Week in Tech: Random Screen Round Up

By Jeremy Laird on July 31st, 2014 at 9:00 pm.

Never before in the history of mankind have so many PC display options emerged in such a short space of time. At least, that’s the way it feels right now and in the time-honoured journalistic tradition I’m certainly not going to let fact checking get in the way of a mediocre narrative. It’s, er, monitormageddon people! In all seriousness, it’s enough to keep up with all the 120Hz, G-Sync, FreeSync and 4K nonsense. But now the mix of panel sizes, types and resolutions is beginning to spin out of control. I’m rapidly approaching the point where I haven’t a clue what I would personally plump for. Things will settle down in the next 18 months or so as the sweet spot emerges, no doubt. But that’s no help in the here and now. If you’re in the monitor market today, what the devil are you supposed to do?

This year, we’ve already had 32-inch, 28-inch and 24-inch 4K panels with 3,840 by 2,160 pixel grids. Right now, it’s the 28-inch brigade based on TN panels and yours for circa £500 that are the pick, albeit it with the caveat that your current video card probably lacks the pixel-pushing gumption to drive them properly in games.

Last week, of course, I mentioned the new super-wide 34-inch, 21:9 format 1440p panels. I’m expecting to lay eyes on AOC’s effort in that area soon but the prospect of 3,440 by 1,440 pixels painted across a super-wide 34-inch panel sounds pretty drool worthy.

It also sounds a bit more plausible than full 4K given the capabilities of current GPUs and the increasing sense that chip development cycles have slowed. But more on that later.

Anyway, what’s actually new? First up, a new generation of 32-inch 1440p monitors is appearing, including the Acer B326HUL and BenQ BL3200PT. Actually, the latter (pictured above) popped up a few months ago, but somehow came in under my radar.

Acer B326HUL: 32 inches + 1440p could = gaming greatness. The again, VA. Whoops

Anyway, the bottom line here is the 2,560 by 1,440 resolution and 16:9 aspect ratio that’s hitherto been familiar in the 27-inch form factor now expanded to 32 inches. Personally, I’ve always felt that 27 inches lack a little in terms of big screen drama, so I like the idea of a larger panel that doesn’t add any GPU load.

The pixel pitch will be more than sufficient in-game at 32 inches, I reckon. For broader desktop duties, it’s not such an obvious win. But I’d have to see one before drawing any final conclusions. Having said that, the fact that these new 32 inchers are based on VA rather than IPS or TN panel tech is a bit of a worry for gaming.

VA panels typically have great contrast and good viewing angles. But pixel response can be a problem. Early reviews of the BenQ suggest adequate rather than excellent response rates with input lag looking moderate. I’m therefore thinking that this new 32-inch 1440p sector isn’t an obvious choice for gamers. At least, not while it’s based on VA panel tech.

Next up is a new relatively affordable 27-inch 4K monitor from Asus, the PB279Q. Yup, that’s 27 inches rather than 28 inches. It’s the same 3,840 by 2,160 pixel grid but the key differentiator with the PB279Q is a wide-viewing-angle AHVA (more-or-less IPS) panel.

As for pricing, I don’t believe it’s been fully firmed up. But Asus is pitching the PB279Q as stage two of its ‘4K for the masses’ and sub-$1,000 is mooted. Not cheap, then, but none of this multi-thousand dollar / pound nonsense.

27-inch 4K with an IPS panel at a tolerable price? Interesting

That said, for me the 28-inch 4K masses are marginal in terms of pixel pitch in Windows. And as ever, the very suitability of 4K with current GPUs is a tricky question. Chalk the Asus PB279Q down as another interesting option that probably won’t prove the new weapon of choice for gamers.

Finally, despite my reservations re 4K gaming both Nvidia and AMD are tooling up for new GPUs later this year, even if it looks likely they’ll be stuck on 28nm production and therefore the performance leap may turn out to be modest. What’s more, much faster 16nm GPUs are due in 2015. And I’ve always seen screens as a long term investment, so…

Enter the idea of a the 4K TV as PC monitor. In the 1080p era, using a big TV as monitor made for a hideous pixel pitch. But a 4K 40-inch TV has a pixel pitch that’s only a little finer (110 PPI vs 101PPI) than my current favourite, the 2,560 by 1,600 pixel 30-inch monitor.

Cheapo 4K HDTVs like those from Seiki have so far been hobbled by 30Hz refresh

The problem with cheap 4K TVs to date, of course, has been the ghastly 30Hz limitation. It’s a total deal breaker. But it looks like a new generation of cheap 4K TVs is coming complete with HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.3 support and thus 60Hz capability. Interesting.

