Buying a monitor?

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Buying a monitor?

Postby Meem1029 » Thu Mar 15, 2012 8:42 pm UTC

So I'm looking into buying a monitor to use along with my laptop as there have been a number of times now that I've thought it would be nice to have a second screen to use, especially as a computer science major. The problem is that I realized that I have no idea what is good and bad in a monitor.

I know I want something a little bigger than my 17" laptop, but not too big as I have to fit it on my desk and have it portable enough to move between home and college every so often. I also know that I want at least 1080p, since my laptop is 1600x900 and I find times when more pixels would be useful. I also want something with HDMI so I don't have to mess with adapters between HDMI and DVI since my laptop only outputs HDMI. My use for the monitor will be mostly programming, random internet browsing (for which the monitor doesn't matter too much...), and gaming. The games I play are mostly minecraft, quake live, and recently civ v. The main thing is I don't know which brands are good for monitors or what the differences in screen types are. I also don't want to spend too much, ideally $200 max, but am willing to invest in something that will last me a while if it's a little bit more. And cheaper is always better unless there's a reason otherwise.

Browsing newegg, I came across this 23" Acer which is on sale for $140 this week. Is this a good buy and will it last?

Edit: Another thing I have a question about is response time. What exactly does that mean and how much of a difference is there between 5ms and 2 ms? Those are 200Hz and 500Hz respectively. Does that actually make a difference and is it noticeable?
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Re: Buying a monitor?

Postby starslayer » Fri Mar 16, 2012 3:32 am UTC

Just go for the Acer, it's a good deal. If your laptop screen doesn't bother you for your purposes, you won't care about the differences in viewing angle and color fidelity between TN, VA, and IPS panels, so it wouldn't be worth it to pay the extra for IPS. If your laptop screen does bother you, though, or you just want to learn more, here are the differences between the panel types:

TN (Twisted Nematic):
-cheap; that Acer is a TN, and all cheap monitors are ($250 and under for 1920x1080 or 1200 is cheap, here)
-6-bit color instead of full 8-bit; this usually isn't a problem, since dithering is very good now, but color'll come up in the next point
-Viewing angles are horrific. On my old TN monitor from circa 2007-8, you could easily see color shift between the top and bottom of the screen even looking at it straight on. Because of this, truly accurate color reproduction on TNs is essentially non-existent. If you do serious graphics work of any kind, or think you might in the near future, stay far away from any TN monitor.
-Fastest response times of any panel; a faster response time means the monitor switches colors faster, and thus depicts fast movement better and more smoothly. Slow response times (like greater than 10-15 ms) can cause ghosting.
Examples: Virtually any 23" or larger monitor under $300. Walk into Best Buy or another big box computer retailer and look at their monitor selection - every single one they carry will be a TN. Just about anybody these days makes a passable TN monitor, and I don't think I've heard of anyone to avoid specifically.

VA (Vertical Alignment), including PVA, MVA, etc.:
-Not used much anymore in computer monitors, but some are still made (under panel names such as S-PVA, or Super Parallel Vertical Alignment, and such)
-Better color reproduction and viewing angles than TNs. Good response times as well, so ghosting is fairly minimal on good panels, if present.
-Many suffer from black crush, where dark shades are difficult to distinguish from each other. Especially bad in dark scenes in movies or games, for example.
-Does not suffer from "IPS glow."
-More expensive than TNs, but historically cheaper than IPS panels.
Examples: None that I could find in a cursory Google search.

IPS (In-Plane Switching), including H-IPS, e-IPS, S-IPS, etc.:
-True 8-bit color, like VAs; best color reproduction of any panel type.
-Amazing viewing angles; there is virtually no color shift, even viewed almost edge-on.
-Most expensive of all panel types.
-Suffer from "IPS glow:" When viewed from certain, usually more extreme angles, the monitor will lose substantial black depth and appear to glow. In practice, this is usually not much of a problem.
-Historically slower response times than TN or VA panels, which caused bad ghosting on earlier models. Now that response times have sunk down below 10 ms, this is largely no longer an issue and depends heavily on the person viewing.
Examples: Dell Ultrasharp series, HP ZR series, all professional quality monitors from companies like NEC or Eizo, etc.

