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Ask HN: Are 4K monitors worth it?
30 points by dennybritz on Sept 4, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 37 comments
Has anyone made the switch from a 1080p monitor to a 4K monitor? Is it worth it for developers?

Totally worth it, but with many caveats.

I'm on my 4th (!) 4k monitor, and think I have found the sweet spot - it's a 48 inch curved 4K Samsung JS9000 TV that supports 4k @ 60hz with 4:4:4 chroma over HDMI 2.0.

At that size the pixel density is identical to a 24" 1080p monitor and the slight curve means it fills your field of vision with significantly less distortion at the edges.

Unfortunately the stand isn't adjustable, so I replaced it with a set of adjustable 'feet' off Amazon that bolt to the wall-mounting holes. The screen sits about a centimeter off my desk - just enough to run keyboard & mouse cables under, while keeping both the top and bottom of the screen at comfortable viewing distances.

The overall result is _glorious_. I have so much room I can just drag windows over to whichever part of the screen I feel like staring at, while having tons of room at the top for widgets and music players and such. I can run games in windowed mode alongside web browsers and everything's readable and playable. I can have pages and pages of code spread out everywhere and it's all marvelously usable.

In comparison, my other 4k experiments -

1. Seiki SE39UY04 39" - Terrrrible lag, bad color, 30 hz only. The 30 hz is not itself the killer (30 hz on the JS9000 is only mildly irritating), it's the 100+ millisecond delay that makes it infuritating. Sold it for $100 after trying and failing to adapt.

2. Samsung 55" UN55HU8550 - Great except for the lack of 4:4:4 chroma, and 55 inches is just -too- big to use as a monitor - especially without the curve. I still use this one as my main living room monitor & TV.

3. LG 40UB8000 - Almost good enough. No 4:4:4 chroma, slightly buggy firmware, too much color distortion at the edges when used at monitor distances. Pixel density is about the same as a 27" 2560x1440 monitor, but in practice you'll be squinting as it needs to be placed farther back on your desk in order for the sides of the screen to be usable.

Samsung does make a cheaper 48" 4k screen (the JU6700) which I believe supports 4k@60, 4:4:4 chroma - it would probably be just as good as the JS9000 for most purposes, with only slightly reduced color quality and a few less bells and whistles.

Hi there, I've never seen a 4k monitor screen set up as a working monitor. Would you mind posting a pic somewhere of what it looks like full of application windows?

I'd just like an idea of how much I could fit on one. I've been considering about buying a third monitor, but I think that a single larger monitor would be easier to deal with.

In my work, I frequently have 10+ windows open for editors, graphics, other references resources, and finally the application I document might need 5-6 of its own.

What kind of heat does that 48" throw off? For some reason I imagine a warm glow emitting from a large screen wrapped around your face like that. Are there any studies into the health side effects from spending 8+ hours a day this close to such a large electronic device?

Virtually all users will be dead within 70 years of using one.

This is a glib answer, but honestly, if a report came out tomorrow that there were significant negative health effects of spending time near a large computer monitor, smartphone, etc., it would be decades before the majority of people changed their habits (see smoking).

I'm not sure why the downvotes, it was an honest question and I thought maybe someone would know more than I about the subject. I have concerns of spending so much time in front of a screen as it is with my 27" monitor & iPhone... Concerns of its effects on my eyes, my sleep, my brain and I can imagine if there are negative side effects they would potentially be more pronounced with the screen filling a much greater portion of your field of view. Why wouldn't this be of concern to people on this site? A TV is designed to be mounted on a wall many feet from the viewer.

At the most basic level pixel pitch (the center-to-center distance between pixels) is perhaps the most important parameter. The other parameter is observer distance (eyeball to pixel).

Those two interplay and setup a situation where resolution is utterly wasted if the observer is farther than the perceptual limit. Think of a standard Snellen chart placed at 12 meters rather than 6.

And so, the decision to go to 4K displays is inexorably connected with a specification of display size and viewer distance. Ages ago IBM introduced "Big Bertha" probably the first 4K display. It was about $20K. The problem was that IBM made the display 22 inches diagonal and, at that size and resolution, you had to be 6 to 8 inches away in order to actually make use of the resolution.

There are other considerations but I think being able to actually use the resolution is key.

