No More Multiple Monitors

Posted on 2014/01/13


Seiki and MBP13

No More Multiple Monitors!

I’m sure you’ll all recall that I was so thrilled when I got three monitors working with my MBA11 and I have been a cheerful user of that set up for quite a while now.

But things change.

Along the way, I traded back from the 2011 MBA11 to a 2009 MBP13 as $spouse went from part-time student to full-time student and needed something more powerful and lighter. The magical setup continued working just fine with the MBP13 but it was getting to the point where I could work faster than the computer could keep up.

Time for a new computer.

A little known fact about me is that I am the most impulsive buyer ^W researcher (I used to be a serious impulse shopper. My darling $spouse has beaten most of that problem out of my thick skull.) you’ll find. I’ve probably spent 8 months going back and forth on what the right answer is…

  • buy a 2013/Haswell MBA11
  • too slow, limited storage, seriously limited RAM
  • buy an MBP13r
  • weight penalty, limited storage, seriously limited RAM
  • buy a mac mini
  • WHERE’S MY HASWELL DAMMIT
  • limited RAM

is my workflow actually as OSX dependent as I think it is?

Try Windows 7 / 8.1 and Ubuntu 13.04 as desktop operating systems for a couple of weeks each. We’re just going to call that experiment a fail and get along with it.

YES

  • hackintosh?
  • maybe, but is it worth the hassle?

insert more analysis here

What I probably need/want is something like this:

  • Haswell processor
  • four cores or more
  • 16GB RAM upgradable to 32 or 64
  • 3/4 TB of storage
  • USB 3.0
  • can drive my existing 3×22" IPS 1920×1080 monitors

MacPro seems right.

About this time, the introduction of the MacPro occurred. It seemed to be the answer to my desire for the perfect computer for me. AND the $spouse approved the purchase.

Then the pricing model came out.

I can’t justify $3k for a single computer with specs below the “need/want” list.

insert even MORE analysis here

This spawned a period of intense window shopping. I discovered some cool things along the way…

  • Tiger Direct had a Dell C1100 “cloud” server for $479 – with dual quad-core Xeons, 24 GB of RAM (and 12 empty DIMM slots) – but only a single PCIe 16x slot and no USB 3.0 – ended up picking this up anyways, it’s now my Windows Hyper-V test bed.
  • Hackintoshes are much more stable and require even fewer goofing around bits these days
  • OSX Mavericks is better at RAM management, but I don’t want to buy something that is maxed out with its entire lifetime before it

And the real kicker…

Tiger Direct had a Seiki 39“ 3840×2160 ”television" for $529 on a Boxing Day special.

4K TV as a Monitor?

Yeah. That’s a “4k” TV but it looks an awful lot more like a seamless set of 4 HD monitors at a higher pixel density than my 22" monitors.

Other people think so too and have reviewed it with positive notes.

But.

It’s an HDMI 1.4a connection which limits the monitor to 3840×2160@30Hz.

Is that really a problem? Probably not. 30 frames per second is “broadcast tv” and I think we can agree that we’ve perceived that as full motion for around 50 years. Would that low a framerate bother a gamer? Probably. Will I be a “PC Gamer” – nope. A little twiddling with my existing monitors to push them down to 30Hz for testing and I can live with it.

Perhaps with an active mDP -> HDMI 1.4a adapter I can get it to work with my existing machine – it’s not that many more pixels than I’m pushing now.

Or I can get a new machine

:)

Back to the TonyMacX86 site to have a look at forums and hardware possibilities for a hackintosh that could drive the Seiki display.

Between the 2009 MBP13 and my iPad mini I can get by with a dedicated desktop machine and do my mobile computing using less capable devices.

Shopping List

In addition to the Dell C1100 and Seiki 39", I put together a shopping list of parts that would work which were also available locally – hopefully with a Boxing Day sale too.

I decided to re-use the 240GB SSD I bought for the MBP a few months ago, so if you’re shopping, you should remember that you’ll want a storage drive of some type too.

Followed the instructions from TonyMacX86 and got the machine up and running with no significant problems.

Well… one problem.

4monitors1hackintosh

Running the IGP and PCIe GPU at the same time causes weird crashy problems. I thought it would be nice to run all 4 monitors from the same machine. But it turns out that I don’t really need the 3 22" monitors because just one monitor at 3840×2160 is pretty freaking epic and so the IGP is disabled in the BIOS.

Monitor Tweaks

The monitor is a TV and it has some TV related issues that must be overcome.

  • Turn up the contrast all the way
  • Turn down the brightness all the way
  • Turn down the sharpness all the way
  • Go into the service menu (MENU 0000) and turn down the brightness some more
  • Mount as appropriate

So what does this all mean from a productivity standpoint?

  • SUPER HUGE terminal sessions – think 545×153 using OSX’s built in “Homebrew” setting
  • 4 1920×1080 RDP windows (have you tried the Mac App Store version of Microsoft RDP yet? It’s pretty awesome)
  • 12 full pages of a Microsoft Word 2011 document (at 100% zoom) with the top half of the next 6 pages visible below the 12 full size pages.
  • You get very used to running long skinny webpages – I often have 5 of them across the width of the screen.

How does that fit into your office?

Hrm. I suppose that I should just go ahead and write another article about my office. You can read about it here.

Seiki and 3LGs

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