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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  • Anonymous User - Friday, October 17, 2003 - link

    I'd just like to bump #60. He asks some great questions - anyone have any answers?

    The 15" laptop 1600x1200 vs 19" desktop version has always bothered me. I wish I could buy my ThinkPad's display as a standalone device!
  • Anonymous User - Monday, September 15, 2003 - link

    Thank you Kristopher for your informative article.

    I have been staring at a computer or TV monitor for over 25 years and between the CRT and aging, my eyes have been getting worst every year. I am interested in getting the best video quality monitor for under $1000 per monitor. After reading your article, I would assume that a CRT would be the best choice. However, I am in the market to purchase TWO monitors. This is so I can view two programs simultaneously or when a client comes over, rotate the second monitor for their viewing. I mostly stare at numbers, words and Internet images. Also, I prefer larger monitors (i.e. 19"+). Should I consider two CRTs, CRT as my primary and LCD as the secondary, or match monitors and save real estate with two LCDs? What models would you recommend?

    Your suggestions are appreciated.
  • Anonymous User - Saturday, September 13, 2003 - link

    Also, it seems that marketing is mostly centered on inches instead resolution. A bit too often this is also true for reviews which tend to place things like elegance of design, or number of USB ports or some such, above petty details like displayable desktop area.

    Is this just some braindead carryover from CRTs, or does the average consumer really not care about the number of pixels he gets?
  • Anonymous User - Friday, September 12, 2003 - link

    One thing I'd like to know is why is that usual native resultion for 19" LCDs 1280x1024? Or more specifically, why do 17" and 19" LCDs generally have the same native resolution.

    I would have thought that the logical progression would have been (based on the resultions usually used on equivalent sized CRTs):
    15" 1024x768
    17" 1280x1024
    19" 1600x1200

    But no, you generally have to go up to 21" LCD to get a 1600x1200 native resolution. And it can't be a technical problem, because we have 15" notebook LCDs with 1600x1200 (and higher) resolution.

    So, does anyone know why the LCD industry made the bonehead decision to standardize on having 17" and 19" LCDs have the same native resolution?

    PS. And don't bother pointing out that there are a few 1600x1200 19" LCDs. I'm aware of these exceptions. I just don't understand why this isn't the standard.
  • rapsac - Thursday, September 11, 2003 - link

    That is anybody's guess. No way to find out unless you buy one and open it up. Then use the panel# to get the specs at the panel manufacturer. (And wave your warranty goodbye like I did mine :( )
  • joramo - Tuesday, September 9, 2003 - link

    Are this 16.7m color specifications true or is the same 18 bits AUO panel?

    ACER AL732 - 17"
    Technical specifications
    Display size 17"
    Display type Active color matrix TFT
    Display area 338 x 270 mm
    Brightness 260 cd/m²
    Resolution 1280 x 1024 pixels
    Colour 16.7m (8-bits per color)
    Pixel pitch 0.264 (H) X 0.264 (W)
    Contrast ratio 450:1
    Response rates Total: 16ms


  • KristopherKubicki - Monday, September 8, 2003 - link

    #55: on the contrary, actually informed us of the opposite. While technically the dithering does not impact the response time, electrical modulation does. This is a direct result of how many bits the signal is capable of.

  • Anonymous User - Monday, September 8, 2003 - link

    Are there any formal reviews on new substrates that offer 10-bit gamma correction? In particular, I am considering either the Sharp T1820 or the EIZO L695 (L685EX), and considering that their specs are fairly similar, I assume they are using the same substrate. Supposedly the 10-bit gamma correction is capable of displaying a 1024-step greyscale, which can help prevent banding in subtle gradiants.

    Unfortunately, neither of these LCDs are widely available for me to perform my own eye-testing. Ideally if someone can offer advice on whether this is an overpriced two-step-conversion technology (as with using an analog cable on an LCD), or if this truly offers discernable benifits, that would be great!

    The Sharp T1820:

    The EIZO L695:

    Also worth noting, EIZO CG18

    Please email:
    Any information is appreciated!
  • Anonymous User - Monday, September 8, 2003 - link

    ALL TN+film panels use dithering (or Frame Rate Control as they call it) to interpolate 24 bits colors with a 18 bits signal. These panels are either quoted as 262K colors (64³) or 16.2 millions colors (253³). This applies to ALL 15" monitors and almost ALL 17" monitors (including the Samsung model quoted as 16.7 millions in the article). However all 18" and higher monitors use panel driven with a 24 bits value.

    BTW, dithering has absolutely no impact on response time.
  • Anonymous User - Sunday, September 7, 2003 - link

    Info on the Samsung X line fo monitors, in case anyone is interested.

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