In fact, one cheap 4K HDTV maker, Seiki, has announced actual 4K PC monitors in 28, 32 and 40-inch sizes (the 28U4SEP-G02, 32U4SEP-G02 and 40U4SEP-G02 respectively. There’s no word on pricing yet and availability may be as late as early next year. But for context, Seiki’s current 30Hz 39-inch 4K TV can be had for less than $500. Yikes!

Of course, if you chuck in complicating factors like 120Hz support, G-Sync and FreeSync, it’s pretty obvious that the odds of a single monitor that absolutely nails all your gaming and broader PC needs any time soon are slim.

Personally, it’s 34-inch, 21:9 1440p and 40-inch 4K that’s got me checking my bank balance. Then again, if someone could come up with a 32-inch 1440p panel with 120Hz refresh and some kind of ‘syncing support for a pure gaming, that would be bloody tempting, too. All of which means I can’t actually tell you what to buy. First-world problems, eh?

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35 Comments »

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  1. SupahSpankeh says:

    No mention of the QX2710?

    £200 from Korea, 1440p, overclocks up to 144 or 120 MHz (not sure which, I’ve not read the threads in a while and honeslty I CBA pushing it).

    • cafeoh says:

      The QX2710 or DP2710 (Qnix other’s name Xstar) is a “risky” screen.

      If everything goes right (no dead pixel or backlight bleeding), then it’s worth it, no doubt. The overclocking potential can be quite random though. I’ve never seen any report of overclocking up to 144hz, and even achieving 120hz is pretty damn rare.

      My screen doesn’t have any dead pixel and barely any BLB (obvious with a camera, can’t see it with the naked eye) but like most I can’t overclock it beyond 96hz. And you should add 60€ to the price, because there’s a good chance you’ll have to pay custom dues, you should take this as part of the price and not gamble with it. That being said, I’m extremely happy with it, because 96hz is a great improvement on 60hz, 1440p is awesome and the IPS screen (well, Samsung equivalent to be exact, since it’s built by them) is really good.

      If you’re not scared of having to unscrew your monitor to fix BLB (it’s fixable) and are ready to take the risk of getting some dead pixels (or paying extra for the “pixel perfect” version, take extra precaution on the definition of that though, since most eBay sellers consider “pixel perfect” to be 5 dead pixels or less) then go ahead, this screen is wonderful.

      • Nate says:

        They’re second-rate panels so slight defects aren’t uncommon; but I don’t think you’re being fair regarding overclocks.

        I believe that a lot of people blame their monitor for problems that lie with their video card. This is true for me: my monitor overclocks just fine to 1440p@120hz, but my video card (an AMD) can’t handle that throughput when it’s doing 3d. Works fine in 2d, which is why I blame the video card– monitor doesn’t know the difference.

        The comparison to the 120hz TNs isn’t exactly fair, because those aren’t doing 1440p@120hz, they’re doing 1080@120 or @144. Which is a totally different game.

        Even given that, reports of 1440@120hz aren’t uncommon. There are zero reports of 1440@144hz, because there are no options for pixel clocks that high with the ToastyX utility that you need to overclock these monitors.

        All that said: I love my Qnix, but if I was buying today, I’d probably go with a Dell or Samsung IPS (or Asus TN, if the refresh rate was more important than viewing angle issues that happen with large monitors.) Prices have dropped, leaving the cheapo Koreans less attractive, and the software you need for a refresh overclock is irritating and increasingly out of date.

        • chris1479 says:

          I reached 120hz easily with some custom CRU settings e.g.

          Timing: Manual

          Horizontal Vertical
          Active: 2560 1440
          Front Porch: 24 1 lines
          Sync width: 10 1 lines
          Back Porch: 58 4 lines
          Blanking 92 6 lines
          Total 2652 1446 lines

          Refresh Rate: 120Hz

          Smooth as silk. Could probably go higher but I’m fine with 120.

          • cafeoh says:

            @Nate

            I get pretty bad artifacts at 110hz and at 120hz most of my screen is covered by horrible jitterry green bands.
            I’ve tried with both a 660ti and a r9 290 and achieved the exact same result.

            @Chris

            But I actually tried out your parameters with 110hz and it seems the artifacts are mostly gone. How did you find out what worked for you? Is there such a guide online, I couldn’t find that.

          • chris1479 says:

            I’m a monitor engineer

  2. Scroll says:

    The next series of gpu’s is most definitely a stop gap for next years model. I’ll wait for a gpu that can handle most games decently on the Rift retail kit.

  3. Rad says:

    I must not be a gaming enthusiast. I only have a single 23″, 1080p @ 60Hz on my HD7970 and I’m quite happy with it.

    • rpsKman says:

      The door is this way, scum.

    • Raoul Duke says:

      You sicken me.

    • Spinoza says:

      single 22″ 60 Hz . Stay united.

