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Hands-on preview: 4K / UltraHD monitors for your PC

Introduction

If you can afford to spend a few thousand quid on a computer screen, you can buy yourself an UltraHD or 4K monitor. But does your PC support such high resolutions? What do you need to get the most out of it, both as professional and as a gamer?

Last year August we reviewed our first 4K monitor, the 31.5-inch Sharp PN-K321N with a resolution of 3840x2160 pixels. That's four times Full HD and will set you back about $4,999 (£3,195). The ASUS PQ321QE, which uses the exact same Sharp IGZO panel, is a little more affordable at around £2,980 In December we tested the Dell UP2414Q 24" 4K monitor, which should be available for a much more reasonable €1,450 including VAT (about £1,225).

It's clear that these types of monitors are still reserved for early adopters, but in the coming years those excessive prices will of course come down a lot. In this article we will examine how you use a monitor like this and how to get the most out of 4K resolution. This isn't a given, because operating systems such as Windows aren't quite up to the task (yet).

Display port

The Sharp PN-K321N and Dell UP2414Q we tested were equipped with a DisplayPort 1.2 connector. The US version of the Sharp monitor and certain versions of the ASUS monitors also have two HDMI ports, and there is a good reason for this.

Both HDMI 1.4 and DisplayPort 1.0 have sufficient bandwidth for 3840x2160 resolution, but only for 30 frames per second. For movies that's not a big deal, considering most Blu-ray films are 24 fps, but 30 Hz for a PC is far too little. You don't even have to start up a game to see this, you can even tell when you drag a window over the desktop.

DisplayPort 1.2 does have enough for 3840x2160 and 60 Hz, but there still is a minor hurdle. That's because the Sharp PN-K321N actually consists of two separate monitors.

You can read the rest of the 4K / UltraHD on the PC hands-on review at hardware.info.