Closer Look at 19" Monitor Features. Part V.

A new roundup continuing the series of 19-inch monitor reviews is ready! This article is devoted to LCD monitors with 5:4 aspect ratio and a native resolution of 1280x1024 pixels. We will discuss their color reproduction quality (and the color gamut), response time (and the RTC error value), brightness and contrast. Today we will introduce to you ten solutions from Acer, Asus, LG, Dell and Samsung.

by Oleg Artamonov , Aleksey Meyev
04/11/2007 | 12:39 PM

Last time we tested 19” LCD monitors on our website it was more than half a year ago and they have almost completely transformed into low-end products by now. Technologies utilized in such monitors have in fact stopped to progress further and the technological race is now replaced with a struggle of the manufacturers’ marketing and design departments.

 

This review is devoted to LCD monitors that have an aspect ratio of 5:4 and a native resolution of 1280x1024 pixels. They are often bought as inexpensive monitors for home or office work that does not call for an accurate reproduction of colors. Monitors with response time compensation (RTC) technology are also highly popular among gamers who appreciate their low response time as well as their not-very-high resolution that does not demand a super-fast and expensive graphics card. Moreover, the resolution of 1280x1024 pixels is supported by a majority of games some of which still cannot output normally onto widescreen monitors.

An overwhelming majority of 19” monitors available today are based on TN+Film matrixes. They feature the lowest response time, but the narrowest vertical viewing angle as well. When it comes to 19” monitors, this means that moving your head up and down just a little you’ll see the brightness (and, in the worst case, the color) of the top and bottom parts of the screen change. This has nothing to do with the backlighting. It is a problem of small viewing angles made more conspicuous due to monitors with the 5:4 aspect ratio being taller than widescreen displays.

Although modern TN matrixes have specified viewing angles of 160 degrees, which sounds to be enough, this number is arrived at by changing the measurement method. The viewing angles of S-IPS and *VA matrixes are measured by a contrast drop to 10:1. Those of TN matrixes are commonly measured by a contrast drop to 5:1. If the same method was used for all the matrix types, TN matrixes would have viewing angles of about 140 degrees in their specs.

Before I proceed, I’d want to remind you our testing methodology. We evaluate the following characteristics of LCD monitors: color reproduction quality (and the color gamut if the manufacturer claims it to be larger than common), response time (and the RTC error value if the monitor employs response time compensation), brightness and contrast. I want to particularly note that although I publish average values of response time and RTC error, these two should rather be considered through all the possible transitions because a few gross errors (or a few long transitions) mixed with a number of small ones will yield the same average as a lot of medium errors that will be much more conspicuous at everyday use of the monitor. If the monitor offers several outputs, we test it using a DVI connection because this interface is already widespread and transfers signal to the monitor in digital form, without undesired conversions.

Acer AL1916

Talking about the product specification, Acer should be given credit for measuring this monitor’s viewing angles by the “honest” method, i.e. by a contrast drop to 10:1. This is why the specified angles are so narrow, but at least these numbers do not mislead the user. Take note of the response time parameter, too. It is 5 milliseconds on a black-white-black transition (as measured by the ISO 13406-2 standard). Although this number looks similar to “4ms (GtG)” that you can often see in a monitor’s specs, the AL1916 is going to be considerably slower than 4ms models. It lacks response time compensation and its black-white-black transition takes the least time to complete of all the possible transitions, actually. I’ll measure the average response time of halftone transitions (GtG) below, though.

The monitor’s appearance is quite unassuming. It has got plain-looking gray plastic case and a simple and rather flimsy stand that allows adjusting the tilt of the screen only.

The case is rather thin notwithstanding the integrated power adapter.

The unpretentious stand can be removed and replaced with a VESA mount if necessary. There are holes required for that here.

Acer didn’t change its principles when developing this monitor and equipped it with an analog D-Sub input only. This seems insufficient considering the current popularity of digital connectors. The image quality is unaffected, though. Our Radeon X600 would yield a sharp and clear picture through this monitor.

The monitor’s controls are centered below the front panel. The Power button differs from the others with its shape and size, so you can’t confuse it for anything else. Quick access is provided to the auto-adjustment feature and to selecting an image profile.

This is a typical menu of inexpensive monitors from Acer: simple, not very pretty, but quite user-friendly. It offers a regular selection of settings, without any special options.

By default, the monitor has 77% brightness and 50% contrast. When the contrast setting is increased higher than the default, the monitor loses details in lights. To achieve a 100nit brightness of white I dropped the brightness setting to 25% and the contrast setting to 24%. The monitor controls its brightness through modulation of the power of the backlight lamps at a frequency of 266Hz.

Color gradients do not look striped whatever settings you choose, but dark halftones become indistinguishable from each other on your reducing the contrast setting to 10% and lower.

The gamma curves are surprisingly good for such an inexpensive model. There is a certain misbalance of colors, but without gross defects. The curves retain their shape at the reduced brightness/contrast, and all color tones are reproduced normally.

The color temperature setup is depressing, however. There are only two temperature modes, except for a manual mode, and both are set up shabbily. The temperature of dark halftones is very high, differing from the temperature of white by a few thousand degrees. You can easily see this with your own eyes, without any instruments. The Warm mode is hardly really warm: white looks more or less normal but the dark tones are obviously cold at 9300K and higher.

If matrixes with response time compensation did not exist, the monitor’s speed might be considered good at an average of 13.7 milliseconds with a maximum of 28.4 milliseconds. But of course this monitor can’t stand competition with RTC-enabled models. It is many times slower than them.

The monitor’s brightness and contrast parameters are average for matrixes of its type. The contrast ratio does not reach 300:1 in any mode.

