Hands-on with Sharp’s $4K 4K screen

Because it’s the new “big” thing in displays, Ultra HD isn’t cheap, carrying a bigger than normal price tag for TVs and monitors, but Sharp’s 32 inch 4K screen takes this to a whole new level.

Big, heavy, and expensive: those are the three words we’d say describe Sharp’s PN-K322B to the T when you first see it, and try to pick it up out of the box.

Weighing just under 16 kilograms, it’s no small monitor, featuring a 32 inch diagonal screen and connected to a massive base with a two armed hinge, making it more reminiscent of the all-in-one computers out there with the versatility of a big tablet that you can also use as a screen.

Aside for supporting touch, which is a big deal on a screen this big, there is a massive resolution to work with, running 3840×2160, which is four times bigger than the standard Full HD screens you see on most monitors, but there’s also a warning for this: you’ll need a decent computer with an equally decent video card to handle this.

In the GadgetGuy offices, not even the 2013-era iMac could take this task on, running the UHD resolution with a jittery mouse, which would be enough for most, but didn’t make us happy.

Our Windows PCs — a Microsoft Surface Pro 2, and several different up-to-date laptops and tablets we were reviewing — didn’t cut it either, and we quickly came to realise that outside of a PC desktop with a whiz-bang video card or that amazeballs Mac Pro we checked out months ago, this is not going to be a resolution most people will be able to take advantage of.

For everyone else, however, the sharp PN-K322B will display Full HD nice and big on a display made for a higher resolution, operating through either of the two HDMI ports or the one DisplayPort connection.

We need to talk about the base, too, because it’s really an important part of the Sharp PN-K322B’s design.

It’s not your regular stand, that’s for sure, but a well built hinge system with two arms built into it, both holding up the massive 32 inch 4K screen, and at the same time providing enough movement to stand up and lie at various angles depending on the activity you’re doing.

Most people will probably find the upright position most usable, and that’s the way we traditionally use a monitor, but the degree of control offered by this monitor does make it more useful than just your standard monitor.

In fact, at the lowest position, designers and those of the artistic persuasion and profession could find they have a big Ultra HD canvas to work on, thanks to the support for touch and the low angle at which it lets you draw and paint digitally on this.

But this sort of design and versatility doesn’t come with a cost most people will find likeable, and at $4400, you have to ask, is the Sharp $4K 4K screen really worth the price of admission?

Probably not, unless you’re a designer, animator, or video editor with the power to really drive this thing.

At $4400, the premium applied here is staggering, and given what it can do, we’re not surprised.

You can find other 4K panels for computers in the market now for much cheaper price points, and we’d cite Samsung and AOC for that, since both manufacturers have models just under the $800 mark, which the Sharp PN-K322B really towers over in price.

But Sharp’s 4K monitor has a lead on its competitors not just in dollar signs, but in size and versatility. While we’ve yet to see either of the Samsung or AOC displays, the differences come from panel type and size, with the Sharp coming in at 32 inches, not the 27 or 28 inches either of the other models use.

Panel type is also a factor, and while the AOC doesn’t list its panel type, our money is on the same Twisted Nematic (TN) technology used by Samsung. Not that it’s bad, but it just doesn’t have the colour fidelity that creative specialists demand, more in line with what gamers are after, thanks to the fast screen response time.

Sharp differs in this regard, relying on indium gallium zinc oxide, or IGZO for short, which is a smaller and thinner semiconductor technology generally paired with the high-grade In-Plane Switching (IPS) LCD technology that appears on displays with solid viewing angles from every direction.

The technology on offer also differs because unlike a conventional display, the 4K screen that id the PN-K322B is a touchscreen with 10 point multitouch, which is something so few Ultra HD displays offer, making it ideal for Windows 8 users. The stand is pretty special too, thanks to its versatility, and the monitor’s inclusion of a digital pen makes it really useful for designers, as well.

Those features alone make it a stand out product for people who need them, since they’re harder to find, but we do need to stress that you will need a great computer to really drive this monitor, because without it, the screen really feels wasted, like it was on us.