Overview of Features and Specifications

Before we get to the specifics of the Gateway FPD2485W, it's important to have some understanding of what makes for a good display. There are many factors to consider, and intended use will play a role. Here's a brief overview of the commonly quoted specifications and what they actually mean.

Brightness: This is generally a well understood measurement. Brightness is typically measured in candelas per square meter (cd/m 2 ) or "nits". Having a brighter display is usually preferable to most people, but there is definitely such thing as a display that is too bright. LCDs have really caused some confusion in this area, as brightness levels have shot up in order to compensate for poor black levels. 100 nits is pretty typical of most CRTs, give or take, and 400 nits is probably as bright as you would really want for prolonged computer use. Staring into an ultra-bright display for hours a day can be uncomfortable, so unless your computer environment tends to be brightly lit you'll almost certainly be reducing the maximum brightness. Depending on the technology in use, it's also worth mentioning that running a display at maximum brightness levels can cause the backlights to burn out quicker.

Contrast Ratio: Contrast ratio is often grossly misunderstood due to misleading marketing. Getting a good contrast setting from displays is further complicated by the lack of proper adjustment options on many devices, and personal preference plays a part. The contrast ratio is simply the brightness level of pure white divided by the brightness level of pure black. In the real world, contrast ratio is always infinity - black is 0 and dividing by 0 is equal to infinity. Contrast ratios became meaningful with displays like LCDs where pure black (0 cd/m 2 ) was not possible, and higher ratios are generally better. The problem with such a generalization is that a display with 1000 nit whites and 1 nit blacks has a 1000:1 contrast ratio, while a 100 nit white and 0.1 nit black produces the same contrast ratio of 1000:1. It is usually better to get a high contrast ratio by having very dark blacks than by having overly bright whites, but the brightness and contrast ratio should be viewed as a combined unit where you want to keep the brightness somewhere in the range of 200-400 nits depending on environment while still achieving a high contrast ratio.

Response Time: Pixel response time gained popularity after problems with early LCD displays. Maybe it was discussed in the early days of computers, but most CRTs were simply fast enough that no one thought about pixel response times. The response time is the time required to change from one color to another color; most companies rate it as the time to stabilize to within 5% of the target color. The problem with response times is that you also have to know whether you're changing from black to white/white to black (TrTf), or whether you're looking at gray-to-gray (GTG) times. GTG transitions are more common than black/white transitions, but both are important - consider how often you see black text on a white background, for example. Unfortunately, response times are another widely abused specification, with many companies only reporting the best case scenario rather than an average response time. Also note that TrTf would be roughly twice the GTG time for any given panel, since GTG only involves one transition while TrTf requires two. It is important to know whether a display will bother you with "smearing" - i.e. slow pixel response times - but that ends up being mostly a personal preference with modern LCDs.

Viewing Angle: Viewing angle is the angle at which you can still see the image "properly". This is doubled, since viewing angle actually describes the arc in which you can still see the proper output, and horizontal and vertical components are often listed separately. For computers, viewing angle isn't very important at all, as you're almost always sitting in front of the display. TVs where you may be watching with a group of people can use a larger viewing angle, but even then anything more than a 90 degree viewing angle should be sufficient - after all, it's not fun to watch TV from an oblique angle even if you still see the proper colors. Unfortunately, as with many of the other specifications, what qualifies as a "properly viewable" image is up for debate. In some cases, companies have been known to rate viewing angle as being able to see 10% of the requested brightness. Our display reviews will list the manufacturers' stated viewing angles, but we will only bring it up as a cause for concern if we find the viewing angle to be extremely narrow.

Color Depth: Depending on the sort of work you're doing, the need for high precision color depths varies. Most displays have a set number of intensities that they can display for red, green, and blue, and this is almost always a power of 2. (Technically LCDs function by passing varying light intensities through a color filter, but the net result is the same.) A 6-bit display can show 26 (64) different intensities while an 8-bit display can do 28 (256) intensities. With separate RGB values, you can then cube that number to get the total color space. 643 = 262,144, 2563 = 16,777,216, etc. While most people will agree that 6-bit is insufficient - even with dithering to approximate a larger color space - anything more than 8-bit per channel output starts to become more hype than substance. Lower color depths can also result in banding, where the transitions between various colors become visible even when they're not supposed to be.

Color Accuracy: Out of all of the factors to consider when looking at a display, this is going to be one of the most important. Unfortunately, accuracy is rarely a reported specification, in part because it is far more difficult to measure but also because it can vary from display to display. Getting accurate colors from a display can be achieved in several ways. The first is to basically just go with whatever defaults an LCD comes with, which usually means that the colors will be wildly inaccurate. A slightly more sophisticated approach is to use software to try and help you calibrate the contrast and brightness, and you can take it a step further by adjusting color intensities as well. This is what is known as "calibrating by eye" and is what most people end up doing. The best way to calibrate your display is to get a hardware colorimeter and appropriate software to help you adjust the various display settings, but unfortunately this costs money and most people don't care enough about color accuracy to go that far. Image professionals, on the other hand, would be well served by purchasing some form of color matching/calibration hardware/software.

Other Factors: Arguably the most important factors for a lot of people when looking at a new display are going to be the size and the price. All of the specifications may look great, but if a display costs several thousand dollars the target market is greatly reduced. Likewise, a decent display sold at a very competitive price is going to be far more attractive to a lot of people. That said, it's not too surprising that lower-cost displays tend to vary much more in terms of overall quality - one unit might produce great colors and the next could be highly inaccurate. Part of the reason for this is that quality control isn't as much of a concern. Build quality is also often affected by lower costs, with some cheap displays coming with very flimsy stands and/or enclosures. LCDs in particular can also develop pixel defects - individual pixels or sub-pixels that are stuck in a single position, resulting in either black dots or bright dots - and manufacturer warranty and replacement policies are something else to we will evaluate. We will also look at the ability of the LCDs to function in non-native resolutions, although most people will want to run at native resolution so this isn't a huge concern. On-Screen Displays (OSDs) and any other noteworthy features will also be mentioned.