The names of each panel type have to do with the arrangement of the electrodes and crystals in the LCD.

Now for your question about response time. Basically all manufacturers quote the the response time as something like "5 ms GTG" or something like that. What that means is that it takes the monitor 5 ms to switch from one shade of gray to another and back. Therefore, response time is a measure of how quickly the monitor can change the color of a pixel, and thus how quickly it can display a new image from some input. A fast response time is obviously important for something like twitch FPS gaming, where you can't have ghost images remaining on the monitor as it keeps trying the update the image. In practice, however, anything equivalent to or better than 8-10 ms GTG should be sufficient for most people to not notice ghosting, but this varies depending on the user. I don't think there are many consumer-level monitors that don't meet this anymore, including IPS panels.
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Re: Buying a monitor?

Postby EvanED » Fri Mar 16, 2012 3:48 am UTC

starslayer wrote:IPS (In-Plane Switching), including H-IPS, e-IPS, S-IPS, etc.:
-True 8-bit color, like VAs

If not more.

For instance, compare the Dell 2412HM to the Dell 2410. Both 24", both IPS, both 1920x1200, but the former is $330 and the later $550. The difference? Basically it boils down to the fact that the latter has even better color reproduction, and it gets it by using 12 bits. (Photography people will care about this, but you won't. I'd guess you need a calibration device to be able to tell the difference.)

Now for your question about response time. Basically all manufacturers quote the the response time as something like "5 ms GTG" or something like that. What that means is that it takes the monitor 5 ms to switch from one shade of gray to another and back.

Hmm, my impression is that GTG isn't the only common measure. For instance, Dell quotes the response times of their non-IPS monitors (for Dell, this coincides with the "Ultrasharp" label) as black-to-white.

FWIW, having had an IPS and a TN side-by-side for a while, there's no way I'm going to consider getting a TN monitor ever. The difference (primarily in viewing angle) is like night and day. That said, I'm probably a little picker than most, so your mileage may vary.
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Re: Buying a monitor?

Postby starslayer » Fri Mar 16, 2012 4:16 am UTC

Yeah, to see the difference between 8 and 12-bit color, you need to calibrate using a hardware colorimeter or spectrophotometer. You would probably also need an extended color space (beyond sRGB), and be doing serious graphics/photo work to really see the difference; the Internet and games are all calibrated for the sRGB color space.

GTG response time is the only measure I've ever seen on TN panels, because manufacturers love to claim that they have the fastest monitor out there that blazes past everyone else. It's complete bullshit of course, but hey. Black-to-white is always going to give a slower time than GTG, and is actually less representative of typical usage scenarios, so it's interesting that Dell would quote it. It does however provide a nice worst-case measure of how quickly the display can switch colors.

The price difference between the U2412M and U2410 is only partially due to color reproduction. The U2410 is a wide-gamut monitor, while the 2412M is not. The U2410 has a more complete feature set (especially related to connectivity) than the U2412M does, and also uses a more expensive version of IPS panel (H-IPS versus e-IPS, IIRC), so it all adds up to a more expensive monitor. I think the 2412M generally has marginally better color accuracy when calibrated, and the less said about the generally bad color accuracy the U2410 has when uncalibrated, the better.
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Re: Buying a monitor?

Postby EvanED » Fri Mar 16, 2012 4:25 am UTC

starslayer wrote:GTG response time is the only measure I've ever seen on TN panels, because manufacturers love to claim that they have the fastest monitor out there that blazes past everyone else. It's complete bullshit of course, but hey. Black-to-white is always going to give a slower time than GTG, and is actually less representative of typical usage scenarios, so it's interesting that Dell would quote it. It does however provide a nice worst-case measure of how quickly the display can switch colors.