Thus, I can find nothing very interesting about the Acer AL1916. It has all the traits of a model that was stripped of everything to be made as cheap as possible. Its gamma curves are set up surprisingly well for a monitor of its price range, but the color temperature is set too high and the contrast ratio is just average. This model may be appropriate as an inexpensive office or home monitor for working with text documents thanks to its price which is almost as low as that of 17” monitors.

ASUS PG191

The ASUS PG191 is yet another monitor on a TN matrix, but this matrix features response time compensation. Moreover, the manufacturer claims it to be one of the fastest matrixes available, with a response time of only 2 milliseconds GtG. As opposed to the Acer AL1916, the viewing angles of the PG191 are declared to be 160 degrees wide, but this doesn’t mean any improvement in the matrix manufacturing technology. It is just a different way of measuring the same angle. The viewing angles of the AL1916 are measured by a contrast drop to 10:1 whereas the viewing angles of the PG191, by a contrast drop to 5:1. It means the PG191 is no competitor to monitors on *VA or S-IPS matrixes in this parameter notwithstanding the high number in its specs.

The PG191 looks like an ASUS monitor indeed. The company pays much attention to the exterior design of its products, and this one features black glossy plastic of the case, touch-sensitive buttons (which are virtually invisible until the monitor is turned on), and an aluminum stand.

The monitor is equipped with a built-in web-camera located above the screen. The camera is set into the case and can turn up and down, but not to the left or right. Its image quality is typical such cameras – just enough for a video conference.

The key feature of this monitor can be found at its back: most other multimedia LCD monitors come with a couple of mediocre speakers whereas the ASUS PG191 offers a full-featured subwoofer fastened on the stand behind the monitor case.

The subwoofer is shaped like a cylinder and is placed on the stand at a distance from the case. This helps suppress its vibration that otherwise would have a negative effect on the monitor’s operation.

The sound system of the PG191 should not be regarded as something exceptional, though. The subwoofer just adds some low frequency to the flat and inexpressive sound of the common tiny speakers hidden behind the monitor’s front panel. I can acknowledge that the PG191 does sound better than other multimedia monitors, yet any standalone desktop speaker system, even a cheap one, will anyway be far better, especially when it comes to reproducing music.

The monitor’s stand is large and heavy, yet doesn’t look bulky thanks to its shape. It is rigid and steady, but its functionality is limited to changing the tilt of the screen. You can replace the stand with a VESA-compatible mount (to hang the monitor on a wall, for example), but it means giving up the monitor’s subwoofer.

Most of the monitor’s connectors are to be found on its back. Here you can find analog and digital inputs, connectors for the audio card’s line output and microphone input, a USB connector for the integrated USB hub and the above-mentioned web-camera, and a subwoofer connector.

There are three ports of the USB hub on the monitor’s side panel (this is a four-port hub, but one of its ports is taken up by the built-in web-camera). Connectors for your headphones and microphone are here, too. The ports are placed at a distance from each other, so there can be no problems with plugging in a few devices at a time.

The monitor comes with a cable that combines USB, audio, and video, but only analog video. Seems a strange solution to me, considering the gaming orientation of the product. Modern games-oriented graphics cards all have a DVI connector and the monitor’s analog interface is going to be used but seldom. The connectors are all standard, so replacing the cables won’t be a problem, but it’s still annoying that if you use a DVI connection, you have to leave the thick D-Sub cable on the desk or buy additional USB and audio cables.

The PG191 has got touch-sensitive controls. When the monitor is turned off, you can only see its Power button on an absolutely smooth front panel. But as soon as you touch it, amber LEDs wake up to highlight the other buttons. The buttons should be pressed easily with the underside of your finger. You’ll have to adjust yourself if you’re used to pressing buttons with a quick touch of a nail.

Quick access is provided to the volume adjustment, to switching between the Splendid modes (factory-set profiles), and to switching the equalizer modes.

The first of the monitor’s drawbacks I want to note is that its onscreen menu is too slow. Considering that the menu does not remember the last changed menu item and opens up every time on the first tab with the Splendid mode (although these modes are anyway easier switched with the appropriate button, without even entering the menu), this is going to get on your nerves if you have to frequently change something in the monitor’s settings to which quick access is not provided.

A funny thing this monitor can do, it can play short melodies through its own speakers when turning on and off and can also respond melodically to your pressing its buttons.

Fortunately, this can be easily disabled in the menu.

But if you like this music, you can not only enable sounds in the menu, but choose those you like best from the offered list. I guess there’ll soon be monitors you can load melodies into from the PC!

Alas, all this music cannot make you forget about other drawbacks of the monitor’s menu, one of the most annoying of which is that it just resets the user-defined brightness setting when you are switching the Splendid modes. It is a common thing (not only with ASUS’ but also with other manufacturers’ monitors) that even the darkest of the factory-set modes is too bright for working comfortably under typical indoor lighting. That’s why many users configure their monitor manually for working with text, but switch to one of the preset modes with increased brightness to watch a movie or play a game. And when they return to text again, it’s just enough to switch back into the user-defined mode.

The problem of the PG191 – and of other monitors from ASUS I have tested as well – is that you cannot return to the user-defined settings. They are just reset to their defaults each time you switch through the Splendid modes. I can’t really understand this and I have never seen monitors from other brands behave like that.

Talking about the preset modes, there are two slightly different approaches among the manufacturers. Such modes either adjust brightness, contrast and, sometimes, color temperature (like Samsung’s MagicBright) or correct the shape of the gamma curve and change some other fine settings (like NEC’s DV Mode). The latter approach often leads to incorrect reproduction of colors. For example, a mode that is claimed to increase color saturation also kills all light tones of the picture, making them indistinguishable from pure white. Quick switching between the preset modes may prove to be a useless feature if such color distortions are unacceptable for you.

The ASUS PG191 represents the second approach. Switching between the Splendid modes affects a variety of color reproduction parameters, from brightness to color saturation, and may lead to loss of details in darks or lights in some modes. Keep this in mind when you are using this feature.

