Pixel perfect: 12 innovative displays

Sometimes an ordinary computer monitor isn't enough. Here are 12 new types of display that could improve your workday.

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A new view on alternative screens

There's a variety of new and innovative monitor technologies and products on tap.

In addition to ultra-HD monitors that can light up nearly 15 million pixels -- more than seven times the resolution of a high-definition screen -- there are displays that use sensors to automatically calibrate their color so your images are always spot-on, or that offer 3D imaging or respond to touch as if they were huge desk-bound tablets. Others have curved viewing surfaces that deliver stunning wrap-around images.

Whether it's for a boardroom, office or cubicle, the 12 displays that follow demonstrate more than ever that when it comes to business, image really is everything.

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3D modeling machine

Think of HP's Sprout as a creativity center for the 3D era. The all-in-one Windows PC lets you turn solid objects into 3D models by using a Digital Light Processing (DLP) micro-projector, Intel's RealSense 14.6-megapixel 3D camera, a 23-in. touch display and a 20-in. "touch mat" that sits on a flat surface and acts as your workspace.

Inside, Sprout has a powerful 3.2GHz Core i7 processor, a 1TB hard drive, 8GB RAM and a high-performance Nvidia GeForce GT 745A graphics card with 2GB of dedicated video memory.

Once it is set up, Sprout is easy to use: Just put an object on the touch mat and scan it. Once it is scanned, remove the object -- you can now drag 3D images of the item from the display to the touch mat and manipulate them there, while watching the effects of your changes on the display. Switch colors, stretch or shrink an element, rotate your object, add text or a background -- the effects are amazing. You can create, work with and output anything from a model of a coffee mug to the part you need to finish your world-conquering robot.

While the Sprout is available now, it should really come into its own later this year when HP adds a matching 3D printer for turning virtual objects into real ones.

HP Sprout
Direct price: $1,900
Available: Now

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Enter the Z dimension

Don't want to wait for Microsoft's HoloLens? HP's Zvr virtual reality display uses funky polarizing glasses to let you enter a world of 3D immersive graphics.

Rather than merely showing a 3D movie, the stereoscopic Zvr display allows you to interact with 3D models and manipulate them with the included tethered stylus. Based on technology from ZSpace, the 23.6-in. display uses four infrared cameras that track the positions of the viewer's head and the stylus. The HD display's 5-millisecond response makes for real-time action, but requires a computer with powerful graphics and lots of video memory to work.

In addition to picking up on-screen items, moving them and bringing them closer for a better view, you can even look below the surface. For example, a simulation of the human heart shows a vivid view of the chambers, valves and veins, which appear to jump out of the screen. The screen reacts to commands with little or no latency, and you can share the 3D models with a 2D screen in real time. It's a great way to delve into everything from petroleum exploration data to new surgical techniques.

HP Zvr
Price: N/A
Available: Spring 2015

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A better type of touch

Why should touch screens be restricted to phones and tablets when using your fingers (or a stylus) can help on the desktop as well? The answer is Sharp's 31.5-in. PN-K322B display.

Sharp's high-end new display offers up to 4K Ultra HD (3840 x 2160) resolution, or four times the resolution of an HD screen. The company attributes this to its innovative IGZO thin-film transistor technology, which uses an oxide comprising indium (In), gallium (Ga) and zinc (Zn). As a result, the LCD screen's pixels can be made about one-quarter the size of traditional display picture elements.

Sharp includes a felt-tipped stylus that isn't pressure-sensitive but can, according to the company, make writing, sketching or tapping on the screen feel like you're using a pen on paper.

And the display's inventive stand lets you set it up at any viewing angle between 25 degrees (for easy finger work) and full vertical (for viewing traditional landscape material). Sharp includes software for working with Windows and Mac computers.

Sharp PN-K322B
Retail price: $3,824 - $4,675
Available: Now

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Dell / HP

The power of 5K

You think you have HD? Get a look at these 5K displays. With nearly 15 million pixels at their disposal, the Dell UltraSharp 27 Ultra HD 5K (top) and the HP Z27q (bottom) offer 5120 x 2880 resolution.

These Ultra HD 27-inch displays can put 1.07 billion colors on your screen and cover 99% of the standard RGB (sRGB) gamut for outstanding color fidelity. Both offer a pair of DisplayPort inputs to get to that lofty resolution.

Interestingly, though, they are on the slow side with 8-millisecond video response times. (Most good monitors have response times in the range of 4 milliseconds.)

Regardless of whether you're into image editing or want to display four individual windows on the screen, this ability to show extraordinary detail comes at a cost: The Dell is priced at $2,500 while the HP, which is expected to ship in March, will cost $1,299.

Dell UltraSharp 27 Ultra HD 5K Monitor (UP2715K)
Direct price: $2,500
Available: Now

HP Z27q 5K Display
Suggested price: $1,299
Available: March 2015

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Color for those who care

For many design professional and photographers, color fidelity can be critical. Unfortunately, what appears to be vermilion on one display can look like fire engine red on another.

