Due to space contraints in the department, several colleagues and I had to move into smaller offices. With the smaller desk I concluded that it is no longer ideal to have multiple monitors standing on the desk, and a new solution was needed. I eventually settled on mounting a 49″ 4K television on the wall, and here is what I have learnt in the process.
A 4K display panel has the same number of pixels as four Full HD panels. A 49″ monitor thus give you roughly the same screen estimate as four 24″ Full HD ones. 24″ Full HD monitors are popular in workplace due to their comfortable pixel density for normal office work. A 49″ monitor is similarly comfortable, but with four times the area you essentially never run out of space.
The primary reason why I chose a 49″ unit over smaller ones was my intention to use it for small group presentation. To accommodate this use I have installed a wall mount with a very long arm, allowing me to swing the unit to different positions.
Picking a Model
The primary consider in picking a unit is whether it support a 60hz signal, which is the usual refresh rate for computer screens. This is not easy to achieve—4K 60hz signal requires an HDMI 2.0 connection, which many cheaper units do not have. For those that do support HDMI 2.0, not all support loseless color signal, which is essential for sharp text. Based on user manuals and online forums, here is a partial list of compatibility:
- LG – The current lineup support 60hz signal and loseless color.
- Samsung – The current lineup support 60hz signal. Manuals say loseless color is supported, but online forums dispute that claim.
- Sharp – Only the top of the line models support 60hz signal and loseless color.
Once you find a compatible unit, you need to drive it with a display card. Old display cards most likely cannot drive 4K 60hz. Currently only Nvidia’s newest GTX 9xx series have HDMI 2.0 built-in, and these cards are so huge that they might not fit inside the small cases that are popular these days. For other relatively new cards with DisplayPort you can see if you can find a DP-to-HDMI 2.0 cable, which is rumored to be available but I have never tried one personally.
Modern TV use a variety of techniques to enhance images. These techniques are developed for videos, however, and are unsuitable for monitor purpose. This means you want to turn as many of these features off as possible. The list of features you want to try turning off includes:
Dynamic contrast, dynamic color, automatic black level adjustment, noise reduction, Motion-Eye Care (for LG). For Samsung and LG units at least, these features—plus some others than you cannot control manually–are turned off when you label the input as “PC”. You can test whether you are settings things right by opening the this image in 100% size. If all the text including the blue one is sharp and crispy, you are good.
Limitations and Additional Thoughts
There are a couple of drawbacks in using televisions as monitors. First, they usually have glossy screen, which is not ideal for office work. Second, the glass panel is a lot thicker than typical computer monitor, and with the screen being so large, some pixels at the edges will be blocked by the glass itself. The second issue can be overcome by using the newest curved televisions from Samsung and LG, but those are a lot more expensive than their flat counterparts.
One more issue to consider is whether you need a smart TV. Smart TV provides a lot of functionalities, but with the unit being connected to a computer all the time you might not need most of them, and ‘dump’ 4K televisions are significantly cheaper than their smart counterparts.
LG UF6750 UHD TV: HK$6400 (comes with gifts worth approx. HK$200)
Wall mount with 60cm arm: HK$300
MSI Nvidia GTX960 display card: HK$1600
Grand Total: HK$8300 (US$1070)