Closer Look at 17” LCD Monitors Features. Part II

Today we are going to discuss the features and performance of another bunch of 17-inch LCD panels from the leading manufacturers, such as Iiyama, LG, NEC, Samsung, Prestigio and Sony. Also note that it was the first time we measured the response time characteristic both on black-to-white and on black-to-gray transitions.

by Oleg Artamonov
12/26/2003 | 12:16 PM

I’ve been frequently criticized for my measuring the time it takes a black pixel to become white and black again, although the transition from black to any tone of gray may significantly differ from that “black-to-white” transition. So my measurements of the response time characteristic of LCD monitors are right from the technical point of view, but need correction from the user’s point of view. Well really, if two monitors have the same 30msec pixel response time, but can behave very unlike each other in reality. What shall we do then?

 

Still I stick to my point that subjective impressions are not a solid ground for a hardware reviewer, as they heavily depend on the tester’s tastes and habits. Moreover, it’s just hard to compare a dozen of monitors in practice as you forget about the first one when working with the ninth or tenth monitor. I don’t even mention different testing sessions that may take place several weeks apart from one another:  the result can be not very objective, even if the tester is the same person.

Besides that, subjective impressions are dull and succinct like “this one is better than that one.” But why is it better? Well, if the specification claims “16msec response time” for the first monitor, and “40msec” for the second, I can well ground my vague feelings, but what if they both have “25msec”? Did one of the manufacturers declare the response time incorrectly, and it is actually smaller or bigger than specified? Or maybe it is correct, but the response time is different in some other operational mode like under reduced screen brightness or on transitions between black and gray? These questions can only be answered through objective, without that flimsy human element, measurements of the monitor parameters.

This is the reason for my measuring and publishing the pixel transition time (from black to tones of gray) for every monitor, starting from this review. The sensor I use for taking the response time measurements was redesigned for better sensitivity. For each tested monitor you will see a graph showing the correlation between the pixel rise time (the Y-axis) and the tone of gray (X-axis) into which the transition from black was performed. The tones of gray fall into a range of 32 (dark-gray) to 255 (pure white) with the increment of 32.

I also checked one more characteristic of the monitors. As 18-bit-color matrixes have become much popular (some of those 16.2 million colors declared in the specs are created by dithering), I viewed photographs and pictures of smooth color gradients trying to discern artifacts like untidy dithering or stripes in the gradients. However, all the monitors you’ll read about in this review provide a pretty good color reproduction for a home user, but this doesn’t mean all LCD monitors with 18-bit matrixes will have such good characteristics. If you work with colors professionally, there is a table in the end of the review with color coordinates of the RGB filters for all tested monitors.

The color profiles for the monitors are packed into one ZIP-file, you can download it here (23.5KB).

Iiyama ProLite E431S

I tested the previous model from Iiyama (the E430S) some time ago (see our roundup called Closer Look at 17” LCD Monitors Features: Pixel Response Time) to find that it was not a brilliant, but quite satisfactory model. The specifications of the new model suggest that it uses a fast 16msec matrix, so first we should pay attention to its color reproduction and viewing angles as these two parameters are often far from perfect in fast matrixes.

The appearance of the ProLite E431S doesn’t greatly differ from the older model. We have the same compact case and small base that allows controlling the screen tilt. Unfortunately, a manufacturing flaw was soon revealed: the upper part of the case bends out in a curve (for about a millimeter) and it seems like the onscreen image is curved in as with a carelessly set-up CRT monitor.

The monitor is equipped with both: analog and digital inputs (although I didn’t find a DVI cable in the package), audio input, headphones output and integrated speakers. The power adapter is external. The Power button is highlighted with a blue LED; the LED is not too bright and is not disturbing even if you work in full darkness.

The menu is nice, but of average user-friendliness, as it is divided into three parts for you to switch between. Anyway, the most popular settings (brightness, contrast and volume) are accessed with quick buttons. It is also one button that switches between the inputs; if you hold it down for a while, auto-adjustment is enabled.

Small viewing angles often come in with fast matrixes, and this monitor was no exception. On the other hand, they were better than in first LCD models on 16msec matrixes, at least the horizontal angles don’t cause any serious discomfort at work. The vertical angle is worse: you simply cannot make the screen shine evenly. If you look at the screen from below, the top of the screen seems dark; when viewed from above, it becomes too light. In other words, you’ll get either dark top (compared to the central part of the screen) or a whitish bottom. You shouldn’t move your head too to the side: white becomes yellowish, and black – silverish. So this monitor is best viewed directly, with your line of sight perpendicular to the screen.

The color reproduction capabilities of the monitor are surprisingly good. Of course, the matrix is 18-bit, but the dithering implementation is so good that you don’t notice it. This monitor suits for working with photographs.

The menu offers three gamma and five color temperature settings. The first three color temperature settings correspond to 8000K/10890K (for white/gray), 6710K/7700K and 6240K/6790K. The fourth setting – sRGB – corresponds to 6250K for white and 6770K for gray. It differs from the third setting by considerably lower brightness plus the gamma settings and the Economy Mode become blocked. The fifth setting is user-defined; by default it is 6100K for white and 7770K for gray and the brightness control is at its maximum (as the RGB sliders are at their maximum).

The above-mentioned Economy Mode consists of two presets of screen brightness (the regular brightness control is blocked). It seems to be an analog of the MagicBright feature from Samsung and ECO from Sony, but is much harder to get to. The Economy Mode is hidden deep in the menu system, and you have to make as many as 6 presses on +/- and Menu buttons to activate it. So the purpose of this mode remains mysterious – it’s often faster to adjust the screen brightness using the standard control.