As an example, the picture above shows the monitor’s gamma curves in the Night View mode intended for games that seem too dark to you. The image gets brighter, but not through an increase in brightness, but through raising the gamma curves, mostly of blue and green colors. As a result, the gray balance is distorted, the picture becomes whitish, and details get lost in lights. So, the Night View mode corrects one issue, but provokes another one.

By default in the Standard Mode the monitor has 90% brightness, 80% contrast, 24% image sharpness (when this setting is set higher than 25% there appear light edges around dark lines against a gray background; this leaves an unpleasant impression like a photograph whose author has been too eager in applying the Unsharp Mask filter), and 37% color saturation. To achieve a 100nit brightness of white I selected 68% brightness and 70% contrast. The monitor controls its brightness by means of modulation of the power of the backlight lamps at a frequency of 220Hz.

Color gradients look striped at any settings on this monitor’s screen.

In the Standard Mode at the default settings the gamma curves look good, except for a too high contrast of blue, which is indicated by the characteristic bend of the curve in the top right of the diagram.

At the reduced contrast the blue curve bottoms out but the monitor still continues to display the full range of color tones.

The PG191’s color temperature is set up awfully. The onscreen picture is not warm even in the Warm mode (a temperature of 5400K is a common value for such a mode) and the difference between different levels of gray is as big as 3500K. In the Normal mode the image is obviously too cold. In the sRGB mode the temperature of white is close to the required 6500K, but gray is bluish again.

The picture above illustrates how the difference in temperatures is going to show up in reality. I displayed four squares, from a dark gray to white, on the monitor and then photographed them. Then I made three pictures out of the photo. These pictures differ in the square the white balance was based on. In the first picture it is based on the white square. In the second and third pictures it is based on the light gray and the darker gray squares, respectively. The pictures are shown above, the square the white balance is based on being marked with a checkmark.

If the color temperature of each level of gray was the same, the three pictures would not differ from each other. But here we see that in each picture there is only one really gray square – the one I used to set the white balance. The rest of the squares have some coloring. As a result, you cannot configure the monitor up so that all levels of gray were indeed gray on the screen, without a bluish or yellowish hue, unless you use a hardware calibrator.

Having a specified response time of 2 milliseconds GtG, the monitor proved to have an average response of 3.1 milliseconds GtG in my tests. This is a good result that makes the PG191 one of the fastest LCD monitors available. Its maximum response was 4.5 milliseconds only.

Alas, the fast speed is accompanied with a high level of RTC errors. The error is 15.7% on average with a maximum of over 60%. It means that visual artifacts like white trails behind dark objects or dark trails behind light objects (it is the opposite of the common ghosting effect of LCD matrixes) are going to be conspicuous and even annoying.

The monitor’s brightness and contrast parameters are quite normal as TN matrixes go. Nothing exceptional, but nothing bad, either. Still I have to note that, unlike the PG191, most monitors in this review have a contrast ratio higher than 300:1.

The ASUS PG191 is remarkable for its eye-catching appearance and subwoofer which makes the sound of the monitor’s integrated speakers somewhat more agreeable than that of competing models. From among its technical parameters the excellent matrix speed is the only noteworthy thing. Otherwise, this monitor lacks any exceptional features, but has a lot of drawbacks instead: an inconvenient and strangely behaving menu, a very shabby color temperature setup (and a rather mediocre overall setup of color reproduction), a big RTC error, and a not-very-high contrast. Thus, the PG191 will only make a good purchase for people who care about the appearance of their monitor more than about its color reproduction quality. The high matrix speed cannot be considered a strong argument in favor of the PG191. There are currently a lot of monitors with a specified response time of 2 milliseconds GtG for the customer not to be limited in his choice.

ASUS MB19TU

With characteristics similar to the above-described PG191, the ASUS MB19TU belongs to a somewhat different product category. It is cheaper by over a hundred US dollars due to its ordinary exterior design and lack of an integrated subwoofer (although it has simple stereo speakers as well).

It looks like a regular nice-looking modern LCD monitor. Its case is made from dark-gray plastic without any aluminum or glossy surfaces. A row of control buttons is placed below the screen. Everything is designed in a modest, neat and tidy way which distinguishes the MB19TU from many plain-looking office-class products.

The monitor’s got a simple stand that allows adjusting the tilt of its screen. It can be replaced with a VESA mount if necessary.

The monitor’s got analog and digital inputs, an integrated power adapter, and an audio input for the integrated speakers. It offers a headphones socket on the front panel.

The monitor’s controls are ordinary buttons unlike the PG191’s touch-sensitive ones. They are centered at the bottom of the front panel. The Power button is located at a distance and is accompanied with a LED indicator. A “Try Me” sticker points at the button that browses through the Splendid modes (some manufacturers are just too fond of such trumpery, although the first thing most users do when they deal with a new product is tear such things off).

The monitor’s menu is colorful and offers a regular selection of settings, without anything exceptional. ASUS’ loudly touted Splendid technology means a few profiles of factory settings, including brightness, contrast, saturation and color temperature, that can be switched with a press of a button like LG’s f-Engine or Samsung’s MagicBright. Like with most of such technologies, the practical worth of Splendid technology is low because the preset profiles seldom suit the particular conditions and preferences of the user.

An annoying thing is that your using the Splendid feature always resets the user-defined brightness setting to its default.

By default, the monitor has 90% brightness and 80% contrast. To achieve a 100nit brightness of white I reduced the brightness and contrast settings to 56% and 55%, respectively. Increasing the contrast up to the maximum value does not lead to a loss of lights on this monitor, as opposed to most other models. The monitor controls its brightness by means of modulation of the power of the backlight lamps at a frequency of 340Hz.

Color gradients look striped on this monitor irrespective of the current settings. Another drawback is that at a contrast of 35% and lower dark tones merge into a single black color.

