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Seiki SE39UY04 39-Inch 4K Ultra HD Review (3840 x 2160)

Update: Apparently the monitor is now $400 on Amazon! Holy crap that is a hell of a deal!

A couple of weeks ago I tweeted about how I bought a 3840 x 2160 resolution monitor for $700 $400 and I promised that I would provide a review for it, so here it is.

If you know me, you know that I am a huge fan of having as many pixels as possible. I actually replaced my four 1900 x 1200 monitors with this single Seiki 4K display—and, although I hate to ruin the surprise—I couldn’t be happier.

It is a huge relief to go from a bulky four monitor setup to a single monitor that has almost the same resolution as all four of those monitors combined, and actually makes me more productive. (I’ll explain why this is the case a little later on.)

110613 1317 SeikiSE39UY1 Seiki SE39UY04 39 Inch 4K Ultra HD Review (3840 x 2160)

The stats please

Before I get into my actual experience with the Seiki 4K display, let me start off by giving you the technical details of what we are dealing with here. This is no ordinary monitor.

The Seiki SE39UY04 is actually called an LED TV, but you and I both know that this thing is really meant to be a monitor.

It actually comes in 3 sizes.

  • 39 Inch
  • 50 Inch
  • 65 Inch (looks like this one isn’t available yet.)

I opted for the 39 inch for both economic and space reasons, but I’d imagine the 50″ or 65″ would be nice as well—if you have the budget.

So, the big thing about this monitor is the resolution, which is 3840 x 2160 pixels. This means that is it basically the same resolution as four 1080p displays.

110613 1317 SeikiSE39UY2 Seiki SE39UY04 39 Inch 4K Ultra HD Review (3840 x 2160)

You can imagine this monitor as equivalent to having a 2 by 2 grid of 1080p resolution monitors.

It also comes with built in speakers which aren’t all that bad, 3 HDMI in ports, a component input and a VGA input – although I can’t imagine why you’d hook up a VGA input to this monitor.

110613 1317 SeikiSE39UY3 Seiki SE39UY04 39 Inch 4K Ultra HD Review (3840 x 2160)

This monitor indeed seemed too good to be true, giving me 8 million pixels at $700 $400, but it is indeed the real deal.

Well, with one catch.

The monitor has a 120hz refresh rate, but only when hooked up to a 1080 source. If you hook it up to a 4k, or Ultra HD source (same thing, just means 3840 x 2160 resolution,) it only runs at 30hz.

This is mainly due to the limitation of HDMI 1.2 to deliver the bandwidth needed to push 8 million pixels down a wire that fast.

What this practically means for you is that you will see some slight ghosting if you have images moving fairly rapidly across the screen. So, if you are planning on playing 3D games with the monitor, you’ll probably feel the difference between 120hz and 30hz, but if you are using it to run an IDE, open 2 chrome browsers and create a blog post all at the same time, you probably won’t feel a thing.

If you want to see exactly what the difference between different refresh rates is and how they are affected by motion, check out this site that lets you simulate different scenarios.

My experience with the SE39UY04

So, you are probably wondering what I thought of the monitor overall.

I’m very impressed with it so far. So much so that I am considering getting another one and having dual 4k displays for my desktop machine. (Ok, that might be a bit crazy, but hey I never claimed to be sane.)

In all seriousness, this monitor delivers exactly what I wanted and more for the $700 $400 price tag. Equivalent monitors easily go for $3k or more and are still saddled with some of the same restrictions of HDMI 1.2 that this monitor is, (although some of them get around it by utilizing two inputs, which in my opinion isn’t really a good solution.) With HDMI 2.0 coming out and through the use of display port, I imagine this kind of problem won’t be a problem in the future as well. But, for now, for $700 $400, you can’t really get a better deal on a monitor, in my opinion.

I found the monitor to be super bright, but the color reproduction and contrast was not quite as good as some of the high-end 1080p displays that I had seen and used before.

Regardless though, it is pretty amazing to see a 4k monitor in action. I tested out some 4k videos on YouTube and Vimeo and I was blown away. Remember the first time you saw an HD TV? Seeing a 4k TV for the first time is about the same experience, but even better. Now HD looks like crap to me. I am ruined.

I also found that running my PC at the max resolution of 3840 x 2160 didn’t make the text too small. It seemed to be just about the right size where I could still read everything and make use of the extra space. Although, I will admit that I think the extra size of the 50″ version would make this experience even better.

