaying 3840×2160@60Hz and a monitor or TV capable of displaying the same, with matching connectors. Currently the only connections that allow for this are HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.2 or later. As an early adopter of 4K, I had my first monitor back in 2012. I can attest to the incredible productivity boost a 4K system can provide those who spend considerable time in front of the computer. This is another case where—like the difference between hard disk drives and solid state drives—the difference must be seen to be believed.