Closer Look at 19” Monitors Features: Pixel Response Time and More!

This time we are going to review 11 monitors 19” and 18” big from Iiyama, LG, Nec, Samsung and Sony. We will not only look at the pixel response time parameter, which we always do, but will also explore such features as monitor brightness, contrast ratio, color temperature and quality of color rendition. We will help you make the right choice!

by Oleg Artamonov
10/06/2003 | 07:18 AM

Monitor Features: Behind the Scenes

In my previous reviews devoted to the features of 15” LCD monitors and 17” LCD monitors I mostly focused on one characteristic of an LCD display – response time. Other parameters were omitted altogether or measured subjectively. For example, take a parameter like “comfortable brightness”. This is a vague thing, which is not constant even for myself. It may depend on a number of factors like whether it is cloudy outside or the sun is shining through the windows.

However, there are a few characteristics of a display that can be measured with a certain precision: viewing angles, brightness, contrast ratio, color temperature and quality of color rendition. You may question the latter parameter, but color rendition can indeed be described in numbers. To do this (and to correct it if necessary) you need a device called “hardware color calibrator”. One calibrator like that, Pantone ColorVision Spyder with OptiCAL software, helped me throughout my tests.

ColorVision Spyder is a sensor attached to the screen (with CRT displays you can simply stick it to the glass with three suction cups, while with LCDs you hang it down the upper side of the display case, because the cups are too strong to use them with pressure-sensitive LCD matrixes). Eight photo-sensors are hidden behind the matte plate: seven of them are with color filters (to measure color rendition) and one without any filter (for measuring brightness).

The OptiCAL software, which is bundled with the calibrator allows creating a color profile for a display, and also checking out the main display properties like color curves, color temperature, black and white brightness and so on…Let’s explain the meaning of each of these terms first.

Color curves represent the dependence between the input signal (the color as produced by the graphics card) and the output signal (the screen brightness). The curve is described by the “gamma” number (output signal = input signal in the power of gamma; the maximum level – 255 in 8-bit-per-component representation – is taken for a reference unit equal to 1). The meaning of this parameter is in gamma compensation, which helps to increase precision of dark tones rendition. For example, the use of gamma 2.2 equals expanding the color representation to 10 bit per channel for dark tones. Of course, it is not for free – light tones are rendered worse (gamma 2.2 is equivalent to using 7-bit-per-channel encoding for them). In fact, gamma correction is performed twice. First, when the image is created (the resulting brightness will equal the gamma-root of the original brightness). Second, when the image is reproduced on the screen so that the user sees the original image.

Originally, in the times when Apple Macintosh was the basic graphics workstation, the standard gamma number was 1.8 (1.72, to be more exact). But IBM-compatible PCs were gaining their ground and they had gamma = 2.5 (the gamma of the crystal-ray tube itself varies in a range from 2.45 to 2.55). Of course, this diversion was not satisfying. If an image is intended for a 1.8-gamma display, it will look too bright on a 2.5-gamma one and vice versa. As a result, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard, later joined by Pantone and Corel, developed the sRGB standard (“A Standard Default Color Space for the Internet”). This standard established the gamma to be 2.2. Below you can see three variants of one and the same image, but compensated for different platforms: the first one is linear, the second has a higher gamma value, and the third has the highest gamma. It is clear that a higher gamma leads to crisper dark tones, but light ones begin to blur into one single background. Of course, if we look at these images on displays corrected for the corresponding gamma, we would see three pictures of the same brightness, but with different precision of dark and light tones rendition.


Linear


Gamma 1.8


Gamma 2.2

Thus, we now have two widely accepted modes: gamma 1.8 for the Mac and gamma 2.2 for the PC. I will stick to gamma 2.2 in this review, since only two displays of the tested bunch allow choosing some other value. The figure below is an example of measuring the color curve for the blue component at 2.2 gamma and 6500K color temperature: the measured curve is black, and the estimated curve is blue. The X-axis is the input signal level, while the Y-axis – the output one.

I chose this curve on purpose, so that it could be easier to reveal possible color rendition errors. There are two of them in this example. First, the measured curve goes below the estimated one everywhere, save for the light tones (in the right part of the graph). It means that we cannot achieve an adequate color rendition by simply increasing the brightness of the blue color in the display settings, as the entire curve would go up. That is, giving enough blue to dark tones, we get surplus of blue in light tones. To cure this situation, display color profiles are used that can correct color rendition more flexibly. Second, and this is a more serious drawback, the display with the current settings does not distinguish between the darkest tones of blue in the first third of the range: no matter how intense the input signal is, the screen brightness equals zero. This is usually cured by increasing the display brightness, although you may encounter various pitfalls. For example, brightness increase may cause growing intensity of the black color, so that the black color will look more like dark-gray pretty soon.

There can be a contrary situation as well when the display cannot distinguish between different light tones and they are all reproduced with the same brightness in the given range. This may occur when the contrast level is set too high (as you know, it is the contrast setting that controls the brightness of the white color). To give you an example, here is a graph taken from a display with the contrast set to maximum:

It is obvious from the picture above that about 40% of the red color is reproduced with the same – maximum – brightness.

