Articles: Monitors

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Use the following link for a description of our testing methodology, the equipment we use, and a brief explanation of what the specified and tested parameters of LCD monitors mean: X-bit Labs Presents: LCD Monitors Testing Methodology In Depth. If you feel overwhelmed with the numbers and terms this article abounds in, check out an appropriate section of the mentioned article for an explanation.

Our methods have changed somewhat since the earlier reviews. We now use a Spyder 3 Elite calibrator instead of a Spyder Pro. The newer calibrator is more accurate at measuring the level of black. The contrast ratio results in our tests have increased as the consequence due to the increased measurement accuracy.

The L220x is interesting not only due to its matrix type but also due to the non-typical resolution (for a 22-inch model). Its native resolution is 1920x1200 pixels. You don’t need a special graphics card or even a dual-link DVI output to support this resolution. Every modern graphics card, including notebooks’ cards, supports it via DVI. Of course, DVI is desirable because analog connection does not always yield a sharp image.

That’s why I was greatly surprised to see such a low-sharpness image on the screen of the ThinkVision L220x that it was virtually impossible to work with text. The connection was digital. This didn’t resemble the classic blur like at analog connection or when working at a non-native resolution. There was a gray shadow, one pixel wide, to the left of each black vertical line, including fonts.

Realizing I was dealing with a defective sample, I exchanged it for another. Both samples of the L220x had firmware M10, but the first was dated March 2008 and the second, February 2008.

The second monitor was much better, yet not ideally sharp, either.

As you can see, there is a one-pixel shadow above horizontal black lines now. I could work more or less normally at this monitor so I didn’t exchange it for another sample. However, the fuzziness is not altogether inconspicuous.

For comparison, and to prove that the shadow is not a defect of the snapshot, I can show a snapshot of a SyncMaster T220P, another 22-inch monitor with a resolution of 1920x1200 pixels but with a TN matrix.

Samsung SyncMaster T220P

As you see, the sharpness is ideal. There are no shadows here. While the defect of the L220x is not eye-catching, you notice it as soon as you compare the L220x with the T220P or any other monitor.

So, it seems like some samples of the ThinkVision L220x have an inherent defect. They yield a low-sharpness picture even when connected via DVI and working at the native resolution. This defect can vary from barely visible to very strong, and I cannot explain it. The two samples I dealt with differed in the manufacture date, and the newer sample was far worse than the older one.

I can only give you this piece of advice: when purchasing a ThinkVision L220x you must check out its image sharpness at DVI connection and 1920x1200 resolution. If the image is not sharp enough, refuse to buy the given sample because this defect cannot be corrected by any settings.

As for the increased native resolution (1920x1200 instead of the traditional 1680x1050), it means that the L220x has a small pixel pitch. As a result, icons, fonts and other interface elements of the OS and applications are going to look smaller (you can try to scale them up, but not all applications support such scaling). So, if fonts seem too small to you on 17-inch (1280x1024) and 20-inch (1680x1050) monitors, the ThinkVision L200x will hardly suit you. But if you prefer a smaller pixel pitch, from the notebook’s 12-inch (1280x800) to huge 30-inch panels (2560x1600), the L220x will be okay. Its small pixel pitch ensures more accurate, detailed rendition of images, smooth lines of fonts, and superb display of photographs (without the unnaturally increased sharpness typical of large-pixel monitors). In other words, this is a matter of your personal taste and visual acuity but you must consider this issue before purchasing the L220x due to its nonstandard resolution. I personally had no problems with the L220x’s native resolution despite my poor eyesight and spectacles.

The monitor has 80% brightness and 85% contrast by default. I achieved a 100nit level of white by selecting 30% brightness and 34% contrast. To remind you, the 100nit white is a reference point in our tests. This brightness is appropriate for working under good lighting at the office. When achieving it we try to reduce the brightness and contrast settings in the same measure in order to see if there appear any problems with color reproduction. If you want to know how to set the monitor up for your personal workplace, I’ve given my advice in the previous section.

The monitor regulates its brightness by means of backlight modulation at a frequency of 212Hz.

You should not increase the Contrast setting above 85% as it makes light halftones indistinguishable from white. The Brightness setting can be increased up to 100% without any problems.

Color gradients are reproduced perfectly at the default settings but barely visible banding can be seen at some other values of contrast. This is not a big problem, though.

According to my measurements, the monitor’s maximum brightness is about 360 nits, which is more than enough for movies and games even under bright daylight. The contrast ratio is as high as 800:1, which is a superb result, too.

I expected the sRGB color temperature mode to yield the parameters described by the sRGB standard but it did not. The standard describes a brightness of 80 nits whereas this mode is four times as bright as that. You can’t work at the monitor at such settings. Even playing a game is going to be uncomfortable unless under bright daylight. It is not clear why the manufacturer implemented a separate mode with such odd settings.

The last column in the table is Custom, i.e. user-defined settings. They differ from the monitor’s default settings and were selected by me manually – I’ll tell you about them shortly when I’ll be discussing the color temperature measurements.

The ThinkVision L220x features an extended color gamut thanks to backlight lamps with improved phosphors. As the diagrams suggests, its color gamut matches the standard sRGB color space ordinary monitors more or less comply with, in reds and blues but is much larger in greens.

There is in fact one benefit from the extended color gamut. The L220x can display a very pure, saturated green whereas sRGB monitors produce green with a tincture of yellow. There are two drawbacks, though. First, photographs intended for sRGB monitors will have a shift of some halftones towards green (I wrote about this effect in an earlier article) unless you apply special correction. Second, the diagram shows that the point of green is shifted leftward rather than upward. As a result, the L220x offers a wider range of turquoise hues but cannot display some yellow hues.

To correct the mentioned problems at least partially, you should install a monitor’s ICC profile into your system and specify it in your image-editing software. You can download the profile I obtained with a DataColor Spyder 3 Elite calibrator here.

As for the sRGB mode in the color temperature screen of the monitor’s menu, it has no effect on the color gamut and does not bring the latter to the standard sRGB space.

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