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Author Topic: The Achilles heel of 4k monitors on the Mac Pro?  (Read 6617 times)
alan a
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« on: December 27, 2013, 09:47:51 AM »
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My apologies in advance for the long posting, but this discusses what may be the Achilles heel of 4k monitors for editing of still photography, as well as for more general use, and the issue discussed below was not covered in previous threads (at least not that I could find).  Many thanks in advance for any input, advice  or comments from the experts on the forum.  I welcome any corrections if I have misstated the situation.

The forthcoming release of the new Mac Pro in February has increased interest in separate 4K monitors, since the Mac Pro is specifically designed to drive such 4k monitors, and Apple is selling the Sharp PN-K321 4K monitor as part of advance orders for the Mac Pro. 

However, the future release and use of 4K monitors will only draw more attention to one of the serious flaws of the Mac OS.

Namely the fact that it is impossible to increase the size of fonts on a system–wide basis.  The best illustration is System Preferences in the Mac OS, which on a 27” iMac is a small box with even smaller type, unless you are sitting one foot away from the screen. By contrast, the ability to increase fonts on a system-wide basis has been a feature included within Windows for about 20 years, at least as far back as Windows 95. You only need to google this issue to find hundreds of complaints over the years about the fact that this is not included in the Mac OS.   There are frequent reports of many older people, with weak eyesight, who want to purchase a Mac, instead purchasing Windows based PCs, so that they can increase the size of the fonts on a system-wide basis.  (The ability to zoom on a Mac is not a credible alternative, since zooming fonts at their largest size usually results in fuzzy text.  Ditto with any suggestion that this can be solved by changing resolutions, as all monitors work best at their native resolution and look terrible at any other resolution.)

The iMac has a resolution of 2560 x 1440, the same as the separate thunderbolt monitor.   (The NEC mentioned below is only two inches larger with about the same resolution — 2560 x 1600.)  At this resolution system fonts within the Mac OS can be very small.  At the present time this is simply a serious flaw in the Mac OS. 

With the emergence of 4k displays — which can be used with the Mac Pro — this could become a fatal flaw of the Mac OS.

The specs for the Sharp 4K monitor, as stated on the Apple website under the sales options for the new Mac Pro, state that the Sharp has a huge increase in resolution to 3840 by 2160, even though it is also only a 31” monitor, and only an inch larger than the NEC at 2560 x 1600.  At that resolution, on the Sharp 4K 31” monitor, System fonts in the Mac OS will likely be absolutely tiny, if not microscopic.  (I haven’t seen the Sharp, as no retailers in my city will ever carry it, and if anyone has seen it — with the Sharp running the Mac OS — they can better comment.)  The Systems Preference box should be the size of postage stamp on the Sharp.  This should finally force Apple to address this issue.  Better late than never, since Apple is 20 years late as compared with Windows. 

Some will respond that the fonts can be increased within individual apps or programs.  But is that really true, and can they be increased enough?  The only setting in Lightroom is between small and large, and large is not very large.  The problem of small Lightroom fonts (at the "large" setting) on larger monitors and resolutions also results in many repots in Adobe forums and elsewhere, with users recommending various hacks and configuration tools to attempt to solve the problem of small fonts.   But none of these hacks anticipated the huge resolution of the Sharp and the likely microscopic fonts that will result.  The Sharp would require a very large increase in font sizes, and then the fonts would overrun the panels and the design of Lightroom, and the resulting jumble would likely be unusable.  That unacceptable result is what some users have already reported in various Adobe forums, and that is only to hack the Lightroom fonts for a resolution like the iMac or NEC at 2560 x 1400 — let alone the Sharp at 3840 x 2160.

Lightroom and the Mac OS serves as a warning that the new Sharp 4K may be impractical, and possibly unusable for photographic editing given current limitations of the software and the Mac OS with regards to font, menus and tool bars.  (I suspect that same problem applies to Photoshop, and does it also apply to other Adobe products for video editing — which is the big selling point for the combo that Apple is selling -- the Mac Pro and the Sharp 4k monitor?)

