Color Accuracy

Imaging professionals definitely like to have accurate colors, and the best way of assuring that your display shows the proper colors is to use a colorimeter and calibration software. However, not everyone has access to such tools and many users are unwilling to spend over $200, so we test before and after calibration. (Put more accurately, we calibrate the monitors and then tweak the created profile back to an uncalibrated state so that we can evaluate the performance of the display in its default state.) For calibration, we target a white level of 250 nits -- anything more than that is too bright in our opinion. We also do a second calibration targeting a white level of 100 nits, which would be useful when working on material that will end up in print form. Before we get the results, here are the display settings we used on the test LCDs. We let the LCDs stabilized for at least one hour before performing measurements.

LCD Brightness and Contrast Settings
  Standard Calibrated (~250 nits) Calibrated for Print (~100 nits)
ASUS MK241H 45 Brightness, 80 Contrast
100-100-100 RGB
50 Brightness, 80 Contrast
54-51-73 RGB
Dell 2408WFP 50 Brightness, 50 Contrast
80-80-80 RGB
48 Brightness, 50 Contrast
55-55-55 RGB
Gateway FHD2400 70 Brightness, 70 Contrast
76-77-92 RGB
50 Brightness, 50 Contrast
57-57-70 RGB
LaCie 324 35 Brightness, 0 Contrast
128-128-128 RGB
2.2 Gamma, 6500K
7 Brightness, 0 Contrast
128-128-128 RGB
2.2 Gamma, 6500K
Samsung 2493HM 60 Brightness, 75 Contrast
100-100-100 RGB
28 Brightness, 75 Contrast
46-37-65 RGB

Monaco
Optix XR Pro

Monaco
Optix XR Pro

Monaco
Optix XR Pro

Starting with the uncalibrated results, it's pretty easy to see why we feel calibration tools are necessary for most users. This is not to say that you can't be happy with inaccurate colors -- your eyes will compensate, and some people prefer warmer (redder) or cooler (bluer) tones. However, if you're doing work with images or video as an example, it is important that what you see on your display matches as much as possible what others will see on their displays. Of the tested LCDs, only four are able to achieve an average Delta E of less than 3.0 without calibration -- three of which happen are part of this roundup. That's encouraging, as it indicates LCD manufacturers may be spending a bit of extra time to ensure that at least one of the settings will provide neutral, accurate colors. The real shocker however is the Dell 2408WFP. Its uncalibrated Delta E reaches an exceptional 1.7 -- a score that's better than several of the LCDs after calibration!

With calibration, all the scores improve substantially, but anyone serious about color accuracy is probably going to want an average Delta E of around 1.0 or less after calibration. Of the tested monitors, the 24" Dell displays (all three models that we've tested), the LaCie 324, and the two 30" LCDs all manage to accomplish this, along with the Dell 2707WFP and Samsung 245T. Switching to appropriate "printing" settings puts the three largest LCDs at the top of the charts, along with the Dell 2408WFP (and the old 2405FPW) and LaCie 324.

Most of the LCDs in this roundup place in the middle or upper portion of the above graphs, with one exception. The Gateway FHD2400 comes in last or in second to last in all three tests. We actually really like the Gateway display for many of its features, but in terms of color accuracy it is definitely lacking. We spent a substantial amount of time trying to tweak the settings in order to achieve better results, all to no avail. There's more to LCDs than color accuracy, of course, and the price and appearance might be enough to help you overlook the relatively poor performance here.

Brightness, Contrast, Gamut, and Power Conclusion and Awards
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  • Bolas - Friday, July 31, 2009 - link

    Anand,

    Any chance of a 30" monitor roundup for those of us wanting to buy an extreme HD monitor to go along with the new high end gaming computer we're buying around Christmas time?

    I'm not sure which is best between the stuff currently on the market (or things coming out in the near future, say by Christmas). I've heard of:

    Dell 3007WFP
    Dell 3008WFP
    HP LP3065
    Gateway XHD3000
    Samsung Synchmaster 305T
    Apple Cinema 30"

    Am I missing any 30" monitors currently available? Which is the best, regardless of price? Which is the best in terms of bang-for-the-buck? Which is "future-proof", with good connectivity? I plan to use it to play Starcraft II and Warcraft III and maybe some Everqeust.

    I just turned 40, so as part of my mid-life crisis, I'm buying a high end gaming computer, probably a CyberPower Black Mamba or a Digital Storm of some kind, depending on how the stock market does.

    Basically an overclocked Core i7 with three-way or quad SLI. My computer budget is $4000 to $6000, not including monitor price, and I can get a nicely configured Cyberpower for about $5400 last I checked. But what to use to display all that computer goodness? I figure to spend $1000 to $2000 on a 30" monitor, but which one?!?

    Thanks!
    -Bolas
    Reply
  • szore - Tuesday, June 23, 2009 - link

    I bought this for about $269 free tax and shipping and I love it for gaming. Reply
  • jpp - Monday, September 15, 2008 - link

    Hi,

    First of all a big thank you for these reviews - they are top notch.

    I'm currently trying to decise between the Samsung and the Dell. I'm not into gaming, so latency doesn't bother me. Nor for that matter do the plethora of inputs both provide - I'll just be using with the one DVI input at native resolution.

    Living in PAL country, I would be delighted if either of these monitors do 50Hz FR. I doubt it very much, but thought it worth asking. I know that my large Samsung 405T wasn't specified at 50Hz, but it is able to do it natively nevertheless which makes for judder free PAL DVD and FTA TV program watching on the screen.

    So, apart from this probably undefined/untested aspect, which would be the better choice, given as I say that I am not interested in gaming?

    I bring this comparison up here as this review does not list the Samsung in its comparison table. The Dell was the editor's choice, but the Samsung was reviewed after this 24in line up, so I was wondering if it could be included somewhere in the ranking?

