19" LCD Monitor Roundup. Part XII: Budget Models

Today we are going to discuss 10 inexpensive LCD monitors with 19-inch diagonal and 5:4 aspect ratio. We will test solutions from Acer, ASUS, BenQ, LG, Samsung and Viewsonic.

by Aleksey Meyev
08/26/2008 | 05:37 PM

We have tested ten inexpensive 19-inch LCD monitors, both widescreen and with the classic aspect ratio of 5:4, for this review. It may seem that 19-inchers should have already given way to but slightly more expensive models with a diagonal of 20 inches, but that is not yet the case. 19-inch monitors are still demanded in the office where a larger screen is not called for while the cost of the whole PC is so low that even ten dollars make a difference. 19-inchers are also popular among gamers because the smaller native resolution allows running modern video games at highest graphics quality settings even on mainstream graphics cards.

 

On the other hand, gamers also prefer monitors with response time compensation which are somewhat more expensive but better at displaying dynamic images such as in 3D shooters or arcades. For quests and real-time strategies many people will find RTC-less TN-based monitors sufficiently fast, though. Therefore we are continuing our series of reviews of 19-inch LCD monitors.

Testing Methodology

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.

You can also view all previous monitor reviews in our Monitors section.

Acer AL1916W Ds

Following alphabetical order, Acer’s AL1916W Ds model goes first. It is a typical representative of the class of inexpensive 19-inch widescreen LCD monitors.

The specifications suggest that this model differs from the AL1916W Asd in one point: it features dynamic contrast technology. Thanks to it, the declared contrast ratio is as high as 2000:1. To remind you, the dynamic contrast ratio is calculated as the static contrast ratio multiplied by the backlight brightness adjustment range in dynamic contrast mode. In fact, dynamic contrast should rather be called dynamic brightness because the contrast ratio remains as high as the static one for each particular image but the overall brightness changes, making the whole image brighter or darker.

The monitor is declared to have a response time of 5 milliseconds, which indicates the lack of response time compensation technology. Otherwise, we’d have a specified response time of 2 or 4 milliseconds.

Like many other models from Acer, this one comes in two color schemes: with a silver front and black rear or in an all-black case. I guess the all-black version is somewhat more impressive, yet also gloomy. Some people don’t like black devices due to this gloominess. Anyway, the Acer AL1916W Ds looks just like many other models from this company. It has a plain plastic case without any decorations and a square plastic stand.

The stand allows you to change the tilt of the screen. It can be replaced with a standard VESA-compatible mount. The mount would increase the total cost of this very inexpensive monitor greatly, though.

The monitor offers a minimum of connectors: an analog D-Sub and a connector for the integrated power adapter. I didn’t have problems with signal quality on modern graphics cards but the lack of a digital interface is a problem anyway. The DVI interface is offered by a majority of mainboards with integrated graphics cores, let alone by standalone graphics cards. You’ll have to use an adapter in order to connect this monitor to most graphics cards.

The control buttons are placed on the protrusion below the front panel, the Power button differing from the others with its size and shape – it is highlighted with a soft green LED at work. Quick access is provided to the auto-adjustment feature and to switching between the factory-set modes. These modes are referred to as Empowering Technology. When you switch from one mode to another, the automatic adjustment procedure is performed.

The menu is typical for monitors of this brand. It is not very pretty and does not offer any special conveniences, but it does its job well enough. The menu doesn’t remember the last option you changed and always opens up on the preset modes screen. It is unclear why if there is a quick-access button for accessing these modes.

The monitor has 90% brightness and 61% contrast by default. I lowered both to 56% to achieve a 100nit white. Color gradients are reproduced correctly through the entire range of settings and there are no problems with darks, either. Light halftones merge into white at a contrast of 85% and higher. The monitor regulates its brightness by means of pulse-width modulation of the backlight lamps at a frequency of 240Hz.

 

The brightness of white varies by 3.9% on average, reaching a maximum deflection of 18.9%. There are brighter spots at the sides and center of the screen. For black, the average brightness uniformity is 6.2% with a maximum of 22.1%. The whole screen is covered with spots of varying brightness. That’s not an awful result, yet most monitors perform better in this test.

 

The gamma curves are good at the default settings, differing but slightly from the theoretical curve. The blue curve is just slightly different from the others.

 

The gamma curves get even closer to each other at the reduced settings. The monitor has no problems with the reproduction of darks.

The monitor’s color temperature setup is far from perfect. There is a small difference between the different grays in each mode, except for Cool where the temperature dispersion amounts to over 1000K, but white is considerably warmer than any gray. And the main problem is that the monitor doesn’t offer a really low-temperature mode. You will have to manually adjust the RGB levels to get rid of the characteristic blue tint.

The monitor’s color gamut is quite what you can expect from a model with ordinary backlight lamps. It is wider than sRGB in greens and smaller than it in reds.

The response time average is 14.1 milliseconds (GtG) with a maximum of 25.5 milliseconds. These are typical values for TN matrixes without response time compensation. The response time is indeed 5 milliseconds if measured according to the ISO 13406-2 method, i.e. for the white-black-white transition, but halftone transitions take three or four times as long as that.

The brightness of white is satisfactory but the contrast ratio is lower than with most other monitors. Now let’s check out the factory-set image modes.

It is good Acer has reasonable notions about what brightness and contrast ratio are desired for different usages of the monitor. Every mode is set up appropriately to its name.

 

It is also good that color reproduction doesn’t suffer in the factory-set modes. The gamma curves have nearly ideal shapes in them as the diagram shows (for the Graphics mode).

