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 - Thursday, September 4, 2003 - link

    #16 - very interesting. Thank you for this information as I will pass it on to others.

    #19 - Sorry James (whips himself with a wet noddle.) Next time I do something like this I will spend a little more time talking about the BL.

    #20 - Im a big Local H fan, but the subtitle actually is derived from an old excellent Stanely Kubrick movie. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0057012/

    #21 - We have had some troubles obtaining Hyundai and LG.Philips based monitors. Fujitsu and Samsung (and AUO I guess) kind of dominate the Us market. I will see if I cant get some more for our internation readers.

    #22 - That would be the contrast ratio. However, as we have mentioned before, this measurement seems to vary so much from manufacturer to manufacturer, that it becomes almost useless.

    Thanks for all the positive feedback!

    Cheers,

    Kristopher
    Reply
  • Anonymous User - Thursday, September 4, 2003 - link

    A point that usually isn't addressed when talking about LCD displays (perhaps it's just me) is the intensity of the colors. I don't care how many variations of pastel an LCD is capable of, the colors just look washed out to me. Is there a measurement that quantifies this? Reply
  • Anonymous User - Thursday, September 4, 2003 - link

    Yeah, I was reading the article and immediately wondered why Hyundai is not cited as panel manufacturer.
    I am the VERY HAPPY owner of an Hercules Prophetview 920DVI Black Edition, second generation (same panel as the Hyundai Q17, 20ms response time). I bought it because of an excellent THG review, based on other input as well, based on its great look, based on its price at that time and based on the panel replacement policy by Hercules that seems (not a single dead pixel, yet...) better than others.

    Also, as can be seen in several reviews online and as I personally experienced at a LAN where a buddy brought his Hitachi CML174, the response time in games feels a little better on my 20ms than on his 16ms...

    Just a single annoyance, maybe due to my R8500LE DVI output, is that, in Quake3, when there is a lot of 'shiny' light/reflection (as in the second solo level, the fire wall/column when getting inside, and having to choose left or right), there is a lot of tearing/banding, especially visible on these shiny/reflective surfaces...
    Does not appear on the theoretically slower 172T on a R9700Pro.....
    Reply
  • Anonymous User - Thursday, September 4, 2003 - link

    This has nothing to do with actual LCD's but I loved the Local H reference in the article subtitle.

    Matt
    Reply
  • Anonymous User - Thursday, September 4, 2003 - link

    Glad to see the article Kristopher, but how could you have a whole article about LCD's without discussing the all important BACKLIGHT.

    When you look at a modern active matrix LCD you're basically staring straight into a fluorescent bulb--the backlight. The appearance of the substrate can be significantly affected by the quality of the backlight, and when you're using the LCD to perform everyday work like word processing or working in a spreadsheet then 90 percent of the screen is pure white and all you're really seeing IS the backlight.

    In that situation the experience using the LCD is highly dependent on characteristics of the backlight--such as the flicker rate of the fluorescent backlight or any anomalies in the backlight's spectrum of colors.

    It's true that these factors are usually glossed over by mainstream PC magazines I was expecting Anandtech to cover these issues.

    James
    Reply
  • Anonymous User - Thursday, September 4, 2003 - link

    When I got my monitor. I though it had few dead pixels but in reality it was a little specks of something on the screen, In which case whipping it fixed the "dead pixels". Reply
  • Anonymous User - Thursday, September 4, 2003 - link

    I have been looking at getting an LCD for a little while now and found this artical to be very interesting. One thing I would like to comment on is you talk about large screen LCD monitors and how there is a lack of a choice. This is true but one thing I have been looking at is getting a Samsung LCD HDTV Monitor. These have a 16ms response time and reach the larger sizes and have PC hook ups in DVI and a regular 15 pin connector. Of course all of this is assuming that price is no option, as these screens are expensive. Samsung already has a 32inch screen that looks great, model LTN325W, and is gonna be putting out a 26 inch mondel, LTN265W in near future. I wonder how these screens would stack against the LCD monitors you discussed. Reply
  • rapsac - Thursday, September 4, 2003 - link

    One important conclusion is missing in the article:
    On page 10 in the list of brands with the same panel you can see that the # of colors change from manufacturer to manufacturer. Fact is that this specific panel only uses 18bit color info, resulting in 262200 colors. All companies that state more colors LIE.
    The controllers they use for these panels use some form of interpolation to fake more colors, but this will never result in as good a picture as with 24 bit panels.
    Also, the interpolation is based on FRC (frame rate control); hereby the pixels get different color info each refresh. This results in visible noise (look at any Acer/BenQ from closeby, chances are you'll see it straight away) and it will also completly ruin the response times as more than 1 refresh is neccesary to give the pixel its color.
    I have had a lengthy discussion with BenQ about this. The only result is that they promised to state the #colors of models with interpolation to 16M instead of 16.7M, at least this gives the end user a means to detect a 262k panel with interpolation.

    Anyway, I've been screwed by BenQ with a 15" FP567 and whenever I see a LCD review I try to warn ppl. Acer and Benq (and lots of other brands) use these 262k panels in almost all their cheap models, so watch out and demand that you can return it if the specs are completly false.
    Reply
  • Anonymous User - Thursday, September 4, 2003 - link

    Its a shame that this article did not point out the Hyundai panels. I have an L70S with a 16ms response time, and the picture quality is very good, and I can't perceive any "ghosting." The big downside to this monitor is the lack of DVI. Has anyone else had good experiences with the Hyundai panels?
    Reply
  • PrinceGaz - Thursday, September 4, 2003 - link

    Excellent article.

    @#13: "A good article.I my self use CML174.
    Made a lot of difference to my eyes compared to CRT."

    Were you by any chance running your CRT at the default refresh-rate of 60hz? Thats the usual reason people claim they cause eye-strain (often because they don't know how to change it). For the price of a new LCD display, you could get a larger high-quality CRT monitor capable of running at 85hz or higher (ideally 100hz) and you'd be amazed how much better it is than any LCD. On the other hand you could just increase the refresh-rate on the old one and save some cash.

    Myself I use the 22" CRT Mitsubishi DiamondPro 2070SB with a 20" visible display at 1600x1200 @ 100hz and the picture is fantastic. Theres no LCD available which could come close to it especially for gaming. Unless you need to take it to a LAN party :)
    Reply

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