Using an UHD 4K monitor for your workstation

I’ve gone through many, many configurations for my main setup in my home office. I’ve had dual-displays, a triple-head display, several small monitors, several larger monitors – and now, I’ve gone to a one, big monitor for my main computer screen. It all started because I had an “extra” cheapy HD TV screen, a 48” that costs less than $200 – so I tried it out, and liked it!

This worked OK for some time, but with that TV on all of the time, it developed color banding issues, and finally a flicker which flicked once per second. To have this happen on your main monitor is, a showstopper. This started giving me headaches and I found I was easily agitated all the time.

One other smaller #FirstWorldProblem is that an HD TV max’s out at 1920×1080 resolution. That is a comfortable resolution for a 24” monitor. On a 48” monitor, it makes things too big and clumsy. It didn’t feel like the best use of the screen space.

Perhaps I could kill two birds with one stone: get a 4K TV that doesn’t have color-banding and flicker issues, AND get something that can support a higher resolution.

The hunt for a 4K TV:
So, I started looking for a 4K TV. I had some pretty specific criteria:

  1. Needs to be very inexpensive – both because this is a “nice to have”, and because TV’s don’t seem to last very long, so it shouldn’t be a high-dollar investment.
  2. It needs to have VERY good reviews. I don’t want any color-banding or any other “known” issues with a TV. I want one where everyone says they love it!
  3. Doesn’t need to be a “smart tv”, 120Hz, or anything fancy like that (which costs money). I just need a bare-bones monitor which supports 3840 x 2160 @ 60Hz resolution.

After looking for several weeks, I finally found a decent deal on a 50” Sceptre for a few hundred dollars.

Connecting 4K and multiple monitors:
This is something I’ve hated, forever! How do you hook more than 2 or 3 monitors to a PC? You need a very expensive video card (with a loud fan) to support it. Even then, you typically needed couplers and adapters to make it all work.

Then, I learned about Plugable.

image

This company sells USB 3.0 dongles which let you connect up to six HD displays and (an unknown number) of UHD 4K displays to a single computer using USB 3.0. So now, no more video card madness. If you want more monitors, you just buy one of these adapter for ~$50 and plug it in via HDMI!

The significance of resolution:
Here is a comparison of a 24” monitor (left) to the 50” monitor (right) with 4K resolution. As you can see, when you drag a window from one screen to the other, they are approximately close in size. When the big TV is set to 1920×1080, it’s almost double the size on the big monitor (as you might guess), which makes the user experience kind of awkward.

That is a one “Windows Explorer” window, spanned across both monitors – notice the size difference:

1920 x 1080 Resolution:

WP_20150801_21_28_12_Pro

3840 x 2160 Resolution:

WP_20150801_18_02_22_Pro

Bottom line:
In your journey to find an ideal computer workspace, here is an outlook on using a big screen for your main monitor. You can typically find 4K TV’s in the $200-400 range now, and the adapter is around $50. So, if you want more screen real estate, I recommend this setup!

Posted in Computers and Internet, General, Infrastructure, Organization will set you free, Professional Development, Uncategorized

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