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August 13, 2013

16K-Wide Windows 8 Multi-Mon Desktop with the Sharp PN-K321 4K Display

I recently wrote about the 12K multi-mon PC gaming experience using three Sharp PN-K321 4K Ultra HD displays and a variety of different AMD 7970 graphics configurations. In this article I’ll provide more information about the Sharp PN-K321 display and demonstrate a 4×1 4K multi-mon scenario that is the equivalent of sixteen 1,920 x 1,080 full-HD displays. At ten feet wide, this is one extreme multi-mon setup!

Gavin at 16K desktop 1200

Windows 8 Quad 4K multi-mon setup spanning 10’ wide with 33,177,600 pixels total (click/tap to enlarge)

The Sharp PN-K321 became the first widely available professional 4K display for the US market earlier this year. I’ve had the opportunity to use this display with Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 preview for a variety of tasks that include PC gaming, 4K video editing, photo editing, and CAD to name a few. The picture quality and capabilities of this display are amazing, and this display is well suited for professionals and enthusiasts alike.

PN-K321 Hero Shot 1200

he Sharp PN-K321 professional 4K Ultra HD display (click/tap to enlarge)

Here are some specs for the Sharp PN-K321 display (see full specs here):

  • Display type: LCD
  • Resolution: 4K Ultra HD (3,840 x 2,160)
  • Pixel pitch: 0.182 x 0.182 mm, 140 ppi
  • Viewing angle: 176°/176°
  • Response time: 8 ms
  • Backlight: LED (edge lit)
  • Inputs: HDMI (2), DisplayPort (1)
  • Orientation: landscape or portrait

At just 1.375” thick and weighing just 16.5 lb (without stand) this display is relatively thin and light for the 31.5” diagonal screen dimension. You can mount the PN-K321 either in portrait mode or in landscape mode, and the stand works great for easy adjustment of display height.

The Sharp PN-K321 supports two display modes: SST (Single-Stream Transport) and MST (Multi-Stream Transport). In SST mode, the display enumerates as a single 4K Ultra HD display at 3,840 x 2,160 resolution and is limited to a 30 Hz refresh rate. If you are running the PN-K321 in SST mode you can use either HDMI or DisplayPort for connectivity. If you enable MST, the display will enumerate as two displays running at 1,920 x 2,160 resolution and you can use only DisplayPort for connectivity. I used both HDMI and DisplayPort connectivity options for the quad 4K setup shown in this article with all displays in SST mode. For more information about running the PN-K321 in MST mode, please refer to my prior blog post.

PN-K321 Ports 1200

Inputs include two HDMI ports (top) and a single DisplayPort (bottom) – (click/tap to enlarge)

Having run single, dual, and triple 4K display setups on Windows I thought it was time to see what it would be like to have a quad-4K multi-mon setup. I had a few PN-K321 4K displays in the lab, and with some asking around Microsoft I was able to find an additional loaner from the Xbox team. Since Xbox One will support 4K display connectivity I thought they would be good people to ask!

I lined up the displays on my 10’ long bench, and put together a dual AMD 7970 graphics setup in a gaming PC that I had on hand. I hooked up two PN-K321 displays via HDMI, and the other two via DisplayPort. Can you imagine a 10’ wide Windows desktop that measures 15,360 pixels wide by 2,160 pixels high? I couldn’t until I saw this amazing 33,177,600 pixel setup (16 1080p displays worth of pixels). One word: WOW.

After getting the hardware setup I decided to look for some desktop wallpaper that would span the entire desktop. I soon realized that I’d need an image that was three times as wide as a full resolution image from my Canon 5D Mark III! After a while searching online I finally settled on the NASA Billion-Pixel View From Curiosity at Rock Nest on Mars as the perfect desktop wallpaper. I had to download the original full-size image because desktop wallpaper versions of this image only go up to 1,920 x 1,200 resolution, not adequate for this scenario. At 17,548 x 3,022 and 153 MB, the full-size TIFF image can be viewed at almost 1:1 scale on this setup!

Sharp PN-K321 4x1 setup mars wallpaper 1200

Extreme 4×1 16K wide Windows 8 desktop measuring 15,360 pixels wide (click/tap to enlarge)

In order to grasp the scale of this multi-mon setup, check out the size of the Coke can in the picture. You literally have to stop for a few minutes to take in all the detail in this image, it’s almost a bit like star gazing at night- lots to look at.

Here’s a screenshot from this amazing setup:

4x1 Mars Wallpaper 15360 x 2160

Screenshot from 16K-wide Mars landscape desktop (click/tap for full size image, source: JPL)

This is all super-fun, but what about productivity? What could you do with 16 full-HD displays worth of screen real estate?

Here’s how I arranged my apps on this amazing multi-mon setup, from left to right:

  • 4K display 1: 4K video preview (native resolution)
  • 4K display 2: 4K video editing (main UI)
  • 4K display 3: Photo editing
  • 4K display 4: Web browsing and file management

This setup is a totally amazing capability with one difficulty: finding your mouse pointer. If you try this setup, make sure you have the mouse cursor finding feature turned on:

Mouse Control Panel

You can see in the following desktop screenshot what this looked like:

4x1 default productivity scenario 15360 x 2160

Quad 4K multi-mon productivity scenario (click/tap to see full size image)

Some apps can really use a dedicated 4K screen (such as Photoshop and DirectX 11 games) while other apps work best using ½ or ¼ of a 4K display (such as File Explorer and Internet Explorer). Be warned however, once you take a look at your apps running on a 4K display, your 1080p or WQHD displays will never look the same! I should also note that on Windows 8.1 these high-resolution displays work even better due to DPI scaling enhancements, a feature that is available in the Windows 8.1 preview.

With 4K displays now hitting the shelves in the US and across the world it’s an exciting time to experience the “next big thing” in display technology. If you are in the market for a 4K display for your Windows PC, the Sharp PN-K321 is definitely a model to consider. With latest generations of AMD and NVIDIA desktop GPUs supporting 4K display connectivity you have a lot of great options for 4K compatible graphics cards on Windows 7 or Windows 8. Time to start saving up your money!

Find me on twitter here: @GavinGear