This article is an explanation of methods we use to test LCD monitors. It provides a list of tested parameters with remarks on their meaning, and a description of the measuring instruments.
Our methods are being regularly improved and updated so some of them may not have been used in our older reviews of LCD monitors. It means the method was developed after the review had been published. The list of changes to this article can be found at its end.
This article provides a basic description of LCD monitor parameters to give you some bearings as you are reading our reviews. If you want to have a deeper knowledge of an issue, you can read the following full-size publications:
- X-bit’s Guide: Contemporary LCD Monitor Parameters and Characteristics
- LCD Panels with Response Time Compensation: 7 Monitors Reviewed
- Contemporary LCD Monitor Parameters: Objective and Subjective Analysis
If you want to view test results of a particular LCD monitor, you may try to find it in the detailed list of tested monitors that will be coming out shortly.
We connect the tested monitor to a PC with a Sapphire Radeon X1650 graphics card (for 20” and larger monitors – the choice of the card is due to the necessity to use Dual-Link DVI mode for 30” models) or a Sapphire Radeon X600 (for 19” models). We use a digital connection (DVI-D) unless the monitor offers an analog input only.
When applied to LCD monitors, ergonomics means the options you have to adjust the position of the monitor case. These are determined by the employed stand and may include tilt (it is usually some 5 degrees forward and 10-15 degrees backward), rotation around the vertical axis, screen height adjustment, and portrait mode.
The rotation around the vertical axis can be implemented in two ways: with a rotating circle in the sole of the base (e.g. in Samsung monitors) or with a joint in the vertical pole of the stand (e.g. in Dell monitors). The latter implementation is somewhat better since the base of the stand remains motionless.
The screen height adjustment is usually implemented through changing the length of the vertical pole of the stand although there exist more sophisticated designs like two- or three-joint folding stands in Samsung’s and some other brands’ monitors. Anyway, the height adjustment range we mention in our reviews is the distance from the surface of the desk to the bottom of the matrix as shown in the photograph.
It’s good if the stand can be fixed in the bottommost position. If it doesn’t, and the monitor just lies on its stand, the stand will stretch to its full length with a terrible rumble as soon as you try to lift the monitor up from the desk or out of its box. The fixation can be implemented as a button (Dell, HP) or a wire pin inserted into a hole in the stand (Samsung, ViewSonic). It is only intended for carrying the monitor. The screen is not fixed in any other position save for the bottommost one.
Portrait mode is available on many monitors, yet you should be aware that widespread TN matrixes are practically unsuitable for it. Their narrow vertical viewing angles become horizontal viewing angles in this mode, which is downright unacceptable in terms of image quality.
Most monitors also permit to replace their native stand with standard VESA-compatible mounts that come in a lot of varieties from simple wall mounts to intricate stands with multiple joints, adjustments and degrees of freedom. The mount is fastened to four threaded holes at the monitor’s back panel placed in the corners of a square with a side of 75 or 100 millimeters.
Another ergonomics-related aspect is how easy it is to control the monitor. This covers the onscreen menu design, the position of the control buttons, and quick access to certain functions. Quick access means that you can access, say, the brightness setting with a single press of a button, without entering the menu proper. A PC monitor is usually set up once and for all. After that, the user can occasionally adjust brightness and contrast (for example, when switching from work to games or to compensate for any changes in the ambient lighting), and it’s nice to have quick access to such frequently used features.
And finally, some monitors offer preset modes like LG’s f-Engine, Samsung’s MagicBright and NEC’s DV Mode. These are switched through with a single button. There is usually one ordinary user-defined mode and a number of factory-set modes which cannot be changed. The modes may differ not only in brightness and contrast but also in other settings like color temperature or color saturation. It is better to have only brightness/contrast presets because monitors that change more settings often have distorted colors in such predefined modes.
These are the modes offered by the Samsung SyncMaster 215TW. In the Custom mode you can select any values you like and then quickly switch to a factory preset with a press of a button on the front panel. This switching does not reset you own settings – you’ll have them again as soon as you return to the Custom mode.