Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Using a 4K TV as a High Resolution Computer Monitor

Subtitle: Samsung UE40JU6580U Review

By the end of this review I hope to convince computer IT geeks that your desktop should definitely include a 4K TV screen as an output device for your ultimate PC workstation

If you are an IT professional, a Geek, a Gamer, or simply somebody with less than average eyesight a larger than usual screen real-estate may really improve your Computer productivity.

Interim Solution and Final Solution
For many years, and I mean at least 8,  Marcus has used a solution of driving 3,  30" 2560x1600 monitor screens from a single Computer.

With the advent of 4K I would ideally transition these screens to 4K resolution, professional quality PC monitors but this would be really expensive.

Starting in 2016 I switched to a single Nvidia High Performance Graphics card.   The 2016 setup is here

This single card has 3 Displayport, 1 HDMI port (Capable of 4K) and 2 DVI ports (capable of 2560 x 1600 resolution)

So using this new card I can drive 3 screens with ease  (actually at one point I had 4 screens concurrently under Windows 2012 server), and one of them can be a 4K resolution screen using a HDMI 2.0 interface.

The Final Solution in 2017 is to drive multiple 4K screens, with the first being a lower cost TV screen used almost exclusively in 4K PC mode, with the occasional use as a TV.

Setup in Detail

Let me outline exactly how this works then

- You have a Windows 10 or Windows Server 2016 installed on your workstation 

- I use a single high performance Nvidia Graphics Adapter in a PCIe x16 slot.  Actually the current Gigabyte adapter is a Gigabyte GTX1060G1

- We will connect the Samsung TV to the only available HDMI port. Further 4K screens will typically attach via a Displayport Interface.

- This Gigabyte card, like the original 960GTX card can support upto 4 screens concurrently. I know, totally bonkers

- In the current setup I cannot fathom why but the HDMI screen must be the only powered screen on boot.  TOTALLY and utterly illogical.  But otherwise the boot hangs!

- So,  this 4K TV is switched on, the system boots, and when the Control-Alt-Delete prompt appears then I switch on the remaining 4K screen(s).  

- Windows Dynamically reconfigures itself before logon to a multi 4K screen config as per last shutdown.   Now,  logon as usual.

- Windows 2016 sees all screens as a continuously available single window.  Obviously then you can drag Applications thru physical windows,  'through' the edges of one physical screen into the other

- Windows server allows per screen scaling.  So you can adjust all your screens to be first as large or small text as you can like to see it clearly for you, and if you have different resolution or physically sized screens, adjust the scaling so that windows are physically the same size on different screens.  Otherwise as you drag a window from one screen to the other the size will jump too, which will look ridiculous and also be ridiculous.

About Our Screen

- We selected a 40" screen.  Any larger and it begins to be difficult to see it, well with multiple screens on a single desk.   I strongly recommend you don't go bigger than 40"

- Choosing a curved screen really enhances the view but makes the build more costly.  Still, worth it I feel

 Click on the images to see the specifications.

There are integrated speakers and you can use your fancy graphics card to send the audio down the HDMI 2.0 interface to them.  So in principle, for an initial setup, you don't need either a sound card in the PC or to buy any external speakers.

Means -> Lower cost PC build, more elegantly simple, less desktop clutter  (no speakers or speaker cables)

 Okay you are going to be able to use those 4 x HDMI inputs each capable of 4K input.  Fantastic.  Less useful are the USB sockets.

You can of course still connect up the TV coax or Cable TV inputs and have your 'TV' screen serve dual function etc, useful for when the PC is off and you want to just watch Youtube or TV and switching on the PC would be too much of a hassle.

It is important to note that the 2017 and later screens have full support of the H.264 codec to natively support Youtube 4K videos in the Youtube Application.  Without it your 4K TV cannot play 4K content directly  ( I mean direct 4K content, not something output from the PC which can be processed by the video card).   This is important if you have any 4K TV stations (bloody unlikely) but there are many Youtube streams with predominantly 4K content.  So, for direct viewing of them make sure your TV can play them natively.

The Benefits

- Main benefit of the Samsung TV cf another 4K screen is Cost.

- Just to repeat, the cost is dramatically lower, plus you get a 40" screen which has larger real estate that I find helpful.  To Marcus, a 30" or smaller screen at 4K is really more pixels than my tired eyes need.  I really cannot see the justification for 4K on a 27" or smaller screen.

- We did test out 43" inch screens but when you aggregate them I found this just too large.  If you can make a test, perhaps take a laptop with a HDMI 4K capable output to a retailer and make an actual test.

- Our Samsung UE40JU6580U has multiple HDMI inputs.  So for example it's connected concurrently to all of my principle workstation, Hardware firewall,   OSX server and a Raspberry Pi, all at the same time.  Wonderful.

- Besides being a screen for 4 different computer systems, it is also a Cable TV,

- Oh,  and with a wired Ethernet  or wireless Internet connection it is also acting as a Great SmartTV with applications like Youtube and BBC iPlayer, though of course the latter can run via a browser windows under Windows workstation.

- The colour and accuracy of the screen I find to be top notch

- The TV firmware is updated well, a lot more frequently than ever I had a firmware update for any monitor screen  (which was never!)

- In my case the TV screen is curved, which is a tremendous advantage when you have multiple screens connected together


I simply can't recommend enough that at one of your PC screens on your main workstation be a 40", Curved, 4K TV screen.

It will cost you less than the equivalent dedicated PC screen, but still look great, perform great, & in our case has 4 HDMI inputs, and can also double as a SmartTV and treble as a Cable / Coax TV.

But Please Hurry!
Samsung and other manufacturers have got wise to this idea and would prefer to sell you a much more expensive 40" or thereabouts PC only screen.  They are stopping production of 40" curved screens, in fact already I am pretty sure, you can only buy 40" flat screen products new now, so you might need to shop around for unsold stock of curved.  So don't delay, go 4K TV for your next Computer screen.