UltraHD Needs More Evidence of Productivity Gains

As well as working on the issues of our newsletters, I spent quite a lot of time this week finalising the quarterly data that Meko (our publisher) provides on the European market for desktop monitors, public displays and interactive meeting room displays.

Now, because we supply data on a country level for Europe, we have a lot of rows in the data when we’re processing it. As the desktop monitor market has developed dramatically over recent years, the number of size and resolution categories has also increased radically, from four when we started tracking the market in the days of CRTs (15″, 17″, 19″ and 21″), we now track over 20 categories. If we look at the total number of size, resolution and shape (curved) monitor options available from panel makers, there are more than 70.

With lots of countries and categories, our spreadsheets have been getting bigger and bigger. That makes it more and more difficult to manage the data, unless you have a high resolution display. These days, I use a 32″ UltraHD resolution and, this time, I changed our data processing system to exploit some new features in Excel (well, not that new, but I’ve been using Excel since the first version, so have tended to use older features!) and to develop the process on the assumption that the user has an ultraHD display. That has made the systems much quicker to develop, as lots of data can be easily scanned visually. Before, I could have used multiple windows and lookups to make the process as productive, but it would have taken longer to develop.

I have also found the ability to have the dual “snap to” Windows of Windows 10 has really improved things when I’m doing this work. I remain pleased that I upgraded.

As a result of these changes to a higher resolution display and an upgrade to the latest version of Windows, then, I reckon that my personal productivity has gone up. I don’t see, as an avid reader of technology news, much marketing that is highlighting these productivity gains, which is a shame. It seems to me that it’s quite a long time since I have seen any reasonable human factors research into the improvements in productivity that can come from higher resolution displays, especially with a switch to UltraHD. A quick Google search on terms of productivity and terms such as UltrHD and 4K shows only a handful of results from monitor makers.

The ones I looked at from those makers, do not quote any research. In this unscientific survey, the best presentation on the benefits of high resolution was from Kensington (, but the data it quoted on productivity improvements was from NEC and talked about the change to 24″ from an “18 inch standard” display, which shows the age of that data. It seems to me that it’s time for some serious investment in some human factors research to highlight the benefits of higher resolution on the desktop.

One of the questions this quarter as I was processing the data was about the penetration of UltraHD in Europe. I haven’t quite finished this, a couple of brands to go, but at the moment, it looks as though the penetration of UltraHD has gone back above 0.6% again, after dropping back last quarter. The move back to growth is positive, but it would be great for the value of the market if that share could be increased.

As I’ve said before, on my desk, the 32″ display is a little high when the menus are all at the top, which means some discomfort at the back of my neck after long sessions. It has been my thought that the solution is to change the size of the display, but really the best solution would be to have applications that work from the centre. However, moving the menus to the centre of the side of applications might be a tricky change – I’ll have to play with my Windows and appplication settings!