The gamma curves are neat enough, but the image will look pale due to the rise of the curves in the middle part of the diagram. At the reduced contrast the left part of the curves becomes almost horizontal in the leftmost fifth of the diagram, especially the blue curve, which explains the poor reproduction of darks when the contrast setting is low.

There are only three color temperature modes, but they are quite satisfactorily set up: the difference of temperatures within one mode is not bigger than 1000K. The temperature values correspond to the names of the modes: the Warm mode is indeed rather warm and the Cold one is reasonably cold.

The monitor offers a curious setting called Skin Tone which can be set at Reddish, Normal, and Yellowish. It’s not quite clear what or whose skin they mean because the image becomes so Reddish and so Yellowish that I can’t think of a possible application for this menu option.

The monitor’s response time is a typical example of a modern TN matrix with RTC: an average of 3.1 milliseconds with a maximum of 4.7 milliseconds. This maximum is recorded not on switching between close color tones, but on switching to white when the compensation mechanism does not work.

The RTC error is 14.7% on average with a maximum lower than 50%. This is not perfect and any user can see this error as light trails which are most obvious when the monitor is switching between two tones with similar brightness levels.

The monitor’s contrast ratio is average for this matrix type while the maximum brightness is a little lower than the common value of 250 nits.

A curious thing about the ASUS MB19TU is that its specified characteristics are similar to the more expensive PG191 but in reality these two models only have the same response time. The MB19TU has a much more accurate color temperature setup than the PG191, but has a problem with reproducing darks at reduced contrast which was not observed in the PG191. If it were not for this problem and for the high level of RTC errors, the MB19TU might be recommended as an inexpensive, nice-looking and very fast monitor. The mentioned drawbacks spoil the impression from it somewhat, though.

Dell E196FP

The Dell E196FP looks even more unassuming than the Acer AL1916 in its specification. It’s got an RTC-less TN matrix with a typical response time of 8 milliseconds, an average contrast ratio, and narrow (but honestly measured) viewing angles of 140 degrees…

It’s the exterior design that puts this monitor apart from the Acer. Combining a dark, almost black, gray with silver and standing on a V-shaped base, the monitor will look gorgeous on an office desk without trying to make your work days seem gloomier than they really are with a clumsy case of a depressing gray color.

The stand allows adjusting the tilt of the screen. It seems too thin and unsteady at first sight against the massive case of the monitor, but it is actually very stable. It can be replaced with a VESA-compatible mount. As is typical of Dell’s monitors, the native stand is fastened with a button lock rather than with screws.

The monitor’s got an analog input only. I think it is a drawback, even though not a crucial one for a 19” diagonal, considering the popularity of the DVI interface.

The monitor’s controls are limited to three buttons. Frankly speaking, I think four is the comfortable minimum of buttons, and the E196FP may turn to be somewhat awkward to deal with. Quick access is provided to the brightness and contrast settings and to the auto-adjustment feature.

The monitor’s menu is simple and intuitive. You can hardly have any problems with it. The selection of settings is very limited, including only the essential ones just as you can expect from a cheap monitor.

By default, the monitor’s brightness and contrast settings are set at 75. I achieved a 100nit brightness of white by setting them both at 64. The monitor controls its brightness through pulse-width modulation of the power of the backlight lamps at a frequency of 320Hz.

The picture grows completely dark when you set the brightness and contrast at zero. So, the minimum brightness of the screen is zero, too. There is no practical sense in that, but this is good news for people who have apprehensions about excessive brightness of LCD monitors.

Color gradients are reproduced flawlessly, without any banding.

The gamma curves look very good at the default settings. It’s hard to find any fault with them even if you don’t make allowances for the low-end category the monitor belongs to. Moreover, their shape doesn’t worsen at reduced values of contrast and the monitor still reproduces all the color tones it is expected to reproduce.

The color temperature setup is inaccurate. The monitor displays gray with a noticeable bluish hue. As a result, most users will find the Red mode most suitable while the default Normal mode is going to look too cold.

The monitor does not have response time compensation, so its average speed is 15.1 milliseconds GtG, i.e. three to five times that of RTC-enabled models. The matrix is fast on a black-white transition, but transitions between two halftones may take as long as 40 milliseconds.

The monitor’s brightness and contrast parameters are average.

All in all, the Dell E196FP is an inexpensive monitor that is going to suit fine for typical office work, i.e. for processing text documents, when you don’t need a low response time or an accurate reproduction of colors (as you have seen above, the color temperature setup of the E196FP is rather poor). It won’t do well as a home monitor for games and movies due to its slow matrix and lack of such features as quick switching between preset profiles, but will look good on a work desk, being superior to many of its opponents in the exterior design at least.

LG Flatron L1900R (Ring)

When this monitor’s specification was declared by LG Electronics, there were questions on Web forums as to what type of the matrix it might have. The low response time implies TN, but on the other hand, the viewing angles of 170 degrees and the huge contrast ratio that even Samsung doesn’t dare to declare for its PVA matrixes that have always had a very good black color.

The answer is simple. The Flatron L1900R has a TN matrix. Its viewing angles are measured by a contrast drop to 5:1, which is the typical measurement method for this matrix type (the angles are measured by a contrast drop to 10:1 for PVA, MVA and S-IPS matrixes). And although the viewing angles have become wider, at least in the specs, in comparison with older matrixes of the same type, they are still no match to other technologies. The specified contrast ratio refers to dynamic contrast and the huge numbers are not to be wondered at. But the dynamic contrast mode is suitable for movies and for movies only. It is absolutely useless for work.

