Before you invest on a 4K monitor

31 Dec 2016 update: A new model at 43" is available. See here. 
26 Sep 2016 update: After 400 days of regular usage, I can't work without it.

After months of reviewing and thinking of my needs, I recently got myself a 40″ 40K monitor. The model I chose is Philips BDM4065UC. Even after spreading the evaluation period to months, there were still surprises. This lesson learned is what I want to share.

First of all, is it worth it?

Absolutely! Without a doubt, this is a purchase I am very pleased with it. The entire package cost me SGD 2160 as I had to buy a new desktop to drive it, so it’s not cheap for just a PC. The monitor alone was SGD 1200.

What do I use it for?

You need to determine your use case. Otherwise you get confused between “needs” and “wants“. Everyone wants a 4K monitor, but do you really need it?

  • Book writing. I wrote a book on a 27″ Full HD monitor, and found that I needed a bigger screen as I move sentences from pages to pages, and reviewing the consistency of the entire book. Writing a book is tough, and having a proper tool helps to minimise the pain.
  • I work with a lot with PowerPoint, as I treat it like document. I often create 100-slide PowerPoint. During the creation where I reorganise slides, I needed to be able to see more.
  • Blogging. The problem with WordPress is the editing area is rather small, even on Full HD. WordPress editor does not work well with wide screen.
  • Email. I do not use Outlook, and use webmail and Huawei MediaPad, a 7″ phone. I use the Month view and Week view. While I don’t need 4K for both, Full HD is too small.
  • My kids photo. I have thousands of them, and I use the built-in Windows Extra Large Icon to see them, while having a preview area. Full HD is too small for this.

What’s the lesson learned?

There are many credible reviews on the Internet. I found them very informative, and I recommend you check them out. If you are getting this Philips, then check Trusted Review and PC Gamer.

My main concern before was it would be too big for me. This was emphasized by articles and also friends.

Is it big? Yes, it is. But it is not too big. I can see the 4 corner with barely noticeable head movement. It feels natural to move the head a bit. Would I prefer the screen to curve a bit? Certainly, but it’s a minor issue.

Is it too wide? No, absolutely not. In fact, on hindsight I should have gotten a 42″.

Is it too high? No, but this is near my limit already. While I can see top and down without nodding, I probably won’t enjoy anything taller by 1″. The top part is already 15 cm above my eye level.

Look at how the monitor occupies my desk. Next to it is a Gigabyte Brix, a 10 cm x 10 cm mini desktop. It is not that big even in physical appearance.

11537702_1628656924047146_4002708618583948515_n

Is the text too small? Yes. Perhaps I’m used to large text. I changed Windows 7 to 150% scaling as the text is too small for me. Yes, 150%. The texts are much sharper, hence more pleasant to read than my previous monitor. I can read them on 100%, but I find 150% is a lot more comfortable for long running usage. For this reason, I do not recommend getting anything smaller than 40″ for 4K. Not all applications take scaling well, including Microsoft Office. The text scaling is fine, but Windows scale the pictures also, resulting in enlarged shape like this.

scaling

Do you need a split screen software? I think so, although I don’t have a strong need as I like it spread across. I have not found one so far. I tried WinSplit Revolution, but found it too confusing. It also did not load on Windows 7, so I will try MaxTo.

Should you get one? If you can wait, I’d recommend you wait for a few things:

  • Intel Core Skylake, due very soon. It supports HDMI 2.0, which supports 60 Hz refresh rate. Once you have that, your choice of monitor at cheaper price will grow, because you can use TV instead of monitor. You probably have to wait until mid 2016 though. I have to upgrade my old PC as it does not support DisplayPort. You can certainly use graphic card. I do not want to use any PCI card as I want minimal power consumption and no sound. Plus, I need to keep my budget low.
  • 42″ curved monitor. The price is simply too high right now for a minor benefit. But give it a year, and I guess it will drop once the marketing hype subsides.

If you cannot wait, I’d recommend Philip. There are many in-depth reviews, so I’d just add my own take, especially on the area that I hope they will improve in the next iteration:

  • USB ports should be in front, not at the back. They are hard to reach. If you have it wall mounted, then they are unreachable.
  • Power button should be in front. It is in a location that is not natural, even after I power on and off a dozen times.
  • On Screen Display not easy to use. Again, it is at the back. The area next to the Philips logo looks like a perfect place for it. Not sure why Philips waste that place as there seems to be nothing there but a logo.
  • Speakers should be in front. Again, they are at the back. The sound quality is good enough for me, as I don’t need high quality sound. The speaker has no volume button.
  • Tool-less installation. The stand requires 8 screws. Yes, 8 of them.
  • Thinner. It is 3x thicker than my old Samsung 27″. I was expecting thinner or equal.
  • Default brightness too high. However, I’m happy with the power saving mode.
  • Out of the box support for Display Port 1.2. This can be easily changed via On Screen Display though.

Hope it helps you making a decision to go 40″ 4K. It has been a pleasant surprise for me.

Update after 10 days of usage: it feels smaller. So looks like the common advice that it’s too big is completely wrong for me.

[Update on 22 August 2015: The monitor reboots daily. Not a good experience. Intel has launched Skylake]

One thought on “Before you invest on a 4K monitor

  1. Pingback: How to measure Windows 7 Memory Usage

Leave a Reply