Using a 4K ultra HD TV as a PC monitor

LG 43UK6950 PLB (4K Ultra HD TV)

Over the last couple of months I’ve been considering buying a TV to also use as a PC monitor. I’ve been surprised to find relatively very little information online about it so here’s what I’ve discovered and my experiences so far.

My experience has been great, so far.

You don’t have a telly?!

I’ve often been amazed by people’s reactions whenever I’ve told them that I don’t own a TV.

“You don’t have a telly?!”

Until recently I’ve not felt that I’ve really need one. I do have a TV licence as you still need one to watch shows on the BBC iPlayer but I watch those on my PC or Android tablet.

This is fine on my own, but watching films with my boys has been tricky. Most often we’ve been lying down, scrunched up, watching my laptop at the foot of the bed.

Moving out of hall into my own wee house added new dynamics, so I finally gave in and decided to buy a TV.

As I don’t have much space in my house and wouldn’t have anywhere to put it other than on my desk, I knew that it would have to double as a PC monitor.

So I knew my research had to cover two areas:

  • Graphics cards
  • 4K Ultra HD televisions

Graphics card

Put simply, a graphics card is the technology inside a computer that creates the images to output to a screen. Generally speaking, the better the card, the better quality the images and the higher resolution it can handle. This is especially true if you play computer games. The better the graphics card, the more detail you see and the smoother the games appear to play.

I had quite an old graphics card, an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660 (2 GB) which at the time I bought it was only a few notches down from the top-level gaming cards available. It used a PCI Express 3.0 slot, had two GB of RAM and supported a maximum digital resolution of 4K (4096 × 2160) which was fine for my dual-HD monitors setup (3840 × 1080). It served me well for four or five years and was exactly what I needed then.

But it was beginning to struggle with a few of the more modern games. Forza Horizons 3, for example, we were running on the lowest specs available within the game and even then it was complaining that the graphics card wasn’t coping.

This article from PC Gamer was very helpful in helping me identify the kind of graphics card to upgrade to:

You can use any TV with HDMI inputs in place of a computer display. If you’re looking at 4K TVs, you’ll want a graphics card with at least an HDMI 2.0 port (HDMI 2.0a or later for HDR10 displays). That allows for 4K at 60Hz, with 24-bit color. For GPUs, all the Nvidia 10-series parts and the GTX 950/960 can do this, and AMD’s RX Vega 56/64 and 500-series cards also support HDMI 2.0 or later.

Should I use a 4K TV as a computer monitor?

After a little research, I upgraded to an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 with 6 GB of RAM. Another PCI Express 3.0 card but this time with an overclocked processor (so that it runs faster), three times as much memory, and support for 8K resolution (7680 × 4320 pixels). It also had the outputs that I needed (DVI and HDMI), giving me plenty of options.

That should do the job.

Top tip: I used PC Part Picker to identify graphics cards that would be compatible with my motherboard.

Asus NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 OC Edition 6 GB graphics card

It took me about 10 minutes to remove the old card and install the new. I then downloaded and installed the latest drivers.

What a difference it made. On my 24″ HD monitor, I was able to run Forza Horizons with everything cranked up to high or ultra!

Time to choose a television.

4K Ultra HD TVs

While researching whether you could feasibly use a 4K TV as a monitor, besides the advice about using HDMI 2.0a, I discovered two further considerations:

  1. Signal lag
  2. Chroma subsampling 4:4:4

Signal lag

One of the biggest differences between traditional PC monitors and televisions is input lag. This makes sense as the only input a TV generally needs to consider most of the time is from the remote control, and most of us will happily wait for a second or two while the channel changes.

The only other time that most TVs need to consider input lag is when you plug a games console into it. When you tap left on your gamepad stick you want your character to move left immediately.

As a lot of modern TVs process the video signal to make the action in films look smoother, you need to switch this off when plugging in a games console or computer. To enable this, most TV manufacturers now include a ‘game’ mode.

This is important when connecting a PC to a TV because without game mode enabled even simple things like dragging your mouse across the screen shows a noticeable lag: you move the mouse—there is a slight delay—the pointer eases itself across the screen. It doesn’t take too long for this to get annoying.

