The other day, my friend and fellow PC enthusiast Andy Brown pinged me and told me I needed to come over to his house to see his new toy: a 39" 4K display that he ordered from Amazon for 500 bucks. Coming from anybody else, I’d have been deeply skeptical of this purchase, but Andy is actually the co-founder of TR and has impeccable taste in such matters.
The product he purchased is this Seiki Digital 39" 4K 120Hz LED television. I started asking him more questions and looking into it. The more I learned, the more intrigued I became. Soon, I was at Andy’s place peering into this large and glorious panel. He had the thing placed directly in front of his old 2560×1600 30" HP monitor, and I can’t say I blame him. After all, you can almost get four copies of TR, or any other standard web-width site, side by side on the thing.
Yeah, this beast has more real estate than Ted Turner. And it has dropped in price to $404 at Amazon as I write. With free Prime shipping. And it’s still in stock.
Sounds too good to be true, right?
Not really. This thing is just a killer deal, available to anyone. But there are a few caveats.
First, there’s the matter of refresh rates. This display has a single HDMI input that can support the panel’s native resolution of 3840×2160 at a refresh rate of 30Hz. That’s a fast enough update rate for desktop and productivity work, but 30Hz is not good for gaming, even with vsync disabled.
Your fall-back option is to drop down to 1920×1080 while gaming, where this thing supports a nice, fast 120Hz refresh rate. That’s a compromise on resolution, yes, but this puppy is probably faster than your current display, since 60Hz is the usual standard. Also, 1080p is a nice resolution for gaming because it doesn’t require heaps and heaps of GPU horsepower in order to maintain acceptable performance.
And did I mention the price?
The other matter of some importance is the image quality of the display. I believe it’s an S-MVA-type panel, which should make it superior to a TN panel and faster than an IPS one. Standing in front of it, that seems about right. There’s less color shift than on most TN panels, and there’s a heckuva lot of pop to the deep reds and oranges that often seem muted on TN panels.
This is a TV, though, so color correctness is an issue. You may want to buy or borrow a calibrator for it. Andy didn’t yet have his display calibrated properly in Windows. The blues in the TR header were alarmingly neon and bright, to the point of being annoying. He’d had more luck with calibration on his Hackintosh, though. When he switched over there, the blues were somewhat tamed, though still brighter and more saturated than I would have liked. He’d put some work in dialing down the backlight intensity in one of the config menus on the TV in order to reach non-retina-searing brightness levels appropriate for a computer monitor.
But did I mention the price?
The simple fact is that you can have a massive array of pixels a couple of feet from your face for about $400. Stretched across a 39" panel, the pixel density is obviously higher than on my own 30" 2560×1600 monitor, but it’s not so incredibly high that text becomes completely unreadable. If you do need to bump up the font size, the PPI shouldn’t be so out-of-bounds high that the default Windows scaling options are overwhelmed. (I’d still recommend Windows 8.1 for a better experience. Or Mac OS X for the best.)
And there are so, so many pixels.
I know there are a lot of display innovations on tap for this year, including dynamic refresh schemes like G-Sync and 4K TN panels for around $700. This one comes at you from a different angle, and it’s not something I expected, to say the least. But if you’re willing to front a fraction of the cost of most 4K monitors, you can have the same pixel count today at a crazy discount.