Overall, the Acer AL1916W Ds is a typical entry-level monitor with typical drawbacks such as an unassuming exterior design, slow TN matrix and the lack of digital input. It differs from same-class models with its predefined image modes which are set up very well, but has nonuniform black brightness and sloppy color temperature setup. This monitor will do just fine for simple work at home or in the office, but it has a lot of opponents in its class. Choosing among them is a matter of what drawbacks you are ready to put up with in your monitor.

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Lows:

Recommended usage:

Acer X193w

The Acer X193w is somewhat more expensive than the above-discussed model and features a more exciting exterior. It comes from Acer’s relatively new series. We have already tested one model, X192w, from it.

Judging by the specifications, this monitor has the same or similar matrix as is installed in the previous model. We’ve got dynamic contrast but no RTC again. The latter technology is still limited to rather expensive models whereas dynamic contrast has spread to almost every model, except for the cheapest ones, in new product series of all the manufacturers. It is sad because response time compensation is a more useful feature than dynamic contrast.

The X193w looks livelier than the plain square models of the AL1916 series thanks to the protrusion in the bottom center of the front panel and the new position of the controls. The stand has transformed from square into an arrow-like shape. There is a metallic plate in the stand to make it steadier. This doesn’t seem much of an innovation, yet the monitor’s appearance is not boring or dull anymore.

The new stand has old functionality. It only allows you to adjust the tilt of the screen. You can replace it with a VESA-compatible mount using the holes at the back panel.

A digital interface is now added to the analog input.

The buttons are placed on the beveled bottom edge of the front panel. They look nice but are not really handy. The buttons don’t provide clear feedback to the finger and also rattle somewhat. The monitor provides quick access to the automatic image adjustment and to choosing a factory-set image mode (Empowering Technology).

The menu is absolutely the same as in the previous model and has the same drawbacks (it doesn’t remember the last changed option and always opens up on the Empowering Technology tab).

The monitor’s brightness and contrast are set at 77% and 50%, respectively, by default. I lowered both to 35% to achieve a 100nit level of white. Color gradients are displayed without banding and there are no problems with dark halftones at low levels of contrast. You shouldn’t increase the contrast setting above its default as it makes light halftones indistinguishable from each other. The monitor’s brightness is regulated by means of backlight modulation at a frequency of 270Hz.

 

The average white brightness uniformity is rather high at 7%. The maximum deflection is 15.9%. For black brightness, the average and maximum are 5.2% and 17.1%, respectively. These are normal results. The sides of the screen are somewhat darker than the rest of it.

 

The blue curve sags at the default settings whereas the other curves are close to the theoretical curve for gamma 2.2.

 

The blue curve improves at the reduced settings. So I wouldn’t recommend you to use this monitor with the contrast setting above 45% unless you don’t care about color reproduction at all.

The color temperature modes are set up well. The difference between the temperatures of grays is 2000K in the Cool mode but within 500K in the other modes. Unfortunately, there are too few modes to choose from and there is no really warm mode (with a color temperature of 6000K or lower) among them.

 

The monitor has a standard color gamut. It is exactly the same as the previous model’s gamut.

The response time average is 13.4 milliseconds (GtG) with a maximum of 27.8 milliseconds. Yes, it is a regular RTC-less matrix with a typical speed for its class.

The contrast ratio of this monitor is somewhat higher than the previous model’s. It doesn’t differ much from other same-class monitors in this respect.

This monitor’s factory-set image modes are somewhat worse than the previous model’s due to excessive brightness. While it is okay for movies, working in text-based applications at a brightness of 153 nits is going to be uncomfortable.

 

 

Color reproduction isn’t good, either. The blue curve sags in the Standard and Text modes. Added to that, a portion of blue halftones is displayed as the same color in the Graphics and Movie modes. Considering the excessive brightness, I’d recommend you to use these modes with discretion.

As opposed to the above-discussed AL1916W Ds, the Acer X193w doesn’t have obvious advantages, but also has no obvious defects. It is just a regular inexpensive monitor with a somewhat more interesting exterior design than usual.

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Lows:

Recommended usage:

ASUS VW195S

The VW19xx series includes so many models that it’s hard to tell right away what distinguishes one of them from another. As for this specific model, the letter S means that the VW195S lacks a digital input. I’ll try to figure out its differences from the VW193S now.

Judging by the specs, the matrix is different. The declared dynamic contrast is 2000:1 rather than 1600:1. The difference is hardly crucial, though.

The monitor shares the same exterior design with the other models from the series: a stern black plastic case with a black plastic stand. Like the other VW19xx series monitors, this one may come in two color versions: all-black or with a silvery band along the bottom of the front panel. Although this doesn’t sound like a big difference, the all-black version looks more official while the other version is somewhat more exciting, especially in a home environment.

The round plastic stand allows you to adjust the tilt of the screen.

Like on many other monitors, the back panel offers screw holes for a VESA-compatible mount. There is a plastic holder at the back of the stand for laying the cables neatly.

As the model name suggests, the monitor doesn’t have a digital input. It only has an analog interface, an audio socket and a connector for the integrated power adapter.

The integrated speakers are low quality, of course. They are no match to a standalone speaker system.

The control buttons can be found in the bottom right of the front panel. They follow the monitor’s overall color scheme, being either black on black or white on white. In both versions they are accompanied with readable icons and are very easy to use. The Power button has a LED which is blue at work and red in sleep mode.