Personally, I prefer multiple (3) 1920x1200 monitors because it allows segmentation of your workspace. For example, you can maximize a the video of a course or online class you are taking while you code on the middle monitor and have reference material on the third.

I know this will not be well received on HN but I have to say it. The OSX UI has been grossly outdated as it pertains to large or multi monitor setups for a long, long time. This insistance on having menu's at the top of the monitor is rather than within the application window simply isn't sensible. I've had the experience of projecting a Mac on a 40 foot 4K theater screen. The only way I can describe the single top menu bar experience is tiring and ridiculous. Windows or a similarly setup Ubuntu systems with menu's owned by the application are a dream to use on a huge multi-screen environments. I've done just that with huge stadium-sized LED video walls mapped as multiple monitors to the OS. Nothing like hqving to move a cursor across 160 feet of screen real estate to reach the menu's to show, in no uncertain terms, that a UI is broken.

FWIW, El Capitan lets you auto hide the top menu bar. Since I mostly use keyboard shortcuts anyway, I find the extra space to be quite nice.

I personally found the 4K monitors just nice, but could never justify them. Just recently I discovered monitors that have a 21:9 ratio. It is the same as having two monitors, but without the bezel in the middle. It is the first time in a long time that I happily put down cash only shortly after time thinking about it. For me there have been very few big jumps in the desktop: 8GB+ ram, SSD's and now a single 21:9 monitor over dual monitors.

After reading the opinions here, for my use case (programming with eventual gaming) I think I'll opt for a 21:9 monitor like the Dell U3415W. I can't really picture how I'd work with a 40" screen, and if I can use 1 graphic card instead of 2, I think that's a plus.

Whatever you do make sure you get at least 60Hz. A friend made the mistake and he regrets it every day.

And the video card needs to support 60Hz at that resolution.

I have a 32" 3840x2160 60Hz Asus PQ321Q which I run at native resolution with no scaling. It's fabulous. More pixels than the dual 2560x1600 30" monitors I had before, and it fits entirely in my field of view. I barely need to move my head.

Get a TV only if you can return it. A matte monitor will nearly always look better in realistic lighting scenarios.

Definitely worth it, at least for me, especially since I expect I'll keep it for 5-10 years.

Very much so if the monitor is larger than 36" and not too large. 60Hz is a must have.

Yes, worth it. I went from 3 1080p monitors to this 40" 4k. http://www.amazon.com/Samsung-UN40JU6700-Curved-40-Inch-Ultr...

I have recently switched from a Apple thunderbolt display to an 27" 4k display from Samsung. I can't speak for other platforms but OSX lets you use the 4k in "retina" mode thus doubling the pixel density. So you end up with incredibly sharp text. Since it is possible to adjust the scale via software you can adjust for more space / better readability depending on the needs at hand. For me the switch was as big of a switch as going from low-res to hi dpi phones. I really love that you can have good legibility with much smaller text in editors / terminal. After all I can say that while I am missing the docking / hub / power plug / webcam features of the thunderbolt display (colors where also better) due to the increased sharpness and the (perceived) productivity gains I would never switch back to less than 4k for a workstation screen. So purely subjectively speaking: 4k is just the business.

I don't think they would for me.

My Dell u2412m has a pixel density of 94 PPI (I think?) which is quite low for today's standards but it does the job and I can't justify upgrading it. Compare this to my current smartphone (xperia z3 compact) which at 720p has 319 PPI and is still considered low end in this regard.

Work provided me with a macbook pro retina and I don't see what's the fuss about. Hence running mostly on clam-shell mode.

On older notebooks I simply use the Dina font which looks great on low res screns.

Of course when I go to the stores and see these 4k TVs I definitely notice a difference but we're not talking media consumption here.

I feel the same about 21:9 aspect ratios or multi monitor setups. My favorites are still 4:3 or 16:10. I used to have a multi monitor setup for a while but ended up selling it.

I might have to get my eyes looked at, or maybe I spent too much time staring at mainframe screens.

Remember that the size of the screen determines how much "real estate" you have. It's easy to think that higher resolutions will allow you to see more.

It's hard to say if it's worth it or not. Software support is getting much better but the benefits seem unclear.

I recommend Dell P2715Q. It's $700 for 27" (though Dell often has sales/coupons - I got mine for about $500). IPS + matte. The stand is pretty decent. Nothing stupid like a glossy bezel, etc.

