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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  • alantay - Wednesday, June 17, 2009 - link

    "For better or worse, LCDs are here to stay and CRTs are a dying breed"

    A bit off topic to the review itself, but since you mentioned it: At the time LCDs were taking over the market, they were 2-3 times more expensive than CRTs. They absolutely could not compete in speed (input lag was unknown before LCDs came around), they absolutely could not compete in viewing angles (idem), They could not compete in color and contrast, they absolutely could not compete in "natural look" (things look perfectly natural in a CRT monitor and very unnatural in a LCD one). And obviously, they could not compete in price. Yet, 90%+ of the people buying a new monitor were choosing an LCD. Why?

    The obvious advantage of LCDs was exterior design. They're very good looking monitors when compared with the ugly and bulky CRTs. But then again, is exterior design so important for something like a monitor as to pay 3 times more for something 10 times worse??? Oh, LCDs were a new technology, I guess some people also like anything new (even if worse). But...

    Still a mystery to me... (writing this using my -very- old CRT).
    Reply
  • Rindis - Thursday, June 18, 2009 - link

    "The obvious advantage of LCDs was exterior design. They're very good looking monitors when compared with the ugly and bulky CRTs."

    No, the obvious advantage is weight and volume. It is much easier to find a place to park a screen (especially a larger one), when you don't have have as much room in back of it as to the sides.
    Reply
  • strikeback03 - Thursday, June 18, 2009 - link

    Now I'll admit that I never used a top-quality CRT (best I have ever used were some large ViewSonics) but IMO the only advantage they hold over even 5-year old LCDs is the viewing angles (vs TN). LCDs don't vibrate all over the place, they don't need fooling around with the video card to keep refresh rates up, text is actually sharp, and, of course, you can get a decent sized one without worries about lifting it. Reply
  • TA152H - Saturday, June 20, 2009 - link

    CRTs are much better than LCDs at certain things. The reverse is also true.

    If you have very good eyes, looking at an LCD is like looking through a screen door. You can see the small divisions between pixels easily.

    By contrast, CRTs have much richer pictures, without these barriers.

    I hated LCDs, but bought one anyway just to give them a try. When I am using it, I get used to all the flaws of it, and don't mind it at all. Then when I look at a CRT, I'm annoyed by the moire issues, and other irregularities. This is at higher resolutions though, at lower resolutions, the CRT is just better except for logistics. So, I really prefer the LCD when that's what I've been using. But, if I am using a CRT, and then go to an LCD, it looks lifeless and dull, and the screen door issue irritates the Hell out of me.

    Anything at or less than 800x600 is clearly the advantage of the CRT. It's got few if no issues, and has much better color saturation. Above that though, where it really matters, it's really personal preference. No one can say that one is clearly better than the other, they are better at different things and we all have to make a choice (well, it's almost been made for us now). Heck, I can't even say which I prefer. I do like the low glare of LCDs a lot though, but now I see some with mirror like finishes. That's really strange. I don't know why people would want these, especially on a laptop with a lot of ambient light.
    Reply
  • Griswold - Wednesday, June 17, 2009 - link

    No, you forgot the number one reason: no headaches and eyestrain compared to those god forsaken CRTs. Reply
  • The0ne - Thursday, June 18, 2009 - link

    yep, good riddance to those CRT monitors. yay for my eyes! :) Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, June 17, 2009 - link

    It depends on what you're comparing: a top quality CRT to a typical LCD at launch, yes, the CRT would win in most areas. But...

    LCDs have perfect geometry when using a digital signal, they weigh less, brightness levels look better on most models, and did I mention size? LOL... Actually, the geometry adjustment stuff on CRTs is one thing I'm happy to NEVER have to do again. Trapezoidal, rotational, pincushion, etc. distortion sucked, and you had to adjust for each resolution and refresh rate.

    What I miss - and the only thing I really miss! - is the 100+ Hz refresh rates. Even the current 120Hz LCDs don't generally do a 120Hz signal (that would require dual-link DVI at 1920x1200); they just refresh the content more frequently. (I might be wrong on this - some displays may actually support a 120Hz signal?) Oh, and I suppose I also miss true blacks on occasion, but with most games being developed on LCDs there were times when having "true black" was a problem (i.e. Doom 3 - I thought the game was unplayable until I tried it on my then-new 2405FPW LCD).
    Reply
  • Mastakilla - Wednesday, June 17, 2009 - link

    you are right about most 120hz displays not being really 120hz

    you are also right about real 120hz @ 1920x1200 requiring dual link DVI

    there do exist some REAL 120hz 1650x1080 displays though (I think Viewsonic has one for example)
    Reply
  • TA152H - Wednesday, June 17, 2009 - link

    If you want to find a quality monitor, review an Eizo. They've been the best monitors for 20 years, and you can't compare junk from BenQ, ViewSonic, et al with them. The only problem is cost, but, if you're just focused on quality, nothing comes close.

    Prove me wrong. Review one of their high end monitors and then see if you hit the UPS man over the head when he comes to take it back.

    Once you get used to them, it's a hard habit to break, and an expensive habit to keep.
    Reply
  • erple2 - Wednesday, June 17, 2009 - link

    That was true 20 years ago when we all had CRT's - it was very hard to beat an Eizo / Nanao in picture quality.

    However, the LCD era kind of changed all of that. Eizo makes some nice panels, sure, but they're really not the best. There's a couple of superb NEC monitor out there at the 1200-2200 price range (the 2490 and 3090 models), plus at least 2 HP 24" monitors (the 2475w and 2480zs) that are as good or better than anything Eizo puts out.

    I think the "problem" now is that there are only a few manufacturers of the panels, so there's only so much any reseller can do.
    Reply

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