Thank you, Apple

High-DPI desktop displays are considerably overdue. If you don't agree, open this site on your phone, zoom the text to the same size as your desktop display, and hold your phone over your monitor. Sit back as you would normally and read. The text on your phone will be considerably more legible.

A close-up comparing a Lumia Icon (left) and a Dell U3011 LCD monitor (right):

Lumia Icon at left, Dell U3011 at right

Do the exercise yourself. My photo is a meager simulacrum.

But phones are tiny. I want to tug at the edges of my phone and stretch that beautiful high-DPI screen to fill my field of view. When on the go, I tolerate content consumption on such a small device because it's portable. But when I am home, I turn to the firepower in my arsenal: a high-performance workstation with three large displays.

Here is what I consider a serviceable desktop display configuration (phone on top for scale):

Phone versus monitor, fight!

In desktop displays, my priorities are size first, concavity second, and pixel density third. Other matters bring up the rear.

Ultra-dense small devices (4K phones) and high-DPI small form-factor (24 inch or below) desktop displays—while technically marvelous—aren't potential purchases for me because they mix up the priority order.

Meanwhile, the industry players on the large form-factor side are clueless. You have a bunch of manufacturers that think large is exclusively for the living room and bumbling basket-cases like Dell that pair competent technical execution with incompetent marketing and sales.

Apple's new 5K iMac

I'm no fan of Apple. The last Apple products in our household were a first-generation iPhone and some iPods.

Having educated an entire industry on the appeal of high-DPI displays on small devices, Apple is now helping mainstream high-DPI on the desktop, something I entreated other manufacturers to do years ago. With a 27-inch 5K display, Apple makes modestly large form-factor high-DPI glamorous and desirable to a regular consumer. No one else is trying to do this.

One could say that Dell technically beat Apple to market with a 5K monitor, but that's wrong. You can buy the 5K iMac and have it shipped within five days.

Dell isn't even operating in the same marketing universe. We know from some industry press that the Dell monitor is named the "UltraSharp 27 Ultra HD 5K." Yes, that's two Ultras. It is ultra ultra sharp, after all.

Dell's web site has no marketing page for the UltraSharp 27 Ultra HD 5K.

Ultra hard to find

It has a press release you can find via your preferred search engine, and we know from tech industry coverage that the monitor is due around Christmas 2014. That's more than five days away.

Bottom-line: you have to be extremely savvy about computers and monitors to even have awareness of Dell's monitor. Meanwhile, there are already multitudes of people salivating over a 5K iMac. The first orders may already be out for delivery.

All of this is putting aside the matter of price, which is currently understood to be unfavorable to Dell (~$2,500 for the UltraSharp and ~$2,500 for the iMac, which is a computer and monitor).

I have no beef with Dell, but they aren't trying. It's a long-standing refrain that Apple takes credit for inventing other company's innovations. I routinely joke that when the iPhone has wireless charging, the world will suddenly declare wired charging dead. They are sometimes called out on this behavior, but they get away with impunity as long as competitors are as clueless as Dell.

So thanks again Apple. Thanks for kicking the ass of the display industry. Again.

I'm still not a fan. I won't buy an iMac. But I am glad you are around.

Meanwhile, in China...

More than a year has passed since I outfitted my wife's home workstation with a Seiki 4K television, and ten months since we did the same with every workstation at the office. Now routinely less than $340 at Amazon, the Seiki 39-inch 4K television is a superb value for the money. For the price of one 5K iMac, I could spec a monster i7-4930K box with three Seiki 4K televisions. Say hello to 24.8 million pixels on over 2,000 square inches of screen real estate. Standing desk recommended!

But in the year since first taking a risk on the Seiki television, nothing but its price has changed. At the start of 2014, I was optimistic that Seiki or another Chinese or Korean manufacturer would take the mantle of low-cost high-DPI professional displays, giving us an affordable 60 Hz-capable 39-inch 4K monitor, but it hasn't yet happened. There has been some fidgeting within the small form-factor 4K space, but I reiterate: size first, then density. (Obviously within reason; let's not lose ground on resolution.)

Stay calm!

Writing these rants aimed at the display industry are akin to therapy for me. I'm a consumer and I am frustrated by technology's speed bumps. I must remind myself that the display industry saw a decade of stagnation thanks to "high definition," and that its revival won't happen as quickly as I want. So those who do move the needle deserve thanks.

In another year's time, will Apple once again be the first to bring a 8K+ 50-inch display to market? I suppose I shouldn't be surprised.
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