By default, the brightness and contrast controls are set to 90% and 50%, respectively, in “1”, “2”, “3” and “sRGB” modes, and on 100% and 50% in the user-defined mode. To make the screen shine with the brightness of 100nit (1 nit = 1 candela per square meter) I dropped both: brightness and contrast settings to 5%. So this monitor is very bright.

At its default settings (test mode 1), the monitor is good at reproducing colors, save for the level of green being too high in light tones:

At reduced brightness (100nit, test mode 2) we have the same situation with a too high green color:

The response time does comply with the specified 16msec at the maximum screen brightness, but the pixel rise time starts growing when I reduce it. Moreover, the graph below shows that the display can only reach the necessary 12msec pixel rise time on black-to-light-gray transitions. Otherwise it produces the ordinary 20-30msec response time.

The screen brightness is higher than the promised 250nit. But increasing the level of white, you also boost the level of black. It gets beyond 1nit, which is quite high, too. As a result, the monitor’s contrast ratio slightly exceeds 200:1, although it should be 450:1.

So the test results suggest that the ProLite E431S suits nicely for playing dynamic computer games as well as working in serious applications. But games come first: the relatively narrow viewing angles can become a serious defect at work. Anyway, this is a generic problem of all fast matrixes. Among the monitor’s advantages, I’d point out the good color reproduction. As for disadvantages, they are slipshod case manufacture (I still hope this is a problem of this given sample or a batch) and the lack of the DVI cable.

LG Flatron L1710S

If you have already dealt with other LCD monitor models from LG Electronics, you will know the design: a thin framing goes around the screen, but the massive base gives an air of bulkiness to the whole construction. Such a base would be all right in a 19” monitor, but doesn’t seem to belong here. It is also limited in functionality, allowing only adjusting the tilt of the screen and rotating it around the vertical axis by any degree; you cannot change the screen height (although the base seems to be folding like cases of Samsung’s SyncMaster 172B and 172T).

LG uses the letter “S” to denote the junior model in the family, that is why it boasts minimal functionality: one analog input only.

The viewing angles, as by Iiyama model, are far from perfect. The screen becomes dark when viewed from below and yellow when viewed sideways. Cutting it short, this monitor suits well for games, but not for work as there can be some discomfort caused by irregular distribution of brightness along the vertical axis. There were no problems with color reproduction as this monitor was good at displaying both: smooth color gradients and snapshots.

The menu is standard (for LG monitors) and is pretty user-friendly. The settings are scarce, but you can flexibly choose the gamma: 11 values at your disposal. Quick buttons are assigned to brightness, contrast and auto-adjust options.

I would also like to point out that the menu can be displayed in a few different languages:

Keeping up with the time, the monitor features a fancy button marked LightView. It helps you quickly switch between six operational modes. In fact, this is a variation of the well-known MagicBright feature from Samsung. But SyncMasters only offer you three variants (plus a user-defined variant), and there are six of them in the Flatron L1710S: Day Text, Day Movie, Day Photo, Night Text, Night Movie and Night Photo. The counterparts from the Day and the Night categories differ between themselves in brightness and contrast settings (they are naturally lower for the Night category), while the Text mode for Day and Night differs from Movie and Photo in the color temperature: 9300K against 6500K. When reviewing the Samsung SyncMaster 191N, I praised the MagicBright feature. The six modes selectable with a single button are even better. There is only one questionable thing: the color temperature of 9300K in the Text mode may be not the right choice.

By default, the brightness and contrast sliders both stand on 100%; that’s a kind of tradition for monitors from LG. The device was most sensitive to the settings as I achieved a screen brightness of 100nit by only reducing the brightness setting to 50%, and the contrast one to 80%. The screen brightness is regulated by modulation of the backlight lamp with a frequency of about 200Hz.

There are only two color temperature values in the menu plus an opportunity to define it yourself. The “6500” menu entry really corresponds to 5770K for white and 7300K for gray, while the “9300” option means 7290K and 12000K, respectively. The graphs below show that the level of blue is too high in the middle of the range; that’s why the temperature of gray is so much higher than that of white.

It’s the same at 100nit screen brightness:

The monitor claims to kindle pixels up in 16msec. Well, this is actually the response time now specified for all monitors from LG, according to the manufacturer’s website. I say “now” because this information is prone to change: the manufacturer must be replacing older matrixes with newer ones, without changing the model number of the monitor. And really, the Flatron L1710S showed very low response time, only 14msec, although it doubles at 100nit brightness. On the other hand, the graph below suggests that this time is only true for black-white transitions, while it takes as long as 30msec to make a transition for a pixel in some cases. It’s similar to the behavior of the Iiyama model.

As for the brightness and contrast ratio, Flatron L1710S proved much similar to Iiyama ProLite E4315: the maximum brightness exceeded the declared 250nit, while the contrast ratio was about 200:1. Unfortunately, I don’t know what LCD module Iiyama E431S uses, but it seems to be absolutely identical to that of L1710S.

So Flatron L1710S is in fact an exact copy of Iiyama E431S in its characteristics, save for the digital input (the price difference between the two models is just enough to make up for that). And I can only repeat what I have just said about the solution from Iiyama: this monitor suits for playing dynamic games where response time is more important than viewing angles.

