Selecting an LCD that’s right for you

Overall, quality in monitors has risen significantly over the last 18 months. Particularly, substrate production continues to improve. Granted, most new monitors might still come with one dead pixel. Be very wary of online vendors that claim trade-ins on “only 8 dead pixels!”

The important thing to remember about LCDs is that there really aren’t that many different kinds. They come in all sorts of shapes and colors, but generally, the different kinds of substrates remain small in number. Let us take a look at the main types of buyers we see looking for LCDs.

“Give me a recommendation for the best 20" 16ms response time LCD, cost is no issue!” — Unfortunately, this LCD does not exist. You can buy larger LCDs in the 20” range that don’t have large problems with motion blur, but unfortunately, even your 16ms monitor will blur a little anyway. For those who still think they need a 20" LCD, the Dell 2000FPs are generally the industry standard in that range.

“Give me a recommendation for the best 20" 1600x1200 LCD, cost is no issue!” — Again, you don’t really have much option for something like that. Some medical UXGA monitors are capable of these specs, but they cost 3 to 4 times that of the plain old Dell 2000FPs.

“What is the best 16ms response time LCD?” — We get this one a lot. We have mentioned an incredible amount of times that they are pretty much all the same monitor. AUOptronics makes the actual substrate for every 16ms panel available right now. LG.Philips has one in production as well, but they are pretty much like comparing apples to oranges. It needs to be established that black-to-white response times are good, but grey-to-grey are far more important. The follow-up to this article will deal primarily with this issue. In any case, the best 17” 16ms LCD is perhaps the cheapest, since they are pretty much all the same anyway. The Hitachi CML174 (which we reviewed), the NEC 1760NX, and the ViewSonic 171B all seem to be favorites. You pretty much can’t loose with any of those.

“What is the best 19" LCD?” — Another popular question. Unfortunately, again, they are pretty much all the same. The Dell 1900FP, Dell 1901FP, Planar PX191, Samsung 191T and Samsung 192T are all based on the same panel. There are about another 20 tier 2 and 3 manufacturers that carry monitors that look identical to the Samsung 191T as well. As far as we can tell, we have yet to find one that is not based on the same Samsung substrate as the other previously mentioned 5 panels. There is a slight difference in circuitry from one to the other, but do not think one display will perform differently than another. Again, it goes back to the issue of cost. The Dell 1900FP and 1901FPs seem to price rather aggressively, and they are probably your best bet.

“I’m a gamer and I won’t buy an LCD until they get there is no ghosting” — My day wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t get about one or two of these in my Inbox. By ghosting, I assume the motion blur that is commonly associated with high response times. Actually, is this even a question? We have to admit that CRTs still out-perform LCDs due to their higher resolution, lower cost and quicker refresh. If you devote about a third of your life to playing games, buying an LCD just isn’t a good idea.

“I am looking for a mid range LCD good for some games and internet” — Probably the best choice is back in the 16ms 17" LCDs. It might seem like overkill because of the low response time, but in actuality, since there are so many different competitors with the same substrate, these are the lowest priced monitors. You will still have to spend about $450 for a good monitor. Just keep in mind that you should definitely spend the extra money on a DVI connection. The difference between the DVI and analog cable will be night and day, even if you just casually use the computer. Other good LCDs in the $450 range include the Samsung 171N and the Samsung 172B/W/T.
Fixing a dead (sub)pixel? Future LCDs
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  • KristopherKubicki - Friday, September 5, 2003 - link

    #42 - this will be addressed in Part II =)

    Kristopher
    Reply
  • Anonymous User - Friday, September 5, 2003 - link

    Very nice article. Easy to read, fun and very informative.

    However, as someone here stated earlier, the reference to how some companies manage to get more than the 262000 colours with the 16ms AUO substrate is missing. It seems that they do this by alternating two colours, which would in effect mean the actual total rise and fall time for that one colour is more than 16 ms. But perhaps this is to be discussed in the follow-up to the article? I'm really interested in reading about the grey-grey times for the panels, so I'll be looking forward to part II.
    Reply
  • AbRASiON - Friday, September 5, 2003 - link

    Wouldn't touch one until it beats a CRT in every single way - period

    For work yes, sure right now, one res all day, no games, no worries.

