We looked at a couple of BenQ LCDs last year and were generally pleased with their features, pricing, and performance. The E2200HD and E2400HD were among the first 21.5" and 24" 1080p computer LCDs to hit the market, and since that time we have seen a veritable deluge of similar displays. Pricing has dropped even further, and if you're not super concerned with image quality you can basically grab any of the current crop of 21.5" to 24" LCDs and walk away pleased with your purchase. The short summary of what you get is:

  • A reasonably large LCD
  • Pricing of under $200 for 22" or under $300 for 24" (and less during sales)
  • Limited extras - usually no height adjustment, portrait mode, or other extras beyond USB ports
  • Good processing speed - little to no image lag relative to other LCDs
  • Decent (average) color accuracy
  • Mediocre color gamut
  • Poor vertical viewing angles

The last four items in that list can be summarized with one simple statement: these inexpensive LCDs all use TN panels. There tend to be two types of display users, those that care a lot about image quality and those that really have no idea what image quality means. The latter are not necessarily wrong or uninformed; they just don't care enough about such things to worry about low-level details and they will usually be happy with any current LCD purchase. These are the type of users that give 5-star reviews to pretty much every LCD on Newegg, as an example. I say good for them and enjoy your inexpensive LCD. In truth, I use TN panels on a regular basis (pretty much every laptop out there uses a TN panel), and while I might notice the difference initially it will fade from conscious thought after a few minutes.

For those that want something better, the choices are far more limited… and far more expensive. Upgrade from a TN panel to a similarly sized PVA or IPS panel and you can usually count on spending 50% to 100% more - or more! - on the purchase. That might be perfectly acceptable if the PVA/IPS panels were all universally better, but that's not always the case. Color accuracy is almost random it seems, with some IPS panels scoring exceptionally well, PVA panels running the gamut from great to average, and TN panels that likewise fall anywhere from excellent to mediocre. Viewing angles always favor IPS and PVA panels over TN panels, especially in terms of vertical viewing angles. Color gamut is tied to the backlight used in the panel, so you can have poor or great color gamut with any panel technology. Last but not least is image processing speed, and here's where things get interesting.


To date, the fastest panels in terms of image processing speed (frequently referred to as "input lag") are all IPS or TN panels. These displays are essentially equal and very few people would notice any lag. PVA panels are a different story, unfortunately, with lag ranging from 20 to 50 ms in testing. That means if you purchase a PVA display, you should plan on your display running 1 to 3 frames behind your current input. Most people associate this lag with gaming, and it can certainly affect your performance in fast-paced, competitive games. If what you see is actually three frames behind the current action - and add in networking lag and other types of lag and it could be delayed five or more frames! - you could end up with a competitive handicap. However, it's not just a problem with gaming. Even in general computer use, a laggy display can make it seem like your mouse is sluggish. Personally, PVA panels with 40+ ms of processing lag feel like the early wireless mice, where there was a small but perceptible delay between moving the mouse and seeing the result on screen. Doing precise image editing, as another example, is an area where faster display processing times are desirable.

The vast majority of LCDs these days are TN panels, and the trend appears to be moving even more in that direction. With a soft economy, many are looking for any way to save money, and even those who really like quality displays may be willing to settle for a less expensive TN panel. S-PVA panels all come from Samsung (they hold the patent on the technology), while IPS displays come from a couple manufacturers. Similar to PVA is a lesser-seen panel type called MVA (A-MVA), and these panels also come from one source: AU Optronics. Some users prefer PVA/MVA images over IPS, for whatever reason, so while my personal preference tends to IPS I was excited to finally have an opportunity to look at an A-MVA panel.

BenQ is one of the retail arms of AU Optronics; they shipped me their FP241VW several months back, and I began testing. Before I could finish with the review, unfortunately, I was informed that the model was being discontinued. However, while that makes the review of the FP241VW less meaningful, AU Optronics still has A-MVA panels and these show up in other displays. That being the case, I felt it would be good to discuss some of the highlights of the A-MVA panels and show limited testing results for the BenQ FP241VW. Why would that even be useful? As you might have guessed there are some interesting performance characteristics to discuss.

Let's Talk Panel Technologies
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  • praeses - Wednesday, June 17, 2009 - link

    After using this particular monitor as my primary display at home for well over a year I have fairly decent experience with it. Nearly all of my concerns are reflected in this review. Having said that there are a few aspects I would like to point out:

    The input lag varies significantly from inputs and resolution. Using DVI at 1920x1200 yields the lowest while analogue at any other resolution is significantly higher. Using any of the different lighting modes adds lag as well. For my purposes I have them turned off.

    VGA also seems to be quite washed out. It has troubles with certain timings as well including XBOX360 where it cannot compensate for the overscan. The composite inputs are reasonable although when scaled any signal distortion is amplified significantly.

    Of course, the fluorescent backlight is annoying. As a previous commenter has implied that using LCDs do not result in headaches, that is far from the truth. Once manufacturers move towards LED backlighting hopefully some of that will be alleviated. To date I have been unsuccessful at tracking down a suitable LED panel to swap into this monitor. The non-adjustable backlighting is also significantly annoying in low light conditions with some bleeding, although fairly consistent throughout the panel appearing gray.

