3840×2160 for Cheap!!

We have been smitten with 4K monitors since we first started using them last year. How about a 60 Hz model for just $699?

It has been just over a year ago when we first got our hands on a 4K display. At the time, we were using a 50-in Seiki 3840×2160 HDTV that ran at a 30 Hz refresh rate and was disappointing in terms of its gaming experience, but impressive in image quality and price ($1500 at the time). Of course, we had to benchmark graphics cards at 4K resolutions and the results proved what we expected – you are going to need some impressive hardware to run at 4K with acceptable frame rates.

Since that story was published, we saw progress in the world of 4K displays with the ASUS PQ321Q, a 4K monitor (not a TV) that was built to handle 60 Hz refresh rates. The problem, of course, was the requirement for a multi-stream connection that essentially pushes two distinct streams over a single DisplayPort cable to the monitor, each at 1920×2160. While in theory that wasn't a problem, we saw a lot configuration and installation headaches as we worked through the growing pains of drivers and firmware. Also, it was priced at $3200 when we first reviewed it, though that number has fallen to $2400 recently.

Today we are looking at the Samsung U28D590D, the first 4K panel we have seen that supports a 60 Hz refresh rate with a single stream (single tile) implementation. That means that not only do you get the better experiences associated with a 60 Hz refresh rate over a 30 Hz, you also gain a much more simple and compatible installation and setup. No tricky driver issues to be found here! If you have a DisplayPort 1.2-capable graphics card, it's just plug and play.

The Samsung U28D590D uses a 28-in TN panel, which is obviously of a lower quality in terms of colors and viewing angles than the IGZO screen used on the ASUS PQ321Q, but it's not as bad as you might expect based on previous TN panel implementations. We'll talk a bit more about that below. The best part of course is the price – you can find the Samsung 4K panel for as low as $690!

The Samsung U28D590D is 4-in smaller than the ASUS PQ321Q and is also of a much more modest build quality. You can easily tell by the diffrence in build quality based on the  weight and materials used on the units, but for most people a monitor remains on a single desk for its entire lifetime, and this probably won't be a big concern. 

The stand quality feels – suspect. It lacks features like swivel or height adjustment and only very modest tile support. It doesn't seem very strong and the display will wobble back and forth quite a bit with just minor force applied to it. It looks nice, but if its made of metal it sure doesn't FEEL like it. It may not matter to most, but the lack of height and swivel is kind of annoying. Considering the TN nature of the panel, and the need to make sure you are looking at the screen at the best possible angle, this is something Samsung should have thought about more closely.

This is as far back as the tilt capability goes with the U28D590D – not much to brag about.

Also problematic is the fact that Samsung didn't include VESA mount compatibility, so changing thestand or mounting it to a wall is not going to happen without some serious modification.

Connections on the back include a pair of HDMI ports, a single DisplayPort, stereo audio output (that comes from the HDMI or DP source) and the power connection. The cables actually plug into the monitor at a perpendicular nature which is only acceptable because you can't mount this monitor on a wall anyway.

The Samsung U28D590D does support a couple of nice features including picture-in-picture and picture-by-picture. In the photo above you can see PiP at work. We have the monitor hooked up to a system running at 3840×2160 with an unscaled 1080p camera source in the right hand corner. You can move that image around to any corner as well as down size it if you like. If you often have another PC around that you want to use or maybe even want to direct input some outside source (TV, movies) then this could be a handy feature. You do lose the screen real estate behind the 1080p image.

Picture-by-picture is just what it sounds like – you can use either a DP+HDMI or HDMI+HDMI source combination and put a different source on either side of the monitor, much like what is possible with the dual stream ASUS PQ321Q. You can run a 1920×1080 source on either side (though with a lot of black area to deal with) or 1920×2160 on each side. That is kind of an interesting usage scenario as HDMI 1.4 can support that resolution at 60 Hz.

So it runs at 4K, is inexpensive compared to other options, but happens to be a TN panel. How does this affect our experiences using it? The truth is that this monitor will not compare well to an IGZO or IPS panel. Viewing angles are going to be much lower, and you'll color shifting moving around the display on your desk. While this is true in both horizontal and vertical angles, the most apparent issue happens with vertical viewing angles.

Here you see a photo of the Samsung U28D590D from above. Notice the center of the Windows logo and its inverse color shift. Using the monitor in a desktop environment you will likely see much less color shift as you move and rotate around your desk, but it will be there. To be clear though, the performance of this TN panel is better than most of the other TN panels I or our anyone on our team has seen previously. At CES we got to see this monitor in person, and both Allyn and Josh (discerning monitor users) noted that while not perfect, the U28D590D was exceptional for a TN monitor.

You can see some more images and video of the viewing angles in our video review at the top of this story.

Closing Thoughts

There are highs and there are lows for the Samsung U28D590D 4K monitor. Even though the panel is built on TN technology, and viewing angles suffer more than you would see on an IPS screen, I think it's good enough for gamers and productivity users that aren't working on color-crucial workloads. (Think video editors or Photoshop users.) The stand could have used some more attention, and the lack of VESA mounts hurt the long term usage scenarios for multiple panel configurations.

Still, from my time gaming on this display I can tell you that 4K gaming (3840×2160) continues to be a dream! You must have some competent gaming hardware to make it work of course, likely a GTX 780 Ti or Radeon R9 290X at least, but if necessary you can game at 1920×1080 or 2560×1440 scaled until you can afford the hardware upgrades. 

The price is the biggest selling point. At just $693 as we write this, that is more than 3x lower than the ASUS PQ321Q! That is a lot of money for a display but, if you are a serious gamer (owning a GTX 780 Ti / R9 290X is a good indicator of that), these types of investments seem reasonable. The fact that you don't have to worry about configuration and compatibility issues is also noteworthy.

UPDATE: This monitor is already selling for $599 direct from Amazon…a steal at this price!

We have more monitors from the likes of Dell, ASUS and LG coming out using a similar panel and scalar implementation. This summer could truly be the big push to 4K for PC gaming!