Yet another parameter that can be measured is color temperature. It determines the tone of the onscreen image. The lower is the temperature, the warmer are the colors (you have to put up with this terminology, because a man perceives the spectrum of warmer objects as cold ones). Color temperature is measured in Kelvins (K) and equals the temperature of the absolute black body radiating the same spectrum. There are two most commonly used values. Printing and photography often involve 5500K temperature (this value was introduced by folks at Kodak under the name of “daylight”. There is a joke that in real world this value equals the color temperature of midday sunlight near the offices of this company). For computer-processed images (on displays), 6500K is used (for comparison: 6000K color temperature corresponds to bright sunlight in a clear sky, while a slightly clouded sky has 6500…7000K color temperature). Sometimes, but quite rarely, the color temperature is set to 9300K giving out a slight bluish hue (an analog from nature – it is the color temperature of a thin shadow on a bright day). Thus, the standard color temperature for PC displays equals 6500K and I am going to use this value later on. Furthermore, if the color rendition is defective, the color temperature as measured on white and on gray colors will differ. That is why I will always mention two temperatures: one for the pure white (255:255:255 in the RGB model) and the other for the 50% gray (128:128:128 RGB). The closer these two values are to each other, the better calibrated is the display.

The brightness of a display is not controlled by the “Brightness” button, despite the common delusion. This is true for the “Contrast” button, too. These are rather confusing terms, as they actually both adjust brightness: “Brightness” controls the level of the black color, while “Contrast” – the level of the white color. Contrast or rather contrast ratio is estimated as the ratio of the level of white to black. The sensitivity and dynamic range of the ColorVision Spyder sensors allow measuring the brightness of both: black (it is usually about 0.5-1.5 nit for LCD displays; 1 nit = 1 candela per square meter) and white colors (this may be up to 300nit). I will mention these two numbers for all the displays, and the contrast ratio will be then calculated from them. Moreover, as the brightness should be measured under a definite color temperature, all displays are calibrated to 6500K temperature before the tests.

Brightness is the more interesting parameter to measure as many manufacturers include the matrix’s rather than the display’s parameters into the specifications. Meanwhile, the supported range of brightness and contrast values obviously depends on the electronics and firmware of the display, and the matrix only determines the maximum and minimum of this range. I guess it will be interesting to what extent the potential of the matrix is actually used. Moreover, there are two ways to control brightness in a display: by adjusting the matrix itself or by changing the backlight brightness. In the second case, the reduction of the backlight brightness may lead to a lower level of black than written in the matrix’ specs. That is, the contrast ratio will be higher than specified. Our tests are going to show you whether this is the case with some of the displays we use today.

Unfortunately, the black background is measured with lower precision than I might wish. It means we should round the contrast ratio value given in the tables to tens to avoid mistakes. And one more note: the “specified” level of the black is not actually specified by the manufacturer, but calculated by myself from the specified maximum brightness and the specified contrast ratio. I assume they measure the contrast ratio with the matrix at the maximum brightness.

The word “brightness” may refer to both the display setting and the screen luminosity. This may cause certain confusion. In this review, I usually use the word “brightness” to denote the display setting like “the brightness was set to 50%” (meaning that the “Brightness” control in the display settings menu was set to 50% of the maximum). When referring to the physical brightness of the display, I use the term “screen brightness” often followed by a numerical value like “the screen brightness was set to 100nit” (meaning that by adjusting the “Contrast” control I made the display screen shine with 100nit brightness). I hope you excuse me for not finding better terminology and hope there won’t be any confusion or misunderstanding.

Now we should determine the reference points for our measurements. I chose three of them. Firstly, it is the maximum screen brightness when both brightness and contrast controls of the display are set to maximum. It helps to measure the maximum brightness of the white color as well as estimate the brightness adjustment reserve, although there is of course no point in measuring the color rendition with these settings. Secondly, it is the default settings of the display as set up by the manufacturer. I chose this point as the manufacturer should have known better and adjusted the color rendition in the best possible manner. Thirdly, to compare all the displays under equal conditions, I chose a screen brightness of 100nit. This brightness is considered normal for work in a word processor in a room with mild lighting. For example, at your home in the evening (for note: a comfortable brightness for Internet surfing, for image processing or for work with text in case of good external lighting is about 150nit, while for games and movie-watching it ranges from 200 to 250nit).

Besides measuring the levels of brightness, color curves and color temperature, I slightly changed the method of measuring the response time parameter. Our experiments showed that many matrices increase the response time considerably (by a half in some cases) if the contrast and brightness are reduced (if the latter parameter is controlled by the matrix itself rather than by the backlight lamp). So, I will measure the response time three times for each display: using three reference points described above. However, in order to make the results easier to analyze, I will provide only one graph for each case: they don’t differ that much anyway. For those who are looking for a new display, here is my advice: pay attention to the response time not only with the default settings but also with the screen brightness set to ensure highest comfort for your work with this monitor.