4:4:4 chroma subsampling

Because TVs are designed for watching fast-action images they are not so good at displaying the sharp text that you might want to manipulate while using a computer.

So if you want to use a 4K TV as a monitor, we need to make sure it is capable of displaying sharp text. TVs manage this using something called ‘chroma subsampling’, although most of the documentation and specifications of TVs—disappointingly—won’t call it this. You may have to do some digging around in user manuals.

This article “chroma subsampling 4:4:4 vs 4:2:2 vs 4:2:0” explains the importance of 4:4:4 chroma subsampling better than I ever could, but the thing to remember if you want to use a 4K (ultra HD) TV as a monitor is that it must support 4:4:4 chroma subsampling.

For moving images such as TV shows and movies this isn’t critical, 4:2:2 and 4:2:0 do just fine, but for displaying crisp text—which most of us use our PCs for manipulating—it is essential that you have a screen that supports 4:4:4.

I had to do a lot of detective work to figure this out for most of the TV models that I looked at. It is rarely included in the at-a-glance specifications for each TV. I often had to find the model on the manufacturers’ websites, download the manual and search through it.

It turns out that most modern television sets will support 4:4:4. After a lot of reading, I discovered that each manufacturer has a particular way of describing it.

  • Sony TVs call it “HDMI enhanced format” and require you to set the picture mode to “graphics”.
  • Samsung TVs call it “HDMI UHD color” and require you to select “PC” mode.
  • LG TVs called it “HDMI ULTRA HD deep color” and require you to set the picture mode to “game”.

My experience so far…

LG 43UK6950PLB—43″ Ultra HD TV

In the end I bought an LG 43UK6950PLB, a 43″ ultra HD TV with four HDMI inputs (including one ARC) and built-in Freeview and Freesat tuners.

I have plugged into it:

So far, my experience with the TV as a monitor has been great. 

Picture mode is set to “Game” and “HDMI ULTRA HD deep color” is set to on for the input to ensure 4:4:4 chroma subsampling.

Within Windows’ display settings, I also have the HDR (high dynamic range) and WCG (wide colour gamut) setting set to on.

HDR and WCG settings screen
HDR and WCG set to on

Forty-three inches is a good size for my desk. If anything, it is a little large and a curved model may have been better (though I can’t see any smaller than 49″).

Picture quality has been superb. For writing and reading text documents and browsing I have no issues.

There is no discernible input lag on any of the games we’ve played (mostly LEGO, Call of Duty Black Ops, Fortnite, Overwatch and Forza).

As indicated above, with game mode enabled there is little noticeable lag when moving the mouse. Until the recent WebOS update on the TV (v4.10.04), sticking the TV into any other mode (eco, sports, vivid, etc.) made it look like the mouse was slowly gliding through water; the latest update seems to have reduced the latency on other picture modes.

And with the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 pushing the graphics the quality has been wonderful, with every game on high and/or ultra settings.

I would definitely recommend making the switch from HD monitors to a 4K ultra HD TV.

I’ve moved my hosting back to SiteGround

This week I moved both my websites (this one and SEC digital calendar and lectionary) back to SiteGround.

Just over 48 hours ago I updated the DNS settings and initiated the switch to the new server. Other than a slightly misconfigured Cloudflare CDN everything has gone smoothly. This is in part due to my experience of having done this a couple of times now, and in part due to the excellent and clear controls that SiteGround offers behind the scenes.

Continue reading I’ve moved my hosting back to SiteGround

Trello coloured lists for Tampermonkey updated to v4.x

Coloured lists make identifying their purpose quicker at a glance
Coloured lists makes identifying their purpose quicker at a glance

This evening I updated a script I first wrote back in March 2014. I wrote about it on the old University of St Andrews web team blog.

The script, which runs in the browser using an add-on such as Tampermonkey, lets you define Trello list titles to search for, and then apply a background colour to it.

Continue reading Trello coloured lists for Tampermonkey updated to v4.x

I’m selling my Psion PDAs

Update (15 August)

My Psion archive has now been sold. This is the first day in 21 years that I’ve not had a Psion computer or book in my possession.