I am considering the purchase of a Mac Pro.  So related to that, and the monitor to accompany it, I welcome any advice or input on the following:

(1)  For still photography (not video), and general use including internet, mail and word processing, which is better of three choices:  (1) the NEC PA302W-BK-SV with built in Spectraview calibration; (2) one of the Apple monitors, or (3)  one of the new 4k monitors like the Sharp or the Dell (*assuming* Apple and other software developers fixes the issue described above, which probably would take many months, or years, if ever).

(2)  I have an older 30” NEC spectraview monitor that is about 6 or 7 years old.  Obviously it has faded.  But has the NEC technology really improved in the last 6 or 7 years, as my old NEC must have some type of hot tube for the backlight, and is very dull in appearance and not as sharp as Apple displays.  I realize part of that is the NEC mat screen versus the Apple glossy screen, but am wondering if the newer NEC AH-IPS LCD panel will look better and sharper than my 6 year old NEC because it might use more advanced LED technology?

(3)  I presume that the Sharp has greater pixel density although I can’t find those equivalent specs for the Apple or NEC monitors.  But does this result in a sharper monitor for still photography using Lightroom or Photoshop?  (Again, assuming the font size problem described above can be fixed.)

(4)  Has anyone actually worked with a Sharp to know if it calibrates well for color reproduction? 

(5)  What about screen image burn-in on the Sharp — there is one very negative user report on Amazon in that regard.

(6)  I’ve read that one of the advantages of other 4K monitors is that they can do 1080P, at least for games, with the implication that the Sharp does not do that.  Is that true and does it matter?

(7)  Why did Apple pull the Sharp in Britain, and stop selling it, but have continued to do so in the US?  Apple pulled it suddenly and without notice in Britain.

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Craig Lamson
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« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2013, 11:21:07 AM »
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This helps a lot but its not a perfect solution.

http://www.bresink.com/osx/TinkerTool.html

I also use Firefox with nosquint...

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/nosquint/

I'm using a NEC 271
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alan a
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« Reply #2 on: December 27, 2013, 11:48:34 AM »
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Your NEC 271 has a native resolution of 2560 x 1440.  The hacks and software you suggest may work with that,  but it is very unlikely that they can increase fonts to a readable size on the Sharp 4k with a resolution of 3840 x 2160.  And if they do, the fonts would simply be too large for the menus and tool bars.

With regards to Tinker Toy and its companion software, the developers explicitly state that it can NOT increase the system fonts in the Mac OS.  So the small type in Systems Preferences would still be small, and would likely be microscopically small and unreadable on a 4k monitor.

Apple needs to provide a means to increase fonts on a system-wide basis, as does Windows.  That, plus hacks like Tinker Toy and the various configuration hacks for Lightroom, might work for a 30" monitor at 2560 x 1600.  But I wonder if the basic design of most software, and the Mac OS, may not be compatible with a 30" 4k monitor at 3840 x 2160.  The fonts would be absolutely tiny, and blowing them up to be large enough would mean they overlap the boundaries of the menus and tool bars, resulting in a jumbled and ugly mess.

Or you would have to constantly zoom in and out to read the menus and tool bars. But that largely defeats the purpose of a 4k monitor, since the zoom itself sacrifices the sharpness of the image.  And the thought of constantly zooming in and out is mind numbing, and it the exact opposite of the convenience and ease of use that the Mac is known for.

Of course, I have never seen a 4k monitor and never will in my city of residence.  So I'd like to hear from experts who have actually used one that was using the MAC OS, and who can also comment on how it works with software like Lightroom and Photoshop.
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Craig Lamson
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« Reply #3 on: December 27, 2013, 11:59:45 AM »
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You are absolutely right but its the best solution for now. Clearly this is an issue Apple must resolve at the OS level. Not sure why they have failed to do so yet.
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« Reply #4 on: December 27, 2013, 05:27:45 PM »
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The need for 4K monitor would be for a video image or still image in Photoshop. With such a setup, one would use a separate monitor at a much lower resolution for tools and palettes making this a non-issue.
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Gerald J Skrocki
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« Reply #5 on: December 27, 2013, 06:03:44 PM »
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One aspect of super high rez displays is the fact that apps like Lightroom that must rip the preview image from a raw file to show updates to development must do so and much, much larger amounts of data. Running Lightroom on a 4K display would be painfully slow unless you size the LR window way down. I've already seen people find standard 30" displays really slow to redraw...careful what you wish for, you may get it and find it not to your liking :~)
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alan a
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« Reply #6 on: December 27, 2013, 07:25:02 PM »
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The need for 4K monitor would be for a video image or still image in Photoshop. With such a setup, one would use a separate monitor at a much lower resolution for tools and palettes making this a non-issue.

