Articles: Monitors
 

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Shopping for a Home or Office Monitor

The first section of the shopping related part of this article is going to be broad and unspecific. What do I mean by an office or home monitor, anyway? Well, it must be inexpensive and must have acceptable technical parameters. It may also look nice, but there are no specific requirements as to its color accuracy or other specs. So, I will give you some general recommendations rather than talk about specific models.

First off, you must decide what type of the LCD matrix you want. If you don’t know well why you need a PVA or an IPS matrix, you may as well buy a TN one. Today’s TN-based monitors produce a nice-looking picture, have a fast response time and cost very low. An average 23-inch model is going to cost you some $300. And there are entry-level models that will cost even less.

Reading through the monitor’s specs, you should check out if it has a DVI input. The DVI interface (or the DVI-compatible HDMI) is currently available on all discrete and on many integrated graphics cards. As opposed to an analog interface, it guarantees a sharp and high-quality picture. An analog connection may provoke problems at high resolutions such as dithering, fuzziness, and the necessity to adjust the monitor’s image up each time you turn it on. Well, the analog interface is going to be okay in most situations, but I do advise you to add $10 or something a buy a DVI-interfaced monitor. You will be safeguarded from the mentioned problems then.

Home-oriented TN monitors fall into two large categories in terms of response time: 2 milliseconds (GtG) and 5 milliseconds. They differ sharply because the former category is equipped with Response Time Compensation whereas the latter is not. If measured using the same method, the response time of the 5-millisecond models is going to be 12-15 milliseconds (GtG). The real difference is very large as you can see.

On the other hand, 5-millisecond models are fast enough for any applications save for dynamic games. They will even do for undemanding users even in games. Therefore, there is no point in preferring 2-millisecond models if your requirements are not very strict. As for gamers, I will discuss their requirements below.

When it comes to TN matrixes, you often don’t have to check out such parameters as contrast ratio and viewing angles. The former is specified for the LCD matrix and does not account for the monitor’s specific setup. And the latter parameter can be measured in two methods which do not count in possible color distortions. Thus, you should not take these numbers too seriously. It is much better to have a look at the monitor alive. A monitor with specified viewing angles of 160/160 degrees measured in one method may prove to be better than a monitor with specified viewing angles of 170/170 degrees measured with the other method.

The size of the screen should be determined by financial considerations in the first place. Besides, your choice may be affected by the pixel pitch you want to have (for example, many people find it difficult to discern small interface elements on the screen of 21.5-inch monitors with a native resolution of 1920x1080). Generally speaking, I think that 23- and 24-inch monitors with a Full-HD resolution of 1920x1080 pixels are the optimal choice today. They are rather inexpensive and have a large resolution for comfortable work and watching Full-HD movies in original quality. Their pixel pitch is neither too small nor too big. There is no point in buying a larger monitor for work because it will have the same resolution of 1920x1080 and will display the same amount of information. The larger monitors are meant for movies in the first place.

With this general approach, you have a broad choice of specific models. Basing on my experience, I can recommend you to consider the inexpensive Acer V233HABD, the original milk-white BenQ V2400 Eco or the beautiful and fast Samsung P2370H. These are by far not all the options available, of course.

22-inchers with a resolution of 1680x1050 are leaving the market. There is no point in buying one of them. Instead, you should add a little money and purchase a 23-incher with 1920x1080 which will be better from any point of view: larger resolution, larger screen, smaller pixel pitch (fonts look smoother as the result). Even if you are not planning to watch HD video right now and your graphics card cannot cope with high resolutions, you must keep it in mind that your monitor is going to serve you for a few years!

If your budget is limited, you may want to consider 20-inchers with a resolution of 1600x900, for example the surprisingly cheap yet good-quality Acer V203HCbd or the fast 2-millisecond Samsung P2050.


Acer V203HCbd

You should beware monitors with a diagonal of 21.5 inches (it is often rounded off to 22 inches sharp) and a resolution of 1920x1080. They have a very small pixel pitch, so you should first make sure that the interface elements won’t look too small to you, especially if you usually sit rather far from your monitor.

If you are ready to pay more for a monitor with really wide viewing angles, you should consider products with C-PVA and e-IPS matrixes I have discussed above. These are the Samsung SyncMaster F2380 (C-PVA) and NEC MultiSync EA231WMi (e-IPS). The latter model looks preferable. Although e-IPS matrixes are somewhat inferior to the more expensive S-IPS ones, it is really hard to find fault with them: wide viewing angles, high enough response time, good color accuracy. This particular model is handy and functional, featuring a DisplayPort, an integrated USB hub, a stand with height adjustment, a user-friendly menu, an ambient lighting sensor, and automatic brightness adjustment. Overall, the EA231WMi is a very good choice for demanding users.


NEC MultiSync EA231WMi

The Samsung is somewhat inferior in viewing angles and does not distinguish between very dark halftones. Instead, it offers a much higher contrast ratio, two DVI inputs, and a lower price. This monitor is available as a 20-inch version (SyncMaster F2080) which may be an excellent buy for users who want an affordable monitor with non-TN matrix.

It must be noted that neither the EA231WMi nor the F2080/F2380 can boast a really good response time. The former has no RTC altogether and the second and third models have RTC but it doesn’t work well on darks. These monitors are not too slow and roughly correspond to 5-millisecond TN matrixes, but you should take this into account if you like to play dynamic games.

Besides these three models, Dell’s IPS-based products can be mentioned: the 22-inch 2209WA and the 24-inch U2410. You may look for the Dell 2209WA if you want an inexpensive monitor with good viewing angles and a fast response time.

 
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