If you have even an ounce of geek in you, you know the drill.

No matter what you’re looking at or listening to, your tech gear has got to have the fastest, highest spec ratings.

Um. I’m not sure how to break this to you, but fastest, highest doesn’t always mean better.

Take 4K monitor resolution as an example. In the right application, it’s awesome. In other applications, not so much.

There are several contributing factors, which we will briefly discuss in a minute. But the biggest factor between “4K WOW!” and “4K meh” is the matter of “optimal viewing distance.”

For commercial applications, such as conference room, amphitheater, video wall, operations center, etc., today’s buyers need to be asking, “When does it make sense to invest in 4K UHD monitors?”

To answer this question, you need to know about “optimal viewing distance.” This is the point at which a viewer will not gain any additional detail by getting closer to the screen. However, if they do move closer, they will start seeing image pixelization. 

Optimal viewing distance is determined by applying a multiplier to the height of a proposed screen.

For a 4K UHD screen that multiplier is 1.5. For high definition (1080p), the multiplier is 3. So, by way of example, the height of a 60” screen is 29.4”. Based on this:

  • Optimal viewing distance for a 4K UHD, 60”-screen is: 4” X 1.5 = 44” or 3’ 8”.
  • Optimal viewing distance for a high definition (1080p), 60”-screen is: 29.4” X 3 = 88” or approximately 7’ 3”.

Now, that’s the closest you want to get. With that in mind, it’s important to realize the further a person moves away from a screen, the more the human eye blends together the fine-grained details. Beyond four feet, the discernable difference between 4K and HD images starts to become negligible.

When buyers understand the concepts of optimal viewing distance and the distance at which the eye begins to blend fine detail, they quickly begin to realize there are many applications where 4K UHD isn’t the best performance value.

Of course, there’s more to this than just figuring out distances. There is the matter of content. The more motion on the screen, the greater impact 4K can have in making that motion as smooth as possible. As you might guess, PowerPoints don’t benefit much from 4K.

And then there’s high dynamic range (HDR) and wide color gambit (WCG).

As long as you’re not seeing pixels, the two most important factors in how a monitor looks are contrast ratio (how bright and dark the screen can get) and accurate color reproduction. HDR is a technique used to reproduce a greater dynamic range of luminosity, which makes images appear more realistic.  Whereas WCG refers to the subset of colors that can be accurately represented in the color space, which is basically how closely colors on the screen resemble the real deal.

HDR is becoming the next big thing in consumer TV. It expands the range of both contrast and color significantly. Bright parts of the image can get much brighter, so the image seems to have more depth. Colors get expanded to show more bright blues, greens, reds and everything in-between.

Meanwhile, WCG adds shades of colors never before available on-screen, making everything even more colorfully true-to-life.

Without exception, high-definition resolution supported by excellent contrast and color will beat out 4K resolution that is outputting average contrast and color. So, don’t ignore these factors.

Actually, there is an easier way to figure out all of this stuff. Just ask us to do the figuring for you.

Rather than just equipping everyone with the absolute fastest and highest specs…we focus on the specs that best match the task. It saves our customers a lot of money. It’s what us real geeks do.