The last preliminary note is about the viewing angles. We don’t have equipment to measure them with high precision; that is why I just shared my personal impressions with you. For the displays included into the today’s review, I would like to say from the beginning that none of them have inconvenient viewing angles. All models have about 160…170 degrees viewing angles, which is quite enough to feel comfortable – you don’t have to sit straight all the time. On the other hand, only fast matrices showed poor viewing angles in our 17” LCD Displays Roundup (for example, those with the famous 16ms matrix from AU Optronics), while all models we reviewed today proved rather slow – the minimum measured response time was only 23ms.

However, now that the long introduction is over, let’s pass over to the actual products.

Iiyama AS4611UT

 

AS4611UT is a relatively inexpensive 18” model from one of the most renowned display makers – Iiyama. I say “relatively” because its price is a little below $900, which is quite high for 18” displays, but is pretty inexpensive compared to other models from Iiyama that may cost above $1000.

The design of the display is simple, homely, with no memorable features. There’s no DVI input, only D-Sub, and the cable is fixed, so you cannot disconnect it. The base allows adjusting the tiling of the screen.

The menu is one of the wickedest things I ever saw. Its structure resembles a single-line display in a CD player – a large font, scanty information and no submenus. For example, color temperature settings of 6500K, 7800K and user-defined are not taken to a separate “Color temperature” page, but are three different items in the main menu. The brightness and contrast controls, however, are accessed by quick buttons.

The default brightness and contrast depend on the selected color temperature: 46% and 43%, respectively, at 7800K and 46% and 35% at 6500K.

The real color temperature with 6500K setting turned to be 5850K when measuring on the white color and 6880K – on the 50% gray. When 7800K setting was enabled, the color temperature measurements produced 6520K and 7890 on white and gray, respectively. A screen brightness of 100nit was achieved by setting 40% brightness and 33% contrast.

The tests for the third reference point (maximum screen brightness) were performed using 100% contrast and 50% brightness as further increase of the brightness provoked a catastrophic growth of the level of black. It was over 60nit at 100% brightness. That is, black looked like light-gray and the contrast ratio was about 3:1.

At its default settings, the display is quite good at rendering colors. The level of blue is set a little too high, but this is a common problem of most displays.

When the screen brightness was set to 100nit, things grew less pleasant. The display doesn’t recognize dark tones, thus reducing the dynamic range by a quarter.

The total response time with 50% brightness and 100% contrast was 30ms as specified by the manufacturer. However, when the settings were reduced, the response time increased significantly – to 47ms at 100nit screen brightness.

Pixel rise time

Pixel fall time

The contrast ratio of this display was far from the specified 300:1 and was really no better than 150:1. The maximum screen brightness equaled 211nit, which is a little lower than the specs say.

So, notwithstanding its very high price, this display boasts nothing extraordinary and corresponds to cheapest models from other makers. The unassuming exterior, lack of the DVI input (moreover, this is the only model in this review to have a stationary cable), high response time, low screen brightness and contrast ratio, the infantile sickness of converting black into gray at a high brightness – all these things make me believe that it is the name of the manufacturer rather than technical characteristics that accounts for a bigger portion of the price.

Iiyama AS4821DT

This model is ranked higher in the Iiyama’s product line due to its wider (19”) matrix and richer functionality. However, it uses a TFT panel similar to the one in AS4611UT: it is MVA from Fujitsu. The price of the display nearly hits the $1300 mark.

The display has prettier looks than the previous model and boasts more attractive features: the base allows adjusting the screen tiling, rotating it in both directions by 45 degrees, setting the screen higher or lower and rotating it into the portrait mode.

The assortment of inputs is astonishing, too. The display has two DVI inputs (if you want to connect it to the D-Sub output of the graphics card, there is a D-Sub-to-DVI cable included) and one 4-port USB hub (this option may suit people who have a USB mouse or keyboard – it’s more handy to have them connected to the display rather than to the system case).

The menu is made quite well, but its three-page structure is rather inconvenient. Moreover, the buttons are stiff and you have your fingers aching in no time. The brightness and contrast settings are accessed by means of quick buttons, like in the previous display.

Besides the standard settings, the menu contains an option for display calibration (the gamma value). You are offered three variants: GAMMA1, GAMMA2 and GAMMA3. As our measurements proved, the first option corresponds to 2.2 gamma, the second – to 1.8 gamma and the third – to 3.0 gamma (I can’t make out what’s the idea behind this high number, but maybe it is used somewhere, who knows). I carried out the tests using 2.2 gamma, which is the standard value for the PC/Windows platform.

The color temperature setting also offers three variants: Color1, sRGB and user-defined. Our measurements in the Color1 mode gave out 5520K on white and 7150K on gray. For the sRGB mode, these numbers are 7020K and 7380K, respectively. The sRGB mode, which should have a color temperature of 6500K, is set up quite well, while the temperature dispersion across 1.5 thousand degrees in the Color1 mode leaves an unpleasant feeling.

By default, both: brightness and contrast settings are set to 50%, and a screen brightness (i.e. luminance of white) of 100nit is achieved at 30% brightness and 32% contrast. Just like we saw it by the previous model, this one is unable to work with a brightness setting above 60% - the screen loses the black color completely (although not as dramatically as by AS4611UT).