I'm not sure I would but it again. I use 19020x1080 monitors at work and don't notice a big difference. Plus monitor resolutions jumped up quickly (after being stagnant for so long) but video cards didn't. Not a huge issue for editting text but something to consider. You can always game in 1920x1080 (and it will look fine) but alt-tabbing to your desktop will be slow.

    > I recommend ...
    > I'm not sure I would [buy] it again.
I'm confused.

I believe the parent was recommending that one out of all 4K monitors but was unsure whether it was worth getting a 4K monitor at all.

I prefer 21:9. The form factor is much more friendly (I almost always want two different things on screen while working, but I rarely need more than that), seems less obnoxious on the desk, and I found the display performance much faster on my somewhat underpowered tablet. Cheaper too, which is nice.

From a retina iMac: yes, absolutely. High-DPI is even better for text than for images.

The UI scaling looks a little off on windows. I have a 28" 4K and it takes a little bit to get used to. Make sure you have a desk where you can sit far enough back (I'd say around 3 feet), otherwise eyes start hurting. Only certain IDEs have decent scaling too (Android studio needs some font size tweaks). Visual Studio does a pretty good job.

It's amazing for gaming in the off-hours though. I'd say go for it if you do a lot of front-end work, otherwise wait until there's better support.

I don't necessarily care about the actual resolution, but after moving to a high PPI display > 24", I certainly won't be going back.

FWIW, I'm using an LG UM95 (Thunderbolt display better than Apple's). If I was buying again today, I'd go for the 34UC97, which is essentially the same display, but slightly curved. Ultrawide displays benefit a lot from a slight curve, and the only thing you lose is the VESA mount. Might be important for some, but not for me.

For a work computer, it really depends on what you're developing. If you're a backend person (and don't spend your lunch breaks watching movies) I don't think it's worth it, no.

But if you're a front-end person building a web-app, I think it's important to have access to screens that are as good as what your visitors have (so you can see what they see). If your site is catering to users who would have 4k, then you definitely need it yourself.

I bought a Dell U2515H recently. Not "retina" but really close enough. Everything looks so damn crisp it might as well be for the price. The extra inch (its 25") really makes a difference too.


I use a 28" 4k monitor with ubuntu 14.04 and it works great(with an nvidia card). One issue is that in gnome 3 the UI scaling cannot be set per monitor so that if you are using a mix of HD and 4K it can become a bit annoying. If you're wanting multiple monitors I recommend upgrading all of them(assuming your graphics card has enough grunt).

It depends.

Software support is a bit spotty (unless you have a Mac). If your eyesight is up to the task and the 4K screen is large enough, you can just treat it as a huge normal monitor and have lots of reasonably sized pixels to play with. I would go with something in the 40" range, which is the same pixel density as a 20" one.

Reading stuff on the web is 1000x nicer with completely crisp, perfectly shaped serif fonts. It feels like I can read fonts at smaller point sizes due to the much improved shapes. Unfortunately, Linux support for HiDpi is lagging significantly but hopefully it will catch up in 6-12 months.

I just got the dell 27" 4k and it's great. Text looks amazing. Some Linux gui apps look awfully tiny though. I'm not worried about it, the world will catch up in the long run. But I also have decent eyes and can read really tiny text if I must.

Yes definitely. I bought a DELL P2715Q @ 60hz and run it at 150% scaling, which gives me 2560 x 1440, the same resolution as my old 27". Text is much easier on the eyes now.

Agreed as well. Moved to an Asus ASPB287Q, and absolutely love it. Using SwitchResX I enabled HighDPI modem and it's stunning. It's like having a giant Retina display.

Highly recommend using three 1920x1200 or 1920x1080 monitors in portrait mode.

That's an interesting thought. We have three 1920x1200's in landscape mode on every system. Never thought of trying them in portrait.

What happens when you tell a 16:9 video to go full screen?

Well you get black bars on top and bottom and video takes ~1/3rd of the screen vertically. On the other hand having dwm setup with keybindings on such a setup and three fullscreen emacs frames is pure goodness.

I've always wanted to try square monitors. They exist but are really expensive:


A system with 3 of these could be amazing.

> What happens when you tell a 16:9 video to go full screen?

It works perfectly if you're watching a vertical YouTube video :-P

worth it

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