Articles: Monitors

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19 Inch Models

Although this sector is far more interesting, I want to make it clear right away: if you want an all-purpose 19-inch monitor with good color reproduction and large viewing angles for reasonable money, you won’t find one. There are no such monitors anymore.

Strictly speaking, there are at least two relatively inexpensive 19-inch models based on matrixes other than TN. I mean the NEC MultiSync EA191M and Samsung SyncMaster 943T. Both are based on PVA matrixes and thus offer large viewing angles and a good contrast ratio, but their response time is declared to be 20-25 milliseconds. For PVA technology it means that the matrixes are very slow and no good for playing games (you can learn this from our review of the SyncMaster 943T). These models are good for work, passable for movies (if you don’t mind watching movies on a nearly square screen measuring 1280x1024 pixels), but not suitable for games. Thus, they are not universal.

In my last-year advisory on choosing an LCD monitor I recommended NEC’s 19-inch MultiSync LCD1970NX and LCD1990SXi, both based on S-IPS matrixes, for image-processing applications. Alas, both have almost disappeared from shops by now. And even if you find them, you’ll be unpleasantly surprised at their pricing.

Thus, photographers and designers should consider larger diagonals whereas numerous TN-based models can be bought for home and family. Is it bad? Well, it’s bad because the small viewing angles of TN matrixes, despite some progress, are still a drawback. The top of the screen gets dark when you take a look at such a monitor from below.

However, I don’t share the radical opinion that all TN technology is evil. I was using a Samsung SyncMaster T190 at my work for quite a long time and I can’t say that its viewing angles were a problem for me, even when I edited photographs.

TN technology is not good in two cases, I guess: when you need a monitor for professional processing of photographs and when you want to watch movies while lying on a sofa. A professional monitor has always been a serious investment – you can hardly hope to find one in the relatively inexpensive sector of the LCD monitor market. In the second case, you are looking at the screen from below and can feel the lack of viewing angles of a TN matrix. And while this problem is not crucial for 19-inchers (few people watch movies on a small screen from a distance), it is a problem indeed with larger TN-based monitors.

That said, TN matrixes are quite suitable for ordinary home/office applications. What characteristics should you take into account?

Response time. With modern monitors, this parameter can be 5 milliseconds and higher or 4 milliseconds and lower. It does not matter how much higher or lower. The separating line goes between these two numbers. The specified response time of 5 milliseconds is indicative of the lack of response time compensation whereas 4 milliseconds mean that RTC is present. The response time parameter is measured by two different methods in these two cases and 4ms monitors prove to be three or four times as fast as 5ms ones if the same method were used.

However, RTC is not impeccable. It is accompanied with visual artifacts that show up as light trails behind moving objects, rainbow patterns in a translucent haze, etc. Among the TN-based monitors we have tested so far in our labs only a few models from ASUS showed good response time without noticeable artifacts.

On the other hand, 5ms monitors are not very slow, either. They are good enough for games and more than enough for movies. Therefore I wouldn’t recommend you to search for a monitor with as low response time as possible. I know people who bought a 2ms monitor but then disabled response time compensation in its menu, thus transforming it into a 5ms model, because they could not put up with the RTC-provoked artifacts.

I don’t meant that 2ms monitors are bad, either. What I’m driving at is that low response time is not always an advantage. If you like some 5ms model, you should not worry about its specified response time. Most likely, you won’t feel much difference from 2ms monitors in practice.

Contrast ratio can be static or dynamic. The static contrast ratio is normally about 1000:1 whereas the dynamic contrast ratio can be somewhere from 2000:1 to 20,000:1. Sometimes the manufacturer specifies the latter contrast ratio only to impress the customer with the zeroes. In fact, you can disregard the specified value altogether. The difference between 800:1 and 1000:1 cannot be spotted with a naked eye (and it may even be nonexistent because the contrast ratio of an LCD matrix is measured under laboratory conditions and can be applied to the specific monitor with its settings with some reservations only). The dynamic contrast ratio is only useful for movies and its value of 5000:1 is already quite enough – a further increase won’t produce a big effect.

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