LG Flatron L1710B

The design of LG Flatron L1710B is the same as have just seen by the previous model, only the connectors set has been enhanced. The base (the same bulky base with unadjustable height) carries a two-port USB hub, while the monitor itself has a DVI input and comes together with a corresponding cable. The menu was also the same, except the lack of the LightView feature.

Judging by my visual impressions, I arrived at a conclusion that this monitor had a different matrix. My eyes told me that the response time was somewhat higher, with noticeable ghosting behind moving objects. At the same time, the viewing angles are no better than those of the faster model: white becomes yellowish when you look at the screen sideways, the top of the screen gets dark when viewed from below, and the colors get inverted when viewed from above (black looks like gray). Colors were overall average: the onscreen image faded, although there were no visible stripes in a smooth gradient.

LG’s default brightness and contrast settings sit on 100%. Screen brightness of 100nit is achieved when you set 55% brightness and 80% contrast. The screen brightness is adjusted by modulation of the backlight lamp power with 220Hz frequency.

The menu offers a selection of three color temperatures: 6500K (in reality, it corresponds to 5890K for white and 8250K for gray), 9300K (6780K and 11100K), and user-defined setting which by default coincides with the “6500K” option.

I think you’ve guessed the results of my color calibration: the color curves are very similar to those of the previous monitor:

I can’t say this is ideal (blue is evidently too high), but the curves are smooth enough, and I should acknowledge this monitor to be well calibrated. This also holds true for 100nit screen brightness:

My measuring the response time of this monitor confirmed the supposition that this one is based on an older matrix than the previous model. The total response time was no less than 29msec, which is far from the 16msec declared on the manufacturer’s website. Well, this striking difference occurs on black-white transitions only. When doing black-gray transitions, the monitor showed no more than 36msec, that’s quite close to what the previous model showed.

The brightness and contrast ratio measurements once again proved the point that LG Flatron L1710B has a different matrix: the maximum brightness is a little below the specification (250nit), but the level of black is much higher than that of L1710S. So we’ve got a contrast ratio of 120:1.

Regrettably, this monitor is yet another proof to my suspicions that the manufacturer can use different matrixes in monitors with one model name. I guess the particular specimen belonged to an older batch as it has an older matrix (it is older, not just different, as there are no obvious advantages over the matrix of the above-described L1710S), but also lacks the LightView feature. I also suppose that fresh batches use another matrix, and the monitor is an analog of the L1710S with a USB hub and a DVI input. Unfortunately, I can’t yet confirm my suppositions, and I only advise you to be careful when shopping for an LCD monitor from LG – the models that use the older matrix are much worse than those with the newer one across a number of parameters like response time, viewing angles, color reproduction, contrast ratio.

There is one more interesting thing I’d like to point out to you. The L1710B (with an old matrix) loses greatly to L1710S (with a new matrix) in the nominal response time (i.e. measured on black-to-white pixel transitions), but closes the gap on black-to-gray transitions. That’s why we don’t see the effect those 16msec should have provided: they are not much faster than older matrixes as far as average response time is concerned. So the ghosting effect – those trails behind moving objects – is still here. The manufacturers have to develop new matrixes that surpass the older ones on black-gray transitions, too, to eliminate ghosting altogether.

LG L1715S

LG L1715S came as a replacement to the above-described L1710S. The framing surrounding the screen has grown thicker, but the new small base makes the monitor look less bulky. I should acknowledge that this base is much handier than the old one, but with the same limited functionality; it only allows changing the tilt of the screen. As all “S”-marked models, this one is equipped with an analog input only.

The menu is absolutely identical to that of L1710S. We’ve got the LightView mode with six ready presets (three for day and three for night) plus a user-defined one. The Text mode corresponds to a color temperature of 9300K – we saw this by L1710S, too.

The viewing angles are good enough, but not faultless. When you look at the screen from aside, at an angle of 50 degrees or more, the image becomes slightly yellowish; when viewed from above or below, the onscreen picture becomes dark. Anyway, the angles are not as narrow as to cause any discomfort. The color reproduction goes without criticisms, as the monitor was just excellent at displaying both: photographs and simple color gradients.

The default values of the brightness and contrast are 100%; to make the screen shine with a luminosity of 100nit, I dropped the controls to 60% brightness and 80% contrast. The screen brightness in this monitor is regulated by modulation of the backlight lamp power, but the modulation frequency is quite high, about 540Hz.

Three available variants of the color temperature are selectable in the menu: “6500K” (it’s in fact 5940K for white and 8300K for gray), “9300K” (corresponds to 6750K white and 13780K gray), and the user-defined one. The difference between the temperatures of white and gray suggests that we will have an intensive level of blue.

Well, yes. Blue is too high in the middle of the range. Moreover, there is more than enough red in the light tones stretch of the dynamic range, which additionally cools down the white color.

At 100nit screen brightness, it is better with red in light tones, but overall, my remarks concerning the color reproduction setup remain the same.

As I have said earlier, LG specifies one and the same response time for all its LCD monitors as 16msec (see the LG website). When working with L1715S, I never doubted the claimed specification. Much to my surprise, the measurements gave out 32msec for a black-to-white transition! So, why don’t you feel that the monitor has a slow matrix? Just take a look at the graph with black-gray transitions and compare it to the one of L1710S:

Well, there is a divergence, but it’s smaller than between L1710B and L1710S models I have discussed earlier. It fits into the measuring error (1msec) across the biggest part of the range. Thus, we’ve got another proof that the response time as measured on black-to-white pixel conversions cannot comprehensively describe the speed characteristics of a matrix. This time the response time is twice as different, while most of the black-gray transitions take the same milliseconds to be performed.

