After watching Black Coffee’s superb video tutorial on making
a 3-D model of a through-hole electrolytic capacitor using Freecad,
I became painfully aware that my monitor sucks. If I am ever to
become proficient and productive with either Freecad or Kicad,
I need to replace my hp pavilion f50 with something larger. Its
screen has a maximum area of 30.1 cm by 22.85 cm.
What monitor would you recommend I upgrade to in order to be
able to use these programs more effectively ?
I have a 10-year old computer based on a quad-core 64bit AMD
CPU running Debian Linux stable using KDE Plasma 5.14.5.
After watching Black Coffee’s superb video tutorial on making
When it comes to monitors, there are quite a few specs to look into. The main ones I care about when doing CAD work are: resolution and size. From a functionality perspective, you also care about what ports they have, and if the monitor is from a reputable company (which hopefully correlates to longer lasting and fewer blown pixels).
I have a 27" (measured on the diagonal) monitor that supports a 4k resolution (3840x2160 pixels). The higher the resolution, the more detail you can see on screen. The trade-off is that if your monitor is too small with a high resolution, your eyes will have trouble seeing it.
Port wise, I’d recommend making sure you get one with displayport, as that’s a very common modern standard. You mentioned you have a 10 year old machine, so it probably has HDMI, so make sure the monitor has that. My monitor also has a USB 3.0 Hub built in, which turns out to be quite handy, but not mandatory.
Be aware that there are many other specs to a monitor, such as response time, brightness, contrast ratio, etc. While those are also important, unless they’re at some extreme bad value, they won’t really be noticeable in CAD use (or at least they haven’t been for me).
Yeah, mine sucks too.
Every time I run a DRC the stupid monitor shows a column of faults.
You would think it would know how to fix problems on a PCB so no errors would occur.
I have the AMD quad running Debian also. I hate cell phones and tablets with a passion. I need screen and keyboard and stay off my lawn dagnabit.
I have an old 1920X1080 27 inch. It seemed like a luxury at the time. Don’t overlook the video card. My advice? The most you can afford to spend at this time. You might be able to go dual screen with the old monitor too.
Yeah, if the old monitor is still working well, repurpose it as a second screen. The productivity change for having 2 monitors is tremendous, especially being able to have datasheets or guides visible at the same time as CAD SW is tremendous.
I have been toying with the idea of having a 4K television as a primary computer display. ATM I have a 42" FullHD, but the resolution is lousy for that size. Today the prices are so cheap that you can’t have even a much smaller monitor with remotely comparable price.
But this requires radical changes in working environment. You can’t replace a monitor with it on the desk and sit 0.5m or 20 inches away from it.
The optimal price today would be found in 42"…50" range with 4K resolution. I wonder if anyone really works with that kind of setup or if it’s a bad idea.
TVs are generally lousy monitors. They have limited bandwidth inputs, over zealous image correction algorithms, many features that you don’t need in a monitor that you still pay for.
Get a 32" 4K monitor and sit at standard distance to it, it will be the best option for CAD work. Or 2 WQHD monitors 27" or 32" depending on your eyesight and space limitations.
For a normal viewing distance (~40-50cm, 16-20") you want the ‘pixels’ to be 0.25 x 0.25 mm in size or smaller.
Smaller than that is even better, but in the past this meant that the screens brightness was lower compared to that pixel size as the ‘pixels’ are pretty much holes and the smaller they are the less light can pass through as the frames can only go so small.
Make sure the overall brightness (not just the contrast) is 300 cd/m^2 or better.
If you got the horizontal space consider 2 screens side by side.
Important then naturally is, that the bezel width (vertical frame around screen) is as slim as possible.
Alternatively you could go for an ultra-wide screen that is curved, but their price is still more than the two single screens combined.
I run 2x 24" screens (DELL U2415) with 1920 x 1200 native resolution (16:10), X:519mm, Y:324mm.
The 16:10 is on purpose as I want as much vertical space as possible, 16:9 is more widespread.
Toolbars and whatnot most often eat this real estate and you wind up with less vertical space than you think.
And you can’t have enough of vertical space.
If you work late at night it definitely is worth it to get a screen that can dim the blue light (or via the OS) so you’re not kept up longer by sitting in front of it.
A good website for an overview what is available with search per such specs (somewhat similar to digikey) is this one (unfortunately only in German… no idea how to get this in English):
Availability in your corner of the world might differ, but there usually is a local model available with similar specs from the manufacturer you found via this method.
Displayport or HDMI are modern ports.
DVI or VGA is obsolete and unless you need to connect to a server board (which usually still only have VGA you don’t want that).
I’m in a similar position as you.
