Ultrabook with QHD display = Wow!

By James G Dempsey, Published: 03/07/2014, Last Updated: 03/07/2014

Ultrabook with QHD display == Wow!

My professional programming experience goes back to 1972. Every once in a while a technology comes out that has a high rating on the Wow! factor. When the technology is affordable, the combination makes it must-have productivity improvement product to incorporate into software development process.

One of the problems that software engineers experience is lack of display space. By this I do not mean big picture, rather I mean lots of content. Typically, this means at least a workable IDE session window plus an application window. Reason being, when at break point, the application window will not refresh, and subsequently when required to use overlapping windows you lose the output display of the application you are debugging. Up until recently, for me, this necessitated multiple monitors. Often, the desired number of monitors is one more than you have. For development, possibly three or four monitors might be desired: IDE window, Application window, software specification window, miscellaneous stuff window. Essentially you want your messy desk crammed full of the things necessary to do your work.

Formerly, I would prefer the older analog monitors with 1800 x 1440 resolution over the “High Definition” 1920 x 1080 HD monitors. With only 1080 lines of vertical resolution, the newer HD monitors were severely limited as to the number of lines of text they could display. The only redeeming value of the HD monitors is the newer LED monitors are flat at about ½” deep and about 3lbs. Compared against 18” deep and ~50 lbs. When I go on the road, the HD monitor fell into the must-have category.

Last November, I upgraded my workstation to incorporate a 39” 4K QHD monitor (TV/monitor) with resolution of 3840 x 2160 (thus “Quad HD”). One LED monitor, about 2” deep with four times the area and resolution of an HD monitor. Now I am spoiled and do not want to go back. The following is a sample desktop:

The IDE (upper left) has gobs of space for code and variables, the application window on right has plenty of space to view a simulation run, and lower Ieft I have room to keep up with email.

This workstation, occasionally runs long duration simulations (days or weeks). So often, while I am not coding on something else, I will use a notebook and Remote Desktop to attach to the workstation. Prior to a new acquisition, my notebook had limited screen resolution a 1280 x 800:

Effectively no room to have a workable IDE session and application session, not to mention the other “stuff” I’d like to see.

This all changed in January, when I obtained what I would classify another must-have piece of technology: Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro 13” Ultrabook. Apart from being light weight and ample processing power with the Core i5 Haswell CPU, one of the must-have features of this Ultrabook is its display with 3200 x 1800 resolution. This display brings back the productivity improvements of a multi-monitor or (near) 4K solution. The Remote Desktop looks like:

While some space is lost, nearly all of the functionality is retained. Although the text is tiny, it is sharp and readable (assuming your eyesight is good). Some of the tiny text can be rectified by increasing the font size in the IDE (Ctrl wheel roll) or by sitting closer to the screen much like holding you cell phone closer.

The only improvements I could ask for are:

A larger screen 15” or 17” would be nice.
Move the !@#$% Windows key
Fn key modified to have a toggle with LED like the Caps Lock

Regarding the placement of the Windows key:

Several times now, I’ve had the occasion to hit the Windows key in combination with some other key(s) resulting in the immediate termination of the application such as Word or Outlook composition of email, causing loss of hours of work. This is functionally equivalent to Alt-F4 (kill nasty app without notification). Note, the touch screen has a separate Windows button area between the display and bottom of display cover. This makes the keyboard Windows key redundant.

Regarding Fn key:

When used as multi-media device you would like the function keys to act as they do now. However, when used from, Visual Studio, Word, Excel or other traditional productivity application, one would prefer the traditional function key behavior. Having a Fn toggle capability would solve both requirements.

As for accessories, I would like to see them offer a separate re-worked lid that could function as an add-on monitor. Being of same length and width, it would fit nicely into your shoulder bag.

Jim Dempsey

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