Articles: Monitors

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A few years ago, in 2003 or about that time, many analysts were predicting a bright future for LCD panels manufactured using MVA and PVA technologies (both have similar characteristics and are often referred to jointly as just VA). Such panels seemed to be a reasonable compromise between expensive S-IPS on one hand and TN+Film, which had neither high image quality nor low response time, on the other hand. Thus, TN matrixes were expected to populate the bottom market sector, S-IPS the top sector, and VA would take the golden mean.

Unfortunately, this prediction never came true. The crucial moment was the introduction of “fast” TN matrixes with a specified response time of 16 milliseconds. Yes, we know today that those 16 milliseconds were only achieved on the transition from pure black to pure white whereas on halftone transitions a regular TN matrix of that time could be as slow as 40 milliseconds. VA matrixes were hardly faster then, though. Having a specified response time of 25 milliseconds (on the black-white-black transition), they could be as slow as 100 milliseconds and more on transitions between dark halftones.

Thus, TN technology had got two trumps: low price and a pretty number in the specs. And it is the response time parameter that most customers base their choice of the monitor on. VA technology began to retreat.

The market superiority of TN matrixes developed over the following years. Their response time decreased to 12 and then to 8 milliseconds. Although these numbers had little to do with reality (because the matrix could only show such a high speed when displaying a black-and-white picture without any halftones), they did affect the customer’s buying decision.

And then response time compensation technology (it may also called response time acceleration, Overdrive, and some other names by particular vendors) came to solve the problem of high response time on halftone transitions. As a result, RTC-enabled VA matrixes acquired a response time of below 15 milliseconds while TN matrixes, 4 and then 2 milliseconds. What is important, in both cases it is the real response time, measured according to the new method as the average of all the transitions between all possible halftones (this method is referred to as Gray-to-Gray or GtG) as opposed to the old method that measured the black-white-black transition only (referred to as Black-to-White, BtW or ISO 13406-2 according to the name of the standard that describes it).

RTC-enabled monitors with every matrix type had become universal in terms of home-multimedia applications. VA-based monitors now could be used for anything, including games. Did this help them regain their market share? No. VA matrixes had become faster but TN were faster still: 2-4 milliseconds (GtG) of TN matrixes as opposed to 6-8 milliseconds (GtG) of VA matrixes. For many customers these numbers were quite definitive. Not all users knew what these milliseconds actually meant and were needed for. Moreover, TN remained cheaper as before.

As a consequence, we can now see a total invasion of TN-based monitors that are ousting every other manufacturing technology. In the 19-inch sector you can only find the slow SyncMaster 943T from Samsung (a 25 milliseconds PVA matrix without RTC) and the expensive semiprofessional 1990SXi from NEC (an S-IPS matrix). Among 20-inch and 21-inch monitors nearly every popular model based on an S-IPS or VA matrix (Dell’s 2007FP and 2007WFP, Samsung’s SyncMaster 215TW, Philips’s 200P7ES and 200WP7ES) is now out of production and off the shop shelves. 22-inchers were introduced with TN matrixes originally. As for 24-inch monitors, most of the new products announced throughout the latest months are based on TN (Samsung’s SyncMaster 2493HM and T240, BenQ’s G2400W, NEC’s AccuSync LCD24WMCX, etc). Even huge 26.5-inch monitors now use TN technology. I guess the 30-inch diagonal is the only one left which is totally free from TN. Every 30-incher is based on either VA or S-IPS so far, but I’m afraid this will change soon, too.

Well, I don’t mean that there are no VA- or S-IPS-based monitors with a diagonal below 24 inches at all. There are just no mainstream models with moderate prices. Professional solutions such as NEC’s MultiSync LCD2090UXi or Samsung’s SyncMaster XL20 will be available for long but their pricing is sure to repel a large share of customers. These monitors are intended for people who need precise color reproduction, wide setup opportunities and nonstandard characteristics. They were expensive and will always be expensive. It wouldn’t be wise to buy such a monitor unless you are sure you really need this specific model with all of its special features.

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