Articles: Monitors

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So, are TN matrixes so bad after all? Well, no. For example, I’m writing this report using a TN matrix. But they do have a number of definite drawbacks, the most annoying of which concerns the viewing angles. Although TN technology has progressed over the recent years, it is still uncomfortable to watch a movie on such a matrix while lying on a sofa. The image gets dark when viewed from below, its top part differing from the bottom in brightness. The brightness and color reproduction of a TN matrix change as soon as you move your head relative to the screen. These changes are quite visible to the eye. Again, the bottom of a TN matrix gets bright when viewed from above. When viewed from below, the top of the matrix gets dark.

The monitor manufacturers had even invented a new method of measuring the viewing angles especially for TN matrixes in order to frighten the customer less. They began to measure the angles for a contrast ratio reduction to 5:1 rather than 10:1 as with VA and S-IPS matrixes. As a result, the specified viewing angles of TN matrixes grew from 130-140 degrees to 160 degrees – only on paper, of course. Moreover, even those 140 degrees (70 degrees into either side from the normal to the screen) were the angle at which the picture already stood no criticism rather than the angle at which you noticed any changes in it.

The manufacturers are now trying to return to the single method of measuring the viewing angles. Samsung’s latest series of TN-based monitors are declared to have viewing angles of 160 degrees according to the 10:1 method. But since the use of the relaxed method was never advertised (at the best it was mentioned with small print in a footer), the marketing effect from returning to the single measurement method can hardly be big.

As for VA and S-IPS matrixes, their viewing angles (measured according to the contrast ratio reduction to 10:1) have long become 178 degrees. In other words, the angles are limited by the screen bezel. In practice, you can spot a certain reduction of the contrast ratio on an S-IPS matrix without any changes in color reproduction when you deflect your head from the center of the screen. With a VA matrix you can see a bigger reduction of the contrast ratio and an additional tonal shift, yet these effects are far less conspicuous than with a TN matrix.

So, TN matrixes have conquered the market due to marketing rather than technical reasons. They are cheap and have a very good specified response time. Looking at the pretty number of 2 milliseconds printed large on the box and then at the pretty number on the price tag, the customer makes up his decision easily and buys a TN-based monitor. The more expensive VA and S-IPS matrixes enjoy lower demand now. It is unprofitable to make them, so they are leaving the production lines. Manufacturing professional monitors remains a rather stable business but their price is often unaffordable for people who might be interested in mainstream VA and S-IPS monitors. C’est la vie.

But what can we do if we are not satisfied with the characteristics of TN-based monitors and cannot afford one of the still available large VA-based monitors? Should we wait for new technologies such as OLED or FED that can hardly become mainstream until the next decade and will hardly be affordable even then?

Fortunately, Lenovo and Samsung have taken care about us. I mentioned above that 22-inch monitors were originally introduced with TN matrixes. No other matrix type was available for this diagonal. However, Samsung has recently released a 22-inch S-PVA matrix (LTM220CS01) while Lenovo has introduced a monitor based on that matrix. The monitor is called ThinkVision L220x.

I should also note that EIZO offers a 22-inch S-PVA monitor as well. It is the S2231WSE model but we haven’t yet had a chance to test it.

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