The quest to capture images, both still and moving, dates back to the invention of the film camera in the early 1800s. Over the past 20 years we've seen that process shift rapidly from analog to digital.
Imitating the smooth tones of film is a goal of every display designer. When you take a picture on film, its high resolution is due to the extreme density of tiny particles deposited on a piece of celluloid. Their random placement is what gives film nearly limitless resolution. To reproduce that look with a fixed grid of pixels requires one fundamental thing: density, the more the better.
We've seen rapid increases in pixel density with small devices like phones and tablets but desktop monitors have been slower to add dots. The main obstacle is the ever-evolving manufacturing process. Depositing super-small components on a large surface requires enormous machines operating in a completely clean environment. Imagine the challenge of making a microprocessor that is the same size as a 27-inch monitor and you'll start to understand the difficulty.
Today, we're getting our first look at the next step in display evolution, 5K or 5120x2880 pixels. The HPZ27q is a 27-inch IPS panel with professional cred in the form of a factory calibration and a premium price; though it's not as expensive as you might expect.
Currently, two companies make 5120x2880 panel parts, LG Display and Samsung. HP is using LG Display as the basis for its Z27q. It has a wide gamut option along with fixed sRGB and Rec.709 color presets. It also offers a custom mode for those wanting to create a white point other than D65.
To drive the Z27q at its full 5120x2880 resolution, you'll need a video card with at least two DisplayPort 1.2 outputs. The panel has two processors, just like early Ultra HD monitors that used a tiled approach to achieve their full pixel count, and it takes advantage of DP's Multi-Stream Transport feature.
The two test systems in our lab utilize R9 285 and GTX Titan video boards, which weren't on the list of tested cards. HP sent us a ZBook 17 G2, which has an AMD FirePro M6100 on board and two DisplayPort outputs. After a few reboots I was able to run the monitor at 5120x2880 pixels. On a lark I tried connecting to the GTX Titan-equipped system, which has three DisplayPort outputs; that worked on the first try. That Windows 8 PC runs drivers dated May 27, 2015 (353.06) and not only supports 5K resolution at 60Hz, it will send a true 10-bit signal to the display.
Needless to say, the picture is impressive. You cannot see individual pixels even when you put your nose up to the screen. At 218ppi and 14.7 megapixels it's the highest density yet achieved in a desktop monitor. If you're wondering about text and font size, yeah, it's really small. Bumping up the dpi scaling to 175 percent takes care of that.
HP's Z27q is definitely on the bleeding edge, so we're anxious to see how it measures up. Let's take a look.