The largest issue with UltraHD displays, and any HiDPI display, is operating system and application support. Sure, you can run a desktop at full resolution with no scaling but that is almost impossible for anyone to actually use. To get any real benefit from any HiDPI display you are going to need OS and Application support.

In this area OS X is far ahead of Windows. With the Retina MacBook Pro released almost 18 months ago now, there has been a much bigger push to get OS and App support working there. It isn’t perfect still as there are many apps that lack HiDPI support (including Office). The exact nature of how well OS X works with HiDPI displays that aren’t the native display for the system isn’t perfect either.

Plugging my 2013 15” MacBook Pro into the Dell UP3214Q I expected to see options for scaling. Unfortunately I saw nothing of the sort with only the native resolution available for me to choose from. Attempting to use SwitchResX and other hacks to enable scaling also did not work for me. As always user error is a likely culprit for those, but that OS X isn’t aware of high-resolution displays by default is surprising. Perhaps Apple will not do this until they have their own UltraHD panel, but with the UltraHD support of the new Mac Pro being such a big deal the lack of support here is a shortcoming. (Note: this is updated in the first beta build of OS X 10.9.3 which I don’t have access to but Anand wrote about.)

Windows still lags behind here. Windows 8.1 was supposed to deliver better DPI scaling for multiple monitor setups but I have not seen that. Setting the UP3214Q to scale correctly means that my other 27” displays now have giant icons and are worthless for working on. Since running a single display is not a sacrifice I am willing to make I have to choose the option that best bridges the two.

Application support is still very lacking on the PC side. Most programs exhibit jagged edges and other issues when DPI Scaling enabled. Some applications are there, but it’s the exception rather than the rule. However, with Ultrabooks adopting HiDPI displays faster and faster, I fully expect Windows to push to get this right in the next 8-12 months.

What else is behind the times is the DisplayPort 1.2 interface. As I mentioned earlier, you need to enable MultiStream Transport mode to get a 60 Hz UltraHD image on the Dell. This really treats it as a pair of 1920x2160 displays instead of a single monitor, as there are no DisplayPort chips that can support the higher resolution. The specification should allow for it but no silicon vendors have taken advantage of that as there has been no need until now.

Unfortunately MST support is incredibly flaky. It works great, and then your computer hibernates and the monitor won’t wake up until you power cycle it. Or the two sides get out of sync and you have correct colors on one side and an incorrect color profile on the other side. I had half of the screen change resolution on me one day and the other side remain the same. After a firmware update I felt most of these issues were resolved, but as soon as I updated the Dell Calibration software, the monitor would no longer stay in sync in MST mode anymore. You also have to give up Uniformity Compensation on the Dell to use MST.

Note: The firmware update that I installed is not being provided to end users. You would need to exchange your monitor for a refurbished one with the updated firmware from Dell. More details can be read in the thread on Dell's website here.

HDMI 2.0 could also provide a solution to this, but no one currently ships HDMI 2.0 products. Most TVs claiming HDMI 2.0 are really only HDMI 1.4 that support a specific feature of HDMI 2.0 (4:2:0 chroma subsampling support) but they label them as HDMI 2.0 anyway. Until real HDMI 2.0 silicon is available, HDMI support for UltraHD is also limited to 30 Hz. So right now you have two real choices for UltraHD resolution support: 30 Hz that works, or 60 Hz that can be problematic.

The MST feature on the Dell UP3214Q started out working poorly for me. It didn’t wake up from sleep and the other issues I mentioned. A firmware update from Dell seemed to resolve all of these. It always woke up from sleep and the color profiles managed to stay in sync as well. Dell also released a new update to their calibration software that lets you take advantage of the two CAL presets in the monitor. As soon as this was installed a new issue cropped up. In MST mode, the two halves of the monitor would flicker, then it would turn off completely, then back on, then repeat. Only disabling MST fixes this, which then puts me back at a 30 Hz refresh rate.

So at the moment, UltraHD is half-ready when it comes to hardware and software. It has improved a bit over the past few months ago, but it still isn’t quite ready for everyone yet.