Thanks for that clarification.  I had not thought of that solution.  It would still be very helpful, for anyone using a standard 30" display, if Apple updated the Mac OS and provided a means to increase the size of fonts on a system-wide basis.  If the emergence of high res 4K monitors finally forces/encourages Apple to do so, then we will all benefit, including those who stick with standard monitors.

See below, as I guess I will be in that category, if the new Mac Pro does not have the horsepower to drive a 4K monitor at fast speeds while using LR.  I may still eventually get a Mac Pro, so I am not stuck with the built-in iMac display and can instead go with the NEC 30" with Spectraview (but not 4k) -- which I assume all of you experts consider to be superior to the Apple and iMac displays?  I am curious to know if the NECs have really improved in the last seven years, as compared with the now ancient LCD monitor that I've got that looks pretty fuzzy compared to the iMac.

One aspect of super high rez displays is the fact that apps like Lightroom that must rip the preview image from a raw file to show updates to development must do so and much, much larger amounts of data. Running Lightroom on a 4K display would be painfully slow unless you size the LR window way down. I've already seen people find standard 30" displays really slow to redraw...careful what you wish for, you may get it and find it not to your liking :~)

Thanks very much for that excellent explanation.  One question, though.  Would the high horse power of the new Mac Pro, with two graphics cards and 4 or 6 CPU cores, make up the difference for a high res display and draw the previews as fast -- as compared with a slower iMac on a standard display?  Apple doesn't address this scenario specifically (using the Mac Pro and a high res 4k monitor for LR).  However, the implication, based on the sales pitch from Apple (see quotes below) -- is that the new Mac Pro is designed to do precisely that.  At least with video, if not with LR.

Apple says this with regards to still photography processing on the new Mac Pro:  "Edit your images in 4K.  With the new Mac Pro and powerful multiple-display support in OS X Mavericks, you can work with an image full screen on one display while you work with your photo browser on another. Connect a 4K display — with over 8 million pixels — and see your photos in more detail than ever before."  

Apple says this with regards to video editing:  "4K performance that’s nothing short of spectacular.  Work pixel-for-pixel in 4K without slowing down, thanks to dual AMD FirePro workstation-class GPUs and the latest Xeon E5 processors in Mac Pro — a merger that delivers the breathtaking capability to run 8 picture-in-picture streams of 4K video at once in Final Cut Pro X (or many more streams of HD video). Combine that with the power to drive up to three 4K displays and process multiple layers of complex effects in real time, and you have a video editing powerhouse."

If the new Mac Pro can't drive LR at acceptable speeds on a high res 4K monitor (including drawing full screen previews), then I'd say their advertising is more than a little misleading.  Because on top of the above statements, Apple is selling the Sharp as a recommended accessory for the Mac Pro.  If the Mac Pro does not, in fact, have the horsepower to drive the Sharp with regards to full screen LR previews, then there will be some very dissatisfied customers.

Having said that -- this issue, of really slow drawing of previews on a 4K display, is precisely what I did not know. (I assumed the opposite based on the sales pitch from Apple.)  It sounds like the downside (the time required to rip and display previews) clearly outweighs any advantage offered by a higher res 4k preview.  And if you have to significantly size down the LR window on a 30" high res monitor to have LR operate with reasonable speed, what is the point of a 30" display?  Even if the tool bars, palettes and menus were moved to a different monitor, as suggested by Jerry Rock, the preview on the 4k display would still be slow.  It would drive me nuts to sit around and wait a long time for previews to draw. A standard 30" display, like the NEC, would be a much better choice for LR based on your explanation, as it would combine faster speed (compared to a 4K display) and the larger image.

