Desktop monitors, portable monitors, and televisions running at full 4K is all the rage currently, and the question that is frequently asked “Is a 4K Monitor Worth It?” The answer is simply yes, provided that it complies with certain standards and conditions. For the ultimate clarity of the display, there may be some additional hardware or upgrades to your existing hardware required.
What is a 4K display?
A step up from HD is the rapidly growing technology built into displays consisting of 3840 X 2160 or 4096 X 2160 pixels and is known as Ultra High Definition (UHD) or 4K. The number of horizontal pixels leads to the reference to 4K.
Do you need a 4k display?
If you are only using your computer for everyday computing tasks such as internet browsing and office-type applications it would be difficult to justify the expense of adding a 4K monitor to your setup, instead of just sticking with your standard 24 or 32-inch monitor.
Using your computer for gaming or interacting with 3D objects in apps like Photoshop will produce a return on your investment in a 4K monitor. You may have to look at upgrading your hardware to obtain the maximum benefit from your 4K monitor though.
Take a look here If you want to know a bit more about how computer monitors work.
Factors to take into consideration when deciding to upgrade to a 4K display
A display with an aspect ratio of 16:9 working with the HD (1080P) display with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 consists of approximately 2.1 megapixels while a 4K display with a native resolution of 3840 x 2160 consists of approximately 8.3 megapixels. The increased number of pixels delivers a higher contrasting display showing more of the intricate details in the picture.
The higher resolution enables creative professionals for whom accuracy is of extreme importance to view and edit 8MP (or smaller) photos and 4K content at native resolutions without scaling.
Having access to more pixels is not always utopia. Using a 4K display may require additional high-powered graphics cards to optimize the display but could compromise the frames-per-second rate.
Although 4K displays are available in a variety of sizes and contain the same number of pixels, the pixel density or dots per inch (DPI) will vary between the sizes.
The larger size display without display scaling will produce a lower pixel density but provide an, arguably, more “usable” experience. Smaller displays with high-pixel density produce a sharp image and make it extremely difficult to see the individual pixels.
When deciding on purchasing a larger screen to accommodate 4K take the size to your disposal into consideration as it may use a considerable amount of vertical desk space.
The refresh rate of some 4K monitors are painfully low and remains somewhat of a concern. The refresh rate for HDMI signals is approximately 30Hz, or 30 frames per second. Watching movies or surfing the internet at this speed is acceptable. Gamers however find that such low refresh rates place a strain on their eyes and require 60Hz refresh rates or higher for smoother movement on the screen.
Gamers often use monitors with refresh rates of between 144 and 240 Hz. For the best result, it is highly recommended that you purchase a screen with a minimum of 60 Hz refresh rate
Tiled displays and panel types
There are a variety of panel types available as described below with TN panels generally costing the least followed by IPS panels and IGZO being the most expensive.
TN (Twisted Nematic panels) are aimed at mainstream users and gamers offering the fastest response times. These panels use the oldest of the LCD technologies and compromise color accuracy, contrast ratios, and viewing angles.
IPS (In-Plane Switching panels) are aimed at more advanced users that require great viewing angles, better black color, and color reproduction. The increase in these factors results in slower response time.
IGZO (Indium Gallium Zinc Oxide panels) feature a different transistor type in the panel’s TFT backplane offering enhanced power characteristics and less mass making it ideal for use in high-density displays like a 4K monitor.
DisplayPort (DP) cables were designed to ensure that all certified DP cables are compatible with all DP displays. By using a certified DisplayPort cable, you will ensure proper compatibility and the best overall experience
Avoid purchasing one of the many uncertified DP cables available on the market. Uncertified cables are defective and connect to pin 20. This can result in all sorts of weird behavior with your monitor such as causing the voltage to be back-fed into your system, the video card and display randomly going out of sync, USB devices may light up when the system is powered off, creating a lower refresh rate, or even exhibit general system instability.
HDMI cables are supported by some 4K display monitors, but the version of HDMI supported by most graphics cards max out at 30Hz. Newer HDMI 2.0 specification HDMI cables can support 60Hz provided that the graphics card support it.
Display Scaling on PC and Mac
A native 4K resolution on a small monitor would generate tiny text that would be difficult to read. To counter this both Windows and macOS operating systems allows scaling to the size of on-screen elements such as windows, buttons, and text.
The increased scaling of the core OS elements enables applications to take advantage of increased pixel density without sacrificing too much usability.
Windows 10 DPI scaling is problematic, and Microsoft has placed considerable effort to address the issues in collaboration with other software suppliers. When you decide to purchase a 4K display it will be worth your while to investigate whether your most used applications can run on a 4K display.
The bandwidth available for streaming videos or movies to watch on a 4K monitor can play a significant role in deciding whether to purchase one. Many streaming services recommend that you use a service provider that offers unthrottled, unshaped bandwidth of at least 25 Mbps to stream 4K content.
Even when you have sufficient bandwidth available, older computer video technology connectors such as VGA and DVI cannot deliver the resolutions reliably. Newer technologies such as HDMI, DisplayPort, and Thunderbolt 2 or 3 is recommended.
Having looked at some of the advantages and issues related to 4K display monitors, the decision on whether it will make economic sense to purchase a 4k display for your computer is a personal one.
Windows are still experiencing teething problems implementing their 4K scaling solution in their operating system and with some of the applications that can run on 4K. macOS however, is stable and operates well in the 4K display environment which makes it easier to make full use of the benefits.
One really important thing to note is the manufacturer’s policy on dead pixels. Some require a minimum number of dead pixels before they will replace your display, while others will replace any model with problems.
New 4K monitors are becoming cheaper and more readily available. If you have the budget to purchase a 4k display and want to try the latest technology, it will make sense to purchase now and stay ahead of the curve. If you do not have the budget, there are more than enough HD displays that will work well and display all the detail you require for your average day’s work.
This article was last updated on May 25, 2021 .