My early new year’s resolution…

… is 3840×2160 😉 . I  used to have 3 monitors side by side and then decided that it really wasn’t comfortable despite the love I had for the real estate they offered.

 

After researching a bit on 4K a few months ago, I decided that they were too expensive to seriously consider; a thought that crossed my mind quite a few times in the months that followed. And then LG happened, where they started offering an entry level 4K TV, 49″ diagonal for about €1100.

This is now on my (messy) desk:

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It’s the LG 49UB850V. I won’t bore you with the technical details, suffice to say that it’s a decent TV which won’t shock anyone with its performance (though the latest firmware improved things quite a bit), but offers a 4K resolution for a reasonable price.

There are four things you need to know before you feel adventurous enough to join the 4K club:

1) If you want to watch movies, don’t bother; it’ll be a waste. I bought it as a large desktop and it’s paying off already. Wait until 4K content becomes more available and when buying the technology doesn’t make you an early adopter.

2) Its size is roughly equal to having four 24″ monitors on a grid pattern, and as such you could say I gained a monitor along with eliminating the annoying bezels. With that in mind, anything smaller could make things difficult to see (again, if you’re using it as a desktop monitor). I would probably dismiss even 42″ 4K monitors if you don’t want to change the default Windows’s DPI setting (that is, 100%).

3) It lacks curvature. Seriously, when you use 3 monitors, or even two of them, you usually have one looking straight at you and the others angled. You cannot do that here. As a result, while in the 3 monitor era I had to tilt my head to see all three monitors’ contents, now I have move my body more. It’s a bit annoying and unfortunately had I know that the effect would be prevalent, I would have gone for something like this instead (albeit kinda more expensive):

Yes, what you’re seeing is a curved 55″ monitor. Here’s why this is great: While the curvature may seem strange at first and I’d agree that it doesn’t make much sense in the living room, is actually godsend for using it as a desktop. It eliminates the need to move your body to figure out what the hell your screen’s showing near the corners and allows you to use a bigger screen (which allows you to sit farther from the mon… sorry, TV).

 

4) So why didn’t I go with that then? Well, first, it’s almost double the price. Now, my general M.O. is that I don’t mind paying something extra if it can guarantee me that I get the value of my money, but even so, 2K+ for a monitor is a tough cookie.

There is another much more important reason however. PC to HDMI capabilities. You see, first of all,

a) you need to have a high speed HDMI cable. Big deal, you probably already have and if you don’t just buy the cheapest high speed ones.

b) Then your video card must support HDMI 2.0 in its output. Fortunately, the nvidia GTX970 I bought by accident (long story) had me covered here, but I’m not sure that that’s the case for previous models, even included 7xx from the nVidia range (I have no idea if AMD is faring better or worse here).

c) Your TV must be capable of receiving HDMI 2.0 signals. If it doesn’t, you’ll be thrown back to HDMI 1.4 compatibility level which means that you’re only going to get a 30Hz refresh rate. It sucks, I tried it for kicks and my eyes threatened to go on strike.

d) But even if it does support HDMI 2.0 properly, you need to make sure that it can utilise 4:4:4 chroma. For more details have a look here.

What’s important about chroma subsampling is that most movies are encoded with a 4:2:0 chroma subsampling which allows them to sacrifice some clarity for quite a few gains in space (about 25% of the 4:4:4 requirements); BluRay has even spec’d it. The good thing about movies is that they can withstand subsampling, because you usually deal with rather smooth transitions between colours. Even on sharper ones, you’ll probably have some kind of a gradient even if it’s small short.

When dealing with text however, especially smaller text and sharp colour changes, such as those used in a PC, this becomes troubling, because it makes certain colour combinations hard to see and makes others impossible to discern. Here’s an example:

Well, the good news is that while this particular LG model isn’t the best TV out there, it’s got good colours, acceptable-ish black levels, but most importantly: 4K at 60Hz with 4:4:4 chroma. Then you get this pixel perfect clarity (sort of, keep in mind that Windows’s ClearType is in effect here and the end result is much worse with a 4:2:0 chroma; pay attention to the waveform lines):

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So to recap. If you want a 4K TV for movies, don’t bother yet. If you still want a 4K TV for movies, look for one with better performance, but be prepared to pay premium and it’s still quite a bit high. But if you want a TV to use as a large desktop, make sure that you get one that can output the signal from your PC as is, without conversions and colour loss. Do I recommend this? I like what I’m seeing so far, but you need to keep in mind that a thousand bucks would buy you a better Full HD TV performance wise.

 

I haven’t played with it enough just as yet – haven’t even connected the antenna cable yet, but I’ll update soon with more information.

  2 comments for “My early new year’s resolution…

  1. Michael
    2017/02/05 at 23:12

    Thanks for describing your experience. It was an interesting read! I had no idea that curved monitors are that nice at this size, I’ll look into it.

    I was wondering, now that some time has passed do you still use the same screen?

    • Q
      2017/02/08 at 14:27

      Hi Michael,

      I actually bought a curved 48-inch Samsung one and I feel it’s better for the following reasons:
      1) I don’t feel like I have to change the DPI compared to the flat LG TV,
      2) I can see what’s on the corners much more easily!

      Unless you care about refresh rate, g-sync and all that stuff, that’s the only reasonable way to get the real-estate of 4 FHD monitors without bezels!

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