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Should I Buy a 4K Monitor?

How to Use the Moscow Method to Decide if You Need a 4K Monitor

BenQ North America
2019/05/20
St Basil's Cathedral

Moscow is the capital of Russia. It’s the home of St. Basil’s Cathedral, Red Square, the Kremlin and the Bolshoi Ballet. It’s the largest city by population and land area on the European continent. It is also the name of one of the most popular methods in the project management world.

It’s called the “Moscow Method” or “MoSCoW.” It’s a very effective tool to use when setting priorities for a project or goal. It’s at least four times as accurate as a coin flip when making decisions. Like whether you need a 4K monitor.

MoSCoW

Sure, 4K, in all of its ultra-high definition glory, with 8 million pixels and incredibly lifelike resolution, is stunning, but… Do you really need it?

Can you “get by” with high definition? We’ll explore this question with the help of MoSCoW.

M Must-have, non-negotiable
M
o
Must-have, non-negotiable
 
M
S
Must-have, non-negotiable
Should have, it at all possible
M
C
Must-have, non-negotiable
Could have, not critical
M
o
Must-have, non-negotiable
 
M
W
Must-have, non-negotiable
Will not have, don't need right now

Like everything else in consumer electronics technology, 4K monitors are becoming less expensive. It’s easy to justify the value for money proposition of a 4K desktop computer monitor, but where is the overkill? Like their big brothers, 4K televisions, 4K monitors have a display resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels, or 2160p.

This is four times the resolution of a typical HD TV or monitor, which sports a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution, or 1080p.

One of the main differences between 4K television sets and 4K computer monitors is the availability of content. The amount of 4K programs available to watch on your 4K TV is growing rapidly, but it’s not universal. Outside of streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime and some premium cable and broadcast channels, there isn’t a lot of choose from on the 4K menu.

Computers are different.

Operating systems like macOS, Windows 10 and Chrome OS can output resolutions higher than 1080p – but with a catch. Given the right hardware, you could connect a 4K monitor and adjust your computer’s settings for a 3840 x 2160 display resolution.

Regarding hardware, your computer would have to have a graphics card capable of supporting a 4K resolution output, and the connection would need to be HDMI, Thunderbolt 3 or USB-C. (Note: Thunderbolt 3 is capable of driving two 4K monitors at a refresh rate of 60Hz where USB-C can support one.)

Also with a computer monitor, you would be sitting closer to it than you would to a 4K TV. It’s likely that the fourfold increase in pixel density would be more noticeable at two feet versus twenty feet away.

Another consideration is scaling. If you output a 4K image on a smallish monitor, there’s a problem. If your monitor isn’t big enough to allow the full 3840 x 2160 image to stretch out from corner to corner you get into a good and bad experience. The good is, you have a 4K image. The bad is, to fit that within the real estate of a small monitor, the image has to be scaled. That means, although you can fit a lot of content on screen, scaling will make everything too small. Text, for example, will be razor-sharp but it will be almost too small to read. You’ll find yourself squinting to see, which absolutely defeats the purpose of having super fine 4K. We’ll highlight BenQ solutions in just a bit.

Now that we’ve gotten some of the requisite tekkie-talk out of the way, let’s apply the MoSCoW Method to the burning question: Do you need a 4K monitor?

M: Must-have

To assess whether a 4K monitor is a must-have component of your workflow, the answer really lies within what applications or programs you use. If you use Photoshop or other applications in Adobe’s Creative Cloud, you can really benefit from 4K. The Photoshop workspace can be scaled way up on a 4K monitor so you can work with super high-resolution images and view them in full detail. Working with them at 100% without scrolling or zooming makes for a much better experience.

Photographers and photo editors can benefit from 4K as well. Working with full resolution RAW images in a one-to-one ratio on screen enables you to see minute details – especially important when doing fine touch up work. Lightroom, Affinity Photo, Capture One and Aperture (until Apple finally kills it) thrive on wider, sharper screen real estate.

Graphic designers crunching Illustrator or InDesign, 3D modelers, CAD designers and others working with things like high-resolution vector images and fine designs can really benefit with the detail 4K provides.

Video editors will want to be a part of the 4K gold rush by working on Final Cut Pro X or Premiere Pro timelines with 4K video in full 4K resolution. Many projects, from Hollywood features down to corporate videos, are shot in 4K nowadays. Maintaining that native resolution from capture to edit to export is crucial in a 4K workflow.

Gamers will enjoy the experience of 4K and a 60Hz refresh rate, and even up to 120Hz. A higher refresh rate translates to smoother motion and allows the graphic complexity of The Witcher 3, Star Wars: Battlefront or Fallout 4 (to name a few) to shine. Packing four times as many pixels as common 1080p displays, 4K monitors can make these newer games breathtakingly immersive. Those 8 million pixels can even make older titles seem advanced using HD texture packs and other modifications. And there’s the old tried and true rule: You can’t have too much RAM.

S: Should have if at all possible

“Should have” gives you some wiggle room. For instance, if you’re a video editor and only occasionally work with 4K, adding a 4K monitor to your workflow really comes down to future-proofing your setup. Since 4K monitors are becoming more affordable, you could argue you should have one or two, at least for the occasional 4K project that comes your way. The standard right now is still 1080p and that’s the most widespread resolution. Still, having 4K monitors sets you up for success when 4K becomes the standard.

C: Could have, but not critical

“Could have.” That’s right up there in the “if wishes were fishes” territory. We could always have more, right? Does it really make sense to have a 160 mph Ferrari when all your driving is in the city at 45 mph? Do you need a 4K monitor for your Excel spreadsheets? Maybe…especially with the larger screen size, but scaling can make all those numbers too tiny to work with.

If you’re watching movies on an external monitor, you could have a 4K one. But, if you’re not watching 4K content, it’s not critical.

W: Will not need…now

So, you’re not a gamer, photo editor, video editor or graphic designer. You’re the kind of user that likes to extend their desktop to another monitor, mirror displays to make everything bigger, but mostly you answer emails and do web research and write tomes in Word. You don’t have a supercharged PC with lots of RAM, a heavy-duty graphics card and copious amounts of storage. You are limited by need and availability. You don’t need 4K and your system won’t support it anyway.

BenQ 4K Monitor Solutions

No matter if you use a HD 1080p monitor or a full 4K model, staring at screens all day has a common side effect: eye fatigue. As a world-leading human technology and solutions provider, BenQ leverages the top cutting-edge technology to provide eye-care™ in its display products. Relieving eye fatigue and enhancing eye comfort while viewing, eye-care™ allows for a healthier and more enjoyable viewing experience while still offering the top color accuracy, display resolution, and more.

BenQ 2K Monitor Solutions

Other 2K Monitors

Do Svidaniya!

We hope this article sheds some light on the mystery of 4K, what it offers and how you can incorporate the technology into your working or leisure life. Or not. That’s what this article and the MoSCoW Method is for.

Like they say in Red Square, “Do Svidaniya,” or “until next time.”

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