Unfortunately, Spyder was unable to calibrate the display with any nice precision. The calibrator work is based first of all on the white balance, while the default settings have a slump in the upper part of the dynamic range.

The situation changes to the contrary at 100nit screen brightness: the display loses about 20% of the dynamic range, but this time in the dark tones.

Thus, this display is only capable of rendering the maximum number of tones in a very narrow brightness range around 150nit.

The response time with brightness and contrast settings at maximum was 38ms. At 100nit screen brightness, the pixel rise time increased, but the fall time was smaller. As a result, the display showed a response time of 32ms. We may guess that there should be a golden mean somewhere. It is true. At default settings (50% for both: brightness and contrast), the display response time equaled 23ms, which is even better than the manufacturer’s promised 25ms.

Pixel rise time

Pixel fall time

The specified screen brightness of the display is 250nit, but I couldn’t go far beyond 200nit. The contrast ratio heavily depends on the display settings. Anyway, at any settings, it doesn’t exceed 420:1 against the specified value of 600:1. Moreover, as I have already mentioned, the contrast ratio drops when the brightness setting is set too high. It is only about 22:1 at 100% brightness.

Our verdict is: the more expensive display from Iiyama suffers from problems that should not occur in products of this price range. Namely, I am talking about such issue as loose color temperature settings, full dynamic range only in a very narrow range of settings, a slump of the contrast ratio at an increased brightness… The only unquestionable advantage of this model is its two DVI inputs, but I really doubt they can justify for a few hundred dollars higher price compared to the models we will see next. Other display characteristics offer nothing extraordinary.

LG Flatron L1800P

This display belongs to quite another price sector than Iiyama’s products, selling for about $650. However, its functionality is not any worse than that of Iiyama AS4821DT. The display features two inputs – DVI and D-Sub (both cables are enclosed with the monitor) – as well as an integrated two-port USB hub. The case is compact, while the base allows you to rotate the screen in any direction. The tiling and height are adjustable; the portrait mode is also available. If necessary, you can remove the standard base to fasten a VESA-compatible so that you could mount the display on the wall.

The menu is quite usual for an LG product – rather handy, well done. It doesn’t offer you a plenty of settings, but still has everything necessary for work. The brightness and contrast settings are accessed by pressing one button, without entering the menu.

An “exclusive” feature of many LG displays is that the default brightness and contrast settings are already at maximum. As for our reference point of 100nit screen brightness, it is achieved by setting the contrast to 67% and the brightness to 60%. By the way, the brightness is controlled by pulse-width modulation of the backlight lamp with a frequency of 280Hz.

The color temperature is set up very well. At default settings, my measurements indicated 6410K on white and 6860K on gray. Calibration helps to improve these numbers to 6420K and 6790K, respectively, which is a trifle, really.

At default settings, the color curves fit well into the theoretical curve of 1.8 gamma, although the level of blue is too high, and the level of green – too low. Moreover, the display just cannot render the brightest tones of blue.

With the lower screen brightness, the blue color is still too high, but light tones are now rendered fully, although, without calibration the are displayed rather incorrectly. We have the dark tones of all three basic colors cut off. However, this range is rather narrow – 15% of the total.

Thus, I can call this color rendition quite appropriate.

The response time was 38ms when the screen brightness was at maximum. The reduction of the brightness setting didn’t affect this value as the brightness is regulated by the backlight lamp in this model. The reduction of the contrast led to higher response times: 42/21ms. Note also that the manufacturer specifies a response time of 50ms, which is obviously worse than the matrix can actually do.

Pixel rise time

Pixel fall time

The display showed a nice contrast ratio, too. Although the matrix is claimed to support 300:1 contrast ratio at 250nit screen brightness, it actually showed a contrast ratio of about 330:1 at 281nit brightness. When the brightness was reduced, I had the contrast ratio decreased to 150:1.

This display is a lucky combination of adequate price, functionality and effective characteristics. It has only one significant drawback: high response time. It means that L1800P can be considered an advanced office display, but won’t suit for work with dynamic images.

LG Flatron L1810B

This is a newer model from LG Electronics selling at an even lower price – somewhere about $600. The case is as elegant as that of L1800P, but the base lost all its appeal: it now only allows adjusting the tiling of the screen and rotating it in both directions at any angle. At first, I supposed the corbel between the base and the case can change its tiling, thus adjusting the height of the screen (this method is used in the 152 and 172 series from Samsung), but it turned to be stiffly fixed. Of course, this display doesn’t support the portrait mode.

The case is the only evident difference from the previous model: the menu remained the same and there are two inputs (DVI and D-Sub) as well as an integrated 2-port USB hub.

The default color temperature is set up with the same precision as by the previous model, although the deviation in this case is closer to the other side of the nominal – 6150K on white and 6440K on gray.

By default, the brightness and contrast are at maximum. Screen brightness of 100nit is achieved by moving the controls to 41% brightness and 72% contrast. The brightness is controlled by power modulation of the backlight lamps with about 270Hz frequency.

