Monday, September 15, 2014

Best To Wait For 4K/5K - Reason Isn't Cost But Graphic Horsepower and Actual Support for More Models and Ports

I want a 4K TV too.  Though it's not for watching videos since no service, over-the-air or streaming, is quite ready for it.  Rather, I want it for my late-2013 Macbook Pro.  I've thought about it on and off.  The last time I did it was when a Chinese brand called Seiki was offering a 39" 4K HDTV for less than $400 ($339 now on Amazon).

In fact, they've got a 65" version that is decently priced for less than $1200 today and likely can be had for lower right around Black Friday.  However...

Of course, there is always a "however".  However, while they might be a step above "gimmicky" in terms of have a higher resolution than the ubiquitous 1080p HDTV, they are no suitable for use as Retina Display monitors that we have become accustomed to on our Apple laptops or iOS devices. 

The reason is because while they have the resolution, the Seiki 4K TV cannot support 60Hz, which is the very least you need to have a smooth display for daily computing uses.  Running at only 30Hz, scrolling and mouse pointers become jagged.  Not the smooth experience we expect and see on our Macbook displays.

That was then, about two months ago.  Time to revisit, yeah?

Well, the 4K monitor situation is a bit more clear.  There are dozens of different 4K monitors and HDTV out now.  There still isn't an Apple 4K monitor.  Moreover, you can forget about a 4K HDTV from Apple.  Seiko still has not come out with a 2014 model of its 2013 lineup which I hope would offer better 4K support for computing purposes. 

That leaves the more expensive but reliably better options for computing use.  You've got 4K monitors from Dell, Acer, and a few other brands.  Even now, Dell offers a $2500 5K monitor (Tom's Hardware).  So, the right time, ya?

Honestly, I don't have a "yes" or "no" answer for that as far as I'm concerned given my 4K needs.  I'm not going to be doing any major 4K video editing or gaming at such a resolution.  I just need smooth scrolling and text movement for my day-to-day uses.  And I do want a future proof option for today's 4K buy if I were to get into in the next month or two. 

It comes down to whether my Macbook Pro will have the horsepower to support my needs - mostly for smooth scrolling of text, moving windows around, and just duplicate any other functions I can ready do on my Macbook Pro's 15" Retina screen.  And when 4K content does come our way, I wonder if the dedicated graphics card will be able to handle the load - running 4K  content through an external monitor.

Then there is the confusing issue of various parts and what versions they support and whether they can be upgraded to provide adequate 4K support for computing needs. 

On top of that, it does not appear that the current version of OS X supports 4K well.  There are some questions whether Apple's current OS supports 4K at 60Hz - it may depend on models and ports supported. We may have to wait until Yosemite (the next OS X upgrade, 10.10) is out and running in order to see how much support and smoothly Apple's 4K implementation is.

In conclusion, while I tend to be an early adopter for technology (when I can afford it), I don't see 4K support in my future for at least another 4-6 months.  Yosemite will be out soon and I probably will wait for 10.10.1 or later to see.  Plus, there are two points to consider.  waiting for Apple's 4K displays which likely will cost more than competing options or go with the likes of Dell and risk running into some issues.

Here is an in depth Anandtech look on what is currently possible for the late-2013 Macbook Pro (with models with discrete graphic cards) to run 4K natively at 60Hz. 

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