By November 11, 2013

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.)

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.

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.

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.

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.)

About the author

John Sonmez

John Sonmez is the founder of Simple Programmer and a life coach for software developers. He is the best selling author of the book "Soft Skills: The Software Developer's Life Manual."