I do want a 4k monitor, but don’t think it’s very useful if the pixels become too small. At the moment I have a dual monitor setup with 2x HP LP2465 (1920x1200 = more pixels then 1920x1080 = more better. I use one in portrait mode (great for Internet, PDF datasheets, Programming or anything with text) and the other in Landscape (Great for Graphics, FreeCAD, KiCad, movies, youtube) These are quite good monitors I bought second hand, have been using them for 6+ years now) With a dual monitor setup you can have the best of both worlds.
For my new monitor of choice the LG 43UN700 is a very strong candidate. This 4K monitor has a decent pixel size (Just slightly smaller then my current monitors). It also supports AMD’s Freesync, which is probably a bonus if you also play a bit of games or watch some movies. (I find it quite annoying that sync problems are still a thing, over 30 years after they should have been solved. Quite annoying indeed). This monitor gets quite decent reviews too. The HP Z43 is a bit more expensive, does not have the sync, and it has fewer inputs. The LG is quite good with a lot of inputs, which is handy if you want to control multiple computers with a single monitor or just want to keep your options open. Dell is especially good in this regard. They have big screens which internally are divided in 4, so you have an option to put in 4 different video signals and each goes to its own quarter.
However, you can’t do much with just such a monitor. Your PC and video card are very likely too old and not able to handle so many pixels in a decent way. (or at all, so check the specs of your video card).
Another problem is buying such a monitor at these times.
People don’t go to restaurants or amusement parks anymore, so instead they use their money to buy PC’s and home entertainment, over half that stuff is sold out. Be wary of any model that is widely available, because there is probably a good reason nobody wants to buy that model.
Decent video cards are very hard to get these days. You can forget AMD, it’s just sold out everywhere (except some EUR1000+ models) Similar with that other brand (That Linus don’t like) Mid-range cards (EUR150 to EUR500) are mostly sold out.
If you want a faster, newer, more better PC, then have a look at the Asrock 4x4 box V1000M It’s quite new, and probably not well known enough to be sold out. It also is a barebone that is sold without an OS. Price is also reasonable. Its around half the price of the monitors I mentioned (But you do need to add some RAM and storage). It’s not a speed monster, but I think it’s got quite decent video built in.
Unfortunately it’s a bit too limited for me. I want at least an NVMe boot media and 4 SATA connectors for my bulk data.
Hopefully the rage on hardware will die out in one or two years time. If you want to wait it out then adding a second monitor is a quite reasonable choice. With FreeCAD you can easily drag out the “Document Tree” and put it on the other monitor. Here in Europe there are lots of web shops that sell 3 to 7 year old PC’s and monitors. It’s all office equipment that has been used for just a few years. Those shops are easily recognizable. They have a limited amount of models, and often 20+ of some models on stock. A lot of the “office PC’s” have only Displayport outputs, while the consumer market is apparently still leaning more towards HDMI. The price difference between (smallish) new and second hand monitors is not so big though. There are plenty of new 24" monitors below EUR150, while second hand monitors are creeping towards or over EUR100.
I personally avoid all curved monitors (Just a gimmick, and they are plagued by reflections a lot more then flat monitors) and those “ultra wide” monitors. They take up a lot of desk space and they seriously lack in height. They’re just wasting empty space above the monitor. A decent 43" in normal proportions is the best option if you keep affordability in mind.
Beware of the parameters!
I was in the same situation in January. My portable computer is a 17" with a native resolution of 1600x900, VGA and HDMI ports. I pointed a larger screen with approximately the pitch (0.235mm), ending on a 2560x1440, 27" in diagonal with an HDMI and a display port connectors. A comparison between several monitor narrowed the selection to (A) PD2700Q, PD2705Q and (B) XUB2792QSU-B1, borderless, the dimensions are acceptable for the desktop location, needing however to rise the head more than with the portable screen. A little bit tiring for long periods. The (B) was placed on the top of the list with its 2x USB3.0 ports, better brightness and static contrast, little bit smaller dimensions, especially its min height and a slightly lower price.
My graphic driver seemed to be fine since it coped with the same WQHD resolution. So far so good. To confirm the choice, I downloaded the specs and the user’s manuals and thoroughly read them, I began with (B). Surprise! From its specification and the resolution table of the manual, the monitor was supposed to provide the full 2560x1440 resolution from the HDMI port. Three pages further, in very small characters a warning was stating that for the full res., display port or DVI dual port cables should be used. No explicit restriction about the HDMI however. No technical support from (B). I got in touch with the seller who was ready to offer a free return in case of issue.
I finally ordered the (B) and hooked it to my portable. As announced by the small character warning, with the HDMI port, the possible max resolutions were : 1920x1200, 2048x1152 and 2048x1280. I selected the last one, fortunately the monitor was able to adjust with the graphic adapter, provided a scaling was applied.
The result is quite good although in a non-native resolution.
Considering that with a smaller monitor, the best alternative I’d obtained in native mode was 1900x1200, I kept the (B) and I’m currently fully satisfied. The replacement of the portable computer being foreseen by the end of next year, it’s a good tradeoff for me.