The brightness and contrast ratio of this matrix are close to those of the above-mentioned monitors: the brightness complies with the specified 250nit, while the contrast ratio is a little worse than 200:1.

This LCD monitor model is a compromise between good viewing angles and response time. On the one hand, it does have broader viewing angles compared to L1710S, but it also has worse response time. The newer model, L1715S, with its new compact design, undoubtedly deserves thorough consideration as the response time of the two monitors performing black-gray transitions is nearly the same.

LG Flatron L1720B

I think this is one the cutest models in our today’s roundup. LG Electronics chose to develop completely new case design, which seems to be a total success. The black framing doesn’t strain your eyes. It seems like the screen is hanging in midair. A thin silver frame goes around the edge of the case, outlining the rim of the thing. The case itself is silver-colored, and the base is a shiny metal circle. The large power button protrudes down in the bottom, the blue LED highlights it in a circle (highlighting becomes amber, when the monitor is turned off).

As many other beautiful things, this monitor lacks functionality. The base only allows adjusting the screen’s tilt. Notwithstanding the “B” in the name, this model comes with one analog input only.

The screen menu follows LG’s standards. There is the LightView mode consisting of six brightness and contrast presets (Day: Text, Movie, Photo and Night: Text, Movie, Photo). The Movie mode is the brightest, the Text mode has the lowest level of brightness, but I have already mentioned it in the discussion of L1710S. LightView is implemented identically in the two monitors. There’s a hitch in the menu controls. The buttons marked as “Brightness” open up a menu of brightness and contrast controls where you change the contrast ratio and not the screen brightness.

By default, the brightness and contrast controls are set at their maximum. 40% brightness and 75% contrast produce a screen brightness of 100nit. The screen brightness is regulated by modulation of the backlight lamp power with a frequency of 250Hz.

As by the previous models from LG, we are offered three color temperatures: user-defined, “6500” (corresponds to 6470K for white and 7340K for gray) and “9300K”. The last one is strange. When you choose it, the screen gets daringly pink with a color temperature of 6520K/6690K (white/gray). The pink tone of the screen is beautiful, but you can’t really work with it.

The viewing angles are typical for a fast matrix (and the Flatron L1720B does have a fast 16msec matrix): yellowish when viewed from aside, losing contrast when viewed from above, and the top getting dark when viewed from below. When working in a text processor, you won’t notice any luminosity misbalance along the vertical axis, but when the background is 50% gray, you always see that the top is darker than the bottom. So if you want to purchase this monitor for work, consider whether you will feel comfortable with such viewing angles.

Besides the strange pink screen I saw with the 9300K setting, the monitor has too much of green and too high contrast at 6500K temperature: you can see it in the graphs that the color curves go much higher than necessary on light tones.

At 100nit brightness, we, of course, don’t have any contrast-related problems:

The response time was indeed only 15msec on black-white transitions and at the maximum brightness. But just like the previous LG models, this one performs black-gray transitions in about 25-30msec.

Alas, the contrast ratio was only 150:1 at most, it was three times lower than they had promised! Yes, the maximum brightness is really above the declared level, but the level of black is about 2nit in this case. In other words, you can’t get a true black color with Flatron L1720B: it will only be something like dark-gray.

So, the distinguishing feature of LG Flatron L1720B from the other fast-matrix models from the same company is its design. It shares the common problems like insufficient viewing angles and low contrast ratio. Therefore I can’t call it a perfect option, since even cheaper models from the same LG offer better contrast ratio. The strange setup of 9300K color temperature doesn’t add anything positive at all. Still, you can use this monitor at home for playing games and roaming the Internet. Its definitely pleasing design suits nicely for this home use.

NEC MultiSync LCD1760VM

We already tested the LCD1701 and LCD1760NX models from NEC, which were among the first LCD monitors to have a 16msec matrix with all the generic disadvantages like small viewing angles and poor color reproduction (you could see stripes across a smooth gradient). MultiSync LCD1760VM uses a slower matrix, 25msec, which should affect its characteristics accordingly.

NEC’s standard angular design is complemented with integrated speakers (in the bottom). There are analog and digital video inputs, audio input and headphones output. The base allows adjusting the height and tilt of the screen as well as rotating the screen around the horizontal axis. The portrait mode is not available.

NEC’s generic menu is not an acme of convenience and beauty, but helps you quickly and easily set up the thing. You can access the brightness and volume settings by means of a quick button.

By default, the brightness control is on 100%, the contrast one – on 50%. Dropping the brightness to 50%, and leaving the contrast alone for once, I get a screen brightness of 100nit. To control the screen brightness, the power of the backlight lamp is modulated with a frequency of 180Hz.

The monitor’s menu contains six settings of the color temperature: “9300K” (in reality, it means 7650K for white and 8960K for gray), “8200K” (7010K white, 8340K gray), “7500K” (6210K white, 7880K gray), “sRGB” (that is, 6500K, but this setting actually produces 6040K white and 6710K gray), “5000K” (corresponds to 4790K and 5760K), and “Native” (when this setting is chosen, the monitor electronics doesn’t adjust the color temperature; it is 6010K for white and 7420K for 50% gray).

For my tests, I chose the “sRGB” setting (i.e. 6500K color temperature), which is the most appropriate for the Wintel platform. By the way, you can fine-tune every setting, save for “sRGB” and “Native”.

The viewing angles of this monitor are better than those of the 1701 and 1760NX models, but not perfect, especially the vertical one (when viewed from below, the screen becomes darker). The monitor displays photographs without any artifacts, and smooth gradients – without cross stripes.