Quick access is provided to the brightness and sound volume settings as well as to factory-set Splendid modes (these modes vary in brightness, contrast and color reproduction). The automatic adjustment feature is evoked by a long press on the Splendid button.

The blue menu is typical of all VW19xx series models. As is always the case with ASUS, the menu opens on the Splendid tab although the Splendid feature can be accessed by means of the quick buttons. The menu doesn’t remember the last changed option. Setup options may take two pages in some menu screen and you can’t see all of them at once. An odd thing about this menu, such options as Skin Tone, ASCR (dynamic contrast) and Sharpness are only available when you select a Splendid mode other than Standard. Otherwise you cannot access these options.

The monitor’s brightness and contrast are set at 90% and 80%, respectively, by default. I achieved a 100nit white by reducing both to 77%. Color gradients are reproduced without banding at any settings. Lights and darks are also displayed properly whatever contrast you select. The monitor’s brightness is regulated by means of pulse-width modulation of the backlight lamps at a frequency of 210Hz.

 

The average white brightness uniformity is 5.7% with a maximum of 14.5%. The average and maximum black brightness uniformity are 4.1% and 17.7%, respectively. These are normal numbers for this class of monitors.

 

The gamma curves are close to each other at the default settings but the value of gamma is lower than the required 2.2. As a result, the monitor yields a whitish and low-contrast image.

 

The value of gamma is even lower at the reduced settings affecting the image even more.

 

As opposed to most other monitors, the gamma curves retain their shape even if you set the monitor’s brightness and contrast at 100%. That is, you can work normally at such settings as every halftone is quite distinguishable.

The color temperature setup is good. The temperature dispersion between the levels of gray is within 700K, which is quite a good result for this class of monitors. The choice of modes is wide, too. I guess the only small drawback is that the sRGB mode is some 500 degrees warmer than it should be.

 

The color gamut is standard. It is somewhat wider than sRGB in greens and smaller in reds.

The response time average is 14.5 milliseconds (GtG). The longest transition takes 24.4 milliseconds. As you can see, modern TN matrixes deliver about the same response time. TN-based monitors without RTC are all very much alike in this parameter.

The maximum brightness and contrast ratio are quite satisfactory.

Now let’s check out the Splendid technology.

Well, the contrast ratio is good but why are all the modes so bright? Such a high level of brightness is going to be all right if you’ve got direct sunlight falling on your monitor but it will be excessive in other situations. Fortunately, the Splendid feature is adjustable. You should set every mode up manually if you are going to use this feature at all because its default setup is hardly satisfactory.

 

Unfortunately, you cannot manually correct the color reproduction distortions occurring in the Splendid modes. The gamma curves are acceptable in the Scenery and Theater modes but differ greatly from each other in the Game and Night View modes.

 

The diagram suggests that 20% of the lightest blues are displayed as the same color. Green is but slightly better.

So, the ASUS VW195S is yet another widescreen monitor with a slow matrix. It may be interesting to some people due to its nice exterior design and acceptable color reproduction. But if you don’t like it for some reasons, there is a broad choice of alternatives.

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Recommended usage:

ASUS VW195U

The VW195U differs from the previous model with one letter in the model name. The letter U instead of S denotes a digital interface and a fast matrix.

Indeed, the response time of this monitor is declared to be only 2 milliseconds as measured according to the GtG method. It means the monitor employs response time compensation technology as such a high speed cannot be achieved without it.

The monitor only differs from the previous model in this review with the stickers. It has the same nice-looking case on a black plastic stand.

The stand is the same, too. It allows you to adjust the tilt of the screen and can be replaced with a VESA-compatible mount.

The monitor is equipped with digital and analog connectors on one side from the stand and with a power connector and audio input on the other side.

Like with the previous model, the buttons are placed in the bottom right corner of the front panel. The Power button is highlighted with a soft LED which is blue at work and red in sleep mode. Quick access is provided to the Splendid feature, to the brightness and sound volume settings, and to the automatic adjustment of analog signal.

The menu is the same as in the previous model and has the same drawbacks. It opens up on the Splendid tab and doesn’t remember the last changed option. Options take two pages in some menu screens.

The monitor has 90% brightness and 80% contrast by default. I achieved a 100nit white by reducing both to 51%. Color gradients are reproduced without banding at any settings. Darks are displayed properly, too. Lights merge into white if you increase the contrast setting above its default. The monitor’s brightness is regulated by means of backlight modulation at a frequency of 215Hz.

 

The average white brightness uniformity is 4.1% with a maximum of 14.9%. For black, the average and maximum are 4.9% and 15.3% respectively. So, the monitor’s backlight brightness is quite uniform. Zones with conspicuously different levels of brightness can be seen neither on white nor on black.

 

The gamma curves look rather good at the default settings and are close to the theoretical curve but the characteristic bend in the top right of the diagram is indicative of slightly excessive contrast.

 

When the settings are reduced, the small problem in the right part of the curves disappears but the value of gamma gets lower than the required 2.2. As a result, the curves are still close to each other but higher than the theoretical curve, resulting in a whitish and low-contrast image.

The color temperature setup is hardly good. Darks are considerably colder in each mode – up to a difference of 4000K!

 

The color gamut of this monitor is exactly what you can expect from standard backlight lamps.

The response time average is 3.0 milliseconds (GtG) with a maximum of only 7.9 milliseconds. Although the value differs from the specified 2.0 milliseconds, the monitor is many times as fast as typical RTC-less models. The VW195U has a fast matrix indeed.