One quick tip I’d recommend to get the most out of this monitor is to use a tool like Display Fusion to divide your screen into 4 logical screens. I use Display Fusion to create four 1080 displays out of my monitor so that I can maximize windows in those four quadrants as if I had four 1080 monitors. But, unlike having four actual 1080 resolution monitors, I can choose to maximize a window on two of the four quadrants or even all four if I wish. So, I have the ultimate flexibility with this monitor and no annoying seams between the displays.

Oh, and if you do any kind of video editing, like I do, it is pretty amazing to be able to edit full 1080 video and only have it take up a 4th of your display. You can actually see the full resolution video and the timeline at the same time. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to go back after this experience.

Video cards

One thing you should be aware of when purchasing this monitor, or any 4k monitor, is that you will need to have a video card that will support that resolution.

The general rule is:

  • Any AMD ATI card in the 7000 series or above will support 4k output.
  • Any NVIDIA card in the GTX 600 and GTX 700 series should support 4k output.

If you want an ATI card that isn’t too expensive, start with the HD 7700.

For NVIDIA, check out the GTX 660.

Final thoughts

Overall, for me, buying this monitor was a no brainer. My biggest fear was that there was some kind of mistake and that the resolution really was not 3840 x 2160 or that some graphics card wouldn’t be able to power that kind of a display, but I found that not only were most modern graphics cards able to power the display, but it also was indeed the real deal.

Now, I realize that not everyone has a $700 budget to spend on a monitor. But, did I mention this thing is actually a 4k TV as well? $700 $400 for a 4k display television is not a bad deal at all, especially if you can convince your spouse to let you put it in the living room. I also did the math and found that if I wanted to purchase four 1080 displays, the mounting arm to hold them, and the extra video card to power all 4 monitors, it would cost quite a bit more than the $700 $400 for a single Seiki SE39UY04 and take up quite a bit more space.

So, if you’ve got the cash and you are looking to be drowned in pixels, go for it, you won’t be disappointed unless you are planning on doing some serious heavy duty gaming with it, (even then I thought it looked plenty good enough for my tastes.)

  • Simple Developer

    Hey John,

    Can I buy one of your other monitors that you replaced? I am looking for something bigger! More than 21 Inches!

    Great post as usual here.

    • jsonmez

      Thanks. I am going to be selling those, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. Will let you know when I do.

  • Varun Sharma

    Hi John, my graphics card has memory – 32 MB dedicated and 1.5 GB in shared mode. Will it work?

    • jsonmez

      I am not sure. What is your graphics card? You can check to see what the max resolution it support for output is to find out.

  • phil

    Just bought this to use as a monitor

    how do I get resolution of 3840 x 1260

    • jsonmez

      Just plugin a output from a video card that can do a 4k output. (You may need to use HDMI or if you are using DisplayPort use an active converter.)
      I have hooked up my Macbook Pro, Lenovo Yoga 2 and my desktop PC to it.

      • phil

        I have NVidia QUADRO 600

        using display port

        what is an active converter?

        if I set resolution to 3840 x 1260
        get message “not supported”

      • John

        @jsonmez:disqus Which Macbook Pro are you using? Have a late-2012 but haven’t been able to get it working with my Seiki. Thanks!

  • John in Brisbane

    Nice review! I just ordered one of these :-) I’m going to run it with a gtx 770 2 gig for now but I know this things will take all the graphics crunching goodness I can throw at it. I like your review partly because it talks about one of the main reasons I want this panel: to run a big desktop on one screen rather than 3. I like gaming but I know I’ll have to rein in my expectations until I can do a sizable graphics upgrade. Cheers John

    • jsonmez

      Awesome, gtx 770 should run it fine. That is what I’ve got running it right now. Hope you like it.

      • John in Brisbane

        10 months on … awesome! Wish I’d gotten the 4gig card though …

  • W Lam

    I am a confused here. My understanding is that I can use this as a Windows monitor at 3840 x 2160 pixels.

    However, twice in the article it mentions a resolution of 3840 x 1260.

    Which resolution is correct?

    • jsonmez

      Typo, thanks for the comment. I fixed it now. Good catch, appreciate it.

      • Róbert Papp

        No-one is used to high numbers like this (yet :)

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  • Andres

    HI Thanks for you review, So i was wondering how you hooked up the monitor to your computer . I have the AMD 78000 series and according to you that should work.

    • jsonmez

      I used HDMI and I believe that is the only option, at least for the input on the monitor.

