4K OK // Testing 3840×2160

Boxed Samsung 28D590 UHD Monitor
Boxed Samsung 28D590 UHD Monitor

On July 2nd I picked up a Samsung LU28D590S, an entry-level Ultra High Definition (UHD) 28″ monitor, for can$655 (~us$612, €450, £357) after taxes. Since then I have been doing various tests to determine exactly which games support UHD and to what extent, as well as trying to get a sense of how it changes various games and software.

In this post I give a general review and opinion of the monitor and examine the viability of “4K” gaming.

Unboxing and Setup

The monitor comes with what you’d expect in the box – basic stand (no VESA mount option), power adaptor, display port and HDMI cables. The stand isn’t particularly sturdy and you don’t get any more adjustability than some forward/back tilt, however it does its job adequately.

Shiny screen is shiny!
What’s in the box. Left to right: power cord, power adaptor, stand upper, stand base, display port cable, HDMI cable, quick setup guide. Not shown (manual CD).
Back view of the device.

The only thing of note on the back is the joystick-like knob on the right-hand side (bottom left in picture) which you use for controlling the on-screen display in a surprisingly intuitive way.

Rear connections: HDMI x2, Display Port, 3.5mm audio, power (no DVI).
All set up and being used for Lightroom.
Composite of my four-screen setup.

A general concern for many people purchasing monitors (or TVs) is the effective viewing angle. I can’t comment in terms of the maximum angles, but since I normally sit in the same position I haven’t had any issues with viewing angle at all. The screen doesn’t suffer from high reflectivity (unlike the 120hz 3D capable 24″ to the right of it in the above shots) and I’m satisfied with the colour and contrast. Crucially, the screen runs at 60Hz through display port. I have noticed slight, but not serious ghosting – I would have to do further testing to determine what settings on the monitor minimize this, but I’m not in a rush to do that.

Another serious consideration for potential users should be their eyesight. Standard sized text displayed at 2160p on a 28″ screen looks minuscule. I am very slightly near-sighted, but still have 20/20 vision (according to my optometrist) and so I find this scale entirely usable, but am acutely aware that many other people would not. In which case one would resort to Windows scaling to keep the high pixel density but make the GUI readable. Doing this somewhat negates one of the stand-out features of UHD, however, which is the vast amount of desktop real-estate it makes available. Also, Windows 8.1 scaling, as of the time of posting is not universally effective and rather fiddly to set up correctly. One might consider a physically larger monitor, however the minimum price to go from 28″ to 32″ UHD monitors is astronomical, from US$600 to US$3000+ virtually ruling that option out for people on any kind of budget.

Macro Comparisons

To give a sense of the pixel density the following three images are comparison photos shot with a macro lens at the exact same distance from each screen. As you can see, the upper images, despite being on a physically smaller screen have significantly larger pixels and the individual RGB segments are readily visible. On the UHD screen though, even my macro lens has trouble clearly picking out individual pixels.

Mouse pointers on 1080p (top) and 2160p (bottom).
Counter-Strike Global Offensive desktop shortcut text in 1080p (top) and 2160p (bottom).
Counter-Strike Global Offensive desktop icon on 1080p (top) and 2160p (bottom).

Resolution Comparisons

To give a sense of how vast UHD is compared with HD, the image below shows the entire width of my desktop which spans the four monitors at various common resolutions.

My four WIndows desktop screens at (from left to right) 1080p, 1440p, 2160p, 1080p.

Initial Impressions

My initial impression is that, if you have the hardware to pump sufficient pixels – and you will need serious horsepower – to get a reasonably smooth framerate, gaming in UHD is a worthwhile improvement in visual experience. In terms of supporting hardware I couldn’t recommend anything less than an Intel i7 and GeForce 780 or similar AMD system for an acceptable experience with high settings in modern games.

Specifically for gaming, the pixel density is so high, than you can disable anti-aliasing and barely notice any difference in fidelity and the detail at such a high resolution makes play seem a more rich and vivid experience. I imagine the effect of the Occulus Rift would be more striking, but for the convenience of not having something attached to your head and current compatibility with a wide range of games and software, I could confidently recommend a UHD monitor (and the Samsung LU28D590S) of this quality, in this price-range as significant and satisfying upgrade from any lower resolution screen. That is, of course, bearing in mind the considerations I’ve mentioned above.

I do not consider this a comprehensive review, since I don’t have other UHD monitors or to compare this model against or precise objective testing methods and I’m not interested in giving this product a score-out-of-something anyway, but if there is something I didn’t mention and you have specific questions, ask in the comments and I’ll be sure to at least read what you have to say.

Game Compatibility Testing

The list below summarizes the progress my game compatibility testing. Thus far, I have tested 19 games at 3840×2160 resolution. Most seem to work straight away, a few require some tweaking and some I have been unable to get functioning at all yet or simply do not support it.

no issues | some issues | not working or does not support

  • Borderlands 2
  • Counter-Strike Global Offensive
  • Empire Total War
  • FIFA 13
  • Frozen Synapse
  • GrandTheft Auto IV Episodes From Liberty City
  • Grid Autosport
  • MechWarrior Online
  • Payday 2
  • Planetary Annihilation
  • PlanetSide 2
  • Red Faction
  • Sniper Elite V2
  • Star Citizen
  • Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition
  • The Typing of the Dead Overkill
  • Train Simulator 2014
  • Trials Fusion
  • X-Plane

 Showcase Screenshots From Games

Each of the images below (as with the photos above) links to a flickr page where you can choose to view the image fullscreen or, with a few more clicks at the original 3840×2160.

4k CSGO
CS:GO, Competitive
4k BL2
Borderlands 2, Co-op
4k PAYDAY2
PAYDAY 2, Co-op
4k TS2014
Train Simulator 2014, Stevens Pass

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