The level of errors accompanying RTC technology is acceptable. The average level of errors is 9.1%. The maximum error is 30.4%. You can spot RTC-provoked artifacts if you know what to look for, but most users will hardly bother about them.

The maximum brightness and contrast ratio are acceptable. Many TN-based monitors have a higher contrast ratio, though.

The Splendid modes are all too bright for using them in a typical workplace. But again, you can adjust the levels of brightness and contrast manually for each mode.

 

There are problems with color reproduction, though. The contrast setting is too high in each mode as is indicated by the characteristic bend in the right part of the diagram. Some halftones are lost as the result. Moreover, the curves differ in shape in the Night View and, especially, Game mode.

 

Sharpness is also too high in each of the Splendid modes, especially in Game. You can see the characteristic white contours around dark objects that should be familiar to everyone who applied the Unsharp Mask filter in Photoshop. It is uncomfortable to read text as the consequence.

So, the ASUS VW195U is a more interesting model than the VW195S. It has a faster matrix (with a good implementation of RTC technology) and more uniform backlight brightness. The only drawback is the poor setup of the Splendid modes. I wouldn’t recommend using them at all. The difference in price between the two models is rather small.

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Lows:

Recommended usage:

ASUS VW198S

This is another model from the large VW19xx family. It is different from its kin in many respects, though.

The specifications say it all. The VW198S has a native resolution of 1680x1050 pixels. The resolution is larger than standard while the screen size is the same. It means that the monitor’s pixel pitch is very small. Some people won’t like this. For example, gamers will need a more advanced graphics card to play at the monitor’s native resolution without interpolation. The system fonts and icons may also look too small. It’s no secret that many Windows applications have problems with image scalability. I personally think that text looks better with a small pixel pitch if the font is selected properly, especially when you use such antialiasing technologies as ClearType. Anyway, it is good that the developers do not forget about the 19-inch class and introduce new models differing from the established standard. It is always good for the user to have a broader choice. By the way, we have already tested a model with this native resolution, which also featured response time compensation. It was the ViewSonic VX1940w.

The VW198S also sports an increased level of dynamic contrast and larger viewing angles. Yes, TN matrixes are progressing. They are still inferior to *VA and S-IPS technologies in this respect and get dark when viewed from below just as they always did, but the viewing angles have become somewhat larger indeed. Modern TN matrixes have a higher contrast ratio, which affects the specified viewing angles. The latter are measured for a contrast ratio reduction of 10:1. If the overall contrast ratio is higher, it will naturally take somewhat longer to drop to 10:1. Well, running a little ahead, I should confess this particular monitor is no record-breaker in terms of contrast ratio.

This monitor differs from the other ASUS models included into this review with the sticker in the top right corner. Otherwise, it has the same design of the case and stand as the other models in its series have. It looks nice and neat.

The stand allows to change the tilt of the screen. You can replace it with a VESA-compatible mount. There is a plastic cable holder at the back of the stand.

The back panel offers an analog input, a connector for the integrated power adapter, and an audio input. The letter S in the model name means the lack of a digital interface. That’s sad because it would suit the increased resolution better. An analog interface is subject to interference and its image quality depends on the quality of the graphics card’s analog output.

The buttons have not changed. The Power button still has a soft LED which is blue at work and red in sleep mode. Quick access is provided to selecting a Splendid mode, to the brightness and sound volume settings, and to the auto-adjustment feature.

The menu is the same as the above-discussed monitors from ASUS have. And it has the same problems: it opens up on the Splendid tab and doesn’t remember the last option you changed. There are two pages in some menu screens, which is unhandy.

The monitor’s brightness and contrast are set at 90% and 80% by default. I achieved a 100nit level of white by reducing both to 73%. Color gradients are reproduced without banding at any settings. Lights and darks are also displayed properly at any level of contrast. The monitor regulates its brightness by means of backlight modulation at a frequency of 250Hz.

 

The average white brightness uniformity is 5.3% with a maximum of 15.6%. For black, the average and maximum are 6.1% and 17.9% respectively. The screen is getting darker from the center towards the edges. The numbers are not particularly good, but there are no conspicuous zones with different levels of brightness on the screen.

 

The gamma curves betray a low value of gamma at the default as well as reduced settings. They go above the theoretical curve as the result. The image is whitish and low-contrast, especially in darks.

 

The curves retain their shape at the maximum settings and go above the theoretical curve again. In other words, you can change the contrast setting without fearing to lose light halftones as is the case with most other monitors.

The color temperature setup is high quality. The temperature dispersion is within 500K in every mode. There is no really warm mode (with a color temperature below 6000K) but this monitor’s sRGB mode is closer to the required 6500K than in the above-discussed monitors from ASUS.

 

The color gamut is interesting. The monitor’s triangle is about the same size as usual but it is larger in greens and smaller in reds than a typical color gamut of LCD monitors.

The response time average is 15.1 milliseconds (GtG) with a maximum of 23 milliseconds. This is a normal result of an RTC-less TN matrix but I’ve seen faster models. Anyway, if you need a really faster matrix, you should look for RTC-enabled models such as the ViewSonic VX1940w, which has a high-resolution matrix, too.

The monitor’s contrast ratio is normal for a TN matrix.

And again I wouldn’t recommend you to use the Splendid modes as they are set up by default. Every mode is way too bright, so you may want to adjust them manually.

 

However, color reproduction is poor in each mode, much worse than when the Splendid feature disabled. For example, in the Game mode the lightest halftones, about one fifth of the entire dynamic range, are displayed as the same color. The curves also differ much from each other.

