Using an 8K TV as a monitor

A Samsung QN800A.
FIGURE 1 A 65” Samsung QN800A on my desk.
TLDR: If your job is to write code all day or stare at Excel spreadsheets, buy an 8K TV instead of a multi-monitor setup. You can even use the same TV for 4K 120 Hz gaming or watching movies as a bonus!

For programming, word processing, and other productive work, consider getting an 8K TV instead of a multi-monitor setup. An 8K TV will have superior image quality, resolution, and versatility compared to multiple 4K displays, at roughly the same size. As a bonus, an 8K display is also suitable for gaming at 4K 120 Hz, or for full screen media consumption, which is not possible with multiple smaller monitors.

Currently 8K TVs are found in 55” and above. This is about the same width as getting two 27” monitors or two 32” monitors, both common setups for programmers and other professionals. This is also the same physical width as ultrawide screens, but with a superior resolution of 7680 px wide instead of the common upper limit of 5120 px for ultrawide screens.

1 Pros of using an 8K display

1.1 For programming, word processing, etc

Three 27
FIGURE 2 Three 27” 4K monitors. An 8K monitor would have similar pixel density but no bezels in between.
FIGURE 3 Some random code displayed on an 8K display. Having seven evenly-spaced columns would be impossible on a dual 4K display setup due to bezels in the middle.

Many programmers use a multi-monitor setup, often with multiple 4K monitors. The bezels and gaps in between the monitors introduce distractions and one is limited in how one may arrange terminals and windows across multiple displays. With a single 8K display there is no such problem.

Consider using a tiling window manager to arrange your windows in a large display. Tiling window managers exist for all operating systems. Here are some examples that I enjoy:

Productivity is highly sensitive to the display of text. For this reason, many programmers prefer to use Apple products for their retina displays. An 8K display will have vastly superior text rendering compared to a single large 4K display, and equivalent text rendering to multiple smaller 4K displays.

TVs may have a different subpixel layout than monitors, so small text may suffer fringing. As of writing the Samsung VA and LG IPS panels such as the QN800A have a conventional RGB or BGR subpixel structure. One may also increase the font size or use hidpi scaling which will eliminate all pixel-level concerns.

1.2 For photo and video editing

Although the main motivation for getting the 8K display was for programming, it is quite nice for photography too. Apart from the obvious advantage of being able to see a large photo with a sharp resolution, having a high resolution display allows toolbars and such to be legible at a much smaller size relative to the size of the display. This improves productivity for photo editing. Of course, appropriate hidpi settings may be used to increase the size of toolbars if desired.

An 8K TV often supports the D65-P3 colour gamut, making it appropriate for photo and video editing. It may not arrive as well-calibrated as professional monitors out of the box, but it should be possible to calibrate any screen with a display calibrator. However, extremely colour-sensitive work should still use professional calibrated displays suited for that purpose.

1.3 For CAD work

CAD work is highly dependent on visualizing fine details. In particular, a wireframe rendering may become unintelligible if it is of insufficient resolution. A high resolution display will allow fine details to be seen even while viewing multiple viewports without having to maximize the viewport. However the viewport may be maximized to occupy the full screen nonetheless, a great advantage compared to multi-monitor setups.

1.4 For gaming/media

Although this post is mostly focused on productivity, most 8K monitors such as Samsung’s Q800T series, Q900TS series, Q900 series, QN800A series as well as LG’s Nanocell 97 and 99 series can be run in 4K at 120 Hz. Modern TVs have decent input lag in the ballpark of 10 ms and may support FreeSync. So these are excellent for gaming on the big screen when one needs to take a break from work. Of course, this may not suffice for competitive professional FPS twitch shooters, but it is pretty darn good. Multi-4k monitor setups simply cannot achieve this.

An 8K TV will also natively support 1440p gaming and media at an exact integer ratio of 3:1 without scaling artifacts that a 4K display would introduce. Perfect for playing the latest titles that your GPU isn’t fast enough to run in 4K.

Please bear in mind that most GPUs will not run games performantly in 8K and there are basically no 8K movies.

1.5 Cost

FIGURE 4 An LG Nanocell 99 65” 8K TV is only $1500 at Best Buy.

8K TVs tend to start at around $1500 to $2000 for a 65” one. This is about the same as getting four 32” 4K monitors.

However, many people who get a multi-monitor productivity setup also buy a separate 4K TV just for gaming or media consumption. In this case, having one screen that does it all may save some money.

1.6 Connectivity

8K TVs may be driven at 8K 60 Hz with no chroma subsampling by using HDMI 2.1, which is available on all current (Nvidia RTX 4000 series and AMD 7000 series) and previous gen (Nvidia RTX 3000 series, AMD 6000 series) graphics cards. Older computers with GPUs outputting DisplayPort 1.4 may use adapters such as the Club3D one to achieve 8K 60 Hz.

2 Potential cons and caveats

2.1 Desk and mounting

FIGURE 5 My 75” × 42” desk is bigger than a single bed.

When purchasing a large display, one may need to sit farther back from the display when viewing full-screen content. As such, a deeper desk may be needed. Most desks are only 30” (76 cm) deep, which is an insufficient distance to sit from the screen. Please take into consideration the potential extra costs of buying a bigger desk, or consider wall-mounting the display.

My desk is an Uplift four leg standing desk with a custom 75” × 42” dimension. You could also buy a large butcher’s block or door and mount it on a desk frame. Large dining tables or conference room tables work well too.