This monitor, one of the three models in the new LG Fantasy series, is truly eye-catching. You just can’t cast an indifferent glance over the black glossy surface of the case and the massive stand with a through hole and red highlighting. When you try to lift this monitor up, you realize the stand does not just look massive, it is indeed made very heavy to keep the monitor steady. This monitor is obviously not meant for office work. It is rather supposed to stand next to a modder’s dazzling and multicolored system case. Products with such design are preferred by young people, and the monitor’s TN matrix features response time compensation technology to provide a high speed in games such users play. Frankly speaking, I’d be very surprised if I found a cheap old matrix in such an impressive result of a high-paid designer’s job.

As you may guess, it was too difficult to implement screen height adjustment here. The screen tilt can be changed in an acceptable range.

Beauty often comes at a cost. Here, the monitor case cannot be detached from the stand. As a consequence, the developers had to make the monitor incompatible with VESA mounts, too.

To implement the design concept, the connectors were moved from the monitor’s back panel into a separate block, the size of a cigarette pack, that is linked to the monitor with a thick cable about a quarter of a meter long. If this block is hung behind the back of your work desk, nothing will spoil the aesthetic impression from the monitor, and that is good. The downside is that the monitor has got only one input, DVI-I, which can receive either analog (via a D-Sub adapter) or digital signal. The power adapter is external. It connects to the monitor via the connectors block.

There are only two buttons here: a touch-sensitive Power button and a button that controls the highlighting of the hole in the base (it is centered below the screen).

You are supposed to control the monitor with the Forte Manager program:

The program developers put a lot of text into each screen to describe what you can do with the settings on the given tab whereas the buttons for moving between the tabs and for changing the settings are placed on the sides and are very small size. This may be convenient at first, but doesn’t seem so after you’ve been using the program for a while.

Otherwise, using this program is like using an onscreen menu. The monitor offers a standard selection of settings.

By default, the monitor has 100% brightness and 70% contrast. Increasing the contrast setting above the default leads to a loss of light tones. To achieve a 100nit brightness of white I selected 48% brightness and 46% contrast. The monitor controls its brightness by means of modulation of the power of the backlight lamps at a frequency of 260Hz.

Color gradients are reproduced flawlessly at any brightness/contrast settings. The monitor also has no problems reproducing dark tones.

The gamma curves are not ideal, but close to being such. An ordinary user won’t see any defects. The curves do not change much at the reduced contrast.

The monitor offers four color profiles: sRGB (which should theoretically correspond to a temperature of 6500K) and three profiles with different temperatures. Unfortunately, the profiles are set up rather inaccurately. The temperatures of white are close to the names of the profiles, but each of the four profiles gets colder by 2000-3000K on gray. The temperature is over 15000K in the 9300 profile!

The monitor’s response time is good at an average of 5 milliseconds and with a maximum of no higher than 10 milliseconds. You won’t make a mistake if you choose this monitor for playing dynamic computer games.

The RTC error value is satisfactory, too. It is 5.6% on average with a maximum of 31%, which is a good result for a monitor with a TN matrix. The user won’t normally notice such small errors, especially as their maximums (very modest in comparison with earlier implementations of RTC technology) are concentrated on transitions between close values of gray.

The monitor’s contrast ratio is average, but its maximum brightness does not reach even 200 nits. This won’t be a problem for most users, though. High brightness is needed for specific situations like watching a movie under bright sunlight when you can’t draw the curtains.

So, the Flatron L1900R can be recommended to people whose monitor must be a piece of furniture rather than just a display device. With its low response time, small RTC error, rather good gamma curves and normal contrast, it will also suit gamers. But again, beauty comes at a cost. This is not a cheap model.

LG Flatron L1960TR

Like the previous model, the Flatron L1960TR employs a TN matrix with response time compensation and dynamic contrast mode. The specified response time has been reduced twofold, but we’ll see below how great the difference really is. The viewing angles have become those of a typical TN matrix, 160 degrees. And I don’t think any user will catch the difference between the viewing angles of the L1960TR and the L1900R visually.

As opposed to the previous monitor, this one is designed in a classic style, with a stern-looking glossy black case, a round stand, a minimum of decorative elements, and an external power adapter. And a TN matrix with response time compensation inside, as you remember. I wouldn’t say this is an eye-catching and extraordinary design, but it is certainly memorable. I have no doubt there’ll be people who’ll like it.

This side view shows you that the stand is actually large and is quite capable of keeping the monitor steady. As concerns functionality, the stand only permits to change the tilt of the screen.

A decorative panel hides the monitor’s connectors at its back. Unfortunately, it makes the L1960TR incompatible with standard VESA mounts.

There is a normal selection of connectors here: a D-Sub, DVI, and a power connector.

The Power button is touch-sensitive and is organically built into the metallized shiny band that goes along the monitor’s bottom. The rest of the controls are placed on the side panel with all their labels. This is not handy and is going to be irritating until you learn the positions of the buttons by heart. However, this solution helped clear the monitor’s front panel from any buttons or labels. There’s a downside to everything in life.

Quick access – by means of control buttons – is provided to the f-Engine feature (a number of preset modes you can browsed through in a loop) and to selecting the input.

The menu is designed in LG’s classic way. It lacks any extraordinary features, yet is quite handy and user-friendly.

By default, the monitor has 100% brightness and 70% contrast. When the contrast setting is set above 75%, the monitor loses details in lights. To achieve a 100nit brightness of white I reduced the brightness setting to 48% and the contrast setting to 46%. Brightness is controlled by means of pulse-width modulation of the power of the backlight lamps at a frequency of 260Hz.

Just like the previous monitor from LG in this review, the L1960TR correctly reproduces color gradients at any brightness/contrast settings and has no problems at reproducing dark colors.

The gamma curves are close to the theoretical ones at the default settings, but their shape changes at lower contrast values.

This is how they look at the settings that yield a 100nit white. The contrast setting is reduced to 46% here. You can see that the green curve goes too low and the shape of the blue curve is very uneven. It means that colors won’t be correct at low contrast values, even though the distortion won’t be too great.