 

The other modes are but slightly better. The Theater mode has problems with lights due to excessive contrast and the curves have odd wavy shapes that also differ from each other.

Thus, the ASUS VW198S is an interesting product with an increased native resolution, improved viewing angles and good color reproduction setup. On the downside are the lack of a digital interface and the poor setup of the Splendid modes. If you prefer monitors with a small pixel pitch and don’t have much money to spend, you should certainly consider this model.

Highs:

Lows:

Recommended usage:

BenQ G900

The G900 belongs to a new product series from BenQ that features a new exterior design. It looks better than the popular FP9xx series. Some time ago we tested the widescreen version of this model, called G900WA, which proved to have a surprisingly good setup quality. Let’s see if the model with the classic aspect ratio of 5:4 is good, too.

The specifications are not impressive at all. It is an ordinary 19-inch inexpensive monitor without response time compensation and dynamic contrast.

This is a typical office-oriented exterior design. The monitor is somewhat more exciting than the downright boring models of the FP9xx series, but not by much. There are just no special features in this design. The case is smooth, gray and plastic, the Power button, centered below the screen, being the only eye-catching element here. I guess the widescreen version of the monitor even has more elegance. The wide and empty band below the screen doesn’t look nice in the taller G900.

The monitor inherited its simple black plastic stand from BenQ’s older models. You can only change the tilt of the screen with this stand.

Like in many other models, there is a plastic cable holder at the back. You can replace the monitor’s native stand with a VESA-compatible mount.

It is good we have both analog and digital connectors here. But you should know there is a version of this monitor with an analog input only. It is called BenQ G900WA.

The controls are placed on a small ledge below the front panel. They would be quite okay if the accompanying icons were readable. The icons are a kind of small bas-reliefs and nearly merge into the surface of the case. You have to control the monitor blindly as the consequence.

Quick access is provided to the auto-adjustment feature, to selecting an input, to the brightness and contrast settings (combined in a single small menu), and to choosing a factory-set image mode.

The menu follows the typical style of BenQ’s recent models. It is quite user-friendly and offers all the necessary setup options. It only gripes me that the menu doesn’t remember the last changed option and that you have to make a lot of presses to get to some menu items, for example to color temperature.

The monitor has 90% brightness and 50% contrast by default. I achieved a 100nit level of white by lowering both to 49%. Color gradients are displayed with barely visible banding at any settings. Nothing bad happens if you decrease the contrast setting below the default value. But if you increase it to 55% and higher, light halftones become indistinguishable from white. The monitor’s brightness is regulated by means of backlight modulation at a frequency of 213Hz.

 

The average white brightness uniformity is 4.5% with a maximum of 11.4%. This is a good result. For black brightness, the average and maximum are 5.0% and 15.9%, respectively. That’s quite acceptable, too. In both cases the screen is getting darker from the center towards the edges.

 

The gamma curves lie close to each other and differ but slightly from the theoretical curve. They betray a slightly higher value of gamma than necessary, which results in a high-contrast image, but you can hardly notice this with an unaided eye.

 

The curves retain their shape at the reduced settings.

The color temperature modes are set up very well. The temperature varies by less than 500K between the levels of gray, which is a very good result for monitors of this class.

 

The color gamut is perfectly standard. You have already seen such color gamuts in this review.

The response time average is 15.8 milliseconds with a maximum of 32.5 milliseconds. This monitor is slow even compared with same-class models and far, far slower than monitors with response time compensation technology.

The brightness and contrast ratio are going to satisfy most users.

Take note that the contrast ratio is lower at the max settings than at the default settings because the level of black grows up at a higher rate than the level of white. The contrast ratio is the ratio of white to black, as you know. Added to that, light halftones are indistinguishable from each other at the maximum settings.

Now let’s check out the monitor’s factory-set image modes.

The first two modes might be somewhat brighter. This would also improve their contrast ratio. On the other hand, it’s better to have a lower contrast ratio than an exceedingly high brightness. The sRGB mode is surprisingly bright. The sRGB standard declares a brightness of only 80 nits.

 

Color reproduction is no good in the Movie mode. The right part of the blue curve goes much higher than necessary. Light blues are indistinguishable from each other.

 

The curves of all the three colors are higher than the theoretical curve in the Photo mode. And this is the color reproduction you get in a mode that is meant for working with photographs!

 

The gamma curves are good in the sRGB mode.

There is another problem with this monitor I have to note. Sharpness is too high in each mode and dark objects have the characteristic white contours. It is hard to read text as the consequence. Therefore I would not recommend you to use the factory-set modes of this monitor at all.

Summing it up, the BenQ G900 is a good inexpensive monitor with decent color reproduction setup. Unfortunately, these are in fact all of its highs. If you have serious demands concerning the exterior design or ergonomics of your monitor, about its response time or factory-set modes, you should consider other models.

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Lows:

Recommended usage:

LG Flatron W1942T

This is a widescreen model from LG’s updated series of inexpensive monitors.

The developers seem to have forgotten about response time in favor of recording-breaking levels of contrast ratio. As you can see, the contrast ratio of this inexpensive monitor is declared to be as high as 8000:1. Of course, this is the so-called dynamic contrast. The static contrast ratio is 1000:1 while the brightness adjustment range in dynamic contrast mode has grown from 200% to 800%. As I have written earlier, this technology should have been called dynamic brightness instead.

The viewing angles are declared to be as wide as 170 degrees both vertically and horizontally. It is not the result of a real improvement, though. The manufacturer just uses the relaxed method of measuring those angles, with a contrast ratio reduction to 5:1. If the standard method, with a contrast ratio reduction to 10:1, were used, the viewing angles would be about 160 degrees.

