4K: Revolutionary Productivity

“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.

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4K. Is it the Time to Upgrade?

I wrote this article back in the winter of 2013 for ITNewsYouCanUse. It was printed in the paper, but I failed to upload the article here on the site.  With my recent article (this month) on 4K, I figured it was time to post this one here, too.  Enjoy.

Years ago, the “Full HD” versus mere 720P debate kept consumers looking for the perfect mixture between price and viewing utopia. Now, the entertainment gods have decreed that a new resolution king be crowned. Enter 4K TVs. 4K derives its name from the number of vertical lines in the resolution standard (4096 x 2160), which amounts to four times the resolution or pixel count as the current 1080P standard. I personally own a 4K monitor and have used it now for the past year. As such, I have a few thoughts on the relevance of the format to the average user. First, I believe that anyone intending to use a 4K TV sized less than 85” at a distance of greater than 10’ is simply wasting their money. 1080P offers a fantastic visual experience. As I type this article and gaze at the 55” 4K monitor 3’ in front of my eyes, I cannot imagine how anyone could tell the difference between a 55” 1080P TV and a similarly sized 4K TV at a distance of 5’ or more. The pixels are simply too small. That said, I’ll be the first to laud the benefits of 4K as it pertains to usage in computer monitors. The screen real estate 4K affords to a user with a 50” or larger screen at an average computer desk simply stunned me and left me questioning how I lived before this. The ability to fit 4 full-sized windows directly in front of me without requiring multiple monitors not only saves me time, it reduces eye and neck fatigue and greatly increases the time I’m able to spend in front of the computer before requiring a break. My experience has led several clients to purchase 4K TVs for their mapping, scheduling and digital imaging departments, because the added space increases productivity so drastically. All praise aside, 4K is still out of reach for the average consumer given the high cost of the majority of sets and the simple fact that most people looking at the format would overlook usage as a monitor and opt instead for a TV, which I already indicated is a bit of a waste, given the unavailability of native 4K content and the need for massive screen size for users to notice a difference between 4K and 1080P. Additionally, HDMI 2.0 or DisplayPort 1.2 is necessary for 4K content at 60Hz, which requires supporting hardware. If a massive 4K monitor sounds good to you, jump on the bandwagon! I recommend you look into Seiki for an inexpensive set (less than $2k). However, if a TV is what you’re after, might want to wait a while.

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