Many thanks to everyone who got in touch regarding these sales, and especially to the lovely Psion enthusiasts who purchased these machines. They gave me a great deal of joy over the years, I hope they serve you equally as well.


Original post

Today, I put my four Psion PDAs up for auction on eBay UK:

Psion Series 7book

Psion Series 7book (Series 7 with netBook personality module)
Psion Series 7book (Series 7 with netBook personality module)

This was the last Psion that I bought—it must have been early 2004. I bought it to take to the US with me on holiday, and for a couple of writing projects I was working on.

It was a Series 7, bought on eBay, and later upgraded to a 7book by fitting a Psion netBook personality module. This made it capable of accepting a wi-fi adapter card (I bought two, one each of the two main chipsets that work well with netBooks).

I’m selling the lot in one bundle:

  • Psion 7book (Series 7 with netBook module)
  • Leathette carry case
  • Psion Series 7 user guide
  • PsiWin 2.3 CD-ROM
  • RS232 serial cable
  • USB to serial adapter (D400)
  • 2 x UK power adapters
  • Psion Series 7 personality module
  • 2 x compact flash cards (one contains the EPOC R5 OS required for booting the first time)
  • 2 x Wi-fi cards (Lucent Orinoco Gold and Buffalo Air Station WLI-PCM-L11GP)
  • DVD containing all the Psion software I collected over the years; I used to sell this online.

See listing on eBay (offers over £80)

Psion Series 5mx

Psion 5mx 16MB and accessories
Psion 5mx 16MB and accessories

I bought the 5mx shortly after moving to Edinburgh, from Inverness in 2003. It was another eBay purchase and was to replace my Psion 3mx.

I just wanted a new piece of kit. It has a 32-bit operating system, a beautiful clam-shell case, where the keyboard slides out when you open it, and a backlit, touch screen. What more could you want from a PDA?

I’m selling:

  • Psion 5mx 16MB
  • RS232 serial cable
  • PsiWin 2.3 CD-ROM
  • Proporta.com hard case
  • 2 x UK power adapter (one with interchangable UK/Euro/USA pins)
  • Boxed Purple Software Chess software (3.5″ floppy) and manuals
  • Palmtop Street Planner 99 software on CD-ROMs and manuals

See listing on eBay (offers over £45)

Psion 3mx

Psion 3mx, with UK power adapter and solid state disks
Psion 3mx, with UK power adapter and solid state disks

This Psion was my workhorse for many years. It’s solid and dependable, and I don’t ever remember the screen cable breaking, which was the most common fault these machines suffered. I did have it fully refurbished a couple of times, though, from the dependable POS Ltd in London, run by Paul Pinnock.

Something I loved about the 3mx is how long the batteries lasted. I could usually get about one month’s use out of a pair of AA batteries.

Included I’ve got:

  • Psion Series 3mx 2MB palmtop computer
  • Series 3mx original user guide
  • Series 3a programming manual (OPL)
  • Programming manual (OVAL) and disk
  • PsiWin 1.1 disks and manual
  • Psion 56k infrared travel modem (with disks and manual)
  • 4 x solid state disks (3 x 1MB and AutoRoute Express software).
  • UK power adapter

See listing on eBay (offers over £65)

Psion Siena 512k

Psion Siena 512k
Psion Siena 512k

Ah! My first Psion.

I saw an advert for the Psion Siena in a copy of MicroMart, I think it was. And I immediately fell in love with it. I pondered buying one for weeks before getting up one sunny morning in my flat and travelling to London’s busy Oxford Street to purchase it at Debenham’s department store.

It immediately became my diary, contacts list, to do list, journal and programming machine. I bought a copy of PsiWin 1.1 (for £80) and connected it to my Windows 3.11 for Workgroups PC (a 386 SX-20).

I used it to write and edit my masters dissertation in 1999.