At default settings, the color rendition is nearly perfect, although the level of blue is slightly too high. Thus, calibration without considering the color temperature makes the image warmer due to lower level of blue. And if we take the temperature into account, the image becomes colder – as the initial color temperature is a few hundred degrees lower than necessary.

At 100nit screen brightness, the situation with red is not very nice, but green and blue remain good enough.

The response time as specified by the manufacturer equals 25ms. In practice it is higher – 30ms – even at the maximum contrast (the brightness control of course has no effect on the response time in this model). When the contrast is reduced, the pixel rise time increases to 29ms, thus giving us a total of 45ms.

Pixel rise time

Pixel fall time

The screen brightness of this display was 36nit above the promised value. The contrast ratio, however, didn’t rise to the occasion: although it is supposed to be 350:1, the real value is a little above 150:1.

Compared to the previous model, the developers significantly improved the response time. The low contrast ratio, however, spoils the overall impression. Anyway, this display is relatively inexpensive so it can be a good choice for an office, especially if you need a digital input.

LG Flatron L1811S

This is one more display from LG, resembling L1810B in its exterior. Its retail price is approaching $550. To drop the price, the company pulled out the DVI input and the USB hub. There’s only one D-Sub left. The base, like in the previous model, allows tilting and rotating the screen.

The settings menu is analogous to that of the previous model and the brightness and contrast are at maximum again. My reference screen brightness of 100nit is achieved by setting 55% brightness and 60% contrast. The brightness is controlled by power modulation of the backlight lamps.

The color temperature is set up properly. By default, it is 6480K on white and 6610K on 50% gray.

Color curves are close to the ideal. They only go a little higher than necessary on light tones, but this doesn’t affect the dynamic range, as there is a sufficient reserve. Unlike the previous displays, this one has an overstated level of green rather than blue. So, without calibration, the gray color has a slight greenish tint.

The picture we see at 100nit screen brightness looks similar to the previous display, with a single exception: the level of green is too high, while the level of blue is too low. Overall, this display has excellent color rendition capabilities.

The specified response time is 30ms (15/15ms), which fully complies with what we see at the maximum contrast. However, when the contrast is reduced to 60%, the pixel rise time doubles to 30ms and the full response time this way equals 45ms.

Pixel rise time

Pixel fall time

The measured maximum brightness exceeded the specified value by 28nit. The contrast ratio is better here, although doesn’t reach the promised numbers, too.

Flatron L1811S looks much similar with its predecessor in terms of technical characteristics. The contrast ratio is better, although it is still not perfect. The lack of the digital input makes this display cheaper. So, if you are choosing a display from LG’s Flatron line and don’t need the DVI input, consider this model.

NEC MultiSync LCD1850E

This display is relatively out-dated, but you can still find it in the market for about $580. It looks bulky compared to the models of the last generation with its wide plastic housing and big depth caused by the integrated power unit. The base allows tilting the screen and rotating it by 170 degrees in both directions. The portrait mode is not supported. There are two inputs, but both of them are analog. Newer LCD models with two inputs usually have one DVI port.

The display’s menu is of average user-friendliness, but all the necessary options are present. The brightness and contrast are not assigned any quick buttons. Quick access is only for switching between the inputs. The remaining buttons simply open the main menu.

By default, the brightness is set to maximum, and the contrast to 50%. The color temperature is set to “Native”. As our measurements showed, this means 6630K on white and 6870K on gray. When I switched to 6500K color temperature, measurements gave out 6040K on white and 6130K on gray. The tests were performed with the color temperature setting of 6500K.

The brightness of the display is controlled by power modulation of the backlighting lamps, but unlike the current NEC models, the modulation frequency is only 150Hz here. Having set both brightness and contrast controls to 50%, I got 100nit screen brightness.

The color curves at default settings have a perfect shape; the blue and green colors are just a little higher than necessary. Calibration is no problem here. After it, the image becomes warmer as the color temperature grows to 6360K and 6420K (white and gray, respectively).

The same curves try to keep their shape at settings with the low brightness (100nit). Green does it all right, while red and blue lose some of the dark tones.

The manufacturer says the display response time is 50ms (30/20ms). In practice, it is lower (18/21ms) when the contrast is at maximum. The brightness is regulated by the backlight lamps and doesn’t affect the response time. As for the contrast, I got 29/24ms response time by reducing the contrast down to 50%.

Pixel rise time

Pixel fall time

The maximum screen brightness is a little lower than the promised value, while the contrast ratio may even exceed the specification at some settings. For example, it is over 500:1 at 100nit screen brightness.

Although this model is being ousted from the market by the LCD1860NX series, it is quite capable of competing with much younger displays due to its good color rendition and excellent level of black. However, people who are sensitive to screen flicker should pay attention to the low frequency of the backlighting modulation.

