How to Pick a Good LCD

Picking an LCD goes well beyond brand recognition. Below, we have a small introduction to a few different facets of shopping for an LCD - in our order of importance. Generally, we find a price point and then choose an LCD based on the properties detailed below. For example, if we only have $500 to spend, we consider all of the monitors for $500 or less and go through the following checklist.

Input Type: DVI, DVI, DVI. We insist that when you buy a new LCD monitor, you buy a model with DVI capability. Even if you don't want to buy a DVI-capable video card right now, it is still a wise decision to get a DVI-compatible LCD. When DVI first appeared in the industry, there were a few issues with the quality of the connectors and thus, sometimes viewing a signal over a DVI connector would give you a worse signal than over a 15-pin D-Sub connector. However, in the last 3 or 4 years, most of those problems have been fixed, and virtually every new video card is more than capable of producing a clean digital signal. None of the LCDs that we review today (except the Samsung 910V) are limited to only analog connectors, but be aware that they exist.

Resolution, Aspect Ratio: If you buy a 4:3 LCD, the resolution had better be 4:3 as well. That is, a 19" LCD should have an aspect ratio of 1600x1200, 1280x960, or some derivative thereof. Most 19" and 17" LCDs have an aspect ratio of 5:4 (1280x1024). This is OK, but you're looking at a 5:4 signal crammed in a 4:3 box. Our Dell 2001FP, on the other hand, measures exactly 16" by 12" and runs at a resolution of 1600x1200. Generally, a skew aspect ratio is not enough to notice, but if you do any sort of graphic work, all of your circles will look like ovals. This goes the same for widescreen LCDs - buy a widescreen LCD with a widescreen resolution; a 30" wide format LCD with a resolution of 1024x768 will not look correct no matter what you do to the signal.

Response Time: Response time is an unusual preference and always a trade off. Typical response time (TrTf - Time rising, Time falling) refers to the time that it takes the LCD subpixel to twist from the fully "on" position to the fully "off" position and then back again. Response time has absolutely nothing to do with framerate. Pixel response times are independent of each other, and it does not take the entire screen 25ms to refresh if a monitor is labeled as a 25ms response time LCD. The time that it takes the LCD to go from black to white may be 15ms while the time that it takes the LCD to go from black back to white may be 10ms. Furthermore, your monitor is generally rendering a color that is not on end of the color spectrum. The time that it takes your LCD subpixel to twist from one half of a tone to another may be more or less than 15ms. The TrTf response time is normally a pretty useless measurement - but it makes for an easy specification in which to market LCDs.

The second method in measuring response time is "gray-to-gray" (GTG) response time. The measurement of GTG response time is actually more useful to LCD buyers, but it is harder to convey and is usually just conveyed as one number (which is incorrect). Gray to Gray response time refers to the time that it takes for a pixel to twist from some arbitrary position to another. On a 6-bit LCD, that's the time it takes the subpixel to twist from 1 of 64 different positions to one of the other 63 positions. GTG response times are useful if the manufacturer expresses the average of all the GTG response times, but that is rarely the case.

Everyone's preferences on response time are different. If you play a lot of games and feel that the few ms difference between a 6-bit LCD and an 8-bit LCD are worthwhile, then it's a worthy investment. Most people can't tell the difference - and that's not just most people who aren't gamers, but most people in general have to be shown the differences between two displays that differ by single digit transient response times.

Index How to Pick a Good LCD (continued)


View All Comments

  • archcommus87 - Saturday, December 04, 2004 - link

    Additionally, what are your thoughts on response time? I see that many of the monitors reviewed here are 20-25 ms monitors, however so many people claim that anything over 16 is simply unacceptable for gaming. Is this true or would 25 be plenty fine? Reply
  • archcommus87 - Friday, December 03, 2004 - link

    So SOME out there are actually 4:3 physicall. How do you know which ones? They do list l x w x h, but I'm assuming that includes base. So you must read a review or physically measure it yourself to know this?

    Kristopher: What is your opinion on the quality of the image when it is upscaled in such a way, say trying to run a game at 10x7 on a 19" 1280x1024 monitor.
  • GOSHARKS - Friday, December 03, 2004 - link

    KristopherKubicki, that may be the case with some models - BUT you imply that ALL 17-19" LCDs that are 5:4 in resolution are in reality 4:3 physically, which is incorrect and confusing for people reading your review.

    "Most 19" and 17" LCDs have an aspect ratio of 5:4 (1280x1024). This is OK, but you're looking at a 5:4 signal crammed in a 4:3 box."
  • KristopherKubicki - Friday, December 03, 2004 - link

    archcommus87: LCDs will naturally interpolate pixels if you choose a non-native resolution. Only a few monitors will scale the image down to the correct pixel size (ie the Samsung 192T). Of course, if you do that you just turned your 19" LCD into a 17" one.

  • KristopherKubicki - Friday, December 03, 2004 - link

    GOSHARKS: As i stated above in the comment addressed to #14, there are LCDs that are not the correct aspect ratio. A few viewsonic models come to mind. That was the only thing I was addressing in the aspect ratio portion of the guide.

  • KristopherKubicki - Friday, December 03, 2004 - link

    Peter: For these LCDs you are correct, they are all the correct aspect ratio. However, we have looked at 17" and 19" pannels in the past that are 4:3 (and not surprisingly they did not get good reviews).

  • archcommus87 - Friday, December 03, 2004 - link

    Are the options presented thus far really the only options for running games at resolutions other than native? If so how could anyone want an LCD for gaming? Unless you're positive you'll always have a beefy enough computer to run games at 1280x1024 or higher. Or unless you don't mind playing the game with black around all sides. Reply
  • vailr - Friday, December 03, 2004 - link

    No information as to "color accuracy". Maybe this device would be useful?
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    Experts agree - the #1 tip for positively great prints - Calibrate Your Monitor. Monitors are like snowflakes, everyone is different and they change over time as they age.

    Now with ColorPlus, your colors can finally look their best and brightest. ColorPlus corrects your CRT, LCD or notebook monitor for accurate, reliable, and consistent color - day-to-day and image-to-image. It also gives you a wider range of colors, better flesh tones, and more open shadows. Now you can use the same tools the pros do and make your images studio grade.

    ColorPlus includes an award-winning, patent-protected color hardware sensor and wizard-based monitor calibration software. The color hardware sensor connects to your computer using USB and easily attaches to your CRT, LCD, or notebook monitor. In a few easy steps, the software guides through the entire process to deliver precise color in the widest range your monitor can produce. ColorPlus automatically calibrates your monitor to industry standards for color, gamma, white point, and luminance

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  • Peter - Friday, December 03, 2004 - link

    Or does the Anandtech high-tech lab not feature such an old fashioned tool like a wooden stick with a scale on it?
  • Peter - Friday, December 03, 2004 - link

    ... and I had said exactly that in #14 already. No correction so far? Boo... Reply

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