I recently saw a number of online retailers were selling a 39″ 4K TV for $299. (Sadly it seems they’re pretty much gone at that price as of this writing but Google “SEIKI SE39UY04″ and see if anyone is still selling them as cheap.) Now I don’t really *need* a 4K TV right now but $300 for a 39” 4K TV is about as cheap as 39 inches of dirt so I wondered if I could use a 4K TV as a computer monitor. Apparently I’m not the first to think about this, I’m just cheaper than the many other programmers who jumped on this same TV when it was still $700.
Short version is it works but this combination isn’t without its caveats. This particular TV is a little bright and a little blurry out of the box to be used as a monitor, however if you turn down the “brightness” and the “sharpness” you can easily fix that. The biggest issue is the refresh rate. This TV has HDMI 1.4 ports on it and that generation of HDMI can’t push enough data to support such high resolutions at a 60Hz refresh rate. The best it can do is 30Hz which means mouse movements feel a little chunky and imprecise at first, and it means this is definitely not the monitor you want for gaming. If you’re mostly thinking of using it for writing code or reading blogs you should keep reading.
Now unlike some of those other programmers I wasn’t using a desktop computer with easily upgradable video card, I’m using a 2 year old ASUS A55VD laptop which has an Nvidia 610M GPU and Intel 4000 integrated graphics. Looking at the specs online it seemed this hardware *should* be able to drive the 4K monitor despite the fact that ASUS lists the maximum supported resolution of my laptop at an anemic 1366 x 768. So yeah, I took a little gamble.
I went around and around with this and found that I could push my laptop to drive higher and higher resolutions. I got it up to 1920 x 1080 which was crisp but Fisher Price huge on a 39″ screen. I pushed it further to 2560 x 1440 and even 3200 x 1800 but those resolutions were unreadably blurry because the resolution wasn’t an evenly divisible multiple of the TV’s native resolution. I was about to return the TV in defeat when I finally stumbled on the right settings.
This is already too long but I’ll post all the steps needed to get it to work just in case another frustrated programmer stumbles on this blog. I hope posting this solution saves you a little time and frustration.
- I updated the drivers directly from Nvidia for the 610M chipset and Intel for the 4000 integrated graphics.
- Now when I right click on the desktop I can select the Intel Graphics Options > Custom Resolutions. (Accept the warning)
- Select the Display “Digital Television” and add a resolution with the settings 3840w x 2160h, 25Hz refresh, Color Depth 32, Interlace Mode Disabled (Progressive Scan), and a Timing Standard of CVT-RB. Save it.
- Reboot the laptop
- Now right click the desktop again and select the Intel Graphics Properties, select Display, select the 3840×2160 resolution and 25Hz refresh rate. Save.
Once it comes up it looks *amazing*. Text is razor sharp and there’s just SO much room. I haven’t quite gotten used to using a monitor this big yet so it feel a little like playing ping-pong on a full size tennis court. One last tip, to help manage all this real estate I would strongly recommend getting Gridy. It’s a handy little tool that makes it easy to pop windows into custom set sizes and positions. Just trust me on this, you’ll want it.