The color curves betray two significant drawbacks: firstly, the level of green is somewhat high, and secondly, at default settings the red and green colors are too intense to correctly reproduce light tones. The second problem can be eliminated by reducing the contrast setting to about 40-45%. This will ensure better color reproduction.

The response time didn’t meet the specifications, notching 28msec. Moreover, it grows to 36msec when the contrast setting is 50%. But this only holds true when we talk about black-white transitions. As for black-gray ones, we see the same thing as with the LG L1715S: this monitor is only 2-3msec slower at such transitions than models with 16msec matrixes. I can’t deny that 16msec matrixes are faster, but not too much (the ratio is 32:28 rather than 25:12).

The maximum brightness the monitor could produce was 250nit, and that’s quite good compared to other models from NEC (they usually have brightness of 180-190nit). But don’t forget that the monitor didn’t distinguish between some light tones, and with high brightness this situation got even worse. The contrast ratio is rather average, too, oscillating between 150…200:1.

Unfortunately, MultiSync LCD1760VM from NEC is not free from disadvantages, so I can’t recommend it to you without some reservations. The main drawback is the low contrast ratio. On the other hand, the measurements proved that the response time of the 25msec matrix differs really from 16msec matrixes on black-white transitions only. Considering that fast matrixes have poor viewing angles, the users who look for solutions with low response time should consider this model, although its specifications are rather average according to the today’s standards.

Prestigio P170T

The monitors of this brand have appeared quite recently and are less known to the users. We have already tested a 19” P190T model (see our roundup called Closer Look at the 19” LCD Monitors Features. Part II), now we’ve got 17” ones.

Prestigio P170T is an unusual device for a brand targeted at the low end of the market. I mean its integrated TV-tuner. There are four video inputs: D-Sub, S-Video, composite and high-frequency TV-input (to attach the antenna). There are also an audio input and headphones output. The DVI interface is missing.

The case doesn’t look too neat both in design and in manufacture quality. The massive bottom makes the whole monitor look a bit bulky. As for manufacture quality, you can see the jagged surface of the shiny metallic buttons, while the LED in the power-on indicator is shifted off the center of its window. Of course, all this makes a negative impression about the product before you even turn it on. The case is not steady enough. This is the first LCD monitor I see that produces a big dark spot in the matrix when you press at the framing (the framing bends and pushes down on the matrix).

The base is a solid thing, although a low-profile one. It only allows adjusting the screen’s tilt. The D-Sub and power connectors are placed in the monitor’s case, while the rest of the connectors are at the back of the base. The TV-tuner I mentioned above is removable. It sits in the base and can be easily extracted: push the plastic bracket into the slot and you transform the P170T into a P170. The monitor comes with an infrared remote control unit for the tuner.

The settings menu is an unpleasant sight with every setting being in its separate submenu. Thus, the R, G and B controls for the temperature setting are three different menu pages. Of course, you can easily switch between them, but that’s not quite right. You have quick access to switching the inputs, controlling the volume and to the auto-adjust feature.

There are three color temperature settings: User (by default, it is 6000K for white and 8630K for gray), Mode1 (7430K and 11740K) and Mode2 (5990K and 8600K). As you see, Mode2 doesn’t differ from the default User setting, while the temperatures of white and gray do differ dramatically.

By default, the contrast is set to 79%, the brightness – to 75%. By setting both to 60%, I got the required screen brightness of 100nit.

The viewing angles are typically-average: the image is dark when viewed from below, light – when viewed from above. When looking at the screen at an angle, you see white transforming into yellow and black into gray. Well, this monitor has a fast matrix, too.

The color curves of Prestigio P170T are a mournful sight. First of all, the level of blue is unacceptably high. Second, at its default settings, the monitor cannot distinguish between about 6-7% of light red and green tones and between 15-18% of light blue tones.

It’s no better at 100nit screen brightness. The color curves are actually the same with too much of blue and inability to reproduce light tones of all three colors.

Prestigio P170T is declared to have a response time of 16msec, but the matrix turns to be different from what we saw in other models. First, the response time at maximum brightness and for black-white transitions is 20msec rather than 16msec. Second, it grows on black-gray transitions, but not that greatly as with 16msec matrixes. It is 25msec at the most, which is 4-5msec lower than the above-discussed monitors produced.

The contrast ratio is yet another cause for joy. Although the maximum brightness doesn’t make it to the specs, the low level of black makes up for it. As a result, the contrast ratio of the Prestigio P170T reaches to 360:1. None of the models we’ve tested so far today produced a similar result.

Prestigio P170T is an ambiguous thing. On the one hand, it uses a good matrix with very low response time and nice contrast ratio, plus it has a TV-tuner and a bunch of various video inputs. On the other hand, the low manufacture quality and poor color reproduction may make you reconsider.

Prestigio P171

The case of Prestigio P171 is made somewhat less offhandedly, but we still have that power LED looking at us askance. All five buttons are made of the same chunk of plastic: they all twitch when you touch one of them. The framing is still insufficiently rigid: when you press your finger to it, there appears a dark spot on the matrix.

The display features internal speakers, so we’ve got an audio input and headphones output. From the entire set of video inputs we saw in the previous model, there is only an analog D-Sub left. The case is compact, but only allows controlling the tilt of the screen.

The menu is practically the same as we saw in the previous monitor, that is, unsightly and without much user-friendliness. You can quickly access three functions: mute the sound, adjust the volume, and auto-adjust the monitor.

