A Sizeable Start
The Philips BDM4350 is a 43” screen. As sold, it’s primarily marketed to computer users instead of TV-watchers, so my perception of its size immediately jumps from being “small” in the company of curved, 50/60/72” models displayed at Abenson’s, to an impression of “massiveness” – when compared to my usual test units for PC in 24, 25 and 27” sizes, not to mention my work laptop with its 11” screen. (yeah – I squint a lot).
11″ work laptop to the left. Like using a moped and ending up with an 18 wheeler.
So this model is a PC Display. Let it sink in for a minute- traditionally, it’s meant to stay on your desk, in front of a keyboard, and with the user relatively close to it – like maybe 1 foot away for an 11” screen and a bit farther for the more common 20+ inchers most PC users have. For this 43 incher, I stay 3 and a half feet away and still dart my eyes around in desktop usage or gaming. I’m fully convinced this is simply an acclimatization process – in fact I’m loving the time I’m spending with this display as there’s so many features to discover and appreciate from the perspective of a gamer, VR, and PC user.
Let’s start with resolution. Its 4k status translates to a 3840 x 2160 resolution, or 2160p. While nothing new, this is the first time I’ve seen this resolution for a computer display spread over this screen size. This gives the user a PPI (Pixels per Inch) of 104. For comparison, a 27” screen with 2560×1440 resolution ( a common configuration for PC users at the moment) will have a 108 PPI – a difference unnoticeable to the naked eye. The iPhone 6+, with its 1920×1080 pixels all crammed into a 5.5” screen, gives a massive 400 PPI – nice, but not something you’d really notice in daily use either. In short, 104 PPI is more than adequate, and becomes better when viewed from a longer distance – like how you’d use this screen. There’s no choice really – too close and your neck will be twisting around trying to keep track of your target when gaming.
Even when viewed nearly edge-on, this Philips is still eminently viewable.
The IPS screen used on this model gives all those pixels justice with its superb viewing angles (178 x 178 degrees), support for 10-bit color processing, 5ms gray-to-gray response time, and a 1200:1 contrast ratio.
Now let’s talk connectivity. The BDM4350 has 2xHDMI 2.0, both with MHL (connectivity to portable gadgets), 2xDisplay Port 1.2, a VGA port, 4 downstream USB 3.0 ports (one with fast charging) and one upstream port, and audio jacks in and out. It’s ready for both ancient projectors or laptops and the latest 4k capable PC. The USB 3.0 upstream port is simply awesome in that you can use one set of control devises to control everything else connected to this monitor. An OSD feature – the ability to display up to 4 different inputs in a 2×2 grid, complements this feature nicely. The same feature has multiple Picture-in-Picture options, so you can adapt its use to multiple inputs.
I like to sit down in front of a display and “notice” everything I tend to touch, use, reach for, and manipulate. From this I gather a sort of “user experience report”. First off, adjustment of the OSD is a simple affair. A joystick style button located at the lower right of the screen and behind is used for control, with each direction mapped directly to an important feature – Left is the SmartImage menu, used to choose profiles depending on intended usage (Movies, Games, etc.), right is the Home menu, down is audio source control, and up is multi source – or PiP control. Pressing the button down for a few seconds turns off the monitor, pressing it again turns it back on. There’s also another power switch to the upper left of the joystick, which is a power-off switch akin to an AVR’s.
The screen bezels are thin. Not current-curved TV, 2016 thin, but thin enough that multi-monitor setups is a possibility.. not that one isn’t enough. Seen edge on, the screen isn’t fashion model slim, but it’s not 2009-bloated either, so no complaints there. It’s 3-4 inches at its thickest, and goes down to less than an inch at its thinnest. There’s no adjustment to the height, swivel or (lol) orientation, but a VESA mount at the back can solve that with the purchase of a separate arm or holder, if so desired. The legs (quite stylish and thin) still give the screen good stability, with only minor wobble. Dual 7W speakers round out the experience.
Usage on PC is only a question of adjustment, as I mentioned above. And perhaps some additional desk space. Adding to this is how immersive in-game use can be depending on how close you are to the screen, and it can get pretty damn immersive at 2 feet away and playing an FPS title. For VR use, like on the HTC Vive, you’ll want to show anyone else in the room what you’re seeing through the headset – it’s one of the surprisingly social ways VR is changing the gaming landscape. Usually, you’d connect a larger TV for your audience to enjoy seeing in-game and correlating that to your crazy movements, but most TVs aren’t adapted to gaming and will either be muddling it up with lower resolutions (like the “fake” HD resolutions of yesteryear pushing out just 480p worth of pixels) or have such slow response time or low refresh rate that everything in-game tears up something awful. This Philips isn’t a dedicated gaming display, but is still capable of running at 60hz while in UHD – 3840×2160. In my opinion, this is the next best way to include your audience in your VR experience as you don the headset; just be aware of your videocard’s capabilities since it will have to run both your headset and a 4k panel.
Some useful things we discovered in the course of making the most out of this display are pretty basic from the perspective of the expert pixel peepers, but still worth mentioning. In our attempts of getting the best picture quality out of the screen, we made sure to find sample 4K footage with a high 60 FPS output. We also made sure to enable HDMI 2.0 and DP 1.2 (defaults were @ HDMI 1.4 and DP 1.0, which both maxed out at only 30hz refresh rate). We also delved into Nvidia’s control panel to change the V-Sync settings, trying to find the best combination for a smooth, flowing video with minimal tearing and slowdowns. Lastly, we also looked into the screen’s native “SmartResponse” feature, which is purportedly for minimizing blurring for fast moving video. All this resulted in video so smooth, our pupils just slid along from one frame to another.
Pictures don’t do justice to how vibrant and smooth true 4K video, on a 4K screen, is.
With its size, the Philips BD4350 lends itself to a lot of other uses typical to a desktop PC user – productivity, video editing, presentations, and even video playback. At a retail price of $800, this screen is not cheap, but is certainly affordable for what it’s offering. So where does this leave us? A 43” monitor will necessitate adjustments for the user, certainly, but the returns are oh-so attractive. A surfeit of control and adjustment, 4K resolution, a great user experience, great picture and fast response lending itself to PC use and gaming makes this screen a dream purchase. Now if I only had a bigger desk to put it on.