Working with All the Pixels!

For the past two years, the computer setup in my home office has consisted of a Dell Precision T3500 with an old graphics card and two mismatched Dell monitors with roughly 720p resolution.  While this was plenty capable for running 3D printer software using pre-made files found on Thingiverse, I found the setup lacking when I started designing my own prints in OpenSCAD.  When it came to gaming, I couldn’t even run the original Portal, which came out in 2007.  My other option, my ThinkPad X220, seemed cramped in comparison to my dual 1080p monitor setup at work, and so a few months ago I started looking into upgrading my setup.

In an attempt to futureproof (and because I enjoy being on the bleeding edge), I decided to look at 4K monitors, given that the larger screen resolution would allow me to multitask or be able to keep open reference material (e.g. OpenSCAD cheatsheet) while working in an application.  I originally checked out a dual 4K 24″-27″ monitor setup as suggested in this blog post, but I quickly decided that I would need a larger screen in order to make full use of 4K.  After combining the calculations from isthisretina.com and OSHA’s recommended screen distance, I settled on getting a medium sized TV and using it as a monitor.

After much deliberation and browsing, I purchased a 39″ Seiki UHD TV when it was on sale for $280 and a GeForce GTX 960 to drive all of those pixels. The GTX 960 is a pretty capable graphics card and would be able to provide a decent gaming experience and even drive an additional 4K display if I ever decide to buy another one.  After working with this new setup for several weeks, I found a few pros and cons as outlined below:

Pros:

Activities

  • So many lines of code!  Eclipse was barely usable on my previous monitors.  I had to work with all of the Views closed to get a usable amount of space for editing code.  With my new one I can put Eclipse at half-screen, open a ton of Views, and still see over 100 lines of code.

OpenSCAD

  • Multitasking!  I love never having to switch windows.  This monitor makes it so I almost never have to do that.
  • It’s big enough to fully take advantage of the 4K  with a “Retina” distance at 30″.  I sit a little over two feet away from my monitor, so I can barely distinguish between individual pixels if I’m looking closely.
  • It’s the equivalent of four 1080p displays but cheaper than two 1080p displays.  I did have to upgrade my graphics card to account for the higher resolution, but even with that it was worth it.

Eagle

Cons:

  • There’s a slight backlight dimming on the edge of the screen due to the large contrast between viewing angles.  This isn’t too much of a problem and is easily solved by moving my head or rolling my chair side to side.
  • There’s no inactive monitor mode so I have to manually turn off the display.  Again, not a big problem, just another thing to remember.
  • My wife can steal the remote and turn off the TV when I ignore her for too long.

While I haven’t been working with the new setup long enough to tell for sure, I’m overall happy with my decision and would highly recommend it!

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