Ultra High Definition (UHD), 4K2K, or more commonly known as 4K resolution has been touted as the latest peak of display performance and visual perfection. But the reality is that crisp looks remain a niche left untouched by the majority of consumers fawning over them. But for those of you confident enough being an early adopter and willing to take a risk, monitors like the Lenovo LI2821 4K2K Monitor might be a convincing choice.
The first wave of 4K displays were basic, woefully overpriced, and only the likes of Samsung (U28D590D), ASUS (PB287Q), and Dell (P2815Q) were making headlines. In fact, it’s a little surprising that the LI2821 practically slid under the radar as quietly as it did.
Big and plain are good words to describe the LI2821’s appearance. It’s basically a flat black bezel and details strictly limited to some status lights on the lower right corner, an integrated webcam on top with a sliding door for privacy, and a detachable V-shaped stand made of solid metal. With dimensions of 26.1” x 18.1” x 8.2” this is meant to be your permanent monitor, or at least take up a sizable portion of desk space to complete the task – unless you frame it on the wall with a VESA mount.
It’s only until you go around back and realize that connectivity is a generous smattering of video inputs and ports that include: VGA, DisplayPort, two HDMI (one is MHL-Ready), two USB 2.0, USB Type-B, microphone, headphone, and speaker output. There’s also a cable lock slot for theft prevention, but honestly, I can’t imagine many criminals getting too far because this thing weighs 9.88 lbs. alone (without the stand).
As mentioned before, there’s a built-in 1080p 2-megapixel camera and captures video adequate for Skype, along with integrated noise-cancellation microphones, a VoIP quick calling button (compatible with Microsoft Lync), and JBL speakers which often sound great for default acoustics. Thanks to dual tuners another standout function is the PIP/PBP (picture-in-picture), which is something I haven’t seen since mammoth rear-projection CRT TVs roamed the earth back in the nineties. With two detectable sources running at once you can either pair them side by side or run the second display in its own miniature window occupying a corner, with no input delay or degradation of artifacts when split.
The LI2821 is a WLED backlit TN (Twisted Nematic) panel that’s in essence, a considerably tweaked version of the ThinkVision Pro2840m professional monitor. You get a higher brightness level of 300cd/m2 with image quality and modest picture options that focus on balance rather than exaggerated richness. The default temperature presets weren’t perfect as our monitor came pre-calibrated with reddish hues in mind, a quirk that’s corrected by choosing either ‘neutral’ or ‘SRGB’ first or fiddling around with “Novo Vision” which works similar to cinema/game/etc. modes seen on other monitors.
Color accuracy provided by the CalMAN chromaticity chart with a 100% saturation test had red, green, yellow, and magenta hues near the edge of their respective target boxes but within parameters, while blue, cyan, and black/white contrasts were more centered; Regardless, performance data such as Max deltaE (0.92) and Avg. deltaE (0.54) were amazingly low (lesser figures means better performance). Astute graphic and CAD/CAM professionals will appreciate the benchmarks more as the 86% SRGB gamut is a little closer to reference for web design, and still uniform when viewed slightly off-angle.
The technical prowess is impressive enough, but the LI2821 is an “ok” gaming display if you bought it specifically for the native 4K (3840 x 2160) resolution and its 6.5-millisecond response first. Our choices of titles on hand like Battlefield 4, Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare looked incredible and captured every conceivable detail – albeit playable between 28.8-32.6 frames per second during our testing. However, with Far Cry 4 my AMD Radeon HD 7870 graphics card was overtaxed and ran at a lethargic 13.8fps.
This is not a fault of the monitor itself but rather the recent but rapidly obsolete PC hardware running the software, an obvious consequence of pursuing bleeding edge. For those concerned, the LI2821 falls right in the middle of that transition with mixed results – yes, it can produce a 4K image and does so at 60Hz, but only through the single DisplayPort input; so you’re missing out on full 4K/60p implementation for HDMI, encryption through HDCP 2.2 (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection) is obviously absent, and most current 4K games available are still technically limited to 30Hz.
Even with those hurdles to contemplate, the Lenovo LI2821 4K2K Flat Panel Monitor is a practical choice that goes beyond the assets of definition alone. Admittedly, notable cues are taken from the 2840m for workstation and multiscreen duties rather than another flamboyant gaming rig centerpiece, which I actually prefer from a grounded low-profile display like this. It’s ideal for Autodesk and as an web-conferencing all-in-one, otherwise it might be best to wait until either a price drop happens or when standardization for proper 4K/UHD content is eventually figured out.