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LG's UltraFine 5K Display Becomes Useless When It's Within Two Meters of a Router ( 173

The LG UltraFine 5K Display was designed in part by Apple to work with the New MacBook Pro and as a replacement for the Thunderbolt Display, which was discontinued late last year. According to 9to5Mac, the display apparently wasn't designed to work next to routers as it will flicker, disconnect, or freeze computers when it's within two meters of a router due to electromagnetic interference. The Verge reports: In emails to 9to5Mac, LG acknowledged the problem -- which LG says isn't an issue for any of its other monitors -- noting that routers "may affect the performance of the monitor" and that users should "have the router placed at least two meters away from the monitor" to avoid issues. Once the monitor was moved into a different room away from the router, 9to5Mac says the issues subsided. Despite the fact that it's insane to require a router to be far away from what is likely the main computer in your home, there's been no indication that LG is working on a fix for the issue, which may be more troublesome.
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LG's UltraFine 5K Display Becomes Useless When It's Within Two Meters of a Router

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  • by lucm ( 889690 ) on Monday January 30, 2017 @08:30PM (#53770625)

    users should "have the router placed at least two meters away from the monitor" to avoid issues

    This reminds me of the uuencode bug in Outlook that made the body of the email invisible if the message started with "begin ". The solution on Microsoft's website back then was to use "start" or "commence" instead of "begin" when writing an email.

    • by msauve ( 701917 )
      In this case "router" actually means wireless access point (some of which also have Internet NAT gateways, which some people call routers).
      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Presumably it's due to high energy transmissions in the 2.4GHz band then... So a computer with wifi card or long range Bluetooth might affect it too. Does it crap out whenever your phone powers up the wifi radio?

        I'm in the market for a 5k display. Can you get Thunderbolt to DisplayPort adapters? Might be able to get one cheap when they have a fire sale if you can live with this issue (or are willing to wrap it in tinfoil).

        • by Alioth ( 221270 )

          Thunderbolt *is* DisplayPort (precisely, a superset of DisplayPort). Apple computers usually use the mini DisplayPort style connector, but if your DisplayPort display uses a fullsize DisplayPort cable, cheap adapters are readily available.

      • I agree that is a useful clarification for businesses but for home users. That normally will have a cable modem, router and wireless access point as part of one unit called a router. A normally call it a wireless router mostly because I use the cable modem provided by isp as just as the final gateway and use my one router/access point so I have my own control of my network.
        But the solution to move it past the Display even 2 meters isn't a good answer.
        If someone is going to be using a high end monitor. The

    • by Z00L00K ( 682162 ) on Monday January 30, 2017 @10:25PM (#53771307) Homepage

      How am I now going to do my woodworking?

    • well, that explains what happened to all my "begin starting to commence" messages...
      At least "prepare to standby" messages worked.
      • by lucm ( 889690 )

        Those where the good old days. You could type this in an email:

        begin 644 iloveyou.vbs

        and people who received this in outlook would see an empty message with an empty attachment called iloveyou.vbs. Endless fun!

        • and in those days nothing warmed your soul like an attached VB script file and that string of text...
          Oh wait, it was pants that got warmed...
          Back then I think the ILOVEYOU was the message subject. But just seeing the two things together would freak most users out and light up the phone.
          Ahh, the good old days when attachments were the boogieman...
    • They're definitely making this an Apple-like product. They match pace with "You're holding it wrong" with their own "You're letting it stand still in the wrong place"

  • Shielding? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bussdriver ( 620565 ) on Monday January 30, 2017 @08:31PM (#53770629)

    Perhaps they don't have proper shielding? or is this a USB-C cable related problem?

    Somebody should experiment by covering it up in various ways and see where the problem is. Start with the cable... since USB-C seems to have not been well thought out.

    • by ddtmm ( 549094 )
      Yep, exactly. They could have done a bit of rudimentary troubleshooting before posting the problem.
    • Surely it shouldn't have passed it's FCC (and CE etc) certification if it can't handle interference from other devices?
    • Re:Shielding? (Score:5, Informative)

      by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <> on Tuesday January 31, 2017 @07:54AM (#53773129) Homepage Journal

      It's not USB-C that is the problem, it's Thunderbolt. USB 3.1 supports up to 10Gb/sec through a USB-C connector. Thunderbolt pushes that up to 40Gb/sec. So naturally cables designed for USB 3.1 compliance are not designed to be run at 4x the data rate, meaning you need special cables certified for Thunderbolt 3 use which look the same and have the same connector as USB 3.1 cables do. Even worse you have cheap USB-C cables and adapters that are only designed for 5Gb/sec or even 0.5Gb/sec.