Samsung SyncMaster 191N (GH19ASAB)

SyncMaster 191N is the junior model in the 19” display line from Samsung and is one of the least expensive displays participating in our today’s roundup. It comes to retail at about $700. The design is typical for the “N” series: a relatively large (and too high, to my opinion) base allows adjusting the tilt and height of the screen and turning it into the portrait mode. The compact case has a very narrow plastic framing, a built-in power unit and control keys below the screen. Note that not all 191N series models have the rotating base – SSS, SSN, and SSB-marked models (the third letter stands for the color of the case) don’t have it. So, if it’s important for you, be careful when shopping. The display has only one D-Sub input.

All Samsung displays follow one standard in the menu design and 191N is no exception. The structure of the menu is quite comprehensive and user-friendly. The settings you use most often – brightness and contrast are assigned to quick buttons.

By default, the brightness control stood at 80%, and the contrast – at 46%. To get the screen brightness equal to 100nit, I had to reduce both controls to 26%. The brightness is controlled by modulation of the power of the backlight lamps with a high frequency – about 520Hz. Thus, if you are uncomfortable with the flicker produced by the modulation frequency of 200-250Hz, you should not worry about this problem with Samsung displays.

The color temperature can be set in three ways: Reddish (as measurements showed, it corresponds to 5600K on white and 5760K on gray), Bluish (5960K and 6710K) and User Adjusted, which is by default set to the same temperature as Bluish.

At default settings, the color curves have nearly perfect shapes. The dynamic range is fully represented; there’s no misbalance for any of the basic colors.

The same is true for 100nit screen brightness, only the blue color becomes slightly prevalent over red and green. Thus, I say that this display is perfectly set up and doesn’t in fact need any calibration. And really, when I tried to calibrate it, I noticed no significant changes in the screen colors.

I couldn’t find the specified response time – none of the numerous Samsung websites has it. I don’t quite understand the meaning of this, as Samsung has nothing to conceal – the display showed an excellent result of 24ms in my tests. Moreover, this value didn’t change when I reduced the contrast.

Pixel rise time

Pixel fall time

But it was the brightness measurements that astonished me. Measuring the display contrast at 100nit screen brightness (120.9nit, to be precise, because the calibration was performed with a slight error), I obtained a fantastic number – 1500:1. Increasing the brightness, I somewhat lowered this value, but the minimum was anyway higher than the specified 500:1.

I think this is probably the best display in this roundup in terms of price/quality ratio. The incredible contrast ratio, small response time, high frequency of the backlighting modulation, excellent color rendition and availability of the portrait mode – and all this comes at a reasonable price. This display will be an excellent choice for both office and home use, of course, if you don’t need a digital input.

Samsung SyncMaster 191T (GH19BSAN)

The exterior of this model resembles that of the previous one. However, all models of the “T” series are equipped with both analog D-Sub and digital DVI inputs. This is the main reason for 191T to cost about $40 more. This display supports the portrait mode, too.

The menu is the same as in 191N with one addition – you have the option of switching between the two video inputs. Besides, the buttons are stiff and hard to press.

By default, the display has 80% brightness and 50% contrast. To achieve the screen brightness of 100nit, I set 30% brightness and 20% contrast. The brightness is regulated by modulation of the power of the backlight lamps with a frequency of 500Hz or higher. The color temperature is set up worse than in 191N: my measurements showed 5530K on white and 6520K on gray with the “Reddish” option and 5820K and 7730K with the “Bluish” option. Thus, I may suppose that the display will have the blue color pulled up – that’s why the color temperature on gray is overstated.

Indeed, the measurements proved that the level of blue is too high on gray. At the same time, it is red that is high on light tones, close to white. Moreover, the display doesn’t distinguish some of red tones. This situation is worse than if we had just one color set too high, because we cannot cure it by adjusting the RGB levels in the display settings. A correct color profile may only help us here.

When the brightness is reduced, the situation improves: blue is still too high, but red fits into the norm.

The response time was a little higher than by SyncMaster 191N: 26ms. It didn’t depend on the contrast setting, also.

Pixel rise time

Pixel fall time

This display couldn’t repeat the miracles of its predecessor as far as the contrast ratio is concerned. It is not bad, but doesn’t even reach the specified 500:1.

I expected this display to be no worse than 191N, but this didn’t happen: the poor color rendition and contrast ratio spoiled the day. Nevertheless, SyncMaster 191T is a good choice due to its relatively low price.

Sony Multiscan SDM-S81

The S81 model is junior in the 18” LCD display series from Sony. However, its cost is a little below $700, which is rather average. On the one hand, models from Iiyama are much more expensive, but on the other hand, 18” displays from Samsung and LG cost considerably less. The display has elegant black casing (you can also buy a model with gray casing), although the framing is somewhat wider than usual.

The base is an example of elegance, but only allows changing the tilt of the screen. There is also only one analog D-Sub input.

The menu is easy to use; it follows the standard for Sony’s LCD displays. Quick buttons are assigned to brightness and contrast settings. By default, they are at 70% and 50%, respectively. Besides the Brightness setting, you can change the screen brightness with the backlight lamp: by default it is set to the maximum brightness. 100nit screen brightness is achieved by setting 35% brightness and 62% contrast and in this case the backlight lamp brightness should be set to zero. The last thing is a requirement, because the level of black largely depends on the brightness of the backlight lamp, and it was not too low even at minimal brightness settings. When the brightness is over 60%, the level of black jumps up, converting black into gray.

