Our Brave New World of 4K Displays

It's been three years since I last upgraded monitors. Those inexpensive Korean 27" IPS panels, with a resolution of 2560×1440 – also known as 1440p – have served me well. You have no idea how many people I've witnessed being Wrong On The Internet on these babies.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://blog.codinghorror.com/our-brave-new-world-of-4k-displays/
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I don’t think I’ve run into an application in years that doesn’t respect the DPI settings on and Windows since Vista, even if they get blurry-scaled by Windows – except occasional games and anything based on Java. For some reason Java always claims to support HiDPI, whether or not the app actually does, and the documented command-line parameters to adjust it are overridden by the runtime. It’s worthless.

Fortunately, I haven’t had to use anything Java-based in months, and my eyeballs have been happier since.

Games being games, you really can’t expect much out of them. Compatibility settings have fixed things 90% of the time, the other 10% you just have to patch them or run a VM.

Well, after trying 4 4K displays, a 5K display, 3 21:9 34" displays and some other like a TN (yes) 144Hz… I must say:

  • 4K will be nice if you scale at 200%, still not as good as real Retina PPI (MacBooks or 5K) but fine.
  • 4K at native (no scaling) requires minimum of 32", but it is good to consider 40" - if you’re after screen real-estate.
  • 5K is real retina, 200% scaling gives you incredibly crisp/sharp picture on Dell or HP 5K and usable 2560x1440. As a developer, I find text order of magnitude easier to look at
  • 5K still uses dual DP because of bandwidth of DP 1.2, but soon will be on 1.3 I presume (this dual cable and driver acrobatics sometimes create issues, like not waking from sleep, not turning on at boot - rare, but happens). Also, combining a G-Sync monitor and dual 5K makes 5k unusable due to refresh problems).
  • avoid early 4K that use MST for picture composition. STS only.
  • consider 144Hz, desktop is also nice at that speed, even if you don’t game (IPS Asus soon to come, Acer 34" also)
  • keep in mind Windows 10 is terrible at rendering desktop if you use different-DPI screens, like me - a 5K and a 1440 for example, where 5K is scaled and 1440 is not or is at different ratio - because primary monitor is always crisp, but other are always blured, more or less. Windows can’t render different scaling options independently like Mac OSX does.

One more thing to keep in mind: some tools (even modern Autodesk like 3dsmax or Maya) don’t render good at scaled resolutions, don’t respect scaling for icons or at all. No help there but to reduce actual resolution.

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I have a Surface Pro 3 and it can have a 4k display on the dockingstation DP. There are only few models which can handle more than 30hz/s.

One of them is the Dell Ultrasharp UP2414Q but it is about 700 euro. I hope these 4k displays become more mainstream and cheaper soon!

here is the rest of the list https://www.reddit.com/r/Surface/comments/2udhvz/7_months_later_whats_the_4k_situation_for_sp3/

Advice: stay away from early Dells that use MST. Plagued with problems and bugs.

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11,520×2,160 is an insane amount of pixels! I wonder how you can fill all that space effectively? Are you using a tiling window manager yet? That article is about my 21:9 display, which I doubt I’ll ever move away from. Though what I have is only 1440p, so the extra vertical resolution would be wonderful.

Does anyone have any experience with coding on 21:9 screen such as the Acer XR341CK?

Yes. See my above comment. If you have any specific questions, feel free to ask.

Do gfx cards have three outputs yet?
I’m thinking of buying a cheap usb gfx card to run my two old (22") monitors and use my current card to dedicate itself to a big one. Good idea?

I missed that. What would be your ideal resolution? Is 1440p really a recurring annoyance or do you eventually get used to it?

I really do like the idea of more horizontal screen real estate (and being able to game in widescreen glory), but am worried that coding efficiency will suffer due to all the wrapped lines.

The full resolution is 3440x1440, so it’s “better” than Fulll HD but “worse” than 4k. Having 1440p vertically is a big improvement on 1080p, so I assume having 2160p is an improvement on that. The simple reason being that more code fits vertically on the screen without the need to scroll. Perhaps there is a point when it becomes too much, I don’t know.

As for coding efficiency, the more pixels there are horizontally, the less chance there is that your code will wrap. That of course depends on how many windows you have side-by-side. On my screen I work best with three windows side-by-side, but four is possible, if a little cramped. A 4K ultrawide screen would fix this for sure!

That being said, I manually wrap my lines at 79 characters. Some people will say this isn’t necessary because of large screens, but it helps with three-way diffs, and is still readable on webpages (especially github); it also gives the code a nicer structure. Some languages make this more of a challenge than other (java being one of them), but I find a way.

21:9 is also referred to as ultra-wide, with 16:9 (and also 16:10) being referred to as widescreen. Gaming is fun when ultrawide, but not all games support it. Hopefully this will change. Thankfully GTAV does!

So my ideal resolution is 3440x1440 or larger, absolutely 21:9, but I suspect there is a limit somewhere (at least for coding).

4k All The Way! But $700!?! for one monitor? We got our 39" 4k displays under $300. There are certainly limitations but they beat the small, lower-res monitors they replaced.