This includes only:

  • Psion Siena 512 KB palmtop computer
  • User guide
  • A letter from Psion

See listing on eBay (offers over £20)

Programming Psion Computers

Programming Psion Computers by Leigh Edwards (EMCC, 1999)
Programming Psion Computers by Leigh Edwards (EMCC, 1999)

This book was the bible of Psion computing about 18 years ago. I managed to grab myself a copy in Waterstones bookshop on Edinburgh’s Princes Street, for £29.99.

It soon became quite a rare book, and so the publisher, EMCC, made it available in PDF on their website, as well as a zip archive of the CD-ROM that accompanied it. Many years ago, I gave away the CD-ROM to someone who was desperate for a copy of the original.

See listing on eBay (offers over £12)

The end of an era

I’ve been meaning to list these for months, but only just got around to it now while I have my head in the selling-space as part of the divorce settlement.

I feel sorry to see these go, but they are just sitting in a box in my cupboard and I would much rather they went to someone who got some pleasure out of them.

How to activate cheat codes in Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition on Steam

Voivod the Fighter and Imoen the Thief standing in the middle of nowhere, somewhere near Candlekeep
Voivod the Fighter and Imoen the Thief standing in the middle of nowhere, somewhere near Candlekeep

I’m not a big gamer by any standard. I have quite a few computers games but they mostly fall into five categories:

  1. LEGO games—I love these, as do my three boys.
  2. Call of Duty/Battlefield first person shooters—I only play the story-mode versions on easy level for the cinematic experience.
  3. Story/walking simulator style games (Dear Esther, Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture, Firewatch).
  4. Multiplayer, party-style games for my children (Screencheat, Sonic All-Stars Racing, Mini Motor Racing Evo).
  5. Baldur’s Gate family Dungeons & Dragons’ role playing games.

Apart from the LEGO games—which are part adventure, part puzzle games—for the most part, I enjoy games for their cinematic and story-telling properties. I want escape and entertainment rather than spending hours building an empire or working out some kind of complex strategy.

Cheat / debug mode

So, for the last few years in Baldur’s Gate (in the few moments that I’ve had a chance to play it) I have activated the cheats (or debug mode). This gives me access to the entire game inventory to equip my character accordingly and a better chance to survive the adventure.

Clue: I have never yet completed Baldur’s Gate, despite owning it since about 1999 (I still own my original copy on five CD-ROMs).

Having just reinstalled my PC, I was disappointed to discover that the old way of activating cheat mode (by editing baldur.ini) had changed. This is how I managed it today (on Windows 10 Pro 64-bit, with OneDrive installed).

  1. Locate the folder at Documents > Baldur’s Gate – Enhanced Edition. On my desktop PC this was in the default Windows 10 Documents folder within OneDrive; on my laptop it is in C:\users\<username>\Documents. It will depend on how your computer was set up.
  2. In a proper text editor (e.g. Sublime Text or Notepad++ or TED Notepad) open the file Baldur.lua.
  3. Add the line SetPrivateProfileString('Program Options','Debug Mode','1').
  4. Save and close the file.

Now when you run the game, you can enter the game console by pressing Ctrl + Spacebar. It looks like this, at the bottom of the screen:

Enter your code then press Enter
Enter your code then press Enter

This allows you to enter codes that generate items, amongst other things. For instance this code allows generates a set of Ankheg Plate Mail armour for your current character:

C:CreateItem("PLAT06")

The older versions of Baldur’s Gate used the code CLUAConsole: but this has now been shortened to a single, uppercase C: followed by a colon.

Here’s how my intrepid fighter character started his adventure in Candlekeep:

Armed to the hilt, this fighter can even take on the Ogre Mage on the way to the Friendly Arm Inn,
Armed to the hilt, this fighter can even take on the Ogre Mage on the way to the Friendly Arm Inn,

Download the cheat codes

Feel free to download my full list of cheat codes, arranged by type (clothing, jewellery, weapons, magic, and miscellaneous).

You can look up what each item is on the Baldur’s Gate Wiki.

Baldur’s Gate EE cheat codes (DOCX, 30 KB)

Updated

2017-04-17 Updated the location of Baldur.lua as it was in two different locations on two PCs running Windows 10. It depends, I guess, on whether Windows 10 is told to use OneDrive as the default save location.