    • bad guy says:

      single 15″ 1366×768

      Still very happy because it’s an OLED. XD
      Waiting for G-Sync/Free-Sync to become mainstream. Hopefully OLED by then too.

    • ix says:

      I have a 22″ and my desk simply is not deep enough to go much bigger. I guess if you can get further from the monitor it’s nice.

  4. Ryuuga says:

    Me, I have no interest in 4k, indeed, in anything above 1920 x 1200 or 1080. Nah, I am looking for something 40-50 inches big, at that resolution, that does a good job for gaming, movies, and also chatting-emailing-surfing, that sorta thing. I’m never at the desk, always on the couch, a few meters away (2.2 meters, to be specific). Higher resolution? My rig cant handle it, and I cant afford a new rig. And It’s not that much use from 2.2 meters away, anyway. All UIs would just be too small, anyway. Scaling would be nice, but is seldom present, works poorly and is a hassle when it is..

    So far, it’s either some LG TV (e.g. LG 42LN5200), that seems ok for gaming, or one of those computer IPS screens that seem to be made for store displays. Neither seems entirely ideal, tho.

    • kaer says:

      I have a 47″ 1080 LG, and it’s great. I haven’t done any direct comparisons with my monitor, but I have no complaints. But I notice that one you mention is 60Hz. I don’t think that matters for when it’s acting as a monitor, but for TV I definitely prefer the 120Hz (which mine is) to the 60Hz.

      • Ryuuga says:

        I don’t watch broadcast TV at all (never ever, I haven’t had it hooked up for 9 years), but rather any number of movies etc from my computer. I’ve been using a 24″ 1920×1200 sPVA screen set at 59 Hz for this a long time now, and if it wasn’t a bit small, I would have no reason to upgrade – it looks awesome. Would 60 Hz look worse at 40+ inches? Or is it the screen tech?

        • kaer says:

          I think 60Hz would be fine for you regardless of the size. I only notice the difference with 120Hz for some TV transmissions.

          • Ryuuga says:

            Great, that’s good to know! Since it’s really hard to find just the tv you want to look at in a shop, much less go and hook up a computer to it, it really helps to hear from others!

    • frenchy2k1 says:

      Remember, one of the great thing of 4k is that it is double of 1080p in both directions.
      One way some people are using the Seiki (4k TVs at 30Hz) is dual mode of desktop/movies at 4k/30Hz and gaming at 1080p/120Hz. Your screen will be as sharp as a normal TV with the option of being sharper.
      Seiki is not a “premium” brand though, so research the trade offs.
      Their 50″ has been less than $600 lately:
      http://smile.amazon.com/Seiki-SE50UY04-50-Inch-120Hz-HDTV/dp/B00BXF7I9M/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1406849602&sr=8-2&keywords=seiki+4k+tv

      • Ryuuga says:

        That’s what I want to get away from, tho: I have a 24″ screen right now, and it’s too small. Splitting a 40″ or 50″ would mean I’d be back to square one. Higher resolution would mean the same thing: fonts, UIs, etc would still strain my eyes. I want those pixels comfortably big, for viewing from 2.2 – 2.5 meters away. I just want them damn sharp, as well, I’ve had the computer hooked up to TVs that were either blurry, or had terrible-looking contrast enhancement.

  5. Burt Macklin says:

    I’ve switched from Dell U2412M to BenQ BL3200PT (pretty much the same pixel size, but WAY more screen space) almost 2 months ago, and can’t say I’ve noticed any issues while doing my daily gaming sessions.

  6. mrhidley says:

    I’ve been using a 27inch Korean 1440p display for just over a year now and I love it. Don’t have much interest in 4k until Microsoft sort out scaling as well as Apple have. Even 1440p requires a pretty high level of GPU hardware, I had to add a 2nd 7950 to my system to be able to get reliable frame rates in certain games.

    • Raoul Duke says:

      Yup, I think 1440p is the current sweet spot for graphics cards which have a bit of oomph but aren’t $1500.

      I just got an r9 290 and an Asus 1440p gaming monitor and the combination is awesome. 1440p is a very definite step up over 1080p/1200p, and means that a bigger screen still looks super sharp.

  7. wallysimmonds says:

    I have a Dell 3011 (1600p), Crossover 27Q (1440p) and a Dell S2440l (1080p), and am most satisfied with the Dell overall, but for anyone looking to upgrade from 1080p – and you really should – I don’t think the Korean monitors are *that* risky. Personally I think the Crossover looks better than the Dell, I just prefer 16:10 and the number of inputs I get with the Dell.

    I also bought one of the Samsung 590D 4k screens a few weeks back, and quickly sold it for quite a loss – horrible stand quaity and TN – it just looked terrible. My 290 couldn’t keep up with 4k either, and many applications looked a bit screwy on Windows 8.1.

