Articles: Monitors

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This article is the third installment of our detailed coverage of modern 17” LCD monitors. The testing methodology hasn’t changed since the second part, so feel free to check out this article for more details.

I wish we had equipment to measure the viewing angles of the monitors as this is the only serious parameter that’s “out of my sight” now. The problem is it’s not enough to measure the angles as the manufacturers do. According to current standards, the viewing angles are measured when the contrast ratio goes down to 10:1. Such measurements are relatively easy to perform, as you only need a photodiode with an objective lens. You set it at different degrees to the screen and measure the ratio of levels of white and black, i.e. the contrast ratio. That is exactly the way the manufacturers specify something like 160° for TN+Film matrixes, while you see it in practice that the white color becomes yellowish when you deflect by 45° from the center of the screen to a side, or the top of the screen becomes much darker than the bottom when you view it from below at an angle of 30°. This is the outcome of the standard method measuring just the contrast ratio, rather than the color precision. Moreover, the measurements are performed on the center of the screen only.

So, there is the following piece of advice for those who are looking for a monitor: don’t trust the specifications too much, as the approaches to creating those specifications do not necessarily correspond to what your eyes actually see.

After this short interlude, let’s pass over to our testing participants.

Acer AL1713

The monitor of a modest exterior (plain white color and silver rounded buttons) has a compact case, which is hardly typical of inexpensive models. The functionality is minimal: the base allows only changing the tilt of the screen, and there is only one (analog) input.

The settings menu is easy to navigate, but it is very slow. You press a button to enter some submenu, and it takes about a second for this submenu to appear. There is the bare minimum of image-related options: brightness, contrast, phase control, image position adjustment, and three variants of color temperature. One quick button provides access to the auto-adjustment feature, while the arrow buttons (“>” and “<”) do not work outside the menu.

The horizontal viewing angles are good, although the image starts getting yellow when you deflect from the center too much. It’s all as usual with the vertical angle: the image becomes lighter when viewed from above and darker when viewed from below.

The auto-adjustment feature works all right; the color reproduction is good enough, too.

The default color temperature (the “User” mode) corresponded to 5340K for white and 8010K for gray. When I chose the “Cool” option, the white color was 7490K hot, while gray became audaciously bluish, so that our calibrator couldn’t measure its temperature (it must have been high above 16,000K). With the “Warm” setting, the calibrator gave out 5460K for white and 7820K for gray.

By default, the monitor’s brightness control was set to its maximum, the contrast – to 50%. Regrettably, I couldn’t make the screen shine with a luminosity of 100nit (1 nit = 1 candela per square meter), even by dropping both: brightness and contrast controls to zero. If you prefer to work in a dim room, you’d better be aware of this fact. Brightness of the screen is regulated by power modulation of the backlight lamps with a frequency of 200Hz.

The color curves look good enough (by the way, I took the measurements in the “User” mode, rather than “Cool” with its unnatural color temperature). The monitor represents the colors quite accurately, without evident losses in dark as well as in light tones.

The response time turned to be surprisingly high – 10msec higher than the manufacturer claims. Moreover, it grows significantly on black-to-gray transitions to reach 40msec (the pixel rise time is 37msec as shown in the graph).

This monitor is of an average contrast ratio, as it is only higher than 200:1 at the maximum settings. On the other hand, if you reduce the screen brightness below the default, the level of black goes down considerably.

Overall, Acer AL1713 is a typical representative of the middle class. Its functionality is barely sufficient, its response time is high (35-40msec, which makes it a poor choice for playing dynamic games), and its high minimum brightness doesn’t allow using it in a dimly lit room. With all its deficiencies, this monitor is all right if you view it as an inexpensive office model.

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