According to Eizo, its 4K ColorEdge CG318-4K screen, with 4096 x 2160 resolution, keeps color spot on -- because in addition to faithfully reproducing 98% of the typical color gamut, the 31.1-in. display can calibrate itself. The screen's slide-out optical sensor reads the screen's color and brightness levels, and the company's ColorNavigator app allows minute adjustments to most parameters. You can also use presets for displaying different types of material; the software can apply standard settings across hundreds of screens company-wide.

In addition, the display has a warm-up time of a few minutes -- rather than upwards of 30 minutes for the typical display -- before it settles down and shows stable colors.

Eizo ColorEdge CG318-4K
Price: N/A
Available: April 2015

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Wrap-around imaging

If you use two or three displays and feel lost behind that wall, take heart: Your multi-monitor array can be replaced with a single curved wrap-around screen.

The HP Z34c (top) and the LG 34UC97-S (bottom) are two examples of 34-in. displays that offer a panoramic 21:9 aspect ratio view of your data with gently curved screens that deliver an immersive feeling. The 3440 x 1440 displays should be good for showing three or four side-by-side windows -- more than enough to stream a live CNN video onscreen alongside the latest stock prices and a running Twitter feed.

Each display has two HDMI ports and one DisplayPort connector, while the LG screen also has two Thunderbolt 2 ports and two USB 3.0 ports.

HP Z34c
Suggested price: $999
Available: April 2015

LG 34UC97-S
Suggested price: $1,300
Retail price: $1,293 - $1,300
Available: Now

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Sight for sore eyes

Wondering why you're having trouble concentrating? LCD displays emit prodigious amounts of short-wavelength blue light that humans can't see but that can cause eye fatigue, headaches and eyestrain. Over time, the light might even damage the highly sensitive macula portion of the retina.

According to AOC, its Anti-Blue Light (ABL) technology cuts the level of the most dangerous light (with wavelengths between 380 and 450 nanometers) by 90% without affecting the color, sharpness or brightness of the display. The technology redesigns the display's backlighting by using LEDs that are tuned to emit a peak wavelength of 460nm, slightly higher than the conventional 450nm backlight and, according to the company, just out of the macula's danger zone.

AOC's new model E2476VWM6, a 23.6-in. HD monitor, is the first to use ABL. It has a fast 1-millisecond response time, making it well suited to video-editing or gaming work.

Retail price: $150 - $199
Available: Now

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Video via USB

Need a larger display for your laptop but don't want to deal with VGA, DisplayPort or HDMI? The AOC's E1759FWU display stands out by being one of the few screens that gets its signal and power from a USB 3.0 port.

The AOC uses DisplayLink software: Just connect the 17.3-in. display to the USB port on your Windows PC or Mac; the image pops up a few seconds later. The display's fold-out stand offers both landscape and portrait orientation, and you can even connect up to six USB screens together in a multi-monitor array.

Admittedly, the AOC's 1600 x 900 resolution, slow 10-millisecond response time and relatively limited color palette of 262,000 colors isn't impressive. But on the plus side, the screen only costs a little over $200.

Price: $211 - $221
Available: Now

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See the light

Nowhere is it more obvious that neat and tidy marketing categories are becoming irrelevant than in the current conflation of computer displays with TV monitors. LG's 55EC9300, a 54.6-in. HD OLED TV display, is gently curved so that everyone gets a good view -- yet the screen is only 0.2-in. thick.

The LG comes with a smorgasbord of video technologies, including the ability to automatically dim or enhance individual pixels to suit the image on the screen. Unlike most displays, where images are created from pixels that switch between the colors red, green and blue, the LG's pixels can also switch to black or white, raising the image's brightness while delivering deep colors and high contrast.

In addition to four HDMI inputs, three USB ports, and component and composite video inputs, the display has Miracast and WiDi receivers for wireless presentations.

LG 55EC9300
Suggested price: $3,500
Retail price: $2,547 - $3,257
Available: Now

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Super PC

When one is not enough

A multi-monitor array allows you to keep an eye on a lot of data, from stock action to a Twitter feed to the latest streaming news video. Companies such as Super PC offer a variety of arrays that let you watch either several feeds at once, or one huge image.

Want something really impressive? Based on twelve off-the-shelf 24-in. Samsung SyncMaster HD displays, Super PC's 4 x 3 array offers a huge 97-in. composite wall of video that is marred only by the 1.5-inch gaps where the individual displays meet. The array's stand has two bases to keep the screens straight and secure.

To get the image onto that many screens you'll need a high-performance computer that has twelve video outputs. For that purpose, Super PC sells a variety of systems suited to the task.

Super PC 12 LCD Multi-Monitor Desk Array
Direct price: $1,398 (w/o displays); $3,488 (including displays)
Available: Now

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