The monitor’s color temperature setup is better than with the previous model. The difference between temperatures of different levels of gray is within 1000K rather than 2000-3000K. This is not an ideal accuracy, especially in the 9300 mode, but quite sufficient for a common, not very fastidious, user.

The monitor’s average response time of 3.1 milliseconds with a maximum of 7 milliseconds makes it one of the fastest LCD monitors available. It is 50% faster than the Flatron L1900R.

The RTC error is not exactly small, but acceptable. It is 11.8% on average with a maximum of 34%. This means that RTC artifacts may be noticeable, but they are smaller than on the ASUS monitors that have the same response time. What is interesting, the error is the biggest on transitions into light tones while transitions into dark tones are performed with minimum or no error.

The L1960TR’s contrast ratio is very good as TN matrixes go. It is 300:1 or higher at most settings.

Thus, the Flatron L1960TR is a good mainstream monitor with a fast matrix, good contrast ratio, and no problems with color gradients. This makes it a good inexpensive model for home use which is surely going to be popular among people who don’t want to pay extra for a fanciful exterior design and cannot afford a monitor with a larger diagonal, yet do not want to use downright low-end models, either.

LG L1970HR

Being an exact copy of the L1960TR in its characteristics, the Flatron L1970HR looks just too plain after the two previous models due to its gray coloring and simpler design, although it is not devoid of a certain elegance in comparison with the Acer AL1916, for example. The key feature of the L1970HR is the design of its stand.

The side view shows that the stand has two hinges. With one hinge it is fastened to the LCD panel case and with another, to the oval base that stands on the desk surface. This helps adjust the stand to a certain extent while keeping the same tilt of the screen, yet it is somewhat inconvenient in practice. You subconsciously want to fix the monitor in the steadiest position, which is at the maximum height. The screen tilt can be varied in a wide range. Perhaps you won’t need that, but anyway.

Just like with the LG L1900R, the non-standard stand makes the monitor incompatible with VESA mounts.

The monitor’s connectors are located at the back of its foundation: analog and digital inputs, and a connector for an external power adapter. This is an appropriate solution because the cables do not rise above the desk surface and remain practically inconspicuous.

The monitor’s controls are hidden under the bottom of the front panel and are labeled on the panel itself, which makes it easier to search and push them by touch. Quick access is provided to selecting a preset profile.

The monitor is equipped with a standard onscreen menu which differs from the previous model’s menu in one item only. It allows disabling the highlighting of the Power button. This is not a killer feature, of course, yet it is important for users who get annoyed at bright distracting LEDs in Power buttons.

The monitor has 100% brightness and 70% contrast by default. Choosing a higher contrast value results in a loss of light tones in the onscreen picture. To achieve a 100nit brightness of white I reduced the brightness setting to 51% and the contrast setting to 65%.

At the reduced contrast there appear barely visible stripes in color gradients. Dark tones never merge into one color whatever brightness/contrast settings you choose.

The monitor’s gamma curves are very close to the theoretical ones at the default settings, but sag at reduced contrast values. This is hard to see in practice, though, if you don’t know what to look for and cannot make a comparison with a calibrated monitor.

The color temperature setup is somewhat surprising. Among the three temperature modes (the user-defined mode coincides with the normal mode by default) there is no mode with a temperature of less than 7000K. Moreover, this temperature grows up more on gray. Thus, the monitor has accurately set-up color temperature modes, but each of them yields a very cold color.

Thanks to RTC, the monitor’s response time is very good. It is 3 milliseconds on average with a maximum of 5.6 milliseconds. The matrix is indeed very fast on any transition. It is among the fastest matrixes available today.

It is not without RTC errors, but within reasonable limits. An attentive user will spot image artifacts, I guess. The RTC error is 14.1% on average with a maximum of 43.7%. Transitions into dark colors are performed with a small or no error whereas transitions into lights are performed with a gross error. On the practical level it means that gray objects will be leaving a light trail when moving on a light background.

This monitor’s brightness and contrast parameters are a little better than average as TN matrixes go. I can’t see anything exceptional about them.

Thus, the LG L1970HR is a very average monitor in its class. It does not have any exceptional technical properties, except for its low response time, which may only be interesting for people who play dynamic games. The most surprising thing about this monitor is its color temperature setup that yields very cold colors in every mode and calls for a manual adjustment. Well, if you don’t think it a big deal, and you want a super-fast matrix with a reasonable level of RTC errors, with normal brightness and contrast, and at a low price, this monitor may suit you just fine.

Samsung SyncMaster 931c

Although the SyncMaster 931C looks like a standard modern monitor with a fast matrix when you read through its specs, it has one feature that I’ve previously seen only in much more expensive models like the 27” SyncMaster 275T. It has backlight lamps with improved phosphors that extend the monitor’s color gamut far beyond the limits of the standard sRGB color space. But does a games-oriented model really need this? And do its other characteristics match its enhanced gamut? Let’s see…

The monitor’s appearance is intriguing due to the original mixture of a somber black front panel and a thin silvery band along its bottom. Some people doesn’t like this design, but most find it attractive and serious at the same time. The monitor’s stand is designed in Samsung’s classic style. It allows to rotate the monitor freely and keeps it very steady.

Unfortunately, this model lacks screen height adjustment which is often implemented even in inexpensive models from Samsung. This stand allows adjusting the screen tilt only.

The connectors at the back are hidden by a protruding panel which, however, does not prevent you from replacing the stand with a standard VESA mount. There is a normal selection of connectors here: analog and digital inputs, and a power connector. The monitor has an integrated power adapter.

A metallized Power button is conspicuous on the front panel. The rest of the buttons are hidden under the right part of the front panel and are not normally visible. The buttons are labeled on the front panel, so it is easy to use them. Quick access is provided to the brightness setting, to selecting the input and to switching the MagicBright modes.

