Going beyond 4K: 5K ultra HD PC Monitors are Exquisite but they still present a few problems

by on March 16, 2015

Stephan Jukic – March 16, 2015

There is almost no doubt that 5K resolution is the ideal future of computer monitors.

For the time being, the resolution —which is currently only available on a couple of different PC models— may seem like an extravagance even more fancy than the already expensive 4K resolution of many PC monitors but it genuinely is ideal.

When a 27 inch display comes with a 4K resolution, pixilation is still slightly notable, at least if you look closely but with 5K at 27 or even more inches, you get a visual display that’s basically perfect, in which pixels are virtually invisible unless you really strain close, maybe with a magnifying glass.

However, despite this perfection, there are still plenty of bugs to work out before 5K displays can truly become a practical thing for most users.

Aside from the issue of price (they are expensive, a lot pricier than even 4K monitors), a writer for Digital Trends who spent several weeks trying 5K display while using Dell’s UP2715K 5K UHD PC monitor reported a number of problems with going 5K with a PC.

While the Digital Trends writer exclaimed at the beauty of 5K resolution and how it leaves Full HD completely in the dust on a PC screen, even using it with Microsoft’s very latest Windows 10 was not an entirely problem free experience.

Here are some of the dirty details:

The ecosystem problem

The simple act of hooking up a 5K display is where the problems with these monitors begin. While 4K resolution is still “small” enough to have compatibility with DisplayPort 1.2 and HDMI, 5K requires a much more robust amount of data processing capacity and thus can only be handled by the still extremely new DisplayPort 1.3, which virtually no other piece of hardware on the market yet supports.

Thus, the only practical way to drive a 4K display is by using two DisplayPort 1.2 connections and also making sure that your video card is DP 1.2 compatible and not designed for DisplayPort 1.1 which won’t support 5K even with two ports.

Going beyond this, even if there is a PC video card that can handle the monitor, (and Dell does include two DisplayPort 1.2 cords with their 5K monitor), the Digital Trends user reported that his PC, running on Windows 10’s trial version still sometimes had a hard time recognizing the monitor for some reason and waking the machine up from sleep could often take as long as 10 or 15 seconds.

However, these problems aside, the monitor works just like any other plug-and-play PC monitor once you have the right connections in place on the right kind of PC and its video card. Dell’s 5K monitor is also a 60Hz display, something which the PC Digital Trends tested it with recognized without problems.

Windows problems

Aside from the still lagging hardware ecosystem around a 5K monitor, there is also the problem of software rendering properly on a screen with so many pixels.

In this, even the extremely new and highly sophisticated Windows 10 operating system isn’t quite properly tuned for 5K resolution. Though Windows will supposedly be coming out with 4K resolutions firmly in mind as part of its visual architecture, 5K is indeed a whole other level of details and the Windows 10 backgrounds with Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixel) default resolution apparently look completely awful on the much denser 5K Dell screen.

On the other hand, other Windows features do render 5K resolution just fine and the result for default screen icons or other interface features is reported as being genuinely razor sharp.

However, Windows also supports numerous third party applications from previous versions of the software and many of these come from third-party developers who haven’t prepared for 5K. Thus, many of these applications look absolutely awful on the UP2715K 5K UHD PC monitor. This even happens to a lesser degree on some of Microsoft’s own software, such as Word and Excel for the upcoming Windows 10.

Given these and other problems with 5K while using the Windows 10 OS, you can probably imagine what kind of random glitches your own 5K PC monitor would give you if you happen to still be using Windows 8.1 or the even older but still popular Windows 7.

Content woes

Finally, there is also the problem of content for 5K PC monitors. Even 4K content is quite rare on the web and when it comes to 5K video or even images, the process of finding them can be like looking for a unicorn. In fact, there are no existing 5K videos available anywhere online and even 5K screen background wallpapers come almost entirely from Apple’s collection of them, developed specifically for its own MacBook PC with 5K Retina Display.

Apple's MacBook with Retina display in 5K

Apple’s MacBook with Retina display in 5K

However, despite all these problems, 5K isn’t just full of woe for its users. It does serve wonderfully for photo and video editing. In these two areas it excels wonderfully given that the 5K screen leaves plenty of extra room for displaying even complete 4K images and video stills while having their editing software and other tools open off to one side.

The bottom line

Buying a 5K monitor is not something you should rush out the door to do quite yet. Stick with HD or if you really want the ultra HD experience, just go with 4K, it’s not only more affordable, it’s also much more compatible with the latest PC ecosystem technologies.

If you’re dead set on a 5K display, the more expensive but already prepackaged for compatibility MacBook PC with 5K Retina at least offers guaranteed compatibility between computer, video card and 5K monitor.

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