This model has changed since LG’s earlier gray squares. It has a more rounded-off outline. The control buttons are now fitted into the pressed-out bar at the bottom of the front panel. I wouldn’t say that these innovations have made the monitor beautiful. Yes, the buttons look nice now, but the wide screen bezel together with the rounded-off corners gives it an air of massiveness.

The new stand is rather odd. While the case is made from matte plastic, the stand is glossy for some reason. This combination looks rather tasteless. But I want to thank LG that the stand can now be removed much easier than before.

You can only adjust the tilt of the screen here. Like in many other monitors, the native stand can be replaced with a VESA-compatible mount.

LG didn’t save on trifles and equipped this model with both analog and digital interfaces.

The set of controls in the bottom right of the front panel is somewhat different in comparison with other LG monitors. There is a “4:3 in wide” button instead of “EZ-Zooming.” As you can guess, this new button changes the interpolation mode and can be useful if the monitor is displaying a 4:3 picture. The other quick-access features have remained intact: auto-adjustment, input selection, and choosing an f-Engine mode.

The new series has an updated menu as well, but I don’t like it much. When you press the Menu button, you open a small preliminary menu offering four items corresponding to four groups of settings. You choose one and get to the main menu. The purpose of the preliminary menu evades me since the main menu offers the same four items. Perhaps the developer wanted to make it easier for inexperienced users, but I don’t think he succeeded.

The main menu is functionally alike to the well-known old menu of LG’s monitors but differs in its interface design and the location of some setup options. You can easily move between the four groups of settings by returning to a higher menu level. The menu is rather user-friendly except that it now doesn’t remember the last changed option. The preliminary menu is not worth that loss I guess.

The monitor has 100% brightness and 70% contrast by default. I achieved a 100nit white by lowering both to 49%. Color gradients are reproduced without banding at any settings. Darks are displayed properly at low levels of contrast but lights are indistinguishable if you increase the contrast setting above its default. The brightness is regulated by means of backlight modulation at a frequency of 260Hz.

 

The average white brightness uniformity is 4.6% with a maximum of 12.0%. For black, the average and maximum are 4.5% and 15.6% respectively. There are no zones with conspicuously different levels of brightness. The monitor’s results in this test are quite acceptable.

 

The gamma curves are far from ideal at the default settings. They indicate that the value of gamma is too high. The characteristic bend in the right part of the diagram is indicative of excessive contrast. Added to that, the blue curve differs greatly from the others.

 

Color reproduction is more accurate at the reduced settings, but the gamma curves still differ from the theoretical one. So, you cannot get correct color reproduction from this monitor unless you calibrate it.

The color temperature setup isn’t high quality, either. The temperature dispersion is over 1000K for grays whereas white is 2000-3000K warmer than any gray. There is no warm mode here (with a color temperature below 6000K). As a result, the monitor nearly always produces a cold-looking bluish picture.

 

The color gamut differs from what we usually see. The monitor yields richer reds as its point of red is closer to the sRGB one. The point of blue has shifted from deep blues towards turquoise hues, though.

The response time average is 12.7 milliseconds (GtG) with a maximum of 23.7 milliseconds. This is a very good speed for an RTC-less matrix, yet the monitor is still far slower than RTC-enabled models.

The Flatron W1942T sports a high contrast ratio. It is over 400:1 in two out of the three test modes.

Finally, I will check out the factory-set images modes that are referred to as f-Engine technology. Dynamic contrast is also counted in among f-Engine modes but we have not yet developed a method for testing it.

Every f-Engine mode features a high contrast ratio but what about brightness? It may be comfortable to watch movies at high brightness, but reading text or surfing the Web is going to be a torture for your eyes.

 

 

The gamma curves indicate the same problems as at the default settings and without f-Engine. Added to that, the curves are now much different from each other in shape.

Thus, the Flatron W1942T has quite a lot of drawbacks and makes up for them with its low price only. I would recommend you to consider other models unless the questionable exterior design of this model appeals to you for some personal reason.

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Samsung SyncMaster 943N

The SyncMaster 943N is the junior model in Samsung’s new series that comes to replace the popular 940 line-up. The 943 series is meant to be practical, with a minimum of design extravaganza. It is going to be appreciated by professionals who don’t want to have any shiny and glossy things on their work desk.

There is nothing particularly interesting about the specifications. The viewing angles are wide (for a TN matrix) and the contrast ratio is high. The monitor also supports dynamic contrast with an eightfold brightness adjustment range. Response time compensation is the only technology missing here but that’s normal considering the non-gaming targeting of the 943N.

The monitor has a compact, neat and appealing case. The plastic of the case and the matrix are both lusterless. This model is available in two colors: with a black or silver front panel. I guess the black version looks better but some people may prefer silver which resembles the exterior design of the 940 series.

The stand has become more elegant. Its functionality varies as indicated by the model code. If the model code ends in AKSB or AKBB (the case color is silver and black, respectively), the stand is simpler, allowing to adjust the tilt of the screen and rotate the monitor around the vertical axis. If the model code ends in AESB or AEBB, the stand is more functional although resembles the older version. Besides the adjustment options available in the simpler stand, it allows to change the height of the screen and pivot the latter into portrait mode. The portrait mode isn’t very useful with a TN matrix, though. The vertical viewing angles of TN matrixes are too narrow to ensure comfort in portrait mode when they become horizontal angles. The monitor costs somewhat more with the more functional stand, of course. I think it’s good that the user has the option of such choice with an inexpensive product.