There have been other threads on the 4k displays related to use for still photography, but that point and great explanation was not provided -- so thank you very much for educating all of us on that critical point.
« Last Edit: December 27, 2013, 08:27:03 PM by alan a » Logged
mac_paolo
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« Reply #7 on: December 28, 2013, 01:05:45 AM »
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No one stepped in to correct the OP, really?
There's no flaw on OS X side. You'll been asked which resolution to adopt  and the default one will be a Retina 1920x1080. Basically it's exactly the opposite the OP described: fonts/icon will appear -larger- to the eye and way more defined.
You'll than be able to choose higher resolutions up to the native one, which of course is going to show tiny fonts and icons, but only because the user chose that.

What I dislike is the fact that my 2560x1440 screen is not going to be doubled in density. I would have preferred a single 27" 5120x2880 than a much less dense 32" 3840x2160, but that's another story.

Please, before talking about serious flaws, learn what's going on.
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Craig Lamson
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« Reply #8 on: December 28, 2013, 08:46:34 AM »
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No one stepped in to correct the OP, really?
There's no flaw on OS X side. You'll been asked which resolution to adopt  and the default one will be a Retina 1920x1080. Basically it's exactly the opposite the OP described: fonts/icon will appear -larger- to the eye and way more defined.
You'll than be able to choose higher resolutions up to the native one, which of course is going to show tiny fonts and icons, but only because the user chose that.

What I dislike is the fact that my 2560x1440 screen is not going to be doubled in density. I would have preferred a single 27" 5120x2880 than a much less dense 32" 3840x2160, but that's another story.

Please, before talking about serious flaws, learn what's going on.

Uh only one small problem with setting the screen resolution to something other than native...its makes everything blurry. 
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hjulenissen
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« Reply #9 on: December 28, 2013, 09:27:07 AM »
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One aspect of super high rez displays is the fact that apps like Lightroom that must rip the preview image from a raw file to show updates to development must do so and much, much larger amounts of data. Running Lightroom on a 4K display would be painfully slow unless you size the LR window way down. I've already seen people find standard 30" displays really slow to redraw...careful what you wish for, you may get it and find it not to your liking :~)
This just highlights a possible design weakness in Lightroom (and many other applications, such as 3d games): the output is rendered at the native output resolution, even when this results in intolerable latency.

One might hope for a raw image editing system that first rendered each image within a reasonable time no matter what the source pixel count or display pixel count was (sacrificing image quality and/or disk space to achieve this), then took its time to re-render the image at higher quality in due time.

With displays that match or exceed the capabilities of our vision in terms of spatial resolution, optimal quality in the higher spatial frequencies may not be very critical.

-h
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mac_paolo
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« Reply #10 on: December 28, 2013, 09:44:52 AM »
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Uh only one small problem with setting the screen resolution to something other than native...its makes everything blurry. 
Not entirely true. When working on resolutions above the recommended one, the whole screen is still "doubled" as hypothetic huge retina screen and only then resized down. That leads to much better results than a mere resize.
Still we agree that any non-native resolution is not ideal at all, but "blurry" is quite different from "less than perfect".
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mac_paolo
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« Reply #11 on: December 28, 2013, 09:49:46 AM »
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Running Lightroom on a 4K display would be painfully slow unless you size the LR window way down. I've already seen people find standard 30" displays really slow to redraw...careful what you wish for, you may get it and find it not to your liking :~)
Jeff, that is true for my mid-2010 15" MBP.
I don't think that a ~2-3x increase in image pixels to be shown (I currently run a 2560x1440 display) could put a 2013 Mac Pro in trouble. Do you?
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Craig Lamson
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« Reply #12 on: December 28, 2013, 11:09:29 AM »
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Not entirely true. When working on resolutions above the recommended one, the whole screen is still "doubled" as hypothetic huge retina screen and only then resized down. That leads to much better results than a mere resize.
Still we agree that any non-native resolution is not ideal at all, but "blurry" is quite different from "less than perfect".

