Bill Gates once explained that he used three monitors to do three separate tasks: watching his email inbox, browsing the web and writing/reading documents. It comes as no surprise therefore that adding monitors to boost productivity was one of the most popular trends during the pandemic.
Adding a second monitor to a laptop is easy enough, there are portable monitors that don’t even need a power supply unit and can be used anywhere, great for remote workers, WFH fans or those embracing hybrid working.
But where do you take it from there? Adding more monitors would require more logistics: a docking station, monitor arms, more desk space and, above all, more useless black bezels that just stifle one’s productivity and creativity. I went through all this and after embracing a 28-inch 4K monitor for four years, made the big jump to something with a little bit more pizazz: An affordable 43-inch 4K TV.
TV as an alternative to monitor
TechRadar has written extensively on the merits of TVs being used as monitors (for example, gaming TV vs gaming monitors, small TV vs PC monitor) but it ultimately boils down to what you want to use this TV for. And to be honest, if you are not gaming, doing some video editing or photoshopping, then any recent TV set should fit the bill.
I went for a Logik L43AUE21 4K TV which was (probably) built by Vestel, a popular OEM in Europe, and was purchased from eBay for less than £200 (about $270, AU$370). It’s a refurbished set (return) that comes with warranty and while you will not get the same brand where you live, it is likely that your nearby supermarket or high street retailer will have something similar. Walmart for example sells an own-brand model (onn. (opens in new tab)) that runs on Roku for a bit less. Currys currently sells it in the UK for £229, new (opens in new tab).
Sure, it is miles away from a Sky Glass TV set or the gorgeous Samsung The Frame. But aesthetics come second to value for money in my books and I’m mulling the idea of adding my own DIY frame to my WFH monitor at some point.
One thing you need to remember as well is that you will need to be at least an arm’s length from the TV to make the most out of it, so about 50cm (20in) should be more than adequate and if your desk is not deep enough, consider wall mounting. You can always buy a standard office desk, standing desk or a comfortable office chair to go with that.
Going bigger and bolder
Going for a bigger screen was a gamble. I initially wanted an 8K monitor but the smallest set has a 55-inch diagonal. Not only is it five times more expensive than the Logik, it also requires an entirely different device, one that can actually output to 8K. I’ve written extensively on this (see The world’s cheapest 8K monitor could bring some big changes to how we work in 2022 and 2022 could be the year of 8K monitors: Here’s why); from a pure accounting point of view, it didn’t make sense. It was too much of a risk for the four-figure investment. The ROI simply wasn’t there.
IMHO, 43-inch is the perfect maximum size for a monitor you intend to use every day. It’s the equivalent of using four 21.5-inch full HD monitors in a 2x2 array, without the distracting bezels and the monitor arms.
In hindsight, the Logik despite its cheap price tag was a much better buy overall thanks to its fantastic value for money: it’s light (about 7.5Kg), fairly well built, has four HDMI ports, three USB ports, one audio jack and two 8W speakers that deliver better sound than anything your average business laptop can do audiowise.
Add in Wi-Fi, Ethernet, Bluetooth 5.0, Android TV, Chromecast capabilities (yes!), a remote control and tiny plastic feet and you will almost willingly forget the relative paucity of its panel (50Hz, 300 nits peak brightness and 5000:1 contrast ratio). You can - of course - stream content and watch live terrestrial TV (it comes with Freeview HD and Freeview Play) but that’s a nice to have rather than a must have.
Windows won’t display 4K on your TV? Here’s the solution (perhaps)
Windows 11 is the best Windows yet when it comes to screen splitting. Snap layout, as it is called, allows the user to select the desired layout and what application goes in each. There are six options including a triple-pane one that mimics what Bill G might have used all those years ago. My preferred one has to be the four-pane one as it provides the same view you’d get from four physical screens.
It was not all smooth sailing though as I found out. The first time I plugged the TV into my device, it would only display full HD (1080p) rather than 4K and no amount of tweaking (and online research) would make it budge until I started to play with the Android TV settings which are accessible via the advanced settings on the normal TV menu.
Go to device preferences, inputs, HDMI EDID and choose EDID 2.0. EDID (Extended Display Identification Data) sends information to the video source it is connected to (in my case the onboard graphics unit of my laptop). By default, the TV set was assigned EDID 1.4. This issue is likely to affect numerous platforms (gaming consoles, streaming boxes, desktop PCs etc) and dozens of 4K TV sets.
TechRadar hasn’t reviewed a Logik TV set for more than a decade and while it is common wisdom to assume that bargain basement deals are usually false economy, this particular TV set shows that there’s plenty of opportunities at the lower end of the market.