How to Pick a Good LCD

Picking an LCD goes well beyond brand recognition. Below, we have a small introduction to a few different facets of shopping for an LCD - in our order of importance. Generally, we find a price point and then choose an LCD based on the properties detailed below. For example, if we only have $500 to spend, we consider all of the monitors for $500 or less and go through the following checklist.

Input Type: DVI, DVI, DVI. We insist that when you buy a new LCD monitor, you buy a model with DVI capability. Even if you don't want to buy a DVI-capable video card right now, it is still a wise decision to get a DVI-compatible LCD. When DVI first appeared in the industry, there were a few issues with the quality of the connectors and thus, sometimes viewing a signal over a DVI connector would give you a worse signal than over a 15-pin D-Sub connector. However, in the last 3 or 4 years, most of those problems have been fixed, and virtually every new video card is more than capable of producing a clean digital signal. None of the LCDs that we review today (except the Samsung 910V) are limited to only analog connectors, but be aware that they exist.

Resolution, Aspect Ratio: If you buy a 4:3 LCD, the resolution had better be 4:3 as well. That is, a 19" LCD should have an aspect ratio of 1600x1200, 1280x960, or some derivative thereof. Most 19" and 17" LCDs have an aspect ratio of 5:4 (1280x1024). This is OK, but you're looking at a 5:4 signal crammed in a 4:3 box. Our Dell 2001FP, on the other hand, measures exactly 16" by 12" and runs at a resolution of 1600x1200. Generally, a skew aspect ratio is not enough to notice, but if you do any sort of graphic work, all of your circles will look like ovals. This goes the same for widescreen LCDs - buy a widescreen LCD with a widescreen resolution; a 30" wide format LCD with a resolution of 1024x768 will not look correct no matter what you do to the signal.

Response Time: Response time is an unusual preference and always a trade off. Typical response time (TrTf - Time rising, Time falling) refers to the time that it takes the LCD subpixel to twist from the fully "on" position to the fully "off" position and then back again. Response time has absolutely nothing to do with framerate. Pixel response times are independent of each other, and it does not take the entire screen 25ms to refresh if a monitor is labeled as a 25ms response time LCD. The time that it takes the LCD to go from black to white may be 15ms while the time that it takes the LCD to go from black back to white may be 10ms. Furthermore, your monitor is generally rendering a color that is not on end of the color spectrum. The time that it takes your LCD subpixel to twist from one half of a tone to another may be more or less than 15ms. The TrTf response time is normally a pretty useless measurement - but it makes for an easy specification in which to market LCDs.

The second method in measuring response time is "gray-to-gray" (GTG) response time. The measurement of GTG response time is actually more useful to LCD buyers, but it is harder to convey and is usually just conveyed as one number (which is incorrect). Gray to Gray response time refers to the time that it takes for a pixel to twist from some arbitrary position to another. On a 6-bit LCD, that's the time it takes the subpixel to twist from 1 of 64 different positions to one of the other 63 positions. GTG response times are useful if the manufacturer expresses the average of all the GTG response times, but that is rarely the case.

Everyone's preferences on response time are different. If you play a lot of games and feel that the few ms difference between a 6-bit LCD and an 8-bit LCD are worthwhile, then it's a worthy investment. Most people can't tell the difference - and that's not just most people who aren't gamers, but most people in general have to be shown the differences between two displays that differ by single digit transient response times.

Index How to Pick a Good LCD (continued)
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  • rodf - Tuesday, November 30, 2004 - link

    Actually that url is the shops not viewsonics but what the hey. Reply
  • rodf - Tuesday, November 30, 2004 - link

    I've just ordered a Viewsonic VX912 and the idea of oval circles for graphic work hadn't occured to me.
    I checked the viewsonic website - http://www.lowestonweb.com/pdfs/products/Viewsonic...
    The pixels are square and the screen measures 5:4 not 4:3 so the problem doesn't always arise.
    Reply
  • AtaStrumf - Tuesday, November 30, 2004 - link

    I have come up with the perfect price/performance CRT/LCD solution, I just don't know why it took me so long to realize it.