So I looked at the Wikipedia article (which I should have done before). What it says is that black-to-white used to be the norm and became what the ISO says you should do, but GTG is more common now.

The price difference between the U2412M and U2410 is only partially due to color reproduction. The U2410 is a wide-gamut monitor, while the 2412M is not. The U2410 has a more complete feature set (especially related to connectivity) than the U2412M does, and also uses a more expensive version of IPS panel (H-IPS versus e-IPS, IIRC), so it all adds up to a more expensive monitor.

I was including the wide-gamut of the U2410 under "color reproduction"; this may not be the right technical term. And, at least I'd assume (I could be wrong) that those are both fallout of the panel type, so at least by my weak understanding of the situation, I'd lump all of those together: the U2410 is more expensive because it uses a better panel in order to get better color reproduction (including the gamut coverage, if you'd like to separate that out). That's basically what I meant before. Edit: I guess I should have said it gets the better color reproduction "in part" because of the 12 bit processor, if that counts as separate from the H-IPS panel type.

It does also have better connectivity, but I'd be astonished if that's more than a minor amount of the price difference.
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Re: Buying a monitor?

Postby starslayer » Fri Mar 16, 2012 4:57 am UTC

Wide color reproduction is separate from accurate color reproduction, in my mind. The U2410 can display many more colors than can the U2412M, but out of the box it does not do so as accurately, based on the color space specifications. Basically, if all monitors were ideally calibrated, a given RGB value would generate the same apparent, independently defined color on each monitor, assuming they all use the same color space; this is what I mean by accurate color reproduction. The standard color space in use today for computer monitors and the Internet is sRGB, which actually covers only a little more than a third of all possible colors. The Adobe RGB space covers about half of all possible colors. Wide gamut monitors fall somewhere in between these two color spaces, while standard gamut monitors generally cover at least 80% of the sRGB color space. When well calibrated, either can provide excellent color reproduction for most applications. For most people, however, wide gamut monitors are of no use whatsoever, since no content they will ever view makes use of colors outside the sRGB space.

EvanED wrote:I was including the wide-gamut of the U2410 under "color reproduction"; this may not be the right technical term.


Ah, now I see where we talked past each other. When you said "the U2410 has better color reproduction," I immediately assumed you meant it had more accurate color reproduction. My bad.
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Re: Buying a monitor?

Postby Meem1029 » Fri Mar 16, 2012 5:06 am UTC

Cool. Thanks for the explanation of the different types of monitors. I'm not really bothered by my laptop screen and will probably go with a TN, but it's awesome to know the differences so I can make a better choice!

Edit: Searching around more, I found a $200 lg IPS one (http://www.bestbuy.com/site/LG+-+IPS+Se ... Id=2031077) at bestbuy that looks like a good deal, but since it's so much cheaper than most IPS is there something about it that would be poor quality or is it just an awesome deal?
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Re: Buying a monitor?

Postby PhoenixEnigma » Sat Mar 17, 2012 1:49 am UTC

It's probably 6bit+AFR, and it looks like there's very little adjustablility with the stand. Reviews point out a little bit of light bleed around the corners, too.

The first point doesn't matter that much unless you're doing serious colour sensitive work, and the middle is one of personal preference. The light bleed is probably no worse than many monitors of that size and price. It also looks like it's very well calibrated out of the box, which is a major point IMO - it doesn't matter how accurate or wide the gamut is if it's not calibrated correctly, and unless you have hardware for doing that, out-of-the-box settings are hugely important.

I've got a pair of LG IPS231s - if they're remotely similar, I'd imagine the 236s are great as a general use monitor, decent enough for games, and pretty solid for media.

That said, as you're looking for a second screen, I'd be all over that deal - odds are you'll be looking at it somewhat off-angle a good deal, making a cheap IPS panel a very attractive option.
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