4k Monitors – Are they a Necessity for Truss/Panel Designers? (Part 1)

Overview

The last five years have been very, very good times for anyone interested in flat-screen computer monitors. If you are a truss designer interested in gaining maximum, military-general style visibility into all the inner workings of your computer, exploiting the potential of your graphics hardware to the maximum and pumping as many LED-generated, pixel-popping light waves into your sore and bloodshot eyes, this has truly been a good time to be alive!

Here is why:

  1. The size of available monitors has increased. Not too long ago, Apple was astonishing the world with very expensive, beautiful 30” (!) monitors which exceeded the budget of most non-graphics-oriented professionals by probably a factor of 4x. For PC users, 27’-28” was essentially the maximum screen size available. These days, 30” and 32” monitors are pretty common, with hybrid TV and computer-monitor models available in 40”, 50” and even 60” neighborhood for those interested in upgrading their cubicle footprint to the area of a small aircraft hanger.
  2. The variety of large-sized monitors has exploded. From cheap, gray-market Korean makers like Crossover and Achieva, to high-end makers Samsung and NEC, there is a wide and smoothly segregated set of price points for each size of monitor larger than the (formerly standard) 24” screen size. 28” is no longer considered a “specialty” size by most makers; 30” and 32” is now fairly standard as a top-tier diagonal dimension and most every major maker has models (or even several models) in these categories: each offers units meant for gamers, casual users, business professionals, and expensive color calibrated screens targeted toward photographers and video editors. No longer is a buyer stuck with an “all or nothing” option – we can all pick our price vs. quality point.
  3. Panel technologies have diversified. In former days large-scale monitors were only offered in a very basic “TN” technology which offered quite flat color, boring low contrast and limited viewing angles. Today, you can walk out of any well-equipped electronics store with a huge monitor in your choice of TN, VA, MVA, S-PVA, or any one of several high-dollar IPS flavors, depending on your taste in color quality and on the heat of your wallet.
  4. The features and color quality of large flat-screens have improved drastically. It wasn’t long ago that CRT monitors were the gold-standard in color fidelity and ability to reproduce close to full Adobe RGB color space. No longer. The newest panels, especially the MVA, PLS, AHVA and IPS designs, have incredibly wide color range and impressively dense black/white contrast ratios. They are engaging to look at and make the old CRT technology seem impossibly dated, even for critical applications like photography. Also, the old “faded edges” of large screens, where the brightness varied significantly across the expanse of the monitor, has disappeared, as manufacturers seemed to have worked out all those kinks.
  5. Lastly, and most importantly for this article, the resolution of monitors has increased. For many years we bumped against the limits of so-called “HD” resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, with some business-class monitors at the slightly taller 1920 x 1200 resolution. Today HD is still the standard resolution, but within the last two years there has been a huge increase in availability of the following resolutions which should interest design professionals the most:

4k-monitor

As a truss/panel designer, what size & resolution monitor should I buy?

What a great question! With so many choices, I’ll share my approach to choosing a size & resolution combination, because this is the critical question.  Realize that monitors of a certain resolution which work well for a certain task, at a given monitor size, may not work as well in a smaller/larger scale.  With this in mind, there is a proper approach, which is to start by establishing the task, find the proper resolution for that task, and then choose a screen size which is appropriate for that resolution.

Choose task -> Match with resolution -> Establish distance -> Select screen size

Finally, a little background definition of terms and concepts:

  • Pixels are individual points of light on a screen which can render any number of colors
  • Resolution is the actual number of pixels (width x height) the monitor is made with.

The “visual information” a monitor is capable of conveying to the user is directly related to the resolution (pixel count). This directly affect the quality of the picture and the stress on your eyesight.

When we publish Part 2 next week, we will give you specific things to consider from the truss/panel design (and your doctor’s) standpoint. See you next week!

Please leave your comments below.