4K TV's, good enough for professional design display?

In recent years I’ve seen co-workers bring their hand-me-down LCD TV’s to the office for use as a workstation display. In my observation the screen resolution was not good enough for design work, even at 1080p. However now that 4K TV’s are coming down in price, have they finally become a good alternative to computer displays?

4K resolution is 3840 X 2160, which is even higher than the Apple Thunderbolt Display’s (2560 X 1440). Pixel density may not be as high, but probably close, especially in the smaller size 4K screens. Actually, a 40-inch 4K TV’s pixel density is slightly higher than the Thunderbolt’s 109 pixels per square inch.

4K TV’s in the 40-43 inch range are going for around $600, which is about what some high-end computer displays cost.

It depends is the answer:

1 - Many 4K TV’s have ultra low 30hz refresh rates. For anything that starts to move above that you will notice the loss in fluidity.
2 - The sharpening and scaling of a 4K display is important to consider. Many 4K TV’s are not designed to take a computer input directly, so as a result you may have poor quality due to the scaler interfering and wind up with a situation where the PC image is not directly mapped 1:1. This requires you to shrink the PC resolution to compensate, or fiddle around with settings to try to get a sharp image.
3 - Most of these cheap TV’s use crap panels, which will have poor color reproduction not appropriate for color sensitive design work.

My general answer to you would be “no”. If I was out shopping I would stick with a good quality IPS panel in the 24-30" range that is 16:10 aspect ratio. I have been using a Dell 27" at home for a while which is great @ 1440p.

At work I’m still on a 24" 1920x1200 HP screen which is not great, but good enough.

If you want to gamble with cost/quality you can consider something like the Korean off brand displays (Monoprice/Catleap/etc) which are selling 27 & 30" A- IPS panels that are rejected from the big vendors like Dell & Apple. They have limited built in options, but the panel itself is good quality even if there’s a chance it will have a defect, the overall value is very good.

Thanks, those were good points to consider.

But I can’t help my drooling when I think that just years ago we could only dream of such giant screen sizes (and resolutions to match) at the existing prices.

I’d also imagine that even the best 4k TV’s are calibrated for the best movie experience, and not color accuracy; and meant to be viewed from the couch a few feet away, not with your head immersed in it like most of us do at work.

But may be sometime in the future when the time comes to chuck that old 4k TV in the living room …

It’s still a great time for awesome displays. I think the 27" size/1440p resolution is a sweet spot right now between cost/dpi.

These guys:

Have a slightly questionable quality record, but bang for the buck is very high if you’re on a tight budget. I personally haven’t used anything but Dell Ultrasharps for my personal monitors in 17 years and have never had any issues, so I justify the price for quality.

Another alternative;

Dell has their curved 34" popping up on sale a few times:


Not a bad price…I remember paying nearly that much for my 27" refurb a few years ago and it was a great deal at the time. Displays are continuing to drop in price quite a bit and it’s nice to see more and more IPS panels being used.

While shopping for 4K TV’s the new Sharp line caught my attention, especially the unique base design.

It turned out it was designed by RKS;

That part addresses issue #2 I mentioned earlier (which is frankly regardless of 4K resolution, those are must-do’s for using any TV as a monitor).

But for professional work it still doesn’t address that many TV’s are still using lower quality panels, so your color reproduction may be suspect. Might be totally fine for CAD work, but not if you are doing anything that requires color sensitivity.

Once you get a TV that won’t suffer from those issues, you’re likely to have spent more than a good IPS monitor anyways.

Real monitor porn is the Apple 5K panel, but they screwed themselves over since there is no interface available to power that externally yet, and the iMac on it’s own is disappointing for professional work…will have to wait a few more years on that one.