      Naturally Thunderbolt 3 cables very, very expensive. Therefore people will naturally try to use much cheaper USB cables, and often they will work. The whole thing was a disaster waiting to happen.

  • I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest it's the hotspot doing it.

    • We're not on a teckie website, so they don't know and call any wireless access point a router, like Walmart. Well, it does indeed route, also, but the problem here is its wireless AP function...
      • by Dahamma ( 304068 )

        If you want to get teckienical, the problem is RF interference.

        For all we know a cordless home phone, microwave, or cell phone sitting under the monitor could screw it up. In any case, something wasn't properly RF shielded...

        • by arth1 ( 260657 )


          "This device complies with part 15 of the FCC Rules. Operation is subject to the following two conditions: (1) This device may not cause harmful interference, and (2) this device must accept any interference received, including interference that may cause undesired operation ."

          • Well, it accepts the interference and then allows it to cause undesired operation, so it looks like it's perfectly compliant.

          • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

            And to be clear, when they say "accept" they mean "not catch fire", not that it must work properly.

          • Yep.

            "This device complies with part 15 of the FCC Rules. Operation is subject to the following two conditions: (1) This device may not cause harmful interference, and (2) this device must accept any interference received, including interference that may cause undesired operation ."

            Well, something is breaking (1).

            • by arth1 ( 260657 )

              Well, something is breaking (1).

              No, it isn't. The interference from the access point isn't harmful. It is accepted and causes undesired operation.

  • This seems strange (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mhkohne ( 3854 ) on Monday January 30, 2017 @08:33PM (#53770649) Homepage

    Given the amount of money and time poured into these products, you'd think they'd have done proper EMI susceptibility at some point. It's moderately expensive, but easy enough for LG to afford.

    If I owned one of these, I'd have to be pushing for them to take it back - there's bound to be other devices that trigger the problem than routers.

    • by lucm ( 889690 ) on Monday January 30, 2017 @08:44PM (#53770713)

      Are you talking about QA? This is crazy expensive. To find this bug they would have had to setup a test environment similar to what end users would have; the price tag for that would have been a one-time expense of a thousand dollars, plus labor. There's just no way either LG or Apple could afford that.

    • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Monday January 30, 2017 @08:50PM (#53770749)

      Given the amount of money and time poured into these products

      Have you ever worked for a big company? It is quite common for product teams to be starved of resources for a number of reasons, often driven by office politics. This was an orphan project dumped by Apple, and I doubt if it is selling well, since no one else is making a USB-C monitor, and this is a 27" monitor, a size that has been available for Macs for 6 years. Every Mac user that wants a 27" monitor already has one, and the extra resolution makes no perceptible difference at that size. If they had actually thought this through, this would be a 30" - 36" 5k monitor that people would actually want to buy.

      • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Monday January 30, 2017 @09:30PM (#53771027) Homepage

        "It is quite common for product teams to be starved of resources for a number of reasons, often driven by moron executives"


      • "This monitor comes with so many pixels, you won't even know there are that many!"

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <> on Tuesday January 31, 2017 @03:59AM (#53772549) Homepage Journal

        5k at 27" is actually the ideal size and resolution.

        The de-facto standard for computer displays is 96 DPI. A 24" monitor with 2k resolution (1920x1080) has around 96 DPI. Everything looks about the right size on screen, the size it was designed to look good at.

        If you move up to 4k then ideally you want 200% scaling. Double every pixel. That way things will at least look no worse than a 2k monitor, and vector images like fonts will be nice and sharp. So 4k at 24" is the ideal. All these 27" and 32" 2k monitors require awkward scaling ratios of 175% or 150% and end up looking crap.

        Apple knows this which is why they always go for 2x the old resolution with their "retina" displays. The ideal 96 DPI resolution at 27" is 2560x1440, which doubled gives you 5k. This monitor is the right size and resolution.

  • Otherwise it might cause the monitor to go into an infinite boot loop.
  • Router? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Scutter ( 18425 )

    When did we start calling wireless access points "routers"? Oh, sure, I know lots of consumer routers have access points built in, and maybe I'm just being pedantic, but come on already. We already use the word "router" for something and we already had a perfectly good word for "access point". I had to dig through three articles before I learned what the actual problem was.

    • by msauve ( 701917 )
      When did we start calling NAT gateways "routers?" A router should at least support, oh, a routing protocol like RIP or OSPF. I don't think most of them can even do simple routing between 2 subnets, without NAT.
    • Re:Router? (Score:5, Funny)

      by PPH ( 736903 ) on Monday January 30, 2017 @09:51PM (#53771133)

      I tried an LG display next to my router. It works just fine, but it gets covered with sawdust pretty quickly. I'm going to test it with the table saw next.