A screen brightness of 100nit is achieved by setting the contrast and brightness controls to 20%. By default we have 70% brightness and 80% contrast.

The viewing angles are similar to those of P170T, that is, they are just enough to be acceptable. You can work with this monitor, but the angles may still seem quite discomforting in some situations. Well, this is true for nearly every monitor reviewed today.

There are three color temperature settings: User (by default, it is 6040K for white and 7700K for gray), Mode1 (6390K and 9100K) and Mode2 (6040K and 7690K). As you see, the temperatures of white and gray differ less greatly than in the previous model.

The color reproduction is also better than that provided by Prestigio P170T. We have the level of blue high across a biggest part of the range (save for light tones), while red and green dominate the white color, reducing its temperature. Moreover, this monitor doesn’t distinguish between some tones of red and green, but reproduces blue without any problems.

At 100nit screen brightness, the problem with light tones disappears, but the overall excess of blue remains. Moreover, the dark tones are reproduced inadequately – they are lighter than should be.

The official specifications found at the manufacturer’s website assure that the response time for this model is 16msec, although with a reservation that this parameter may be as high as 25msec depending on the matrix used. My measurements produced a result of 28msec, leaving no doubts about the matrix. Still, this slower matrix shows close enough to 16msec ones on black-gray transitions. I’ve already talked about this effect: a slow, according to the specs, matrix may be no worse than a fast one in practice.

However, this matrix is much similar to 16msec ones in the contrast ratio. The level of black is so high that the contrast ratio never made it to the specified 450:1, stopping short of 200:1. Well, most of the competitor products have it the same way.

Prestigio P171 is more attractive compared to P170T due to its neat design and setup. At the same time, the monitor still belongs to the low-end price group: it features a pretty humble case, confusing menu system, average auto-adjustment. The response time of the matrix is good enough, but the contrast ratio is below average. If you are pressed for money, consider this model. Otherwise, you’d better turn to more expensive and better-quality models from other manufacturers.

Samsung SyncMaster 171T

I was much surprised to see this model in stores as it uses the fresh PVA matrix (used in SyncMaster 172B and 172T models, see our article called Closer Look at 17” LCD Monitors Features: Pixel Response Time), but installed into a case of the older design, which seemed to have gone forever with models like SyncMaster 171S and 171B. What’s more, this model is a really interesting offer, since there is a shortage of 172B/T models and a lack of new models on PVA matrixes (the highly anticipated SyncMaster 173P hasn’t yet reached the stores).

So, the distinguishing features of the monitor case are wide framing, bulky and long base, integrated power adapter and control buttons placed on the left. This case has its advantages, though. Unlike the cases of the 172B and 172T models, it allows rotating the screen around the vertical axis and turning the screen into the portrait mode.

The monitor features two inputs, DVI and D-Sub. Well, the “T” in the name denotes exactly the availability of the DVI interface.

SyncMaster 171T uses a PVA matrix, which features gorgeous viewing angles. If you look at the screen at an angle of 50 degrees and more, the black color becomes just a little lighter, while white loses its brightness. Colors are not distorted, and you can clearly see the onscreen image up to an angle of 175-178 degrees (the framing prevents you from getting a higher degree). Thus, these are the best viewing angles of all LCD monitors I’ve ever seen. The color reproduction is beyond criticism, too. Moreover, the display truthfully displays 16.7 million colors (unlike the 16msec matrixes with a color resolution of 18bit that offer 16.2 million colors due to dithering).

By default, we have 50% brightness and 80% contrast. When both settings are at 29%, the screen is 100nit bright. Brightness is controlled by modulation of the backlight lamp with a frequency of 520Hz.

The menu is Samsung’s standard one (if you saw one, you saw them all). Three color temperature settings are available: User Adjusted (corresponds to 5950K for white and 6570K for gray), Reddish (5800K and 6100K) and Bluish (6210K and 7090K).

The color curves are nearly perfect, there’s nothing to comment on:

The same is true for 100nit screen brightness:

The specified response time is 25msec. My measurements give out 26msec, with the pixel rise time equaling the pixel fall time (this reduces the ghosting effect). But this is when we deal with black-white transitions. When gray color comes up, the situation worsens immediately. The pixel rise time skyrockets to reach 120msec (!). So, although the matrix is fast enough, according to the official specs, it will produce a noticeable ghosting effect in dark scenes.

The brightness and contrast ratio parameters are gorgeous, too. With a maximum brightness of about 220nit, the contrast ratio never got below 400:1. At 100nit screen brightness, it was close to 900:1!

Summing up, I would say that this is a perfect LCD monitor for work. Its only disadvantage is a very high response time on dark tones, but we get excellent viewing angles, very good color reproduction and excellent, deep black color instead. Unfortunately SyncMaster 171T doesn’t suit for playing dynamic games. But if you want a monitor to work with, consider this one seriously.

Sony Multiscan SDM-HS73

Here’s the typical design of all monitors belonging to the new HS series: an elegant base, rounded support, dark-gray shiny framing. As I have already said about Sony HS-93 in our roundup called Closer Look at 19” Monitors Features: Pixel Response Time and More!, its design is beautiful, but not very functional. The plastic reflects what’s going on behind your back, distracting you from what’s going on in the screen. The base allows changing the screen tilt.

Multiscan SDM-HS73 features an analog input only. Although the price of the monitor is high enough, the manufacturer doesn’t think it necessary to equip the product with a digital interface.

