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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  • MrPete123 - Tuesday, April 1, 2014 - link

    Hey Chris, I have the similar UP2414Q and have the same issues of having to "reboot" the monitor frequently when waking my computer up from sleep. You said you were able to update your firmware for the 32" monitor. Is there one for the 24" model as well? I was not able to find one.
  • cheinonen - Tuesday, April 1, 2014 - link

    I'll update the article but I got the firmware from Dell. You would need to return your monitor to them and exchange it for a refurbished model with the updated firmware it sounds like.
  • aron9621 - Tuesday, April 1, 2014 - link

    Where did you get the firmware update from? I own a UP2414Q and experience the issues you described in your article (the need to power cycle the monitor most of the time after the computer goes to sleep is driving me crazy), but I couldn't find a firmware update on Dell's site.
  • davepermen - Tuesday, April 1, 2014 - link

    Windows can scale each display independently. Most desktop apps don't support that yet and get blurry. But Windows itself is definitely there and works just fine. Now it's the app developers who have to step up.
  • aron9621 - Tuesday, April 1, 2014 - link

    They claim in can, but it doesn't work properly. I have two displays connected to my computer, a 2414Q (2160p) and a 2414H (1200p). I can either say I want to use the same scaling for both displays, in which case I am allowed to specify the DPI scaling, or I can choose to use separate scalings for the monitors, which is utterly broken - Windows guesses ("detects") the proper DPI scaling and if I am not satisfied it allows me to scale both display simultaneously, but not separately, which is kind of brain dead, especially since it doesn't guess (ehm.. detect) the DPI properly on the 4k display. Aside that, using the same (200%) scaling on both screens breaks some DPI unaware applications, but letting Windows use separate DPI scalings breaks most DPI unaware apps. In either case, the 1200p screen is useless as everything is too big, or the 4k display has elements so tiny you can't work with it without a magnifying glass. Why I can't simply state I want to have 180dpi on screen 1 and 100dpi on screen 2 is beyond me.
  • Penti - Tuesday, April 1, 2014 - link

    That's still not true.

    If you set your primary display to 120% and your secondary to 200% the 200% will actually be 120% bitmap scaled. Or wise versa. One screen will always look rubbish and blurry. Read what Microsoft says instead of broad claims!
  • BMNify - Tuesday, April 1, 2014 - link

    " With PremierColor, your monitor provides superb color accuracy and 99% AdobeRGB and 100% sRGB coverage."

    this is an April fool right ! at $3,499/$2800, under no circumstance is any real certified UHD-1
    Rec. 2020 real color space 10bit per pixel "UHD-1" 3840x2160P 16:9 ratio panel going to give you only 99% AdobeRGB at best

    "In coverage of the CIE 1931 color space
    the Rec. 2020 color space covers 75.8%,
    the digital cinema reference projector color space covers 53.6%,
    the Adobe RGB color space covers 52.1%, and
    the Rec. 709 color space covers 35.9%."
  • cheinonen - Tuesday, April 1, 2014 - link

    I don't believe I ever said it has full Rec. 2020 coverage. Nothing has Rec. 2020 coverage as aside from lasers (I've been told), nothing can produce the gamut required. Not LEDs, not quantum dots, nothing. The display claims AdobeRGB and sRGB gamut which is what it has.
  • BMNify - Wednesday, April 2, 2014 - link

    "Nothing has Rec. 2020 coverage as aside from lasers (I've been told), nothing can produce the gamut required. "

    :) he is wrong OC as they would not and could not ratify the 2020 spec if they could not already produce the results it lays out, the guy was probably trying to sell the Mitsubishi LaserVue panels with their use a laser for red and regular LED’s for blue and green...

    rather than just state they can ill point you to this page as you will probably find it interesting... the quantum dots and the M3 film are cool too

    for the less interested ill just add this paste...
    "Rec. 2020

    Much like with Rec. 470, Rec. 601 and Rec. 709 the Rec. 2020 standard is more than just a color space. It is the standard for Ultra High Definition Television (UHD-TV), which knows two versions: 4K (3840x2160 and 4096x2160) and 8K (7680x4320 and 8192x4320). Apart from the obvious improvement in resolution over the Rec. 709 standard, the Rec. 2020 standard also improves upon its predecessor in many other ways. The maximum frame rate doubles from 60 Hz progressive to 120 Hz progressive (interlaced resolutions are no longer supported, which is good). The color depth also increases by at least 2 bits per channel, with the possibility of 4 bits. Because Rec. 709 and Rec. 2020 both use studio swing /narrow band, this does not result in the usual 16.8 million, 1.07 billion and 68.7 billion colors though.

    Bit depth per channel
    Reference black level
    Reference white level
    Usable combinations per channel
    Total number of colors

    Last but not least, the Rec. 2020 offers significant improvement over the Rec. 709 standard when it comes to the color gamut: nearly twice the size of its predecessor. It uses three monochromatic primaries with wavelengths of 630, 532 and 467 nm. This results in a very large gamut, but without most of the drawbacks of even larger color spaces like the Adobe Wide Gamut RGB color space.

    Most of the thought process behind the origin of these primaries can be found in ITU Recommendation BT 2246-2:2012. The summarized version is that UHD-TV should have a larger color gamut in order to cover the real surface colors (based on Pointer’s gamut and SOCS database) as much as possible using real primaries."

    what is clear is that much like the PCISIG the ethernet SIG etc the panel entities are also not fit for purpose as they dragged their feet actually producing new panels and ened to end kit to the latest specs that where in effect made by NHK and the BBC R&D...
  • tjoynt - Tuesday, April 1, 2014 - link

    For my data point: using the Mac 10.9.3 with HiDPI on an UltraHD display is gorgeous. If you have a Mac that can handle it (I have a 2012 Macbook Retina, as a reference point), you should definitely try it. It's like the retina display but huge. My eyes are finally happy.

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