Using a UHDTV as your monitor

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Using a massive Ultra-high definition TV as your monitor seems like a crazy concept right? Maybe not. In the latest of our posts on LG’s 55” UHDTV, we look at how it works as a monitor. The test setup involved a 2013 Macbook Air running Windows 8.1 via Bootcamp, connected over a via HDMI to Thunderbolt connector.

Straight away I jumped to the desktop and adjusted the screen resolution to match the UHDTV resolution at 3840×2160. Strangely Windows 8.1 recommends 1920×1080, no thanks. Even stranger, the highest resolution available is 4096×2160, however this makes the experience worse than better. Things slow down and you can tell pushing that many pixels is pushing the GPU of the MBA to the limit. The other, bigger issues is that the interface expands off-screen and nothing scales it back within sight. This is so severe the charms menu can barely be seen, definitely time to go back to native 4K.

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Most desktop displays are in the 24-27” range, so why on earth would you want a 55” on your desk? The answer is you probably wouldn’t, not unless you have a really deep desk. The reason most of us settled on our current display sizes is first of all price, but second of all resolution.

On the top end we see monitors with resolutions of 2560 x 1600, at 27 and 30”. Moving beyond that we need to increase the resolution again and 4K is perfect for that. With our thirst for pixels, most professionals have added a second display to achieve the screen real estate we need.

Thanks to the 3840×2160 resolution afforded by the TV, it actually works great as a monitor allowing for a serious amount of applications at once. This is a multi-tasker’s dream, it has the capacity to fit Twitter, Facebook, Photoshop, Word, Excel, IE, and more on the screen all at once, so your Alt+Tab fingers will thank you.

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The important thing here is the UHDTV or 4K resolution, the size of the display is variable. We’ve seen some manufacturers like Asus offer 4K displays as small as 31.5 inches. There are pros and cons to this. Let’s call it 32” for the purposes of the argument, at this scale those pixels are awfully close, meaning you have two options, text and click points become really small, or bump the DPI and then you just lost screen real estate again.

While the size may look crazy in the photos and on my relatively small desk, if you had a larger desk, the 55” display would actually work pretty well. It’s possible the compromise or sweet spot is somewhere in the middle, like a 40” 4K display. TVs have typically been looks down on as displays thanks to their 1080p resolution limitations, but with 4K that’s a thing of the past. A display with twin tuners can also perform neat tricks like PIP, leaving you with the option to watch TV and be productive. Of course you can switch over that gorgeous 4K video if you need to pretend you’re looking at the outside world. WP_20131127_17_48_24_Pro

Microsoft is moving to the metro apps and leaving the desktop behind, so it’s worth us spending some time looking at how multiple apps work. Windows 8.1 introduced support for additional snap modes and now supports up to 4 apps per monitor, if the resolution is high enough. Below you’ll see 4 IE windows side by side and for long form content this works great. The lack of horizontal snap modes wastes those precious pixels as demonstrated by ABCNews24 in the second column.

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If there was ever a way to explain higher resolution, this shot of TweetDeck is it.  15 gorgeous columns of Twitter searches flowing down the screen, awesome. With a screen this size, your head does need to glance left to right, which absolutely fine given Twitter is all about glancable data. While the picture is reduced to fit the width of this site, when in the chair, every one of these is perfectly readable, something that can’t be said with a smaller display.

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If there’s a negative to twitter, it’s that it can be text-heavy. TweetDeck recently added a feature that allows you to filter tweets to only display ones containing media. When we switch this setting on for each column, the whole experience changes to a visual extravaganza.

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There is one very important setting you’ll want to configure for high resolution displays. In Windows 8.1, go to Settings > Change PC Settings > PC and devices > Display. Form this screen you should see the resolution we set earlier, now at the bottom of this screen, change the setting under the heading ‘More options’ from Default, to Smaller.

With a display that supports it, read higher DPI, it will adjust the size, text, and other interface items to match work better with the higher resolution. After flicking this switch I noticed an immediate change – everything got more roomy.

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Some metro apps like /r/etro work great and take advantage of the extra screen, others like Network Ten app needs an update.

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Now for the practical use for the higher resolution, creative professionals like image and video editors are really going to love 4K displays. For those playing at home, Adobe’s Premiere Pro CC actually has sequence templates and support for 5K.  As the prosumer availability of 4K cameras moves down the line to consumers, editing 4K video will become a common place over the next few years. Editing 4K video on a 1080p display just won’t cut it, you’ll need a 4K display, so why not use one as your desktop as well.

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Despite the 55” version of the LG UHDTV being a little large for my desk, I’d happily ditch my 2x27” monitors in favour of a single 40” UHDTV and monitor, or maybe its just time for a deeper desk.

  • damaster

    Now lets hope Microsoft moves ahead with Perceptive Pixel and create something like this with touch support.

  • http://www.frivjuego.co/ Friv juego

    I do not have much knowledge about information technology, but what they’ve done so well I hope. I will try and hopefully it’s not too disappointed.

  • http://www.CravingTech.com/ Michael Aulia @CravingTech.com

    Definitely need a deeper desk!! Imagine playing FPS games full screen on this.. I’d probably get a headache after playing for a minute

    Will be great for coding though

  • http://www.CravingTech.com/ Michael Aulia @CravingTech.com

    Definitely need a deeper desk!! Imagine playing FPS games full screen on this.. I’d probably get a headache after playing for a minute

    Will be great for coding though

  • http://MoniqueCloutier.com/ Monique Cloutier

    I enjoyed reading this. I have been considering using a Smart TV as my monitor instead of buying a new PC CPU and Monitor. This information helps. +MoniqueCloutier

  • Pingback: Review: LG’s deliciously gorgeous 55” UHDTV will make you hate 1080p | techAU

  • Glen T

    Confuses cinema 4K (4096×2160) with UHD TV (3840×2160). A note on the glare treatment and colour accuracy would have been nice.