This is a standard Samsung menu, quite user-friendly and functional, and the same as in many other monitors from the company. Remarkable in this menu is the lack of color temperature modes. Instead, you are offered three modes – Mild, Normal and Brilliance – that obviously change color saturation.

By default, the monitor has 100% brightness and 75% contrast. When you try to increase its contrast above this value, light colors merge together into one. To achieve a 100nit brightness of white, the brightness and contrast settings had to be reduced to 43% and 50%, respectively.

Dark areas of color gradients look striped on this monitor, which is additionally spoiled at reduced values of contrast with a sort of “fine sand” that changes the gradient colors perceptibly. At the same time, dark tones are easily distinguishable from each other whatever settings you choose.

The gamma curves are not ideal, mainly because of the green curve which sags heavily in the middle of the diagram.

When the monitor is switched into Brilliance mode, its colors become more saturated. In the Mild mode the saturation is reduced, but the shape of the gamma curves remains the same.

Now what about the extended color gamut? Let’s compare it with the common sRGB:

It’s clear that the red and blue parts of the Samsung SyncMaster 931C’s spectrum are almost standard, but the color gamut is shifted greatly towards green tones by sacrificing some yellow. It cannot be demonstrated, unfortunately, but this monitor indeed yields a very vibrant and saturated green color.

The SyncMaster 931C does not set any records in terms of matrix speed, yet it is fast enough at 6.1 milliseconds on average. Unfortunately, the RTC mechanism setup is somewhat inaccurate here and the response time is quite high on some particular transitions.

The RTC error is rather high on average at 13.1%. This is not much as TN matrixes go, but quite sufficient for the error to be noticeable for the user. But like with the response time, it all depends on the particular transition. Almost all transitions into a darker color are performed without errors, but the error is as big as 20-40% with transitions to a lighter tone. In certain cases the error amounts to 90% which leads to easily visible artifacts in the onscreen image.

The brightness and contrast of the 931C are typical for a TN matrix and are not very interesting against the other characteristics of this monitor.

Summing it all up, the Samsung SyncMaster 931C looks an ambiguous product to me. On one hand, it features a stylish and ergonomic design, an extended color gamut, and a matrix with response time compensation. But on the other hand, its response time compensation is implemented shabbily, and it has imperfect gamma curves and problems with reproducing dark tones in color gradients.

Considering all this, the extended color gamut doesn’t give the 931C any special advantage. Speaking generally, an extended color gamut should be regarded as a nice addition to a good color reproduction setup, but not as something with its own intrinsic value. And I can’t say that the color reproduction setup of the 931C is good.

Samsung SyncMaster 932B

The SyncMaster 932B is an ordinary monitor based on a TN matrix without response time compensation. Although Samsung’s website declares an average GtG response, my measurements suggest that this is a typo. The matrix of the 932B behaves alike to the above-described monitors with a response time of 5 milliseconds on the black-white-black transition.

The key feature of this monitor is its exterior design. The SyncMaster 932B does not look like a monitor. It rather raises associations with a TV-set stylized to look like retro televisions with a conspicuously rounded-off outline. This design can be argued, but I like it. The monitor is attractive with its uncommon appearance. And it is the overall design rather than some shiny inserts or super-bright LEDs that appeals to the eye here. I have no doubt many users will like the smooth and rounded-off outline of the SyncMaster 932B.

Besides the silver-and-black coloring, the monitor is available in white and black versions. The biggest drawback of black plastic is that it gets soiled easily. Your fingerprints are going to be just too visible on the glossy surface.

A graceful round stand is fastened to the monitor from below and allows adjusting the screen tilt only. It cannot be replaced with a VESA mount.

This is a curious stand – I mean the way it’s fastened to the monitor. You won’t find a single screw hole here. There is only a round knob on the base with a couple of small juts which serve as screen tilt limiters.

There is a rubberized groove in the monitor’s bottom the top part of the stand goes into. The juts in the stand fit into the cut-outs in the groove. To perform this operation, you should place the stand on a desk and push the monitor down on it with some effort. This is all quite comprehensibly described in the included manual.

As a result, you get a monitor with a stand. Contrary to possible apprehensions, the connection is sufficiently stiff. The monitor does not wobble and can be fixed in any position. The stand won’t fall out if you lift the monitor up – you have to apply some effort to take it off.

The SyncMaster 932B has analog and digital inputs located in the oblong niche at the back panel of the case.

There is a large round Power button on the front panel which is highlighted with a blue LED at work. The highlighting is not bright. It won’t be distracting even in half-darkness.

The rest of the buttons are placed on the bottom edge of the case. Their labels are pressed out in the plastic above them (by the way, the readability of such labels is good on white plastic, but poor on black plastic). The monitor’s got the same controls as other monitors from Samsung. Quick access is provided to the auto-adjustment feature, to switching between the inputs, to adjusting the brightness setting, and to browsing through the MagicBright modes.

The monitor’s menu is not new, either. This menu has been used in almost all monitors Samsung has produced in the last few years, except for a few large-diagonal models. The menu is user-friendly and comprehensible. It remembers the item you changed last. You can control the monitor with the MagicTune program as well.

By default, the monitor has 100% brightness and 80% contrast. To achieve a 100nit brightness of white the monitor’s brightness and contrast settings should be both reduced to 44%. The minimum possible brightness is about 15 nits. The monitor controls its brightness by means of backlight modulation at a frequency of about 320Hz.

Color gradients are reproduced flawlessly. The backlighting is uniform except for small dark areas in the bottom and top left corners which are visible on a gray background.

The gamma curves are good, but not perfect. The gamma for the green and blue colors is too low (the higher the gamma, the lower the corresponding curve is and the more contrast the picture has; when the gamma is too low, the picture looks pale and whitish).