You don't get the option to use resolution above the native monitor resolution and anything lower does get blurry.  You can try and spin it anyway you wish but this still a problem with the OS.
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mac_paolo
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« Reply #13 on: December 28, 2013, 11:28:27 AM »
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You don't get the option to use resolution above the native monitor resolution and anything lower does get blurry.  You can try and spin it anyway you wish but this still a problem with the OS.
It's hard to speak of native resolution with retina screens. Let's talk about "optimal" resolution, which mimics the old 1920x1080, now with double pixel density and quadruple resolution.
You can then go further than that by choosing higher resolution than 1080p, while of course staying below 3840x2160 effective pixels.
Much like current retina 15" MBP I bet you'll be able to choose a fake 2560x1440 and others.
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Sheldon N
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« Reply #14 on: December 28, 2013, 11:36:18 AM »
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Another fly in the ointment is sharpening for web output.

The images may look beautiful on your screen at home, but they are going to look very different on everyone elses lower resolution monitor. I already notice the difference in the amount of sharpening needed on my Dell U2711 screen vs my 24", and the pixel density difference there is not nearly as dramatic.
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alan a
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« Reply #15 on: December 28, 2013, 01:41:44 PM »
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No one stepped in to correct the OP, really?
There's no flaw on OS X side. You'll been asked which resolution to adopt  and the default one will be a Retina 1920x1080. Basically it's exactly the opposite the OP described: fonts/icon will appear -larger- to the eye and way more defined.
You'll than be able to choose higher resolutions up to the native one, which of course is going to show tiny fonts and icons, but only because the user chose that.

What I dislike is the fact that my 2560x1440 screen is not going to be doubled in density. I would have preferred a single 27" 5120x2880 than a much less dense 32" 3840x2160, but that's another story.

Please, before talking about serious flaws, learn what's going on.

Still we agree that any non-native resolution is not ideal at all, but "blurry" is quite different from "less than perfect".

You should follow the example of Schewe and others, who provided a factual response without a condescending comment that I should "learn what's going on."  I posted here for that purpose, and SPECIFICALLY said "many thanks in advance for any input, advice  or comments from the experts on the forum.  I welcome any corrections if I have misstated the situation."  The condescending attitude is not necessary.

What monitor are you referring to that has a resolution of 1920 x 1080?  That is NOT the 4K Sharp, which was the focus of my posting.  The native resolution for the Sharp is  3840 x 2160.  Changing the native resolution of any monitor results in a display that is clearly not as sharp as the native resolution.  Burry is a pretty good description of what happens in that case.  Frankly, someone would be nuts to spend $3600 on a monitor for a result, to use your choice of words, that is "less than perfect."  Why spend $3600 for a less than perfect result?  Doesn't that defeat the entire purpose of a 4k monitor?

So, in order to defend the Mac OS from any criticism, you say this:  "You'll than be able to choose higher resolutions up to the native one, which of course is going to show tiny fonts and icons, but only because the user chose that."

That was the whole point of my posting, was it not?  That the native -- the correct and ideal -- resolution for the Sharp 4K would result in tiny fonts and icons.

And, yes, there is a flaw on the OS side.  It is simply a statement of fact that the Mac OS can't increase the size of fonts on a system-wide basis -- as you can on any version of Windows for the last 20 years.  This is a problem on the 27" iMac, let alone on a 30" NEC with a slightly larger resolution.  Individual opinions as to what is "too small" may differ, but there are hundreds of complaints on the web about this shortcoming in the Mac OS as it relates to a 27" iMac, let alone larger monitors.  One of the posters in this thread already commented on his own work-arounds to fix this problem, but unfortunately, none of them work with the system fonts in the Mac OS.

