The race to cram more Ks into every device shows no sign of slowing down. 4K televisions are reaching mainstream price points, smartphones are packing in 3K and 4K screens, and Apple seems insistent on making 5K the standard for its premium desktops. These examples are beautiful, cutting-edge, pixel-dense screens. And all of them have nothing on Dell’s new UP3218K monitor.
Parse the name closely, and the gist of what it offers is clear – it’s a 32-inch screen with 8K resolution. 8K is, well, a lot of Ks, and it’s even more impressive in context of the display’s size. The UP3218K’s resolution of 7,680 x 4,320 adds up to over 33 million pixels, or 280 pixels per inch. Even the iMac with Retina comes up shy of 15 million pixels.
It’s a good thing 8K is a niche, because nothing is ready for it.
What does 33 million pixels look like? Exactly like whatever’s on the display, which is the entire point. The individual pixels are virtually impossible to see with the naked eye, and if any hint of them becomes visible, it’s likely due to the source content rather than the display. Apple’s iMac with Retina already managed to achieve this effect when viewed from a couple feet away, but the UP3218K stands up to scrutiny. You’ll go cross-eyed before seeing a jagged edge.
There’s more to the monitor than its pixel count, however. In our tests, we found it can render the entire sRGB, AdobeRGB, and Rec. 709 gamuts, as well as achieve an average color error value below one (after calibration). Contrast wasn’t bad either, at a maximum ratio of 650:1, though the best monitors do manage to exceed a ratio north of 1000:1. The edge-lit panel doesn’t include local dimming – monitors almost never do.
Dell opted for a glossy finish on the UP3218K, as it enhances perceived contrast and lets colors shine. That’s important for a display built for high-end professional work. However, Dell treated the display with a coating that reduces glare. Reflections are still visible, but usually aren’t distracting.
We were a bit miffed to see the Dell’s on-screen menu, though easy to navigate, doesn’t offer settings for gamma or specific color hue/saturation. It only offers adjustment for brightness, contrast, color space, and color temperature. That’s mostly excused by compatibility with X-Rite colorimeter tools, which Dell says will allow for extremely precise calibration. Still, we’d prefer to see all options built-in to the monitor menu, too.
The little things count
The UP3218K’s pixel count isn’t its only shocking specification. Its price – a whopping $5,000 – will also raise eyebrows. Given how much it costs, it’d be reasonable to expect some luxury, and the monitor delivers. While the chassis itself is plastic, aluminum covers the major touch points such as the edges of the display and the back panel. The materials feel sturdy, even when handled more roughly than most people will treat a display this expensive.
What does 33 million pixels look like? Exactly like whatever’s on the display, which is the entire point.
A rugged silver stand holds the panel upright. It provides a wide variety of ergonomic options including tilt, swivel, and height. It can even rotate 90 degrees to hold the monitor vertically. Dell’s monitor stands have a good reputation, and the UP3218K upholds it, but the VESA mount makes it possible to use a different stand, if desired.
We know none of this sounds incredible, features like these can’t be taken for granted. LG’s Ultrafine 5K monitor, for example, looks and feels chintzy despite its $1,300 price tag. We suspect the kind of people who actually buy the UP3218K won’t care at all about its looks – what it does will be far more important – but Dell’s attention to detail is always appreciated.
Nobody’s ready for this
8K. Yep. That’s a lot. Does anyone really need this?
The answer is yes – but most people don’t. 8K is for those who produce extremely high-end photo and video content. The massive advertisements that span the sides of buildings in cities across the globe are shot, edited, and finalized at massive resolutions, and an 8K monitor gives those designers a chance to see results at 1:1 scale – or, if not that, as close as any monitor yet can come. Cutting-edge video also benefits, as 4K can be edited with plenty of room to spare, and an 8K monitor is obviously the only way to see the result of an 8K video.
It’s a good thing 8K is a niche, because nothing is ready for it. Connection standards aren’t ready for it, so two DisplayPort connections must be used at once, as was true with Dell’s 5K monitor. Most video cards aren’t ready for it, so only the latest hardware from AMD and Nvidia can drive it. Windows isn’t ready for it, so we ran across numerous bugs, from wallpapers that didn’t fully load to a display driver that regularly crashed just while browsing the web. Even the content isn’t ready for it, so there’s virtually nothing to view or watch.
What about 8K gaming? That, too, is a beautiful dream. Many games will boot up on the UP3218K, and render at 8K resolution, but playing is another story. Even Diablo 3, now five years old, didn’t come close to fluidity when played on a GTX 1080. The hardware to power 8K gaming in modern titles doesn’t exist – yet.
Dell’s UP3218K is a very big, very nice monitor with all the Ks a kid could ever need, but it’s priced at $5,000, and most software just isn’t ready to handle it. To buy it is to buy a small slice of the future. It’s awesome, it’s beautiful, it’s luxurious – but for most people, it won’t be much use until the rest of the world catches up.