The menu offers three color temperatures: 9300K, 6500K and 5000K. However, my measurements showed that these three menu items correspond in reality to 5570/6370K, 5430K/5820K and 5270/5190K (the first number is for measurements on white and the second – for 50% gray). The error in the temperature setting is too gross – about 3 thousand degrees…

Moreover, the color temperature changes depending on the brightness. When I dropped the screen brightness to 100nit, the 6500K menu item actually produced 5850K temperature for white and 6600K for gray and the reddish tone of white was perfectly seen.

You can see it in the graphs that the green color is rendered correctly, red is slightly higher than necessary, while blue is too high.

With the reduced brightness, the situation changes for the better, although blue is still rendered inadequately.

At the maximum brightness, the display response time was slightly above the specified value. When I reduced the brightness to 100nit, it degenerated into 43ms.

Pixel rise time

Pixel fall time

The display had no problems about brightness – it was notably higher than specified, but the contrast ratio…alas. With the backlight lamp brightness set to the minimum, the contrast ratio didn’t notch even 150:1. At the maximum screen brightness, it dropped to 10:1. Only Iiyama AS4611UT showed a poorer result among all tested displays. Moreover, when the brightness of the backlight lamp was set to the maximum, the level of black grew twice as high even with the minimal brightness setting.

Alas, this model was a complete disappointment with its poor color temperature setting, inadequate color rendition, very low contrast ratio, relatively high response time and rather high price. It makes me think that you’d be better off choosing a cheaper 18” model from LG or the slightly more expensive Samsung 191N instead. However, we have a newer model from Sony…

Sony Multiscan SDM-S81R

Although the name of this model differs from the previous one by one letter only, it has a new matrix with much better characteristics. Otherwise, this display is similar to SDM-S81 – both in the exterior, the menu controls and the functions.

The default values are 50% brightness and 70% contrast. The color temperature is 9300K. I should note that the color temperatures are set up with high precision in this model; the deviation doesn’t exceed 500K. This makes the default setting of 9300K even more strange. With such temperature, the onscreen image has a characteristic bluish tint, which may not suit many users who are accustomed to work at about 6500K. When set to 6500K in the menu, the temperature was in fact 6030K on white and 6040K on gray.

To get a screen brightness of 100nit, I set 30% brightness and 36% contrast. Just like with the previous display, we have an option of setting the brightness of the backlight lamp (the lamp is modulated with a frequency of 180Hz, which is rather low), but it doesn’t affect the level of black too much.

Color curves look well-shaped; only the green color is somewhat higher than necessary.

The situation doesn’t get any worse when the screen brightness is reduced:

Things were more complicated with the response time. At the maximum screen brightness, it was higher than both: the specified value and the showings of the previous model. However, the response time improved readily when the brightness and contrast settings were down. Thus, it was 39ms at 100nit screen brightness, which is a little better than SDM-S81 showed.

Pixel rise time

Pixel fall time

It was better with the contrast ratio. When I increased the brightness above the default, the level of black went up, but not as dramatically as by SDM-S81. At the default brightness, the contrast ratio didn’t meet the specs (400:1), but anyway equaled 250:1, which is quite acceptable.

This model seems to be the “result of troubleshooting” on the SDM-S81 model. All the characteristics have been notably improved, and the display is quite competitive, although it costs more than the LG model, similar in characteristics. On the other hand, this display is no record-breaker. For those who are sensitive to the modulation of the backlight lamp, I’d advise to be careful. The frequency is rather low in this model, but it is the backlight lamp brightness that suits better for adjusting the screen brightness as it also reduces the response time. The lack of a digital input is yet another shortcoming of this display.

Sony Multiscan SDM-HS93

SDM-HS93 is one of the latest models from Sony with new innards and design. It is priced at about $950, which is rather high for a 19” display. The case is a dainty thing with its silver and dark-gray plastic and the elegant curvy base. On closer examination, I found a few things to get annoyed about. Firstly, the base is beautiful and extravagantly looking, but it lacks stiffness. The display shakes up when you press a button (by the way, the base only allows tilting the screen and rotating it to 45 degrees in both directions). Secondly, despite the elegant base, the display itself is rather large with its wide framing around the screen. Thirdly, the dark-gray plastic around the screen is not matte, but perfectly polished. So, if you have a light source behind you shoulder, you will also have it reflecting straight into your eyes at work. The display has only one analog D-Sub input.

The menu is traditional for a Sony LCD display; only a few items changed their places compared to the menus in the above-described S-series models. The control buttons are hard to press and not too handy. There appeared a few new settings: automatic brightness adjustment and gamma selection. The ordinary mode when the user is allowed to manually control the brightness and contrast is called User. There are three more modes – High, Middle and Low – that instantly change the screen brightness, but block the user-defined settings. The gamma selection setting offers three options. GAMMA 1 corresponds to gamma 1.8. GAMMA 2 – to gamma 2.2 and GAMMA 3 – to gamma 2.7. I chose the PC/Windows standard – gamma 2.2 – for my tests.