The menu interface is traditional for a Sony monitor. Like other models from the company, this one allows controlling the brightness of the matrix and of the backlight lamp independently. The color temperature settings include: 9300K (corresponds to 6780K for white and 8880K for gray), 6500K (5710K white, 7180K gray), and user-defined setting (by default, it is the same as “6500K”). Another tradition of Sony monitors is the default setting of the color temperature equal to 9300K.

The viewing angles are average; they are no match to the above-discussed Samsung solution. There appears a dark stripe when you look at the screen from above. When viewed from below, the upper part of the screen becomes dark. If viewed sideways, at an angle of 45 degrees, the onscreen image becomes yellowish. I should acknowledge that Multiscan SDM-HS73 has better vertical viewing angles than fast 16msec matrixes, but it is anyway far from the ideal.

The backlight brightness control originally stood at 100%, contrast – at 70%, brightness – at 50%. There are three presets to quickly change the screen brightness (like the LightView feature in monitors from LG): High, Middle, Low. You switch between the modes using the ECO button. User-defined settings of brightness, backlight brightness and contrast ratio are blocked when you work with these presets and you cannot change the presets themselves. The High mode is a full copy of the default monitor settings, the Middle mode means a brightness of 120nit (that’s nice for processing text with a good ambient lighting), the Low mode is 73nit (this is good for working with the same text in a dimly lit room when too bright screen would be dazzling).

I got the screen shine with a brightness of 100nit by dragging down the backlight brightness control to 65%. By the way, this is the most efficient way for reducing the screen brightness of this monitor. It doesn’t produce a negative impact on the response time, as controlling the brightness with the matrix does, and it also reduces the level of black proportionally.

The color curves look good enough, only the level of blue is somewhat high.

The manufacturer’s website claims the response time of 16msec, while the documentation included with the monitor claimed it to be 20msec. In fact, the full response time with the maximum settings was 32msec, and 30msec with slightly reduced settings. Note also that it takes the same time to turn the pixel on and off at high brightness and contrast, but with reduced settings we have the pixel rise time much higher than the pixel fall time. The pixel response time changed very little on black-gray transitions (from 18msec to 25msec), which is even better than with “true” 16msec matrixes.

The contrast ratio is below the specs (500:1), notching only 200:1 at 100nit screen brightness. When the screen brightness grew up (again, I controlled it using the backlight), the level of black grew, too, so that the contrast ratio went down to 150:1. Anyway, SDM-HS73 has a better level of black than most of monitors on fast matrixes.

I can’t say this Sony monitor surprised me in any way. It is a solid mainstream product, differing from the competitor offers by its nice design. The well-chosen matrix provides nice speed, acceptable viewing angles, and a good level of black. The color reproduction is well set up, but I think the model with such a price might have a DVI interface.

Sony Multiscan SDM-S73

Externally, Multiscan SDM-S73 resembles SDM-P82 we tested earlier (see our article called Closer Look at the 19” LCD Monitors Features. Part II), but on the whole is somewhat simpler: S73 has no decorations like that metal disc. Compared to SDM-*72 series from Sony, the framing around the screen became much thinner. The control buttons changed proportionally, they are still located to the left of the screen. The base allows adjusting the screen tilt.

There’s only one input in Multiscan SDM-S73 (analog D-Sub).

The Sony’s standard menu contains options for separate adjustment of the matrix brightness and the backlight lamp, three gamma choices, two color temperatures (by default, we have “9300K”, but you can see it with your own eyes that it’s no more than 7500K), plus the user setting (RGB). Quick access is provided for the ECO feature, which allows switching between three presets with different screen brightness (High, Middle and Low, with the fourth ECO mode – User – being just the ordinary user-defined brightness and contrast setup). According to my measurements, “9300K” option gave out a color temperature of 6200K for white and 7350K for gray, and the “6500K” option – 5340K for white and 5970K for gray.

I would estimate the monitor setup to be above average. When Multiscan SDM-S73 displays a one-pixel-wide black-white tessellation, auto-adjustment makes the tessellation look sharp, although there is a barely visible trail behind the mouse pointer.

I’ve got no gripe about the color reproduction. The viewing angles are normal. Again, we have a tincture of yellow when the image is viewed sideways; when viewed from above, the screen gets dark. Still, the effect is not catastrophic, there is no discomfort at work.

By default, the backlight brightness control stands on 100%, the contrast on 70% and the brightness on 50%. The screen brightness of 100nit is achieved by reducing the backlight brightness to 10%, and the matrix brightness to 35%. The brightness of the lamp is controlled by pulse-width modulation with a frequency of 400Hz.

The color curves look perfect, making allowance for the traditionally high level of blue. Well, it is not too high: you can see it from the small gap between the temperatures of white and gray.

The manufacturer claims that Multiscan SDM-S73 has 16msec response time. In practice, though, the response time is 25msec, and the matrix resembles that of the previous monitor, the SDM-HS73, in case of reduced brightness and contrast. Multiscan SDM-S73 was somewhat worse at black-gray transitions, 30msec.

It was also the same with the contrast ratio, only the level of black suddenly grew when the screen brightness approached its maximum (11nit!). Well, it’s all right as the brightness nearly hit 300nit, although was specified to be 250nit. Otherwise, Multiscan SDM-S73 showed an acceptable contrast ratio, 170…200:1.

Well, the testing results make me think that Multiscan SDM-S73 differs from SDM-HS73 mostly in the case design. Their parameters are not identical, but very close. The only difference is that Multiscan SDM-S73 has better color reproduction setup.

