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

  • psoucaco13 - Wednesday, December 01, 2004 - link

    I do not understand why the Samsung 910V was tested and not the 910T which costs $10-$30 more but has DVI.
  • benk - Wednesday, December 01, 2004 - link

    I think people make a big deal out of "ooh, you lose information." How many people are actually cramming all 1,920,000 pixels with useful information? I'm not. If you are, ignore the rest of this post. Seriously, I don't see the big deal...on a 17" CRT, I think 1600 x 1200 makes fonts too small unless you bump up the font size/dpi etc...I ran my trinitron at 1024x768 and I still used large fonts. The thing that clinched the wide-screen purchase for me was that I've been thinking about buying an LCD for a while now, and, while playing CS:S I realized "Hey, I don't look at the top or bottom inch of screen because they're out of my field of view, however I look all the way across the screen." I think people's eyes are simply set up to process further across than they are up and down. Whether that difference is 16:9, 16x10, whatever, I don't think is relevant. Additionally, the 2005 has slightly better specs wrt response time, contrast, and I think brightness, for the exact same price as the 2001. I think the additional width is slightly more useful for me than the decreased pixel count, especially as it allows me to put two web pages up next to each other at a readable size, without any overlap or scrolling. I guess the 2001 would let you do about the same, but I like that extra inch. I would guess anyone who would be happy with the 2001 will be happy with the 2005, and vice versa. I don't think either is a bad monitor, especially at the prices they are available at after rebates etc. Hope my overly verbose reply is helpful to some of you thinking about one or the other.
  • Gatak - Wednesday, December 01, 2004 - link

    I want to clarify something. 24 million colours does not mean much. I read the article said it is enough to show 98% of the colours we can se. But we can not make that conclusion so easilly. We need other critical information such as dynamic range. It does not make a good monitor if it can display 24 million colours but not enough green, or deep enough blues for good sky/water and so on. Compare the monitors colour profile/characteristics against the CIE LAB model, which is a device independant model that encompasses all of the visual spectrum. Reply
  • Gatak - Wednesday, December 01, 2004 - link

    As #61 said. The aspect ratio is wrong. The 5:4 LCD's require a 5:4 signal, like 1280x1024. The pixel ratio remains 1:1.

    It is rather for most CRTs that the aspect ratio is wrong if you run 1280x1024. I can't for in my life see why the recommended resolution for almost all 19" CRTs is 1280x1024, when it should be 1280x960.

    Also, the bit depth guide has flaws. It does not take into account that a LCD is almost linear in its gamma curve, while a CRT not. A CRT has a gamma response of 2.5. This means that it has higher resolution for low/dark levels than for bright. It can be as high as 14bits in dark areas, but less than 7 in bright. The Gamma function "shifts" bits from bright to dark areas.

    But because the LCD is more a linear device, it will have the same resolution over all levels. It will have to convert the gamma encoded video signal to a linear one. This will make you loose A LOT of resolution.

    A LCD will have to have at least 14 bits to be able to show all of the colours of a 8 bit gamma 2.5 encoded signal. More modern video cards even have 10 bits of resolution for the video signal.

    Also, something missing is colour gammut. It is how much or many colours from the real world it can display. sRGB has a very narrow gammut, whereas AdobeRGB is much larger (can show more of the colours we can see). If you want to perform any serious graphics work (photography, for example) you need a display that can do at least AdobeRGB or better.

    Compare the various colour profiles at . You can even upload the profile for your own device (camera, printer, monitor, scanner, etc) to see how large it is.

    Another nitpick. I believe the VMW9 HD clip you played was 1080p not 1080i. Microsoft does not have any WMV9 HD clips that are interlaced ;).
  • ElFenix - Wednesday, December 01, 2004 - link

    "19" and higher LCDs are the current sweet spot for LCD substrates. Recall that 19" LCDs have roughly the same viewing area as 21" CRT monitors"

    which is completely worthless because 21" CRTs easily do 1600x1200, while no 19" lcd does any better than 1280x1024. you get ~50% more desktop area from 1600x1200 than 1280x1024.

    really, when 15" 1600x1200 and 17" 1900x1200 notebook screens are flying out the door, the lack of desktop lcds that do 1600x1200 and higher is disturbing. if there isn't any demand for it, what explains the notebook lcd sales? the claim just doesn't make any sense.
  • GOSHARKS - Wednesday, December 01, 2004 - link

    well actually it isnt exactly 15"x12", but you get the idea. Reply
  • GOSHARKS - Wednesday, December 01, 2004 - link

    "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."

    uh no. 17, 18, and 19" lcds with 1280x1024 resolution are physically 5:4. my samsung 192n's display area measues 15" wide, 12" tall - making a perfect 5:4 ratio.

    i am very suprised to see such an oversight coming from anandtech. in fact, the entire aspect ratio part of the article is pretty useless once this point is corrected.
  • KristopherKubicki - Wednesday, December 01, 2004 - link

    drinkmorejava: Ghosting has to do with visual interference on the signal. Motion blur is what you refer to, and that was not rated quanitively.

  • WileCoyote - Tuesday, November 30, 2004 - link

    I work on computers all day long... there is no logical reason why you would want a CRT instead of a nice LCD unless you can't afford it. Monitors like the 2001FP put CRTs to shame. Reply
  • speedi - Tuesday, November 30, 2004 - link

    benk, how is the 2005FPW? I notice that you lose a lot of pixels in the aspect ratio, but other than that... do you have an opinion? I just ordered a Dell 2001FPS for $599 and want to make sure I didn't overlook the FPW when I "should" have gotten it instead. I love 1600x1200... but I am used to 1600x1200 on a Viewsonic P810, which is razor sharp. Does anyone happen to know how this will compare? I took the 2001FPS based on the former AnandTech review.

    - Speedi

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