The seemingly inevitable move towards 4K in the home theater has begun in earnest in the past year, and this is mirrored to an even greater degree in the computing market.
Almost every display manufacturer from Samsung to Asus is now producing 4K displays, though each has their own design ethos and set of limitations and benefits. Monoprice who cut their teeth in the home theater and cabling market have been producing PC monitors for the past two years, and just recently launched their second generation of Crystal Pro monitors. The subject of this review is the Monoprice MPC28UHD, a 28” glossy 4K (3840 x 2160) display based on a Korean TN panel. The display offers a rated brightness of 350 cd/m2 and a contrast ratio of 1000:1 in typical use. As this is a TN panel, viewing angles are fairly broad at 170° in the horizontal plane and 160° in the vertical though the glossy panel will definitely show plenty of reflections when far off axis.
With a retail price of $499 USD, the MPC28UHD is a surprisingly feature complete display, offering 2 HDMI/MHL inputs, 1 Dual-Link DVI-D input and 2 DisplayPort inputs in addition to 2 watt per channel powered stereo speakers built into the bezel that can be fed by a 3.5mm TRS input.
Unboxing, Fit & Finish
The MPC28UHD is a surprisingly good looking display for the price, in many ways better built than its competition. It features clean lines, a solid stand and a very elegant brushed metal bottom section that really elevates the overall look of the monitor.
Monoprice received a lot of negative feedback when they released their first generation of displays due to wobbly stands and perceived poor quality in the construction of the display’s housing. It seems that Monoprice truly listened to this feedback and raised the bar substantially with this new generation of displays.
The MPC28UHD ships in a very sturdy double box, well protected by dense polystyrene and includes a DVI cable, stereo audio interconnect and an AC adapter brick that plugs into a standard IEC power cord. The bonus here is that the power cord going to the display is a much smaller gauge DC barrel type connector, which makes cable management much easier.
It took me all of 5 minutes to unbox the panel and set it upside down so I could install the stand before placing it on my desk. The adjustable height has a considerable range, comparable to that of a typical BenQ or Asus monitor so it took mere moments to match my BenQ FW2765 in height before connecting a DisplayPort cable and powering on the display.
Display Quality – Color Accuracy & Subjective Viewing Impressions
The review sample I received from Monoprice came out of the box with fairly lackluster color accuracy according to my EyeOne Display 2 colorimeter. Luckily, unlike home theater calibration, PC monitor calibration is about as easy as it gets. Thanks to the built in gamma and color correction capabilities of Windows 8, I was able to dial in my settings at a high level using the meter before generating an ICC profile that completed the calibration.
As you can see in the image below from my software, the display was pretty far off at first, but the post calibration results are perfectly acceptable.
For those interested, I have taken some pictures of the required picture settings to reach this calibrated result, as well as my ICC profile.
The viewing impressions portion of this review is the truly easy part. I loaded up a couple of my favorite games at the time, Sniper Elite III and The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings and played them in glorious 4K on the MPC28UHD. The results were both glorious and disappointing. Glorious because the quality I witnessed gaming at 4K was truly outstanding, and disappointing because my shiny GTX980 isn’t powerful enough to play The Witcher 2 at 4K without compromising severely on settings.
Arguments about optimization aside, it is a very exciting proposition to game on 4K now that I have seen how good it looks. In particular, at a resolution that high anti-aliasing becomes much less critical, while textures and details in the environment really come to life as they are each being rendered with a much higher pixel count.
Watching video from my media server was also a joy on the MPC28UHD, with my wife and I enjoying at least half a season of USA’s Suits on the display without a single complaint.
I should also note that the MPC28UHD is really two different displays depending on the viewing environment. In a dark or light controlled room, it’s a fantastic display because the glossy finish increases perceived black depth. In a light room, such as when I first tried to game on the weekend, the intensity of reflections on the display can range from somewhat annoying to downright awful. Those considering this display would do well do put some thought into the room they intend to use it in, as well as the time of day.
A Note About DPI Scaling & Productivity Use
While our beneficent overlords at Microsoft claim to have made great advancements in DPI scaling in Windows 8.1, it’s still obvious that Microsoft has not considered the ramifications of running two displays side by side, each with a different resolution. In my case, my primary monitor is a 2560x1440 BenQ GW2765, which I normally use at the default Windows setting of 100% (unscaled). As soon as I tried to adjust scaling on the MPC28UHD to make text more readable, icons and windows looked absolutely ridiculous on my BenQ. In the end, I settled for a more moderate 125% scaling across the board, and relied on browser zoom to make the MPC28UHD more usable for productivity.
Windows native apps like Outlook however were never quite satisfactory on the MPC28UHD, so those looking strictly for a productivity monitor would be well served to consider both seating distance from the monitor, and what OS you are using. Connecting my OS X machine to the MPC28UHD, the experience was markedly better, though once again – using varying resolutions was still far from perfect. Caveat emptor.
The Monoprice MPC28UHD feels like a truly premium display in every way that matters. From its fantastic build quality to the functional and complete OSD menus and included speakers, no part of this display says cheap. It’s solid, attractive to look at and highly adjustable. Provided you have the hardware to drive it for 3D gaming, or if you just plan to use it for video watching and productivity in the right setting, the MPC28UHD is a stellar value for the price, and well worth your strong consideration. Recommended.
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