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  • Samus - Tuesday, April 1, 2014 - link

    For <$400 and 2560x1440, I'll take a thick (matte finish) bezel with an IPS panel. Infact, I'll take 6 of them and keep the change instead of buying a "Dell"

    Samsung just announced a direct-competitor to this monitor for $800 starting price. So maybe just 3 of those and keep the change, and they have a razor thin bezel and aluminum frame construction.

    I mean...I just can't get over the price here. $2800 bucks. It's not even worth $1000.
  • inighthawki - Tuesday, April 1, 2014 - link

    Are you referring to the ud590? It's hardly a "direct competitor." It's not only 4" diagonal smaller but it's a TN panel, and lacks quite a few input types. Or are you referring to the ud970, in which case would you please post a source to the $800 price tag, which sounds unlikely.

    On top of that, remember that you then need 2 video cards to power 4/6 monitors (nvidia supports 4 but only in span with the fourth as an "extra" display) so you won't even be able to tile them properly by default. On top of that have fun trying to play a game across all the monitors. At least with a single 4K display you can render at 1080p and have a seamless scaling across the entire display. With 4 or 6 monitors you'd have to run it in the standard "eyefinity" style 3x1 configuration which is nice, but also will cost you with resolution. At that point you're going to need not just two GPUs, but likely two high end GPUs. When all is said and done I don't think you'll save much once you take into account the disadvantages of the setup on top of the price.
  • nevertell - Tuesday, April 1, 2014 - link

    You have never been truly productive with a computer, have you ?
    A multi monitor setup enables me to do things just that much faster. While you could argue that a 4K monitor would allow me to do stuff side by side on the same panel, at the end of the day, when the new resolution becomes the norm, you have to develop content for 4k. And the only way to see your results is to see them at 4k, so you have to have another panel. Single display setups are meant for lazy office people and content consumers. And even then, playing a game with a surround monitor setup is much nicer than having one large monitor.
    People used the same kind of software back in the days of 1280 by 1024, 1024 by 768 and 800 by 640. And even though most of the software for today is written for 1080p or 1200p panels, the fact still remains, you cannot operate Visual Studio in half of that. Hell, it's a nightmare to run Visual Studio on 1336 by 768, let alone something like 960 by 1080p. Even though application UI's appear scalable, scaling them is a last resort. So yes, when we will catch up to 4K on the software side of things, we will need multiple monitors again. But yes, of course, for a web developer of today, being able to edit multiple stylesheets, javascript and html files at the same time AND seeing the result largely in scale is truly great. Unfortunately, most enterprise developers rarely need to edit countless files at once and the php/css people just simply will not be able to afford these displays.
  • Sabresiberian - Sunday, April 6, 2014 - link

    What do you mean by "run 4K at 1080p"? That makes no sense.

    If you are talking running those 4 monitors to get a total screen space of 3840x2160, sure, you could do that, but you entirely miss the point of having a high-density monitor. The pixels on a 39" 1080p screen are the size of a truck. Maybe suitable for using as a TV viewed across your living room, but not as a monitor a couple of feet from your face.
  • mczak - Tuesday, April 1, 2014 - link

    A wall of TN panels is fairly pointless if you can only see the center one due to the poor viewing angles :-).
  • cheinonen - Tuesday, April 1, 2014 - link

    AdobeRGB vs. sRGB, HiDPI vs. Regular DPI, Apples to Oranges
  • cheinonen - Tuesday, April 1, 2014 - link

    I tested with both Nvidia and AMD cards and had the same issues with both.
  • toncij - Sunday, April 6, 2014 - link

    Yes, that information could help, since not every test was done on Nvidia/AMD and the same driver. Also, it would help a lot to hear if those problems also happen with ASUS and Sharp, to compare those products. Anandtech made a review already:
  • jasonelmore - Tuesday, April 1, 2014 - link

    Where the hell is HDMI 2.0? Its done and being produced, why isnt it in these new devices?
  • SunLord - Tuesday, April 1, 2014 - link

    It takes more then 6months to go from a finished standard to fully certified working silicon let along shipping it in quantities to enable mass production of consumer devices.

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