    Keep in mind that I'm talking EU prices here! You US residents live in PRICE PARADISE, you just don't know it!

    Since I bought my 19" Samsung 959NF 2,5 years ago for $450 and I could MAYBE get $200 for it now, I'm not too keen on selling it for what is less than half of what I paid for it. Additionally a new HIGH quality 17" LCD would cost me upwards of $550 so I'd be looking at AT LEAST $350 new cash for ONE display that may not be AS GOOD as the old one at the most demanding tasks - games, movies. Not too appealing at all.

    On the other hand I could get a standard 17" LCD for that same $350, but now I have 2 DISPLAYS, and I get the best of both worlds. They can both run at 1280x1024 so I won't have any problem switching between them, or even running them in clone or spanned desktop mode.

    Two times desktop area, best of both worlds, same price! Additional display. since it's LCD, would be no problem as far as desk space/ cable clutter/ power consumption is concerned.

    HOW ABOUT THAT :-)
    Reply
  • robg1701 - Tuesday, November 30, 2004 - link

    " Although the viewing area on a 19" LCD is roughly equivalent to the viewing area on a 21" CRT "

    And yet in terms of pixel real estate is woefully outclassed. In reality it is not a 19" LCD but a 20" LCD display that offers the same viewing and pixel real estate as a 21" - whilst costing approx 75% more.

    " The issue of cost that used to deter people away from LCDs has also disappeared. A reasonably cheap, new 21" CRT runs for about $350 "

    Again based on the poor size comparison used above I feel this is isnt the case. The price divide is definataly diminishing but is still quite present in the 17-19" range, and remains quite huge in the 20" area. Still some way to go on price.
    Reply
  • mldeveloper - Tuesday, November 30, 2004 - link

    so how do lcds look when you run a game at a non-native resolution? I'm assuming there's alot of blur do to the pixel interpolation, but is it bad. If I buy a 16x12 native lcd, will i always need to buy new graphics cards to keep up with a 16x12 resolution. Reply
  • bigpow - Tuesday, November 30, 2004 - link

    From the subjective test result (sorted):
    Samsung 193P
    Dell 2001FP
    ViewSonic Q190MB
    NuTech L921G
    Planar PE191M
    BenQ FP931
    Sony SDM-S94
    Samsung 910V
    Reply
  • MadAd - Tuesday, November 30, 2004 - link

    error: P14. "The blue bar represents the advertised luminance and the red bar indicates the measured"

    Your chart only shows blue bars.


    What about reviewing some of the 23" 16-25ms range sometime? The L2335 has been out for a while and looks fantastic all around, the apple case looks garish but is supposed to be a good panel, theres the benq 23" with the same panel as the 2335 (i think), a new samsung 23" has just been released plus more.

    I take it if you cant get smaples that they are too expensive to just buy and review? Im trying to hold out with this iiyama tft till i can afford a 2335 myself (hence why I would like to see a comparitive review of all the 23's now theres a few more to choose from price and panel wise)
    Reply
  • bldckstark - Tuesday, November 30, 2004 - link

    Give me CRT or give me fraggin' death! A new desk with more space costs less than 2 LCD monitors that takes up less space. With greater quality at that.

    Energy consumption? I put pedals and a dynamo under my desk. Now I really run when I play FPS!
    Reply
  • Cat - Tuesday, November 30, 2004 - link

    It's in the millisecond range, but it's very tangible. I notice it the most playing RTS games, and normal Windows point and clicking. It's really not noticeable bad in FPS games. Basically interface stuff. It feels like the mouse is slow, so it drives me nuts. I get used it after maybe 10 minutes.

    The easiest way for me to notice it is to clone my display to my CRT, and just move a window around. It doesn't ghost, but there's a large delay between when I move the mouse, and when the pixels actually change. On other LCDs, there's ghosting, but at least the transition starts very quickly.
    Reply
  • sharkAttakk - Tuesday, November 30, 2004 - link

    By the same token, why no info in the AG neovo F-419? Reply

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