by June 2, 2005 0 comments



The cost of LCD monitors has finally come down to affordable levels. Though their prices are still nowhere near the CRT prices, they’ve reached a level where organizations can consider buying them for their users. For instance, the cheapest LCD monitor we received was 10K, and it’s likely that as their usage increases, their prices will come down even further. This time, we received four 15” and nine 17” LCD monitors from five different manufacturers for the shootout.

We used our three-axis model of performance, price and features for testing to arrive at the winners. The Brown-Gibson model was used to calculate the weightages for each. Here’s how we tested them. 

Performance
To test each monitor, we used a P4 3.2 GHz with 512 MB RAM and a GainWard FX 5900XT 128 MB RAM graphics card. The tests were done in the native mode of each display category, viz 1024X768 for 15” and 1280X1024 for 17”. We used the DisplayMate for Windows (Video Edition) test suite to test their performance. It’s a comprehensive benchmark that checks out a wide variety of parameters for LCD monitors. 

In addition to this, we also measured the time each monitor took to power up and show the display. Incidentally, we found a significant difference in this for different monitors. 

The tests were split into the following four categories: 

  • Display tests
  • Color and gray scale tests
  • Video tests
  • Miscellaneous effects tests

Each of these had further sub tests. Display tests check the brightness and contrast range of each display by doing black-level adjustment, pixel tracking and timing-lock. Black-level adjustment is used to measure the number of visible dark gray bars on a black background while pixel tracking and timing-lock are used to check for the noise level on the display. 

The color and grayscale category had the maximum number of tests and measure the color reproduction capabilities of an LCD. It’s meant to see differences in color scales, color intensity levels and 256 intensity level ramp. It checks for streaking and ghosting, white and black level shift. 

Streaking and ghosting helps us detect light or dark shadows that trail an image particularly for graphs. The color scales test looks for a smooth shift in the ten principal colors palette. The color intensity measures the linearity in the intensity level for primary and secondary colors. It also checks whether colors don’t shift hue as the color level increases or decreases. This is important for displaying photographic images with a mix of colors. 256 intensity level ramp is similar to color intensity level but doesn’t have a palette and looks for individual color linearity and hue across the screen. 

There are two tests under video tests, namely video bandwidth and transient response. The two let us decide the degree of image sharpness affected by a video signal. 

The miscellaneous tests check for screen uniformity and dark screens. The first is meant to look for irregularities caused by variations or reflections inside the display panel in color intensity. The second, viz dark screen is used to evaluate LCD black level capability by spotting any reflection. 

Features
There are several features that you need to look out for while buying an LCD monitor. Here’s what we look for: 

Pricing

Here we have looked at the price and warranty of each monitor, where lower price and higher 
warranty are better. Please note that we’ve not given a separate detailed specifications sheet for the monitors. Instead, we have uploaded it on the forums. So logon to
http://forums.pcquest.com and visit Current Issue thread.

Power consumption: The lower the power consumption, the better.
Bezel size:
If space is at a premium on your table, then a small bezel is what you need.
Tilt angle: Check whether the LCD monitor lets you tilt it vertically, and also ensure that the monitor doesn’t topple over at the maximum tilt angle.
Brightness and contrast levels: Check the rated levels for your monitor. Higher value is, of course, better. 
OSD controls: These should be easy to use, and you can look for special presets that adjust the screen for working with text, video, Internet browsing, etc. In monitors having both analog and digital inputs, there should be a control to switch over between the two. Some monitors even let you lock the OSD controls so 
that nobody tampers with the settings. Some also come with additional software for controlling OSD controls.
Analog and digital inputs: It’s becoming fairly common for monitors to have both types of connectors these days. 
Viewing angle: This is the maximum readability angle from the top and sides.
Weight: For this parameter too, the lighter the better. 
Special features: There are several other features that everyone may not need. These include a USB connection, wall mounting capability, portrait viewing, DVI connector, built-in speakers and power adaptor.

Sushil Oswal

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