Isn’t Titan X faster than the 980 Ti, albeit not twice as fast as the price would suggest? :slight_smile:

As I just switched to a high-dpi laptop using 200% dpi-scaling I’ve so far discovered at least three applications I use almost daily that have serious issues.

My favourite desktop media player, mostly because the easy playlist control and the ability to fullscreen it to another monitor (like when holding presentations) without having to manually move the window first. Sadly it doesn’t scale any of its interface, it’s super-tiny and barely usable.

Windows 8.1 Media Player 12
Alright, so how do I play some media at bars and during conferences without Zoomplayer? Queue Media Player, but wait - the playlist (view list) doesn’t handle high dpi correctly! You will get a list that is around 5 characters wide at its widest setting making it impossible to see what is going on. This really surprises me :slight_smile:

Some device driver dialogs
Using Vmix HD (which scales perfectly btw, great work on that!) when diving deep into device configuration dialogs you sometimes end up with a dropdown list or other element that on activation is re-positioned wrongly and at the non-scaled super-tiny size.

Traktor Pro 2.9 (latest version released just now)
Doesn’t support scaling at all so everything is super-tiny - but that’s not all, it also exhibits a bug which prevents maximizing or going fullscreen - it will only take up a quarter corner of your desktop. The only way to get it fullscreen is to disable scaling for it using the compatibility shims and then it’s simply too tiny to be usable. Using 125% scaling things work but it’s not enough in my case and the knobs and text (even with the program’s own text-size changed to max) is too tiny.

Windows 10 systray
In combination with my culture’s date format of choice (yyyy-MM-dd) and having the taskbar vertically to the side - the date will basically spill out of the systray area! It looks really shoddy and I had to manually widen the taskbar a bit from its usual minimum width. Windows 10 has all sorts of annoying quirks when using a vertical taskbar though…

I for one am looking forward to a 21:9 34" IPS monitor that supports G-Sync and handles at least 90Hz or more - there seems to be one such beast arriving any week now: http://www.144hzmonitors.com/monitors/acer-x34-xr341cka-has-a-g-sync-range-of-30-100hz/

The world of adaptive sync is coming, and I’m looking forward to once again watch screens and applications that doesn’t stutter, tear or generally misbehave from a motion standpoint - something that was lost when the analog CRT era ended (and the Amiga died, sad smiley). Hopefully anyway.

I wonder if an adaptive sync screen could sync to a C64’s awkward ~50.25Hz framerate which causes frame skips every x second on a 50Hz digital display or broadcast bus… and how good will, say, Youtube videos be, could we get automatic refresh rate sync with the video’s actual framerate so it doesn’t stutter anymore? That would be awesome, maybe decided on whatever window has focus. When the monitors can do 1000 Hz it might be a non-issue…

Even the integrated GPUs in Intel processors these days support 3 displays out of the box.

You’ve convinced me :).

Of course by wrapping I meant running multiple windows on one screen vs
multiple monitors. I already have a dell u2711 and another rotated 24"
dell. Was thinking of getting a 34" ultra-wide screen and supplementing it
with my current monitors. That should provide the best of both worlds.

Does codinghorror now have 3 of those things on his desktop?

Yes, on IPS LG and Dell ultra-wides. 34" 1440 ultra-wides are ~identical to 27/28" 1440 screens in PPI. Nothing to do with 4K, still the amount of pixels is higher. It is only a wider display. Doesn’t really replace to screens in full, but is enough to replace dual 1080 if you wish to accept a bit lower width.
Coding is fine, especially in situations where you have a lot of toolbars that eat into your width.

4K is special. The PPI (pixel per inch) is significantly higher and thus unusable at native resolution unless you’re at minimum of 31/32" diagonal size. 4K is used to increase picture fidelity, not screen real-estate.
If you’re willing to go for a 40" screen you can take advantage of the actual size and use 4K at native.

Don’t get me wrong, but it does not. It gives density, not width and height. Usable width and height remains the same for normal distances. It gives more pixels per inch, but at native resolution (without scaling) it render UI elements proportionally smaller since pixel density is 50% higher - your text and UI elements will look much smaller.

  • 3440x1440 gives you identical PPI of ~110 so it is giving you more screen space.
  • 4K (3840x2160) gives you PPI of ~163 but you need to scale it back to ~110.

To get PPI of ~110 you need 40" screen with a 4K resolution.


Bear in mind you’re deciding between 3840x2160 and 3440x1440. The 4k monitor actually gives you more width and height, but in a different aspect ratio. I wanted to replace two monitors with one but be close to the aspect ratio I had with multiple monitors. The benefit being no bezel and great gaming, but at the cost of a 4k resolution.

Did you consider/evaluate any of the gsync IPS 4k panels?

If you’re going to game I can’t imagine going back to a world without gsync, especially if you’re going to be pushing 4k.

This is a link about what I bought last year, along with my thoughts:


Real estate matters more than DPI to me.
While I like the extra space (it’s like having 4 24.5 screens set up as 2x2 in terms of DPI, without any borders), I really need to move around to see what’s on the corners. I despised curved screens but for this size and this use they’re ideal. This particular one has Full Chroma & 60Hz with HDMI 2.0, showing as native resolution instead of 2 displays sandwiched together.

Oh and let me say that in this picture it doesn’t look at all close to how big it is with its actual 49" size.

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