LCD Monitors and what to look for when buying

Sifting through the over fabricated specs of monitors.

After recently buying a new LCD Monitor, I realised how confused people must get at the shear mountain of useless information and specifications that manufacturers provide. LCD Monitors come in three main/popular types, TN, IPS and VA.

Firstly let me say that none of the three types are better than the other so always keep an open mind when choosing. When you look at an LCD screen you are looking at millions of individual pixels. Each pixel is actually made up of three parts, Blue, Green and red.

Here’s an image of what an LCD Monitor screen would look like if you could zoom in close enough to actually see it. Each block is one pixel.

With that out of the way, I would like to touch on the abuse of advertising the Monitor manufacturers have relied on for years. For example when a manufacturers states the viewing angel, There is no precision rule, just a manufacture deciding on at what point the colours are too distorted. I am pretty sure there point and my point would be considerably different. Response times are another beauty, they are worked off of the time it takes for the pixel to be on/off OR black/white, and again it is left to the manufacturer to decide when that point in time is.

As for the types of monitors (TN, IPS and VA) it comes down to one thing, Price. As majority of the manufacturers do not tell you what you’re getting.

TN – Is basically the majority of monitors on the market today, and consists of a lower quality compared to the later types.

VA – These types are basically a mid range monitor with fair colour accuracy and fair response time.

IPN - Are relatively rare and are extremely expensive, But do have exceptional colour accuracy.


So what do I look for when buying a monitor?

Price: Spend what you can afford or are willing to.

Response Time: The response time is the time it takes the pixels in the monitor to go from white, to black, and back to white again. (see advertising abuse above) Most monitors these days will state they have a  2ms or 1ms response times – this is where the manufacturers try to get you. If you read a detailed spec sheet of these monitors these are often referred to as GTG (grey-to-grey) response times. The reason they quote the monitors with GTG response times is quite simply because the LCD panels can refresh from grey to grey dramatically faster than they can from white to white, which is actually the ISO standard for this type of measurement. With that said these monitors are still good enough to keep up with today’s games and movies.

Contrast Ratio: The contrast ratio is the display’s ratio between the brightest whites and the darkest blacks. The higher this ratio is, the greater the difference between the two factors. A contrast ratio of 1000:1 would imply that the dark level is 1000 times darker than the white level. People often think that a high contrast ratio will give them a really “vibrant” image – this isn’t entirely true. Although a high contrast ratio will give much better colour representation, the vibrancy of an image often comes from the panel itself and how it’s covered (glass front or not). Another marketing ploy you’ll find with monitors is “dynamic contrast ratios”. These are ratios that seem impossible for a display panel to do on its own, like 30000+:1. These panels will usually have a significantly lower contrast ratio on their own but through an enhancement feature can “perform” similar to that of a higher one. How this is done is by means of a dynamic backlight that adjusts to the type of image it is displaying. For darker images it will darken itself to better contrast the colours of the image. For brighter images it will brighten, accentuating the many colour tones in the image. Although this is a nice feature, it does have its drawbacks. Images with dark and light portions often can’t take full advantage of this ability and on a computer monitor when you may be switching between dark and light windows, the backlight adjusting itself can be a noticeable nuisance.

Review: Always check reviews for the monitors before buying.

There is some good reviews over at CNET

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