    The headphone connection only working for audio over HDMI just seems silly. They should have included an analogue pass-through.

    Prior to purchasing this monitor I was aware of most of these issues and they are consistent between screens. Some people have buyer's pride and dismiss it or do not see them to begin with. Despite this, I am quite happy with this monitor and have not found a better replacement for my uses where viewing angles, input lag (over DVI), and composite inputs are paramount.
    Reply
  • Spacecomber - Wednesday, June 17, 2009 - link

    I think the reason that the trend with LCDs is simply to make them cheaper and not better has a lot to do with there being no meaningful specifications that the consumer can use to compare one monitor to another. In many cases, you can't even tell what kind of panel is being used. (Imagine buying a CRT monitor and not being able to easily tell whether it was a shadow-mask or an aperture grill tube.)

    With no meaningful information about the monitor in its technical specifications, the only thing the consumer can easily determine is relative price differences.

    At this point, it is pretty clear that the industry manufacturing LCDs has no motivation to redress this on their own. I don't know who might be in the best position try to change this, but outside pressure (if not outright regulation) needs to be applied, if there is any hope of making manufacturers compete on a level playing field, when it comes to what a particular monitor really is capable of.

    I suspect that respected professional computer hardware review publications, such as Anandtech, could wield some clout in pursuit of this end, and I hope that they pick up the banner.
    Reply
  • darklight0tr - Wednesday, June 17, 2009 - link

    I agree. The panel type should be disclosed in the specifications for all LCDs so the consumer knows what they are getting. Right now you have trudge through the bowels of the Internet just to find what panel is being used for a particular display, since most of the time it isn't disclosed.

    The technical specifications are also suspect because the "tests" used aren't standardized or controlled in any meaningful fashion. That's how you can have 2ms LCDs that really are 10ms or higher. Same thing with contrast ratios, especially dynamic ones. I'm just waiting for the LCD that has Infinity:1 contrast ratio. That's the one for me!
    Reply
  • tomoyo - Wednesday, June 17, 2009 - link

    Companies will never do this for one big reason. Profit. They profit from the lack of real specifications on lcds that allows them to make even low end lcds seem to be good. And most people don't care at all. We're the few that actually try to give good advice on avoiding crap lcds, but we can't fight against the huge tide of mindless consumers. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, June 17, 2009 - link

    Don't forget the other reason a lot of companies don't like to disclose the type of LCD panel they use: they don't want to be "locked in" to a specific LCD panel. If they were to advertise that the display uses, for example, an S-PVA panel, they wouldn't be able to switch to less expensive TN down the road -- or perhaps IPS or MVA. High quality displays generally don't change panels midway through the production run, but the same can't be said of less expensive models. Reply
  • tomoyo - Wednesday, June 17, 2009 - link

    No kidding. I remember all that panel lottery madness with those Samsung TN-films such as the 226BW. It was ridiculous when there were 4 possible panels you could receive from one monitor model. Same thing with the Dell IPS/S-PVA lottery from long ago. It's dishonest how little they care about the quality of the product that we get.
    I'm glad my friend got a Benq FP241W with a similar MVA panel to the one you just reviewed a couple years ago for around $600. Probably the best pickup for a 24" at the time. (and he was lucky not to experience problems like some have).
    Reply
  • alexdi - Wednesday, June 17, 2009 - link

    The lag numbers for the Dell 2408WFP are incorrect as of revision A01, which replaced A00 four months ago. A01 lag is significantly reduced and identical to the 2407WFP A04. I have had all three screens at once to verify this. Reply
  • fmyhr - Wednesday, June 17, 2009 - link

    http://www.kwiksurveys.com/online-survey.php?surve...">http://www.kwiksurveys.com/online-survey.php?surve...

    If you would like to be able to buy a ThinkPad or other business-class notebook with a premium screen, please take the survey at the above url when you can spare a couple of minutes.


    Survey results are here:
    http://forums.lenovo.com/lnv/board/message?board.i...">http://forums.lenovo.com/lnv/board/mess...al_Inter...


    Thanks for your help!
    Reply
  • GTaudiophile - Wednesday, June 17, 2009 - link

    I spent a few months doing research, trying to find a 24" replacement for my really old DELL 2001FP.

    It more or less came down to the DELL 2408WFP and the HP LP2475w. But I just read too many negative reviews, calibration issues, etc. to feel that either was a safe bet of my $550.00 USD.

    What am I looking for? 24". 1920x1200. 1080P. 16:9. Something "approved" by photographers for photo editing / color accuracy. But something that can also be a decent gaming monitor when needed. Something that will allow me to be on the net for hours without causing too much eye fatigue. And finally costs around $500 or less.

    In the end, I quit my search for now, unsatisfied with current market offerings. If the "Stickied LCD" thread in the Video Cards & Graphics forum is any indication, I am not the only frustrated person out there.
    Reply
  • haplo602 - Wednesday, June 17, 2009 - link

    I want to buy the HP screen you mentioned. What negatives did you find about it ? I did only find favorable reviews. Reply

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