    For home, multiple resolutions, more dos boxes - linux sessions (ok I don't have any but if I did) - games which I don't have a strong enough video card for native resolution etc etc.

    also the stupid ghosting / shading effect of the high refresh (16ms is too high)

    Until it beats a CRT in every single way - I'm not going over - EVEN IF CRT's end up costing more.
    Plus CRT's are getting better, my 22" Philips (100hz 1600x1200) is only like 45cm deep - quite short really considering.

    Reply
  • virtualgames0 - Thursday, September 4, 2003 - link

    I think you missed a big issue with LCD image problems that I have commonly observed. Most LCDs are very dim, and almost all of them I've seen are nowhere close to comparable to a CRT, the only ones I've seen that were comparable was the NEC.
    Another problem I have commonly observed is that the majority of LCDs have very visable "gate lines(as you called it in the artlce), so then you can see that every pixel is seperated, and it makes everything look pixelated, and it feels like you're trying to look through that mesh...
    Reply
  • spikemike - Thursday, September 4, 2003 - link

    I'm not 100% sure but i believe a 1280x1024 LCD monitor is actually built in a 5:4 ratio. So the pixels are still square. Reply
  • n0d3 - Thursday, September 4, 2003 - link

    What I missed, and I'm sure it will be coverd in an update, was something more about resolutions. Here's why.

    Today, people seem to be using 'weird' or 'odd' resolutions a lot, basically because it seems better to have bigger numbers. For instance, 1280x960 is not acceptable (The drivers for my old Connect3d radeon 9000 did NOT support this resolution) however 1280x1024 is just fine. This strikes me as odd because monitors still use a 4:3 ratio. A lot of resolutions conform to this 'standard' 640x480 800x600 etc etc. But in the higher range they seem to 'cheat' a lot more. From what I can understand, this would cause a distorted display. This is very true for CRT's but LCD's seem to be heading that way asweel, wich is something I Don't get. I say this because it is always recommended to use an LCD at it's own resolution, wich is the amount of pixels on the substrate. I can hardly imagine that they would produce non 4:3 screens, allthough ofcourse it is possible.

    Some more info on this would be greatly appreciated since I could be wrong about this and tell people wrong things : )

    P.S. and yes, I know that if your monitor is capable of going up really high in resolution the distortion on lower resolutions should be minimal, nevertheless, it is deffinatly there.
    Reply
  • Anonymous User - Thursday, September 4, 2003 - link

    Thanks for a very informative article.

    I have a Samsung 172T and I have to say the image quality is outstanding. I don't play a lot of FPS games, but for varied use including games and video,using DVI, there are no significant motion blur problems. This monitor is head and shoulders above comparable units I've seen, at least for general use. The price of this unit has dropped significantly since I bought mine almost a year ago. (It may be discontinued).

    Been an Anandtech reader since 1996. Keep up the great work!
    Reply
  • spikemike - Thursday, September 4, 2003 - link

    I'm still not sure if you have it quite right, each subpixel can be independently controlled, you can get 16 shades of blue 16 shades of green and 16 shades of red, giving you 12bit color or 4096 total colors, the red blue and green do not depend on each other, red can be full on, blue can be "1/2" on and green can be off. The main problem was the lack of color, slow response times, and the fact that the information would "bleed" into the column, having one off pixel in a whole column of on pixels would decrease the over all brightness of that column Reply
  • KristopherKubicki - Thursday, September 4, 2003 - link

    #33, I clarified the article a little to apply to both the EE folks and just the casual reader ;)

    Kristopher
    Reply
  • spikemike - Thursday, September 4, 2003 - link

    oops i meant posts 29 and 30 were mine Reply

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