If you want to wall-mount the monitor, for example, you can replace its native stand with a VESA-compatible mount. You may want to buy the cheaper version of the monitor if you plan to do so.

Unfortunately, Samsung’s monitors with the letter N in the model name lack a digital interface. There is only an analog input here. I didn’t notice any problems with image sharpness, though.

The power adapter is integrated into the case like in most other modern monitors.

Samsung’s new series features touch-sensitive buttons. The buttons are as many and placed in the same manner as in previous models from this brand but you don’t have to press them now. Just touch them softly with your finger. The buttons respond correctly to every touch without misses or false responses. A quick sequence of touches is also processed correctly. There is a soft blue LED indicating power to the right of the buttons.

Quick access is provided to the auto-adjustment feature, to the brightness setting and to choosing a MagicBright mode. The button that used to select MagicBright modes in Samsung’s previous models can now be redefined in the monitor’s menu. Besides switching the MagicBright modes, it can now switch Color Effect and MagicColor modes. Color Effect is a new discoloring feature available in this series. A sepia-colored image looks funny, but I don’t think this feature has much practical value.

Except for the above-mentioned changes, the menu is the same as Samsung’s monitors have had for years. It is clear, handy and easy to use.

The monitor has 100% brightness and 75% contrast by default. I achieved a 100nit level of white by lowering both settings to 52%. Color gradients are reproduced correctly at any settings. Darks are also displayed properly. Lights become indistinguishable when you increase the level of contrast above the default one. The monitor regulates its brightness by means of backlight modulation at a frequency of 356Hz.

 

The average white brightness uniformity is 6.5% with a maximum of 16.0%. For black brightness, the average and maximum are 6.9% and 16.5% and you can see that the bottom of the screen is brighter. The numbers are not very good, yet most users are going to be satisfied with them. This level of brightness uniformity can hardly be a big nuisance.

 

The gamma curves lie close to each other at the default as well as reduced settings but the value of gamma is too high, resulting in a high-contrast image. It is easy to solve this problem. You should go into the menu and change the gamma mode.

The color temperature setup is acceptable. The temperature varies by 1300K between the levels of gray. Darks are colder than lights and look bluish.

 

The monitor has a perfectly standard color gamut.

The response time average is 12.8 milliseconds (GtG) with a maximum of 27.4 milliseconds. That’s good enough for an RTC-less TN matrix. Such matrixes are steadily improving in terms of speed, yet they are still a long way from RTC-enabled matrixes which have been progressing as well.

The monitor’s brightness and contrast ratio are good.

As you know from our earlier reviews, Samsung’s MagicBright technology doesn’t affect color reproduction but only changes brightness, contrast and (in the Movie and Sport modes) color temperature. So, let’s check out the levels of brightness and contrast in each mode.

I guess this is an ideal selection of preset image modes. You can quickly adjust the monitor for the application at hand.

Next, let’s see what we have with MagicColor technology that affects the way of displaying colors.

As you can see, the levels of brightness and contrast differ but slightly between the modes.

 

 

The gamma curves are awful. Reds and greens are highly saturated in the Intelligent mode. In the Full mode blues become saturated as well, while about 20% of light greens are indistinguishable from each other.

Summing it up, I guess the series update is a success overall. The SyncMaster 943N, a junior model, has a nice appearance, handy controls, and good setup. The lack of a digital interface seems to be its biggest drawback. This monitor can be used at home as well as in the office.

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ViewSonic VA916

The VA916 represents ViewSonic’s entry-level series.

Its specifications are typical of modern inexpensive TN-based monitors. This market sector has been progressing, though. Nearly every new model now features dynamic contrast technology (but with a twofold brightness adjustment range as opposed to eightfold in top-end models). The viewing angles, the traditional sore spot of TN technology, have become wider, too. They are measured according to the relaxed method, though. If measured according to the classic method with a contrast ratio reduction to 10:1, the viewing angles would be 160 degrees.

The monitor has a black case with a gray band along the bottom. I find it rather boring. It will match an office environment well, but home users are likely to prefer something different.

The simple round plastic stand, providing tilt adjustment, isn’t exciting, either. There are a couple of cable holders at the back of the stand.

The monitor’s native stand can be replaced with a VESA-compatible mount.

The VA916 offers a minimum of connectors: an analog input and a connector for the integrated power adapter. I guess if a modern monitor comes with only one interface, the latter should be digital rather than analog.

Centered below the screen, the control buttons are unhandy. They are too small and the Power button is placed in their midst, so you can press it accidentally. Finally, virtually invisible icons are pressed out on the buttons. Coupled with ViewSonic’s traditional way of marking the buttons (with the numbers 1 and 2), this makes you control the monitor blindly. The only acceptable element here is the soft blue LED located near the Power button.

Quick access is provided to the auto-adjustment feature and to the brightness and contrast settings.

This is a typical ViewSonic menu. Neither pretty nor especially handy, it just offers every setting you need to control your monitor.

One peculiarity of this monitor is that it blocks the brightness and contrast settings if you select the sRGB mode.

The monitor has 100% brightness and 70% contrast by default. I reduced them both to 55% to achieve a 100nit level of white. Color gradients are reproduced without banding at any settings. There are no problems with darks, either. Lights are indistinguishable at a contrast of 80% and higher. The monitor regulates its brightness by means of backlight modulation at a frequency of 323Hz.