      • Andres

        So you for the 4k resolution just simply hook if up hdmi to your computer ? Which graphic card are you using ? Mac or. PC ? Thanks appreciate it .

        • jsonmez

          Yes, HDMI from your PC to your monitor. I have used both Mac and PC. I am using a GTX770.

  • Andres

    I just don’t know what adapters I need in order to get the full resolution.

  • kris

    Is this coincident ?

    I come to another place to just bought monitor and make a visit to people who I didn’t meet from a long time.

    Well, Nice.

    My plan to buy a monitor on next day.

    My last one is 1380.*** and now I am looking for FULL HD.

    Do you have any good idea for full hd monitor that is aviliable in south Asia.

    • kris

      Hey @jsonmez:disqus No answer ?

      • jsonmez

        Sorry, I don’t know much about south Asia. Although I would love to visit that area. :)

  • DROCK_IN_NC

    So if my Video Card only has display port can I just use a display port to hdmi cable to this?

    • jsonmez

      Yes, that should work fine. You may need to make sure it is an active converter to get the highest resolution though.

  • DROCK_IN_NC

    Wow. Down to $399 on amazon now. Count me in…

  • Michael Lockhart

    It’s good to see manufacturers are returning to making monitors that are high-res vertically (1200+ not the TV “HD” 1080). This is still a TV though — the refresh is so slow at 30Hz.

    I note there’s a firmware upgrade for the 50″ that can run low-res modes up-scaled and at 120Hz. That’d be good for games/movies… if you’re trying to work (code or write) on this “monitor” though, you’d better set a dark background/light text, because 30Hz is going to flicker too much and give headaches.

    • jsonmez

      Hey Michael, it actually turns out there is no flicker with LCD screens. CRTs had flicker because the actual screen completely repainted, but with LCDs the screen is just refreshed, so different pixels are turned on or off. I’ve been using it for quite a while not and I am very happy with it. No problems at all. For coding and non-gaming work, 30hz is more than plenty. It is bright, but I turn the brightness way down and it works fine.

  • Megabug

    Hi,

    Nice review, but what about the input lag? Does it bother you? Or have you succeeded reducing it?

    Thanks…

    • jsonmez

      There is no noticable input lag.

  • Tony Townsend

    Is there a write up or anything on how to use Display Fusion to create logical monitors within the one?

    • jsonmez

      It is pretty simple to do. Just go into the display settings and set the horizontal and vertical splits.

  • http://www.nikkfolts.com/ Nikk Folts

    Do you know if there are any adapters that take four 1080p HDMI inputs and converts it to a single 4K input? One in each corner of the screen? I have 2 video cards each very capable of powering two 1080p monitors… this allows for 4 1080p monitors, but I’d like to have a single one so there is no bevel… Anyone find this sort of adapter out there?

    Thanks for the great article, you got me all excited to try it out… (just don’t know if I can convince the wife to allow me to buy the TV and a new video card… hoping for a cheap adapter of some sort)

    • jsonmez

      I don’t know of anything like that, but it would certainly be awesome.

  • PACman

    Good article, thanks. What specific card do you use? And to confirm that regular youtube appears without blur? That’s all I need and 2 tail -f terms…

    • jsonmez

      I use an AMD Radeon HD 7700 Series card. And I don’t have any blur with YouTube. At least nothing I notice.

  • Mark Sweeney

    My card has a max resolution of 2560 x 1600. How would it look at that resolution?

    • jsonmez

      I don’t imagine it would look very good.

      • Mark Sweeney

        I have a feeling the highest resolution would make the text too small for me.

        • Róbert Papp

          That’s where you bump the DPI setting in the OS (I used 118% for LG W3000H on full resolution) or start using the zoom setting in the browser.

    • W Lam

      Is this on hdmi port or vga port. On hdmi, you will have a border, still usuable. if you are on a pc you can pick up a cheap and cheerful graphics card such as Radeon hd 5450.

      • Mark Sweeney

        Thanks for the info. I would think the display would still look pretty good if not real good.

  • W Lam

    I agree the monitor is really good. I can browse the web, play MP4 movies and even watch TV via a TV tuner.

    However, I still can’t play 4k movies from YouTube. (at lower resolutions it seems to be okay).

    I bought a new XFX Radeon R7 240 2GB specifically for this. I don’t know if it is my PC that is underpowered. How do I find out? Or is this a driver issue?

    The YouTube movies might display a couple of frames, then freeze, but I can hear the sound track. I tried dowloading the movie from youtube, but I have same problems in vlc (quicktime is worse).