In consequence: Don’t trust in a description or a spec at the first glance. Read carefully the specification AND the user’s manual, ASK questions to the manufacturer or the dealer, make sure the return is possible without any charge.
Hope this will help.
There are indeed a bunch of different revisions of HDMI (and also of Displayport & other connectors). If you buy both a monitor and videocard, then make sure they match. These days one of the newer DisplayPort revisions is the prefered standard I think.
For me, sending any signal to a monitor (Except maybe for games or video) that is not in native resolution is simply unacceptable. Simple as that. I will not even bother to try it or review it. I only buy those pixels because I want to see them. All of them. For the same reason I would not buy a monitor with small pixels. 0.18mm is about the smallest pixel that is useful.
Another reason for me to set my goal on a 107cm (43") monitor that I forgot to mention earlier, is that I’m nearing 50 years now and am noticing eyesight is slowly getting worse. I expect my new monitor to last well over 10 years (hopefully nearing 20). For such a long term investment EUR1000 is not too much. It’s just EUR100/year.
I don’t believe in the “8k” trends. You either have ridiculously small pixels or a monitor that’s so big it won’t fit on your desk or will strain your neck. You would also (currently) need a quite high-end PC to control all those pixels.
i use a 32" ViewSonic at 2560x1440, default text and icon size is nice at this scale, while you don’t have to sit too far away
That’s not necessarily true. Even when the individual pixels are so small you can’t tell them apart there’s a difference. That’s why HiDPI is a word. See https://www.eizo.com/library/basics/pixel_density_4k/ and scroll down to " Approach to display resolution changing with high pixel density". Or https://medium.com/elementaryos/hidpi-is-more-important-than-4k-b1b9bb110b43.
Settings may be different for the many machines and users likes/dislikes. So, can’t say if this will help others but, these are the Kicad and FreeCad settings that work best for me (particularly, the Antialiasing)
With smaller pixels you do get analog anti-aliasing because the resolution of the monitor is higher then what your eyes perceive, and that has a small advantage, but it’s not anything I would find interesting. Just give me plenty of reasonably sized pixels on a big monitor. Nothing can beat that. When you get older and eyesight diminishes that HiDPI marketing speak from manufacturers that want to sell you a newer and better monitor each year becomes moot anyway.
Price to performance of the 43UN700 I mentioned earlier would be hard to beat with a significant margin, and you have a pretty good and big monitor for a reasonable price.
I think popular now are 27" and bigger monitors. As we noticed that 24" second hand have become very cheap (less than $50) we bought enough of them (HP LA2405x) so when because of Covid protection I sometimes went for week or two working at home I need only to take my 2 PCs (no problem to take them into my small backpack), and monitors I have in my wardrobe.
For first placement of footprints in KiCad I think working with two monitors would be useful (you see at schematic what element you are moving at PCB).
Thank you for your opinion. Does your monitor say 27" on the box, or is that what you read on your measuring tape when you measured its diagonal? Did you measure the smaller illuminated rectangle only or the entire rectangle, from corner to corner?
I don’t know what a displayport is. I guess I should google it.
I share your enthusiasm for cell phones and portable electronic devices with screens the size of my hand.
Do you know if KDE plasma supports dual screens? I don’t know how that might work. I have never seen dual screens running off one operating system on a PC, although I know X supports it.
“displayport” is just another connector and video signal standard, and it usually supports the highest resolution available.
It is also the first standard that deviates from the way of sending the whole video signal as lines that all the previous (EGA, CGA, VGA, DVI, HDMI) do. It is a packet based format.
Lately, USB-C is also taking foothold in the monitor cable market.
It is especially popular in the laptop market, which is transitioning (I think) to “universal docking stations”.
A single USB plug carries a high resolution video signal for a big external monitor, Ethernet, and “USB” for keyboard, mouse, printers and such.
If you’re serious about buying a 4k monitor you should really do some studying. A 4k monitor needs about 18Gb/s, which is doable these days, but it’s not to be taken lightly.
I have tried various things and I currently am of the opinion that 2560x1440 (sometimes called “2K” or QHD) is the best resolution for me.
1080p is too low-resolution, but 4K is wasted on me, as I prefer several “smaller” (~25" / 63cm diagonal) monitors over one large 4K monitor. Plus, the pixel pitch of this size monitor is a comfortable medium, not the super-dense “Retina” (144ppi) used by Apple displays and many smaller 4K monitors. Very high pixel pitch sounds nice in theory, but for me in practice, I prefer not having to use DPI scaling to compensate for pixels being very small.
Currently I am using Dell monitors (U2515H) as I like the fact they have very thin bezels and no built-in speakers that waste space.
Definitely. I’ve been using 2-3 screens on all my Linux machines for a long time.