 

The average white brightness uniformity is 6.5% with a maximum of 21.3%. For black, the average and maximum are even higher at 8.4% and 29.3% respectively. In both cases the bottom center of the matrix is brighter than the rest of the screen. This can be seen quite easily on a black background. I guess such high brightness uniformity is a problem. It may be annoying for the user.

 

The gamma curves are close to each other and to the theoretical curve at the default settings.

 

The value of gamma is lower at the reduced settings and the curves lie somewhat higher than necessary. The problem is not big, though.

The color temperature setup is good. The temperature dispersion is within 500K in every mode. The selection is wide enough for every user to choose the color temperature he prefers.

 

The color gamut is absolutely standard.

The response time average is 13.0 milliseconds (GtG) with a maximum of 22 milliseconds. Yes, this is yet another TN-based monitor without response time compensation.

The brightness and contrast ratio are good. I don’t think any user will ask for more.

So, the ViewSonic VA916 might be called an inexpensive monitor with unassuming design if it were not for two things. First, it has a surprisingly high quality of color reproduction setup. Second, its backlight brightness is far from uniform, especially on black. I guess this drawback outweighs the advantage. After all, color reproduction is not the main factor for choosing an inexpensive monitor because the small viewing angles of TN matrixes limit such an advantage anyway. And besides good color reproduction, this monitor has nothing else to offer.

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ViewSonic VA926

The VA926 model from ViewSonic is going to end this review. It differs from the previous model in having a digital interface. Perhaps it has a different setup as well?

The specifications are absolutely identical to the above-discussed model from ViewSonic.

The exterior design is the same, too. It is a square black plastic case with a light band along the bottom.

The case is indeed the same from any side.

So, the simple stand allows you to adjust the tilt of the screen. You can replace it with a VESA-compatible mount.

This model comes with both analog and digital connectors.

What I have written about the control buttons of the previous model is true for this one, too. They are too small and have unreadable labels.

Quick access is still provided to the automatic adjustment and to the brightness and contrast settings. You can also quickly select the video interface to use.

As expected, the menu is the same as in the previous model.

The monitor has 100% brightness and 70% contrast by default. I achieved a 100nit white by lowering both to 56%. Color gradients are reproduced without banding at any settings and there are no problems with darks, either. Lights are indistinguishable from each other at a contrast of 80% and higher. The monitor’s brightness is regulated by means of backlight modulation at a frequency of 315Hz.

 

This model has more uniform brightness of the backlight. The average white brightness uniformity is 6.9% with a maximum of 18.5%. For black, the average and maximum are 6.3% and 19.9%, respectively. That’s more acceptable than the results of the previous model. The pattern on the screen hasn’t changed, though. The bottom center of the screen is still brighter than the rest of it.

 

The gamma curves are close to each other at the default settings but their value of gamma is smaller than 2.2. This results in a somewhat whitish image.

 

There are no big changes at the reduced settings except that the value of gamma is even lower now. The gamma curves go higher than the theoretical one, resulting in a whitish image.

The color temperature setup is high quality. You are offered a broad choice of modes. And the temperature dispersion is within 500K in each mode.

 

I guess you are not surprised to see this monitor have the same color gamut as the ViewSonic VA916. Why should it change if the difference between these two models boils down to one connector and minor variations in setup?

The response time is somewhat higher but the difference fits into the measurement error range. It may be due to the variation in the parameters of matrixes from the same batch. So, the response time average of this model is 13.6 milliseconds (GtG) with a maximum of 22.2 milliseconds. That’s not very fast.

The contrast ratio has changed somewhat, too. It is higher in one test mode and lower in another, but that’s not a fundamental difference. Both models from ViewSonic are quite satisfactory in this parameter for most applications.

Thus, the ViewSonic VA928 is in fact a VA916 but with a digital interface. Otherwise, their parameters are very similar. The VA926 offers more uniform backlight brightness, but somewhat worse color reproduction. The difference is indeed very small and may be due to the variation of parameters between different samples of the same matrix. I guess this monitor is somewhat more interesting than its DVI-less version, but there are so many worthy alternatives in this product category that I wouldn’t predict it a huge market success.

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Conclusion

There is the same problem with writing the conclusion to this review as with most of our other reviews of 19-inch LCD monitors: it is very hard to name a single leader among the tested models as each of them has this or that downside. However, I would like to mention three models that left the most positive impression on me.

First of all, it is the SyncMaster 943N from Samsung. Representing the new series with a classic exterior design that had come to replace the 940 series, this monitor proved to be nice to the eye and easy to use. It will be appropriate at home as well as in the office. Of course, home users are generally more demanding, but some people are limited in their PC budget. For demanding users, Samsung’s new series includes more functional models we are going to review in one of our upcoming reports.

Next I would want to note the ASUS VW198S. It features an increased native resolution of 1680x1050 pixels whereas the other models with an aspect ratio of 16:10 have a native resolution of 1440x900. This monitor has a very small pixel pitch as the consequence, which may be appreciated by some users.

And finally, ASUS’s VW195U model is quite a good product, too. It is the only monitor in this review to have a fast matrix with response time compensation. And it costs about the same money as its slower opponents.

Alas, a couple of monitors can get only negative reports from me. One is the LG Flatron W1942T which combines a lot of drawbacks while offering not a single advantage. The other is the ViewSonic VA916 which has high brightness uniformity.

As for the other tested monitors, each of them combines both good and bad points but can generally be described as “yet another inexpensive 19-inch monitor.” Their low price and the lack of serious defects are the factors in their favor but they will make no bestsellers, of course.