  • by OzPeter ( 195038 ) on Monday January 30, 2017 @09:03PM (#53770829)

    In new Chinese year of Rooster, the most correct Feng Shui location for illustrious LG monitor is diametrically opposite the WAP when WAP in same room. If your abode is too small to for this most beautiful solution, retire WAP to original box of delivery and borrow most fine neighbors internet connection.

    • by Imrik ( 148191 )

      What if your neighbors on either side have their WAPs against the shared walls?

      • by worf_mo ( 193770 )

        Tear down said shared walls -- which as a side benefit will improve your Feng Shui-ishness and make your small abode look larger -- and retire your neighbours' WAPs to their original boxes of delivery. Work offline. Less is more!

  • My router is next to my cable modem, which is next to the cable TV coax outlet in the family room behind the TV. When I had DSL, it was next to my DSL modem, which was next to the wall phone jack. Neither of these were located anywhere near my main computer (den/bedroom). That's why they invented Ethernet cables and WiFi - so your computer doesn't have to be right next to your router.

    Ohhhhhh, wait, I get it. They're testing this with a Macbook Pro, which doesn't have an Ethernet jack, so they're usin
  • If the problem lies in the router being 2 meters away, just put the router _6_ feet away!

  • The display doesn't become useless within two meters of a router - the display renders a router within two meters useless (if I read this correctly).
  • by uncqual ( 836337 ) on Monday January 30, 2017 @10:44PM (#53771411)

    Elsewhere I read that LG recommended a simple workaround. Just put your wireless router in a Faraday cage and your LG monitor will work fine when it's nearby the router.

    Although they recommend a certified LG brand "Wireless Router Faraday Cage" that they will be launching soon, I understand that Monster Cable will also be announcing one that works better -- something to do with the gold content and balanced geometry apparently.

  • You are holding it wrong, you are placing it wrong, you don't need a headphone jack, you don't need sd card and standard usb ports... get the gist?

  • by Plocmstart ( 718110 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2017 @12:01AM (#53771845)

    I get to deal with weird stuff like this at work all the time. Based on the behavior, I'd guess there's a clock and/or data running at a harmonic of the wifi data. Freezing seems to indicate it's coupling into the core of the LCD controller board, which again I would guess is a timing violation or data corruption. Where it's coupling in is a bit hard to determine without further testing. It could be the video cable, could be the power cable (not likely), could be the LCD panel itself acting as an antenna, or an interconnect cable that is poorly shielded or just the right length to couple in wifi. It could also be power supply ripple caused by a feedback loop getting energy coupled in, though if that's possible then there's not enough timing margin to begin with.

    I suggest a number of tests to narrow down details of the source:
    - Test 2.4GHz and 5GHz independently. Test each wifi channel independently.
    - Try a different length cable. Try a different brand cable. Does this monitor remain on with nothing connected? If so then try it with no cable, or no PC at the end.
    - Try different antenna angles. Try different TX power levels (at what level does it start). []
    Based on those results I'd have more recommendations.

    If someone wants the real root cause, feel free to send me one and I'll debug it (though it will probably require disassembly).

  • Although with him it's more like 15m.
  • Compliance failure (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ukoda ( 537183 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2017 @12:36AM (#53771985) Homepage
    As someone who has produced a few products sold around the world I can't see how this monitor reached the retail selves. To sell you generally need to pass immunity and emissions compliance test to FCC or CE standards depending on the market. Emissions means you don't transmit signals above a specified levels and immunity requires your products are not affected below a specified level. The levels vary with frequency and standards but generally the immunity threshold is several magnitudes higher than the emissions thresholds for non-transmitting devices. The WiFi device is an intentional radiator so is allowed higher emissions levels, at it operating band, but immunity levels for the monitor should be able to handle it easily.

    It sounds like a clear failure of the LG monitor and if the nature of the failure reported is correct it sounds like it is not up to standard for immunity. Assuming the problem reported is in the USA then it will be the FCC standards that apply. If I was an owner of an affected LG monitor I would be demanding a copy of the immunity compliance test report. The test report will document what power level was used for the WiFi frequencies and these can be compared with the legal limit for WiFi devices.

    Bottom line is this should never happen on modern products. I know my teams have spent many hours modifying product designs to ensure compliance before we release to market. If LG have not done this then they need to step up and fix the problem at their expense, before the FCC demand a product recall.
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      CE and the relevant FCC bits are self-certified. If your product is not an intentional radiator (i.e. it doesn't have any kind of RF transmitter in it) then you can just self-certify that it has the required level of shielding, doesn't accidentally radiate too much and shouldn't catch fire if you put a wifi router next to it.