    On other movies, all I see is a green grid (horitontal and vertical lines).

    • jsonmez

      It might be just a bandwidth issue. That is quite a bit of data. I have problems with YouTube in 4k as well, unless I let it buffer.

  • W Lam

    I can get sharp images at 4k. However, when I drop resolution down to 1080i 60hz (HDMI), the quality is not so good. But I don’t understand why this since on VGA it is much better. Any ideas?

    The only problem on VGA is I see flicker and a something like the images is whizzing left to right.

    • jsonmez

      It is probably because of the size of the pixels at that resolution.
      You are basically 4x the pixel size, so they are going to look more blocky.

  • V B

    Do you have any feedback on the 30HZ, and the “eye strain” element ? I remember when CRT were out, if you were to set your monitor to 30HZ refresh rate, than the screen would flicker, and that I think this is because of the different lighting technologies between CRT vs. LCD.
    Never having the need to work at 30HZ on LCD, (and i just tried on my Dell 21″ 1080p monitor), I see the image also seems to flicker (although 30HZ interlaced was the only option to select, no 30HZ non-interlaced option was available in the drop down). Maybe its because interlaced is the only option and this is what is causing it to flicker. Does this monitor show 30HZ interlaced or non-interlaced when setting refresh rate? Does this monitor flicker at all when working normally with IDE, documentation, etc.. ? Do you feel any “eye strain” or headaches from using it for prolonged periods of time ?

    • jsonmez

      I’ve not had any problems so far and I have not ever noticed a flicker. I’ve been using it for several months now.

      • V B

        That’s great news. Do you find any difference between the two cards that you have tested HD 7700 vs. GTX770 ? I assume the GTX770 is more powerful for games. I would like to go with the lower end HD7700 for my purposes (if it can do the same job as the more expensive GTX770), because I am looking to use this solely for development purposes, and watching educational videos.

        • jsonmez

          Didn’t see any difference in the cards. At least not anything I noticed for what I have been doing–which is mostly development.

  • RagnarDanneskjöld

    Hey John, thanks for the article. I’ve had one Seiki 39″ for about 9 months and it works great on my desktop (with a nVidia GTX 645 w/4GB RAM in case anyone is interested).

    I’m having an issue connecting my Yoga Pro 2 via micro-HDMI. I’m using a RocketFish micro-HDMI cable from BestBuy and getting a “No Support” message at 3840×2160 (1920×1080 seems to work fine at 60hz).

    Do you ever get a “No Support” message? Which cable are you using for your Yoga Pro 2 connection? Any tips would be appreciated.

    Cheers!

    • jsonmez

      I didn’t see that issue. Mine seemed to work fine. I had micro HDMI to HDMI. Maybe try another cable?

      • RagnarDanneskjöld

        I dug up an old Motorola micro-HDMI cable and it worked great. Thanks for everything!

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  • W Lam

    .

  • Róbert Papp

    Can you please elaborate on how it works with games?

    I’m fine with FullHD resolution stretched to 39 inches to let the GPU rest and handle higher Hz, but really curious how it feels for FPSs and Racing games.

    I would use it mostly for programming, browsing and YouTube(ing?); but on occasion I’d like to play games without headache and annoyance, e.g. when Portal 3 comes.

    • jsonmez

      I haven’t played many games on it, really just Fallout 3, which looked great. But I would imagine if you are a really heavy gamer you would notice it is not as smooth as a faster refresh rate monitor.

      If you mainly use it for programming, etc. You should be fine with the occasional game. I have not complaints, but I am not a huge PC gamer.

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  • Roeland Reyniers

    I bought this, and then returned it. The input lag was definately noticeable. I believe this is because it is 29hz at the 4k resolution?

  • Eric Smalling

    Now it’s down to $339 on Amazon. Just ordered one – I figure it will hold me until the 60Hz ones come down some more.

  • http://christrecovery.discussioncommunity.com/ cmwilk

    Make sure your computer box will support the graphics card. My two year old HP Quad with 16 Gigs or Ram and 300 W PS, was unable to boot up with both Radeon and Nvidia cards that ran 4k resolutions. I even upgraded the PS to no avail. Very disappointed as I now need a new PC that was otherwise fine! lol. I bought the Seiki anyway and will see how it looks at 1920 x 1080 :-(

  • howie__feltersnatch

    Just got one for $339. 4k pr9n has never looked so….so….disgusting.
    Great for Xcode + simulator + a Chrome and FF + VLC.

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