Sony Multiscan SDM-X73

The thin framing around the screen is the distinguishing feature of Multiscan SDM-X73, although the case is still thick enough. The base allows flexibly controlling the height of the screen. You can also change the tilt of the screen, although the portrait mode is unavailable.

With its integrated speakers, Multiscan SDM-X73 carries two analog and a DVI input as well as a headphones output. Every video input has an accompanying audio input, that is, the audio sources are attached along with the video inputs.

The menu is typical for a Sony monitor with one pleasing detail: four modes that you switch between using the ECO button can now be set up, as the monitor doesn’t block the user settings of brightness, contrast and backlight brightness when turning into the ECO mode (there is only one limitation: when the Auto variant is selected, the backlight brightness adjustment is not possible). Thus, the user can set up four combinations of contrast and brightness to suit his taste and then switch between them by pressing a single button.

By default, the High mode has the following settings: 70% brightness, 90% contrast, 100% backlight. The Middle mode: 50% brightness, 70% contrast, 100% backlight. The Low mode: 50% brightness, 70% contrast and 40% backlight. The Auto mode: 50% brightness, 70% contrast and unavailable backlight. I tested Multiscan SDM-X73 using the Middle mode with the default settings.

Besides the user-defined color temperature option, we have two presets: “9300K” (this is the monitor default; it corresponds to 6780K for white and 8640K for gray) and “6500K” (6150K and 7100K). With 20% backlight, 50% brightness and 70% contrast, we have a screen brightness of 100nit.

The viewing angles are average, although the image is perfectly seen at any angle: you notice the top of the screen getting dark when you look at it from below, and when you view the screen from above, white becomes darker and black – lighter. So these viewing angles are not perfect, but quite acceptable, if you can get used to the darker top of the screen.

The auto-adjustment works good just like with S73, although we still have that mouse trail. No gripe about the color reproduction, smooth gradients are rendered without visible stripes.

The color curves are nearly ideal, just like with Sony Multiscan SDM-S73.

Multiscan SDM-X73 is also specified to have 16msec response time, but, according to my measurements, it uses a different matrix compared to HS73 and S73. This matrix does perform black-white transitions in 16ms at maximum brightness and contrast settings. This superiority is only felt in case of black-and-white conversions, as the matrix slows down on black-gray conversions being just 2msec better than the other Sony monitors tested today.

My measuring the brightness and contrast ratio gave out results close to those of SDM-S73: the same level of black, although the maximum brightness was about 20nit higher.

Although there are no significant differences in the measured parameters, Multiscan SDM-X73 is better than S73. First of all, it offers a lot of input ports. Second, it allows setting up the ECO presets. This gives the user the freedom to adjust the presets to his own taste, rather than to the manufacturer’s. Multiscan SDM-X73 allows creating different profiles for working in the daytime or in the evening, or for playing games and then switching between them with a single button.

Conclusion

So, we have added another dozen of LCD monitors into our “tested” folder, and it was the first time we measured the response time characteristic both on black-to-white and on black-to-gray transitions. This testing has produced some interesting point for discussion.

My main conclusion arising from the test results is the following: the response time, a universal characteristic of an LCD monitor, cannot describe an LCD monitor thoroughly. Moreover, if a matrix A has smaller full response time than a matrix B, it doesn’t necessarily mean that A is better than B. The point has been confirmed through comparison of popular 16msec matrixes with allegedly slower 25msec ones. It turns out the 16msec matrixes can only reach those 16msec on transitions between black and white (or brightest) colors. As for transitions like black-to-50% gray, a 16msec matrix often shows the same response time as a 25msec one.

Note also that 16msec matrixes available today generally have smaller viewing angles and worse color reproduction compared to slower ones. So, this is my practical advice: even if you are searching for an LCD monitor to play games on, and the response time becomes the most important factor, do consider 25msec matrixes, too. In practice, they would display dynamic images much in the same way as 16msec matrixes.

You have also just seen that certain manufacturers may use different matrixes in the same monitor models. For example, newer matrixes may replace older ones, although this is not indicated in the model number.

As for the specific monitors, we included into this roundup, I would split them into two categories: “gaming” monitors and “business” monitors.

The latter category includes only Samsung SyncMaster 171T. It is very slow at black-to-dark-gray transitions, but offers wide viewing angles and excellent color reproduction. If you work in text processors, accounting software, development tools, image-processing programs, then SyncMaster 171T may be your choice, as this is the only monitor we’ve tested today with which you don’t have to worry about the angle of your line of sight.

The first category includes a host of various models remarkable for their fast matrix. It’s hard to name the best monitor in this category (but I know that the worst ones are the Prestigio models). They have similar parameters, so you choose a monitor with an appropriate functionality from the company that has a service center next to your home. These LCD monitors are doing nicely in games (of course, they can’t match CRT-monitors yet; the ghosting effect will go away no sooner than we get 10msec matrixes), but less so in static applications. The manufacturers sacrifice the viewing angles to achieve higher speeds. With some models, you can hardly find a position for your head so that the entire screen could be shining with the same brightness.

Regrettably, there are no “ideal” LCD monitors, yet. I mean a display that would have good viewing angles and a pixel response time of 30msec and lower in any conditions. An ideal model in my humble opinion would have real viewing angles of 160 degrees in both directions, perform pixel color transitions in 30msec or less, and use 24-bit color reproduction without dithering (16.7 million colors). Until that, we have to make the choice between game and work. I only hope the manufacturers would hear my calling.

Appendix: Color Coordinates of the RGB Filters (CIE x, y)