Intel partners with Samsung to halve the price of 4K monitors, but it’s … – ExtremeTech
Intel wants to halve the price of current 4K monitors, and it’s partnering with ViewSonic, Samsung, and a number of all-in-one (AIO) manufacturers to make that happen. The company has set a target price of $400 for PLS (Samsung’s version of IPS) 4K panels at 23.6 inches, and claims it wants to drive Intel 4K AIOs down to the $1000 mark. Current, low-end 4K monitors are priced at around $800. This is a lovely idea, but it’s going to take heavy lifting from far more companies — and a better effort from Intel to certify its entire product stack.
First, let’s get one thing clear — you don’t want a 24-inch 4K panel. At 4x 1080p, screen elements at just 25% their original size. Text is illegible, screen elements can be difficult to click on. Microsoft’s own software packages tend to work and scale reasonably well, but that’s part of the problem — you’re going to find yourself reaching for the magnification tools to push back up to higher resolutions by default — and since software support for scaling is uneven, that means the overall experience is degraded compared to a single resolution with no scaling.
HTPC builds done with Haswell last year praised the hardware improvements Intel introduced to make 4K viable, but noted that the company still had trouble pushing HDMI output at that resolution and that not all features were well organized. While not specifically tied to 4K in an AIO, only some of Intel’s current product lineup actually support DisplayPort 1.2 — as discussed here, only H-class processors offer 3840×2160@60Hz, other chips offer significantly less.
AMD, incidentally, doesn’t come off much better — repeated tests of the company’s APUs have shown that at least the Richland and Trinity APUs struggle badly in 4K content, whereas Intel chips have actually had less issue there. Kaveri may have solved this problem with an upgraded UVD block; this is currently unclear and HTPC reviews comparing the two in 4K content are thin on the ground. Even so, the problems of 4K adoption go beyond APU or CPU support from Intel — content developers and software engineers are both going to have to address this problem to make the products worthwhile.
The bottom line, however, is that 4K 24-inch AIOs — the market Intel claims it wants to target — are going to offer a miserable experience or a pointless one. If every program has to be scaled up by 200% to make it legibile, then you need an entire rendering backend that supports flawless scale-up or the result is a buggy mess. Making icons tiny on a touch-equipped AIO actually reintroduces the finger target problem that made Windows 7 useless for touch control.
Even the highest-end GPUs from AMD and Nvidia that would fit into an AIO form factor aren’t going to be powerful enough to push 4K gaming — but since the majority of AIO buyers likely don’t do much of it, I’ll assume this is a non-issue.
With good panel support, single-stream transport for video signals (not mentioned in Intel’s copy), better software, and enormous price improvements, 4K AIOs could work — but I’d rather see a lineup of 2560×1440 AIO units at the 24-inch panel size. Such products would still offer a meaningful improvement over 1080p video quality, don’t require new cables or brand-new panels (keeping costs lower) and modern GPUs from Intel and Nvidia can actually drive those resolutions for gaming inside an AIO form factor.