      You only need to get it externally tested if you are deliberately transmitting, which the LG monitor is not. It is likely that they never bothered to test it, because they have establis

      • by ukoda ( 537183 )
        I suspect you are right in this case but it is still inexcusable. I work so a similar size company and if we self certify we still test internally and have records to back up our test. To be fair I suspect it the emissions testing we focus on but I know we specifically test against frequencies know to be used near our gear. For example our marine products are tested near a 25W VHF transmitter etc. Secondly we have reputation to up hold, if customers reported such a thing we would test to reproduce and mo
      • by jabuzz ( 182671 )

        Still means that they are selling a product that is not compliant and they need to step up and fix it. Personally if was me I would be ringing up LG and demanding a full refund for a none compliant product while in the meantime informing trading standards (I live in the UK) that LG are selling products that are not CE compliant by their own admission.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          It's compliant with the CE/FCC requirements, in that it doesn't explode when the route is near it. I'm not 100% sure about the FCC stuff, but the CE requirements are safety and non-interference with other devices only, it can malfunction (in a safe manner) all it likes.

          But yeah, I'd return it. Laws vary but where I live, if there is a design defect that the vendor can't correct in a reasonable length of time (typically 28 days) you are entitled to a full refund in the first six months, no question. In fact

    • 99% of compliance is about the emission. Immunity compliance can basically be achieved by a 2 year old with a fun way into electronics diagram. There's little to nothing that requires your device to operate in the presence of interference. There's some regarding permanent damage and damage to other devices but in general the device is probably will within CE and FCC regulations.

      • by ukoda ( 537183 )
        Yep, you are right. I have only ever had one product fail immunity testing during product development and it was trivial to fix. Emissions is always the harder one with the standards becoming tougher over the years and the number of fast signals increasing in designs. A significant number of our designs need design changes to address emissions before reaching the market.
    • by adolf ( 21054 )

      This device complies with Part 15 of the FCC Rules. Operation is subject to the following two conditions: (1) this device may not cause harmful interference, and (2) this device must accept any interference received, including interference that may cause undesired operation.

      (emphasis mine)

      • by ukoda ( 537183 )
        That is true for Part 15 but there are other regs, certainly in CE, that specifically spell out that products must operate normally in the presence of defined emissions. Even without EMC reg most countries have fit for purpose consumer laws and any home or office equipment that is not immune to the low power transmitters used by WiFi transmitters would not be considered fit for purpose.
        • The FCC doesn't care.

          CE doesn't matter to me in the US.

          It is unfit for the purpose, I think, but that is a matter for consumer protection laws - not bodies that govern RF emissions.

          • by ukoda ( 537183 )

            The FCC doesn't care.

            True, but they should.

            CE doesn't matter to me in the US.

            True as a consumer. As a manufacture you make for world markets and if you pass CE then FCC is usually easier to pass.

            It is unfit for the purpose, I think, but that is a matter for consumer protection laws - not bodies that govern RF emissions.

            Also true, but EMC compliance gives you a tool to argue your case under consumer protection laws.

  • So if I switch on Internet Sharing on my MBPro or start tethering on my smartphone the screen goes belly up? Did anyone ever use that monitor at LG before shipping it? Really?
    That's so "it compiles, let's ship it" mentality
  • It's not just the aesthetics, though that's a big part of it. Apple overbuilt a lot of their peripherals, even though they could've made them much cheaper. But they weren't flimsy and I don't recall a time where interference was a problem. We don't know if Apple would've made a better monitor today, but past experience makes me think that they probably would've. User experience out of the box is (used to be?) priority one, and it's what's kept so many of us loyal for so long.

  • LG to their customers: "You're routing it wrong".

  • To make up for what I assume they forgot to put on the inside of the back cover? Or do people just need to wrap some around the cable? What obvious and standard part of a monitor or cable did they forget?
  • When say a Ham radio operator starts operating on 2.5 Ghz at high power. The ham has legal priority. Too bad, so sad

    LG screwed up

  • by ArhcAngel ( 247594 ) on Tuesday January 31, 2017 @09:36AM (#53773665)
    I was working with a customer on an issue with their new Sceptre 14" CRT monitor some years back. The thing just would not sync. It looked like the scrambled signal you would see when you were trying to watch HBO and you didn't have a subscription (or one of those descramblers you got out of the back of a truck somewhere). After hours without success we called Sceptre support. After describing the problem they advised us we needed to point the monitor due North to align with the Earth's magnetic poles. Once we got off the floor from laughing I went about determining due North and swivel the monitor thus. The picture cleared.

... when fits of creativity run strong, more than one programmer or writer has been known to abandon the desktop for the more spacious floor. -- Fred Brooks