The color temperature is set up quite well – I mean for this class of monitors. There is a difference between temperatures of white and gray, yet it is within reasonable limits, i.e. smaller than 1000K. Most users will find the Warm and Normal modes acceptable. The former is warm but not as warm as to make the picture look yellowish. The latter may seem just a bit too cold. It all depends on the ambient lighting you use, after all.

The average response time of the SyncMaster 932B is 15.1 milliseconds GtG with a maximum of 26.3 milliseconds. This is good for a matrix without response time compensation, but there is no talking about competing with RTC-enabled monitors. The 932B is far slower than today’s gaming models whose response time, according to my measurements, may be as low as 3 milliseconds GtG, or five times lower!

The monitor’s contrast ratio is good at 350:1, worsening a little at low brightness only.

Thus, the SyncMaster 932B is an average monitor from a technical point of view, but it is remarkable for its exterior design. It will suit people who are not very fastidious about response time and color reproduction quality. That is, it will suit for working with text and will also make a good inexpensive home monitor with a somewhat uncommon appearance.

Samsung SyncMaster 940Fn

Finally, we’ve got a VA matrix among the innumerable monitors on TN matrixes (I don’t have anything personal against TN technology, but no manufacturer has yet produced a TN matrix with really good viewing angles).

The specification differs dramatically from the monitors I have discussed above. Although the response time is declared to be 8 milliseconds without a “GtG” mark, the SyncMaster 940Fn has an RTC mechanism. Without it, the response would be 16-20 milliseconds. The contrast ratio of 1000:1 is achieved without any tricks and hoaxes. It is a regular static contrast. The viewing angles of 178 degrees are measured honestly by a contrast drop to 10:1.

Externally, the SyncMaster 940Fn is an ordinary stern-looking silver-and-black monitor designed like Samsung’s older models. It looks somewhat boring in comparison with the above-described 931C and the 932B that represent the new trend in Samsung’s design. On the other hand, it looks organic and neat on a work desk.

The stand is large but it allows to change both the tilt and height of the screen and to turn the monitor around the vertical axis and into the portrait mode. The stand can be replaced with a standard VESA mount if necessary.

Against the manufacturers’ custom, this monitor lacks a D-Sub connector, but offers two DVI inputs instead. It does not mean you cannot attach it via an analog channel. You’ll just need an adapter cable with one D-Sub connector for the graphics card and one DVI connector for the monitor’s DVI-I input (take note that the 940Fn’s connectors are universal DVI-I rather than purely digital DVI-D as in most other monitors). One such cable is included with the monitor. To set up a digital connection you can use either a common DVI-D cable (like with other LCD monitors with a digital input) or a universal DVI-I.

The monitor’s controls are placed on its front panel. They are round and bulging a little, and easy to press. Quick access is provided to choosing a MagicBright mode and to switching the inputs, to the brightness setting and to the auto-adjustment feature.

The monitor has a standard menu of Samsung’s modern models. It is user-friendly and intuitive. The SyncMaster 940Fn can be controlled with the MagicTune program as well.

By default, the monitor has 75% contrast and 100% brightness. To achieve a 100nit brightness of white I had to reduce both brightness and contrast to 54%. I could not spot pulse-width modulation of the backlighting. The monitor seems to control its brightness with the matrix.

Color gradients are reproduced correctly without banding. Dark gray does not merge with pure black at any settings even at zero brightness/contrast. Light gray merges with white when the contrast setting is above 80%.

The gamma curves look normal, more or less. The blue curve is considerably higher than necessary. At the reduced contrast setting the red and green curves rise up a little, too, improving the monitor’s white balance, but the picture becomes somewhat whitish. You can correct this by increasing the gamma by about 0.2 in the monitor’s or graphics card’s settings.

The color temperature settings match the gamma curves. The temperature of gray is too high. The Warm mode might be acceptable, but white looks yellowish in it. In the Normal mode the picture may seem to cold overall.

The SyncMaster 940Fn has an average response time of only 8.6 milliseconds GtG with a maximum of 15.8 milliseconds, which is an excellent result for a *VA matrix. This makes it suitable not only for work but also for movies and dynamic games. There is no growth of the response time to 40-50 milliseconds on dark tones, which is typical of this matrix manufacturing technology.

The error of the response time compensation mechanism amounts to only 1.8% on average with a maximum of 19.6%. Compare this to fast TN matrixes whose average error would easily exceed 15% in some models! So, the RTC error of the SyncMaster 940Fn is low and won’t produce noticeable visual artifacts in practice.

The monitor’s contrast ratio is, unfortunately, not as high as might be expected from *VA technology. It is a little lower than 350:1 at a max brightness of nearly 200 nits.

So, although the SyncMaster 940Fn is not an exceptional product in its specification or real parameters or exterior design, it has one important advantage. It is one of the few available 19” monitors whose matrix is not TN. This ensures incomparably better viewing angles as opposed to all the other monitors reviewed in this article. So, if you want to buy a 19” LCD monitor and TN matrixes do not suit you with their narrow vertical viewing angle, make sure you check out the SyncMaster 940Fn. This monitor can be used for work as well as for games and movies thanks to its excellent response time (it’s excellent for *VA technology, I mean).

Conclusion

Although 19” LCD monitors are inevitably rolling down into the low-end market sector where price is the main guiding factor and new technologies appear only after they have been tried on expensive large-diagonal models, there is still a wide choice from very different models, fast and slow, beautiful and plain-looking, with an accurate or shabby setup. TN matrixes have not even become as dominating as they are in 17” models, as is illustrated by the Samsung SyncMaster 940Fn.

Speaking in general, I don’t see any clear outsiders or leaders on this market and I don’t think any model deserves a title like Editor’s Choice or Best Buy or anything. Each of them has its own pros and cons and your choice is going to be determined by your particular preferences and requirements. I hope this article has helped you find your bearings among the multitude of monitors from different brands and take a more critical attitude towards the accompanying advertising slogans.