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.

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  • Aquila76 - Thursday, February 22, 2007 - link

    Chizow,
    Did you run the gradient test from xtknight's website (linked above)? I'm curious to see how yours fares. I handpicked a Dec '06 model from Best Buy, but it still borked that thing badly no matter what bright/cont/R/G/B etc. I had it set to. I got most of my settings from the thread over at , but none seemed to eliminate the transition issues / color accuracy for me. :(
    Reply
  • chizow - Thursday, February 22, 2007 - link

    Ok, I applied the color profile Jarred provided (thanks again!) and colors do look much better, a lot more like the 2407WFP out of the box. Ran the gradient tests in full and windowed mode. In windowed, there is no significant banding or gradients although there is some faint gradient lines and banding on the straight color strips at the transition between the corresponding 1st and 2nd blocks. Seem to be uniform vertically through the pattern although they're unnoticeable on the magenta strips.

    In full screen mode, the banding is more obvious but again, its limited to the lower dark areas and don't extend past the 3rd block. After the 3rd block, the transitions are flawless. I wish I ran these before I calibrated the settings to see if its my panel or the calibrated settings.

    Unfortunately, it looks like these settings will only apply under WinXP.

    Jarred did you change the OSD/EzTune settings at all? Also, if you're really bored, would you mind calibrating the panel using EzTune or the OSD? Lol, well was worth a shot at least. Thanks again for the help and review.
    Reply
  • Aquila76 - Thursday, February 22, 2007 - link

    Heh, somehow clipped the last phrase off.

    ...from the thread over at HardForums.
    Reply
  • Aquila76 - Thursday, February 22, 2007 - link


    WTF? I used a BRACKET H BRACKET and it hides the text? Reply
  • Aquila76 - Thursday, February 22, 2007 - link

    Sorry for all the quotes of myself.

    The first one should have ended with:

    ...the thread over at HardForums.
    Reply
  • chizow - Thursday, February 22, 2007 - link

    I haven't run any extensive tests, but I'll check out Xtknights later when I get home. The few tests I have run were just html-based static images, and I can honestly say I saw very little gradient issues on the 2 panels I had (DEC annd current JAN). Banding was another issue though and pretty severe depending on content, source resolution/quality, and colors etc. I'll have to look over the definitions to make sure they're not mutually exclusive, so I'll have to get back to you on that one. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, February 22, 2007 - link

    Beware the open-bracket H close-bracket abbreviation used for a certain other site! :D

    We use brackets for our pseudo-HTML, and that one just happens to correspond to turning on white text. It comes up now and then, but thankfully you figured it out before the thread was very long. LOL We had a thread a year or two back where about 20 people responded trying to figure out WTF happened to the text. I think a guy had posted a comment where he used {H} five or ten times, which only served to make things more difficult to "fix".
    Reply
  • Aquila76 - Thursday, February 22, 2007 - link

    Eeks. I'll have to keep that in mind! Another cool test on xtknight's site (www.lcdresource.com) is a Dark Grayscale test. It's in the same section as the gradient. Mine just showed all black unless I cranked the brightness up to eyeball-melting. Granted, this is difficult for any LCD to display properly due to the issue of backlighting.

    I think what really pushed me over the edge on this monitor is that the last few bands of the grayscale showed up on my HP L1706 at work and the gradient shows flawlessly on it. A ~$700 display beaten handily by a ~$150 display hurt much more than my wallet. That was the final deciding factor on my returning the Gateway. I don't know how they managed to screw up this panel so badly. AFAIK, the Dell and Samsung 24" (same panels) had this resolved before the Gateway was released.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, February 22, 2007 - link

    I believe my sample is an earlier run from around November, but I didn't notice any issues with PSU buzzing. Could be that the color banding was a result of the early run - I don't know for sure. As for settings, I set contrast to 60% and ended up with brightness at 61%. The color profile will of course vary somewhat from panel to panel, so I'm not sure how helpful providing my particular profile will be, but if you want to give it a look, here you go:

    http://images.anandtech.com/reviews/monitor/2007/g...">FPD2485W Calibrated Profile

    Caveat Emptor! :)
    Reply
  • chizow - Thursday, February 22, 2007 - link

    Wow that was fast! thanks :) A lot of 2485W owners will be happy. I think a lot of people got the brightness/contrast settings similar to yours, but color accuracy is a whole different monster, like whack-a-mole almost. Solve one color problem only to make one much worst. For me, its like tuning a guitar. I know what doesn't sound right, I just don't know how to fix it. :) That profile should help a ton though, thanks again! Reply

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