CAD Tech News (#33)

20 Jan, 2016 By: Cadalyst Staff

▶ Herrera on Hardware: New Display Developments Hold Potential for CAD Applications

Curved, 4K, HDR, and other technologies all promise better viewing experiences for professional users — but which will go mainstream, and which will fade away?

By Alex Herrera

Several months back, this column took a tour through current display products and technologies to help CAD professionals create the most effective, productive, and economical display configurations possible. This time around, we'll look forward at emerging display products and technologies that will likely factor into the choices you'll make in CAD monitors down the road.

Some advancements, including increasing display resolution and color precision, are familiar and predictable. Another attempts to improve on a quality metric that's been surprisingly stagnant for some time: contrast. And finally, others look to change the paradigm of conventional displays with new takes on form and function. Some of these coming innovations will stick and eventually become commonplace, while others will never extend their reach beyond specialized niches. Some may never gain a foothold, and will fade away entirely. Which outcomes are likely for the various technologies on the horizon? Let's explore.

The 34“ Z34c display from HP combines vertical alignment technology with a curved form factor. (Image courtesy of HP, Inc.)
The 34" Z34c display from HP combines vertical alignment technology with a curved form factor. (Image courtesy of HP, Inc.)

4K and Beyond: Passing the Limits of Perception

The most predictable axis of display technology evolution, pixel density, will see another step forward in the near term. Spurred by advances in display and semiconductor technology, resolution has climbed steadily over the past few decades, from 640 x 480 to 1,024 x 768 in the 1990s, up to 1,280 x 1,024 in the '00s, and this decade pushing up to 1,920 x 1,080. The next stop on the trajectory is 4K, which is typically around 3,840 x 2,160.

The 4K buzz has been building over the past year, primarily promoted by TV manufacturers looking to provide a sorely needed market pull, now that demand for big-screen Full HD has waned. Professional monitor manufacturers are on the 4K bandwagon as well, and prices will assuredly drop over time to a high-volume sweet spot, making it all but certain that every CAD desktop will transition to 4K in the not-too-distant future.

It's tempting to assume that resolutions even higher than 4K will all one day become ubiquitous. After all, that's the standard path followed by all silicon-driven products right? Things always become faster, cheaper, and better. And we'll eventually accept them, buy them, and find them valuable or even indispensable, even if we don't at first think we need them. But that incessant push forward doesn't apply when an incremental technology improvement crosses a critical threshold: the limit for humans to recognize that improvement. For example, it turns out there's not much need to exceed 5–7 ms liquid crystal display (LCD) response time, because human response systems — comprising our eyes and brains — cannot "refresh" any faster than that.

Similarly, display resolutions have already moved past the point of diminishing returns — at least given typical screen sizes and viewing distance — and will one day reach the limit of our visual system's ability to distinguish a difference. So where does 4K stand with respect to that limit? The whole point in naming the display "Retina" is that its dot-pitch is such that the human retina can no longer differentiate individual pixels when viewed from a foot or so away. Now, let's correlate that dot pitch to a typical desktop setup, where the display might be 30" from your eye. It turns out that at that distance, a 4K resolution on a 25" display essentially matches the dot-pitch of a retina display held around 10–12" from your eyes. (the website provides an enlightening tool to calculate and compare figures).

Given that comparison, then, not only is 4K on a 25" desktop display already past the point of diminishing returns, but going further holds little to no value, unless the screen gets bigger or our eyes get closer to it. And screens are unlikely to grow much in size for most CAD users, for two reasons: desk space isn't growing (it's more likely to be shrinking), and for many, using two (or more) smaller displays side by side can be more effective — and even more economical — than going to a monolithic screen. The bottom line is that 4K will eventually thrive, but unless our viewing habits or display configurations change, there won't be much reason to push beyond that level of resolution, at least not for a traditional desktop work environment. Read more »

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Alex Herrera is a consultant focusing on high-performance graphics and workstations.


▶ Create a Tension Cable in Revit's Adaptive Template

You can quickly create adaptive models by setting your workplane, dropping in some points, creating a shape, and making a form.

By Pierre Derenoncourt

Create a Tension Cable in Revit's Adaptive Template

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Pierre Derenoncourt is a Revit and AutoCAD tutor for Pluralsight.


CAD Manager Column: CAD Management Predictions for 2016
Which trends should you keep an eye on in the coming year, and how should you adapt to them? Read more »

Add Your Own Panel to the AutoCAD Ribbon
Creating your own panel filled with your favorite AutoCAD commands is easy. Join Lynn Allen as she shows you how to make your own custom panel for the AutoCAD ribbon, complete with your most frequently used commands. Then be prepared to race through AutoCAD at maximum speed! Watch the video »

Learning Curve: The Last AutoCAD Command
On the occasion of his final column, Bill Fane reminisces about the first. Read more »

Configuration Considerations for Modern Mobile Workstations
A mobile machine provides benefits that desktop models can't offer — but only if it's configured correctly. Read more »

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

Cadalyst Staff

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