    I’m also thinking of considering the LG 34um95 or the AOC equivalent, but desk real estate is a bit of an issue for me – and the fact that they’re hideously expensive atm.

  8. sabasNL says:

    ExtremeTech disagrees, basically says it’s too early and 4k gaming doesn’t always work as it’s supposed to yet.
    http://www.extremetech.com/gaming/180402-five-things-to-know-about-4k-gaming-were-glitching-our-way-to-gaming-nirvana

    I just bought a 27″ 1080p monitor myself, and I do not regret it. While it’s absolutely true 4k looks stunning, the displays I’ve seen all lack in one way or another – plus my budget isn’t huge to begin with.

  9. Premium User Badge

    caff says:

    I’m interested in 4K at 40 inches, with G-SYNC or FREESYNC or WHATEVERSYNC.

    And PC hardware to match.

    And an Oculus Rift headset to match.

    Until then, I can’t be arsed shelling out on 1440p or above.

  10. TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

    The BenQ also has full PWM backlight dimming, “flicker free” basically, which is somewhat uncommon nowadays, and the best thing about it’s pixel pitch is that is more or less the same as a 24 incher 1080p monitor, something many consider a sweetspot for viewing comfort.

    I wouldn’t make too much of a fuss about the response times, VA is a bit weak on the regard but no panel is like a TN on that anyway. This tech needs more love and i appreciate that it it making a comeback. Afterall it’s biggest advantage, the contrast, is really downplayed and not something that’s “slightly better”, considering that both IPS and TN are locked at around 800-1000:1 while AMVA easily goes to 3000. The black depth is so much deeper that it changes how people imagine LCD performance.

  11. avrus96 says:

    Picked up the Seiki 39″ for $320 recently. Came from a trio of Samsung 27″ 1080p TN/LCD displays I paid $200/each for ~4 years ago. The Seiki is unquestionably a great value. As far as usability, the 30Hz is just fine for regular desktop use. Input lag and low refresh rate takes a bit of getting used to, but after ~30 minutes you can forget it’s there. Flashing the 50″ firmware allows pixel doubling at 1080p resolution and the panel I got overclocks to 125 Hz just fine (testufo.com confirmed). Drawbacks: awful pixel scaling at anything but 1080p (but ymmv). I’m actually sticking to the 27″ 1080p for gaming (pixel density of a 39″ pixel-doubled screen from 2 feet away isn’t pleasant – even though 120 Hz is silky smooth and a joy to behold). For those who are looking for a gaming panel, I would recommend a 60Hz+ native resolution option, but for those who spend the majority of their time not gaming, the Seiki is a strong contender.

  12. Love Albatross says:

    I had a Dell U2713HM briefly but something about it was really uncomfortable, maybe I was just sat too close. Definitely didn’t like the thick bezel, the panel was set so deep there was a reflection of the screen around the edges.

    Had a 21:9 for a while (2560×1080) and it is an awesome format for gaming, though the lack of vertical space feels odd. Be interesting to see if the larger 21:9 models are more comfortable in that respect.

  13. Premium User Badge

    samsharp99 says:

    Monitors. Argh.

    I feel like it’s time to replacing my aging 24″ 16:10 and 16:9 monitors (or at least replacing the primary) to get something larger with a higher resolution and to move to something with 120Hz/144Hz refresh rates.

    Things like the new Asus ROG monitor look pretty attractive but then again, so do the super-wide screen monitors.

    I definitely need to have two monitors as often watch movies/streams fullscreen on one while attempting to do something productive (programming, playing games) on the other.

  14. CookPassBabtridge says:

    Hi Jeremy, thanks for the round up. I agree its all become rather overwhelming, and is not helping with my five month “procrastinating over buying a new rig” disorder. I am looking at a three-monitor (3x1920x1080/1200@60fps, maximum shinies) setup for future proofed high performance simming. However given the cost of SLI Titan Blacks, do you happen to have any industry info on whether we are likely to see a 6GB 780ti any time soon? Or is it worth waiting for the GTX 880s?

    Also, what do you think about the whole “Watch Dogs needs more than 3GB VRAM” issue and how that feeds into near-future hardware requirements?

    • Jeremy Laird says:

      New high end GPUs from Nvidia are coming soon. Announcement in September, I think. And yes, for beyond-1080p gaming, if I was buying a performance video card today, I’d want more than 2GB.

  15. imhotep says:

    Cheap TVs will probably have full AdobeRGB colour which monitor manufacturers seem to tend to forget. That’s still the best “gimmick” in my book. Or maybe it’s at least standard in a certain size and resolution.

  16. ix says:

    I know this is mainly because of windows, but I really don’t want to buy a 100dpi monitor anno 2014. Guess I’m getting a MBP.