    Thansk again for the tremendous effort that goes into the testing and reporting.

    Phil.

    Reply
  • jpp - Monday, September 15, 2008 - link

    As I can't edit my previous post, just a correction wrt the timing of the 2 reviews.

    The Samsung review was done before the 24in panel review, yet it's not listed in this review. That seems a bit odd and I was wondering why that is the case?
    Reply
  • billingsgate - Monday, May 26, 2008 - link

    I can't find reviews anywhere of Eizo LCD monitors. Eizo has a great reputation, but that's all I seem to be able to go on. A salesman gave me a really good pitch for the Eizo FlexScan S2401W. It's a Samsung TN panel (he claims), but somehow being an Eizo it's much better for color quality than any Samsung in the price range. It seems to be a good candidate for balancing accurate color and minimum input lag. But I can't be sure, since I can't test it in the shop for any of those things, plus the shops where I live are all little cubby holes in computer centers, with minimum choice in each shop, so it's impossible to do any side-by-side comparisons between Eizo, Samsung, NEC, etc., since they're never together in the same place.

    Any thoughts on Eizo's (relatively) budget line of FlexScans?
    Reply
  • silvajp - Sunday, May 25, 2008 - link

    Today I bought a Samsung 2693HM for $600 - $50 rebate and I am blown away. It looks great - very bright and vibrant. I am wondering if it has the same low input lag as the 2493HM. The resolution is 1920x1200 so at 25.5" it's got bigger pixels which is just fine for my poor tired eyes.

    Reply
  • billingsgate - Thursday, May 15, 2008 - link

    Can someone help me with a recommendation? After reading billions of reviews of monitors I am confused as hell? is there a "best compromise" LCD monitor for both color accuracy and least lag time?

    I am not a gamer. I am an animation professional, and I heavily use Wacom tablets for drawing, loose and freehand, with Photoshop, Flash, and various professional animation programs. I've always used a CRT monitor and never once have experienced any lag between my stylus movement and lines on screen. I do own a Compaq tablet PC, and when I draw on-screen, the lag is perceptible enough to make the drawing very unnatural and inhibited. I just can't draw freehand that way.

    As my beloved, expensive flat screen Samsung CRT monitor is now dying after 7 years of heavy use, I'm in the market for an LCD. In my business I need both excellent color accuracy and zero or minimal lag time for stylus input. Where I live (Hong Kong) there isn't a single shop that would ever allow me to test such a setup, so it's a lottery for me. Plus, their in-store demonstrations for color "accuracy" are geared for Asian tastes, which is heavy HEAVY on oversaturated red (while westerners prefer oversaturated green).

    After poring through all the reviews, particularly on this site, I can't even narrow down the choices to 4 or 5 candidates. The Dell 2408 looks amazing except for lag time. The Samsung XL20 (not widescreen, but I don't really care) looks great for color and no lag time, but it has a noisy fan (irritating!) and is a bit smaller than I want.

    Can someone seriously help me to narrow the potential choices for something that has good or great color and minimal input lag? I won't ever use it for gaming or for TV or video viewing.
    Reply
  • hjkelly - Thursday, May 15, 2008 - link

    I'm in a similar spot - into editing photos and watching movies. I was almost set on the Dell 2408, but then I found out it has about four frames of lag, which wouldn't be fun for movies (or drawing with a Wacom tablet, I'm sure). I've finally settled on DoubleSight's DS-263N. If you want a quick summary, it's like an Apple Cinema display, but 26" and with a polarizer to get rid of the white haze at wider angles. It's also very fast, less than one frame's delay, I believe. It's around $700, but the catch is that it's hard to find in stock, so you'll have to be on your toes to get one. But isn't that just a sign of quality, really? =) Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, May 16, 2008 - link

    Surely you know someone over there that can let you borrow an LCD to test out? Honestly, I don't think you'll experience problems with input lag - we're talking about 50ms or so relative to a CRT, so 1/20 of a second. What you've noticed on a tablet PC probably has a lot more to do with the lack of processing power and other differences. All you really need to do is find someone with an S-PVA 24" LCD and you can see if you notice lag. I can game fine on the 2408WFP - the lag is just barely perceptible at times, but not enough to cause me problems. But I'm not a competitive gamer.

    As for DoubleSight, their 26" LCD is about to be phased out apparently - I asked them for a review sample and they said it was at EOL. It may become even more difficult to find in stock shortly.

    Anyway, I hear good things about a few MVA panels (that I haven't ever seen let alone tested), or if money isn't a serious concern just pick up something like the HP LP3065. For professional use, I have a hard time finding anything I would prefer to a nice S-IPS 30" LCD. And the 2560x1600 gaming resolution is nice as well.
    Reply
  • billingsgate - Friday, May 16, 2008 - link

    Actually, I don't know anyone with an LCD screen to borrow, other than my son's cheap one which is fine for gaming but not even close to being color accurate, so not exactly a good example. I can tell you that I tried a Wacom Cintiq tablet, which is essentially an LCD screen you can draw on. It was connected to a G5 Mac, so no lack of processing power. The lag on that was a fraction of a fraction of a second. But I kept finding my hand slowing down to let the line catch up to the stylus, which sucked all the spontaneity out of my drawing. In other words, for a "sensitive artist", even a small lag is noticeable. With the Cintiq I attribute it to the signal having to travel round trip on a USB connection. But I am now quite concerned about buying the wrong LCD and being stuck with it. This isn't the USA. Once you buy something and leave the shop, there is no such thing as returning it.

    So, to repeat my question: can you or someone help to recommend a shortlist of monitors that are both good to great for color accuracy, and minimal for input lag?
    Reply

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