Now let's take a look at the features and performance of the Gateway FPD2485W to see how it fares.

Index Specifications
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  • strikeback03 - Friday, February 23, 2007 - link

    You skipped quoting the rest of the paragraph:
    quote:

    s you can see, the black levels of both the Gateway and Dell LCD are equal, so the Gateway LCD achieves better contrast ratios mostly by offering brighter whites. If you work in a well lit office environment, the Gateway system might be the better choice, but most users will likely end up running either LCD at similar brightness levels.


    Optimal brightness setting for LCDs is often stated to be 120 cd/m^2. So in many circumstances the extra brightness of the Gateway isn't useful.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, February 23, 2007 - link

    400 cd/m2 is the most I could imagine using, and once both LCDs were adjusted the actual white point was a lot closer - meaning even though the maximum on the Gateway was twice as high, once calibrated I didn't use anywhere near that white level. 300+ cd/m2 can be almost painful to look at in my opinion, and 400 or higher is generally overkill.

    The point is, the only reason Gateway and others seem to have such insane brightness levels is to get better contrast scores. Most people will run around 200 cd/m2, give or take probably 50. But if your black is only able to reach a minimum of 0.35 cd/m2, that means the contrast ratio would be somewhere between 500:1 and 600:1. The "solution" is to simply crank up the maximum brightness, so you can claim a 1000:1 (or even 1200:1) contrast ratio. More is better, right? Except, it's not, because hardly anyone will actually use those super-bright whites.

    Also worth noting is that if you max out brightness and contrast (max white level), the color accuracy scores go to hell and the whites all run together, so everything from about 200 or higher on the RGB scale ends up as the same level of white. At maximum contrast, the recommended calibrated brightness (according to Monaco Optix) is 20%, where if I choose 60 contrast the recommended brightness is 61%. As mentioned in the review, the overall color accuracy was better with contrast set to 60 as opposed to 100.

    The maximum brightness (100% contrast) was even higher than reported: 500 cd/m2 was pretty close, but black went up to 0.45 cd/m2. Depending on the room you work in, higher brightness may be okay or not. I prefer running closer to 200-300 personally.
    Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Friday, February 23, 2007 - link

    All I can say is that I love my 2405! Reply
  • Painman - Friday, February 23, 2007 - link

    Besides the already requested input lag tests, modern LCD reviews usually include at least a few gaming tests... some commentary on what kind of visual artifacts are evident with fast moving objects. I had 3 of these Gateways (returned for various defects) and tried to like it, but aside from other problems the smearing was just too much to take... green and brown smudges always popping up in my face. I bought myself an IPS based NEC and I ain't looking back.

    This isn't a very good gamer panel... thinking about it now sitting in front of this NEC, I can't really say the Gateway FPD2485W is a good ANYTHING panel, tbh.
    Reply
  • Aquila76 - Friday, February 23, 2007 - link

    If you want to see something that'll blow your mind on this display, fire up HL2. At the menu screen, where it's out of focus as it loads the game, it looks like you've dropped to 256 Color mode and are 'dithering' the image. I noticed the same effect when hitting the Nitro in a couple Need for Speed games. Reply
  • knirfie - Friday, February 23, 2007 - link

    This monitor features DCDi by Farudja, why is there no mention of this in the review (or did I miss it?). And how is the videoquality/deinterlacing over composite/svideo/component? Reply
  • DigitalFreak - Friday, February 23, 2007 - link

    Page 3:
    quote:

    The Gateway FPD2485W uses a Faroudja DCDi signal processor, which is one of the more respected brands.


    Reply
  • Souka - Friday, February 23, 2007 - link

    get an apple cinema display and make sure its calibrated properly....

    nothing better IMHO... use them all the time at work. Some folk have those Dell units...yuk....color is off, things seem dull, despite all calibration attempts.

    Good thing they're just doing web page design and programming....
    Reply
  • dcr - Thursday, February 22, 2007 - link

    Could you test WoW and see if you get this "flashing" in the terrain? Reply
  • chizow - Thursday, February 22, 2007 - link

    Jarred, nice review of the 2485W, was wondering if you wouldn't mind posting your settings after you calibrated your display with Optix. Reason I ask is that myself and many others felt the color accuracy out of the box on this panel were horrible, especially compared to other displays. I was able to get better results by asking what settings people were using, and obviously what looks good to them will vary person to person and card to card, but it was a big help.

    Also, it might be worth noting what month your panel was made. There were some serious issues with this panel in early production runs (November), but each successive month seems to correct problems and greatly reduce other problems. Backlight bleed seems to greatly diminish as well as an annoying PSU buzzing problem with newer models.

    Lastly, I was glad you mentioned the 1:1 pixel mapping, but I think there needs to be greater emphasis on this aspect of 24" panels or any panel able to do 1920x1080. In the era of HD with all of the inputs this monitor and some competitor models provide (BenQ, Dell Rev. A04), the ability to do 1:1 is a major consideration for the enthusiast. If you have multiple HD capable devices (HDTV, PS3, Xbox360, HD-DVD, Blu-Ray) this monitor can basically serve as your entertainment center, all while maintaining its main functionality as a massive 2.3 Megapixel PC display. There's really few other tech-enabling devices I've purchases that can compete with this panel's versatility and functionality.
    Reply

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