2.2 Image quality issues

2.2.1 Uniformity

Due to manufacturing variance, there may be some nonuniformity in high resolution displays, leading to what is called the “dirty screen effect”. This is not expected to be an issue for programming work, but can be distracting or harmful for photographic work or media consumption. An appropriate calibration can mitigate the problem but it is still recommended to obtain a uniform, professional display for colour-critical work.

The Samsung QN800A has good gray uniformity. Although the screen is fairly uniform throughout, there’s a bit of dirty screen effect in the center, which could be distracting during sports. The screen is much more uniform in near-dark scenes. Keep in mind that uniformity may vary between units.

Ratings sites such as RTINGS.com have good measurements of uniformity.

2.2.2 Checkerboard effect

Some 8K TVs have a subtle “checkerboard” effect visible at the 1px scale, such as the Samsung QN700B and QN800A. To quote a Best Buy review comment,

This is not a true HDR 8K TV. To be HDR 8K, each pixel should have the full range of brightness and dimness to comprise an image. But each pixel only seems to have half the number of steps between full dim and full bright. So to generate certain shades and colors between full bright and black, the pixels require 2 pixels, one that is brighter and one that is dimmer where the average between the pixels is the correct shade, color or value. For most shades and colors, this alternating pixel technique forms a diagonal patchwork that has a noticeable checkerboard effect. Images viewed up close look bad. This isn’t noticeable with windows that are pure white and the text is black, as black text on a white background looks good and is true 8k pixel density with no grid pattern and clean edges on the text. […] My best guess of what this display is doing is… instead of 8K number of pixels each capable of displaying a full range HDR10 1024 color steps per RGB element, they have two sets of pixels each set only capable of displaying 512 steps of information with every other pixel offset in capability by half a step. They combine the two simpler pixel values to achieve the more complex shades in between. I can hear the Samsung display engineers, “Who would sit that close anyway to be able to see that?” Well, clearly people who want to use it as a computer monitor would. The 700B is advertised as not just an HDR screen but an HDR10+ plus screen which is 10bit, but this does not seem to be the case as a non HDR image from my computer still requires dithering to achieve the commanded colors and shades. No other display makers are making a true 8K display at this size at this price point, so I’m going to keep it and just sit further back so I don’t notice the dithering.

This does not affect most text rendering, but I have noticed this effect when editing photos. It’s kind of annoying but still rather subtle.

However, from RTINGS.com, it seems this does not affect the LG Nanocells.

2.3 Random software issues

Since TVs are rarely designed for PC usage as a first class citizen, there may be some weird quirks or bugs.

2.3.1 Nvidia Linux drivers

If using Nvidia, to get 8K 60 Hz working, you need driver version 535 or later on Linux, which was released in May 2023. Versions prior to that would only do 8K 30 Hz.

Although Nvidia on Windows has supported 8K 60 Hz as soon as the RTX 3000 series came out, on Linux it took about two years for 8K 60 Hz support to work, spawning a salty thread on GitHub.

So please make sure to update your drivers!

As a minor concern, there may be some slight vertical screen tearing between the left and right halves of the display.

2.3.2 Input Signal Plus

To get 8K 60 Hz working, you need to go into TV menus and enable “Input Signal Plus”, “Enhanced HDMI”, or something similar. For some silly reason, this may be disabled by default, which will relegate you to only 4K or 30 Hz.

2.3.3 Wake up bugs

Sometimes if your computer goes to sleep or turns the monitor off to save energy, when waking up the TV will not detect it. Worse, sometimes when waking up, the TV will revert to only 4K mode, and you’d have to go into the menus to toggle the “Input Signal Plus” setting to make it work properly again. This is pretty annoying but I just disabled turning off the monitor in my OS.

2.3.4 Having another DisplayPort device

When having another DisplayPort device plugged into your GPU, your computer may favor the DisplayPort device upon boot. This means that when booting up, the BIOS menu, bootloader, and such will get sent to the DisplayPort device instead of the HDMI device.

This was annoying for me because I have a Valve Index VR headset which uses DisplayPort whereas the TV, using HDMI, is my main display. I had to unplug the Valve Index but if anyone knows any other methods then I would be interested to hear them.

2.4 Display types

Currently, 8K TVs are generally available as “full array backlight” IPS or VA panels. These will have equivalent or superior contrast compared to most IPS desktop monitors, but will have inferior contrast compared with OLED displays. OLED 8K TVs exist, but are prohibitively expensive at $30,000 as of writing. However, OLED displays are prone to burn in when used for productivity work and may have features such as automatic dimming for static scenes, which can be distracting while performing lengthy tasks like programming.

2.5 Coatings

TVs tend to have a glossy coating for superior image quality. However for brightly lit rooms there may be unavoidable reflections. For my use case, even though my TV is right next to a window, I have never found any issues focusing on my code with a dark theme.

3 Example devices

Unfortunately, there are very few 8K displays on the market, and many decent ones (such as the 55” Samsung QN700B) are discontinued. Some 8K TVs include:

There are also some crazy $30,000 OLED displays and even crazier huge 262” microled displays that cost millions.

There is also a Dell UP3218K, but it costs the same as an 8K TV and is much smaller and has many problems. So I do not recommend it unless you really don’t have the desk space. Sitting further back from a bigger screen provides the same field of view as sitting close to a smaller display, and may have less eye strain.

I am excited about upcoming TCL 8K displays.