Sharp have released a 32” 4K monitor based on new IGZO display technology, which has smaller pixels and lower power consumption than typical LCD screens. We asked Red Shark’s Neil Roberts to take one for a test drive, as we thought the stable of demanding creative apps he deals with on a daily basis was just the thing to give this screen a workout. Here’s how he got on.
Sharp are launching their new PN-K321 32” monitor with a screen resolution of 3840×2160 pixels. At four times the resolution of HD, this is definitely an Ultra HD monitor even if it does fall slightly short of true 4K resolution.
What is IGZO?
The panel uses new IGZO display technology. IGZO stands for Indium Gallium Zinc Oxide, a new compound that can switch states faster than previous LCD technologies, while also using less power. By using IGZO, Sharp have managed to create a display with four times the pixel density of previous displays but which only uses around 90 watts of power.
The key specs
The monitor is 800mm diagonally (31.5”) but is only 35mm (1.4”) thick at its widest point, and weighs just 7.5 kilos without its stand. Connections include Displayport 2.1, which supports Multi Stream Transport mode – this allows the monitor to display Ultra HD images at 60 frames per second. It even has built-in speakers.
The display is 10-bit and displays 1.07 billion colours, so you’ll actually see your 10-bit footage in its true colours. Gradients are smooth, with no banding, and the colour range of the monitor is good but it does not cover the entire Adobe RGB or NTSC range, so while this is a good multi-purpose monitor it should not be considered a reference monitor for grading.
Straight out of the box, the monitor is an understated grey monolith. There’s a stand included, which allows the monitor to be mounted either horizontally or vertically, but it cannot pivot between the two.
When the PN-K321 is mounted horizontally you can adjust the height of the monitor and it can swivel and tilt. The monitor also has standard VESA mounting points so it can be wall mounted or mounted on other types of stand. Power is provided by an external 19.5v power supply, so there is only a thin power cable running to the display.
The controls are concealed on the right hand side of the monitor, with buttons for power, menu, menu navigation and volume. The menu gives you access to standard picture controls and also three different sets of colour controls. All inputs are connected on the left hand side and, while there is a USB port, that might only be for service.
When first switched on and connected to a MacBook Pro the display was impressive: images were crisp and sharp, with the pixels being invisible from normal viewing distances. This is effectively a 32” Retina display.
The first thing you notice when opening applications like Resolve 10 or FCPX is that you have so much room to play with. I was able to run Resolve with the preview monitor at full HD but still have room for scopes and the rest of the interface.
Who’s it for?
This would be a fantastic monitor for editors working on FCPX or Premiere, After Effects and Photoshop users and 3D animators. Because there is so much space you can lay out your user interface with plenty of room for dense timelines and option windows, like scopes. And because it’s a single monitor, you no longer have to deal with the bezels of a two monitor setup. Then of course it is absolutely perfect for working with 4K media – it’s no surprise that this is the monitor that Apple chose to show with the new Mac Pro.
Loading 4K material into FCPX and playing it full screen was amazing; the footage looked crisp and vibrant with no scaling at all. The usual grid of pixels is just not visible, making the images look more like film transparencies.
The shots below were taken on my iPhone – hopefully you can see how huge the images look full screen and how close you’re able to get before you see any pixels, even if my phone isn’t quite 4K.
Want 4K and multitouch?
Sharp is also releasing a touchscreen variant, the PN-K322B, with ten-point multitouch. It will have a special stand that will allow you to lower the monitor down to a 25 degree angle to facilitate drawing on the screen. It will also come with a special pen and include palm rejection technology, so that your hand does not affect what you are drawing or writing.
This would be excellent for graphic designers and CAD users, but I can also see it as an interactive touchscreen display at points of sale or in museums and exhibitions. With such a high resolution the quality of the user interface and the on-screen content could be much finer than that we currently see.
At £2899 ex VAT the PN-321 is not the cheapest monitor out there, but it certainly cannot be beaten for on-screen space. I really enjoyed having so much screen real estate available for the interface, and of course 4K material looked fantastic.