By default, we have 50% brightness and 70% contrast. As in the previous models, the menu has an option of setting the backlighting brightness. When it is low, the modulation frequency of the backlight lam is notably higher – about 285Hz. To hit my reference point of 100nit screen brightness, I dropped the contrast to 50% and the brightness to 30%.

With the color temperature set to 6500K in the menu, the onscreen image had a warm, pinkish tint. My measurements confirmed it: 5090K on white and 5690K on gray. When the 9300K option was selected, the real color temperature was 6630K on white and 7180 on gray.

The color curves look quite well, save for a minor contortion on the dark tones. Red is lowered in the middle of the range.

It is the same with 100nit screen brightness:

At the maximum brightness and contrast, the display was fast at turning the pixel on and slow at turning it off. When the brightness and contrast were reduced, this balance changed. As a result, the total response time decreased a little, but then went up again. The maximum response time was 39ms. Alas, notwithstanding the average result (in numbers), the image I saw was simply abominable. I can’t tell you the reason: display electronics, or the matrix, but the display was simply unusable at 100nit screen brightness. When I was typing text, I saw letters slowly appearing on the screen – very slowly. I had my eyes aching after a few minutes of work in several windows. The special effects you get when switching between windows or moving them around are hard to describe. After working at this display for half an hour, I got assured in my verdict: this is the slowest display among all included into this roundup.

Pixel rise time

Pixel fall time

Both brightness and contrast ratio were far from perfect. The brightness didn’t make it to its specs, while the contrast ratio mostly equaled 100:1, although the manufacturer specified the highest contrast ratio of all displays I reviewed today: 700:1. Lowering the backlighting brightness helps to improve the contrast ratio, but it is still below 700:1.

Thus, I consider this display overpriced because of the lack of DVI input, bad color temperatures setup, low brightness and contrast ratio and very high response time at a low brightness. The design of the display is original and beautiful, but is not functional at all.

For those who own an SDM-HS93 display, here is my advice: regulate the screen brightness by adjusting the backlight lamp brightness rather than the brightness setting in the menu. Thus, you improve the level of black and lower the response time.

Conclusion

So, we have tested eleven LCD displays with a diagonal of 18” or 19” from different price ranges. Now I will try to repeat my remarks about the displays and make some comparisons. First, as I have said above, that all the displays included into this review have good viewing angles. Of course, they differ among themselves in this parameter, but very slightly. In many cases, you won’t distinguish between a viewing angle of 150 and of 160 degrees. Let me remind you that in our 17” LCD Displays Review we had some models differing in viewing angles by 40-50 degrees!

The response time characteristic is curious enough. Firstly, I have to acknowledge that there are no fast matrixes for big LCD displays. Meanwhile, you can find a 17” model with 16ms response time, provided at the expense of color rendition and viewing angles. The matrixes of 18” and larger don’t offer this choice.

Secondly, the tests proved that the response time of many displays springs up when the contrast is reduced (and the brightness of the screen is usually so high that you have to drop the contrast for comfortable work). Some manufacturers do allow adjusting the contrast without the tradeoff of higher response time, but such models are rare. So, I have a piece of advice for those of you who are about to shop: when choosing a display, pay attention to the response time with the brightness settings, which you are going to use at work.

Thirdly, the regulation of the display brightness through pulse-width modulation of the power of the backlight lamps, which is often considered a drawback, is actually an advantage. A striking example is Sony SDM-HS93 that controls the brightness through the matrix, not the lamps. It has an incredibly (and unacceptably) high response time when the contrast is reduced.

I would also like to say a few words about each of the manufacturers. The two displays from Iiyama are priced very high, but regrettably don’t show any qualities to justify the money. The AS4611UT model is simply depressing. Even its functionality is far behind that of the other displays reviewed.

The displays from LG are much more worthy products. They combine adequate price, good characteristics and great functionality. Moreover, the manufacturer offers models for different user categories, so you can make your choice with more precision: from simple ones to displays with a DVI input and the support of the portrait mode.

Unfortunately, we got only one model from NEC for this roundup and even this one is somewhat out-dated. I hope we will make amends to NEC for this soon. Anyway, this display performed well enough, and surpassed some newer models from other makers in several parameters.

The displays from Samsung also left a good impression. I can’t call them perfect or ideal, but they fully match their own pricing and offer good parameters. The tiny level of black at a low screen brightness by SM 191N is the most impressive. both tested models showed small response time, not depending on the contrast setting. They also have a high frequency of the backlight lamp modulation, which is above 500Hz. Some people say they notice the flicker at 200Hz modulation, so these two displays will suit them just perfectly.

The displays from Sony are hard to describe in one word. While SDM-S81R has good, if not excellent, characteristics, its predecessor, SDM-S81, definitely loses to the competitors in every single parameter. The newest model, SDM-HS93, boasts pretty design. On the other hand, the design proved to be not practical, while the display parameters are more likely to be described as average. Only the response time was far from trivial: when brightness and contrast were reduced, the display provided such a picture that you could hardly work even in office applications.