Frankly, it is the earlier postings that spoke to these issues.  I don't think the Mac OS and LR is even usable at the Sharp resolution, and Jerry Rock addressed that when he explained that the Sharp would be used only for the image, with all menus and tool bars on a separate monitor.  So anyone who buys a Sharp must accept that it can't be the main monitor, for everyday use, because the Mac OS would be unreadable.  Unless you want to change the resolution to that which is "less than perfect," and how imperfect that would be is the question.  If the Sharp is like most monitors, it would look quite a bit worse at a significantly different resolution.  At that point a different monitor with a native resolution that is actually readable would be a better choice for a main monitor.  In that scenario, the question is whether a standard (not 4k) monitor at a readable native resolution would look better than the Sharp when the Sharp is changed to a significantly different resolution than it is intended for.

Schewe explained that LR would be very slow on a 4k display due to the time to draw the previews.  I would, however, welcome his comments on whether the new Mac Pro with two video cards could speed up LR to the point that it would be useable.  See my above posting that quotes the Apple sales pitch for the Mac Pro, since Apple clearly suggests that the Mac Pro works with 4k displays for all of these purposes -- and works at a very fast speed.  

The question is whether that is, in fact, true.
« Last Edit: December 28, 2013, 03:30:36 PM by alan a » Logged
Sheldon N
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« Reply #16 on: December 28, 2013, 02:53:29 PM »
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I would, however, welcome his comments on whether the new Mac Pro with two video cards could speed up LR to the point that it would be useable.  See my above posting that quotes the Apple sales pitch for the Mac Pro, since Apple clearly suggests that the Mac Pro works with 4k displays for all of these purposes -- and works at a very fast speed.  

The question is whether that is, in fact, true.

I don't believe that LR uses the GPU in the video card, the CPU is the main engine for preview rendering. In addition, LR is not super efficient at using multiple CPU cores. 

I wouldn't expect the new Mac Pro to be a giant leap forward in performance.
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alan a
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« Reply #17 on: December 28, 2013, 03:13:27 PM »
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Many thanks for that clarification!
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« Reply #18 on: December 28, 2013, 04:06:25 PM »
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4k monitors will become more and more common, just as HD ones did and before them the various increases in resolution and size.  4k TVs are now available, so in a few years it will be fairly mainstream.

At some point, Apple and Adobe (for Lightroom) will need to address this.  PS already leverages the GPU so obviously it's an option for LR and would make a huge difference, even with the more restricted choices of GPU you get with Mac. 

But quite apart from LR uses, regular users will want 4k displays as the price comes down and content increases and so on.  Retina is one idea/solution but it lacks the flexibility of simply being able to choose the correct resolution and then scale your fonts and system icons to a level that suits your monitor, your eyes and your usage.

Alan is entirely correct to highlight this as a current and potentially ongoing and growing issue.  I do believe, though, that Apple will eventually address it - the only question is whether they do it in a flexible manner or only in a way that supports their own hardware in their own paradigm (which is quite a common thing for them to do).  Either solution may work just fine, but there's more chance of broadening their market with a little 20-year-old flexibility.
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« Reply #19 on: December 29, 2013, 08:32:03 AM »
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You should follow the example of Schewe and others, who provided a factual response without a condescending comment that I should "learn what's going on."  I posted here for that purpose, and SPECIFICALLY said "many thanks in advance for any input, advice  or comments from the experts on the forum.  I welcome any corrections if I have misstated the situation."  The condescending attitude is not necessary.
Your post is amusing Smiley
You indeed judged something, talking about "serious flaw" when, to put it straight without lengthy posts, you don't know what you're talking about.
Either you ask for help and you'll receive kind response, or you express a false judgement on objective matters and be prepared for someone to step in and correct you.

Listen, you keep talking about 1920x1080 retina resolution as if that would cause blurry shapes. Clearly you don't know anything about how OS X manages high resolutions.
So, my advise is not to think that you're smarter than those who work in Cupertino and just -learn- how the system works. You may find it interesting.
Retina technology and concepts (similar to HiDPI) appeared way back when the iPhone 4 came out. You'll find lots if explanations.
Nothing is blurry, quite the opposite.
It -is- a factual response, not an opinion.

Is it a better approach in respect to Redmond's one? Maybe, maybe not. I think it is, but definitely you won't have miniscule fonts or icons.

So, less naive judgements, more learning.
Happy holidays.
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