LCD monitors go big, with mostly good results

ViewSonic comes out on top as the Lab puts 24- and 27-inch models to the test

At this point in the millennium, if you still have a CRT on your desk, either you really want it there for some reason or we feel sorry for you. Those old monitors might as well have rabbit ears sitting on top of them or a little dog nearby trying to listen to his master’s voice. In other words, they are products of the past.

We’ve written about the advantages of LCDs many times in the past — actually, just about every time we’ve conducted an LCD roundup. So we hope by now it’s sunk in. But just in case, let’s go over the advantages one more time. Then we can talk about the very cool and highly functional widescreen LCDs we’ve brought together for this review.

In this GCN Lab review:

LCD monitors go big, with mostly good results
ViewSonic VG2427wm LCD monitor
Eizo FlexScan EcoView EV2411W LCD monitor
Acer B273HU LCD monitor
NEC MultiSync EA241WM LCD monitor
Dell UltraSharp 2709W LCD monitor
HP LP2475w LCD monitor

More than just looking great, LCDs are functional. First, they weigh less than a CRT. A 24-inch LCD might tip the scales at 20 pounds, while a 24-inch CRT could be 100 pounds or more. LCDs also sip energy compared to CRTs, making them a lot greener. And the thin panels also generate less heat, so your HVAC won't be as taxed with a room full of them as it would in a room of CRT monitors.

Finally, LCDs are easier on the eyes, and we don’t just mean how they look. The images on a CRT are constantly washed over the screen time and time again, LCDs instead project a solid image through a film by illuminating individual pixels. Most people experience eye strain, or even headaches, after hours of working on a flickering CRT. But this is not much of a problem with LCDs. With a properly configured LCD, most people can gaze at their screens for hours without any ill effects — the boredom of their jobs aside.

The main reason government agencies didn’t jump right into the LCD arena at first was the price. Even today, CRTs are cheap by comparison. Discount monitor companies from Asia practically dump the old CRTs onto our shores. But LCDs have fallen in price in recent years, and when you factor in energy savings, they might be a better deal than even bargain-basement CRTs. And users will certainly appreciate the upgrade to the better displays, which equates to more productivity and higher morale.

The other area that caused LCD resistance was image quality, which was less than stellar in the early days of LCDs. Color accuracy was off. Fine lines would get rendered incorrectly. And on-screen motion would sometimes look wrong because it was traveling faster than the multiple-millisecond response time of older LCDs. For the most part, these problems have all been fixed, although one major barrier still needs to fall: quality at size.

If you pick up almost any 18-inch or smaller LCD, the quality will be great, especially in the older 4:3 ratio monitors. But as panel sizes get larger, quality is harder to maintain. Features such as uniform light levels and accurate text reproduction get trickier. These days, many of the best monitors are less than 24 inches, measured along the diagonal. But we thought the industry could do better. So we issued a challenge for companies to send us their best LCD that is 24 inches or larger. Six responded to our call with impressive displays. Although some still experienced the same type of large-panel troubles we have found before in our testing, a couple stepped up to the challenge. Although we can’t say that LCDs have broken the 24-inch quality barrier this year, they have pushed against it pretty hard.

We tested the six monitors, from Dell, Eizo Nanao, NEC, Acer, Hewlett-Packard and ViewSonic, for image quality and color accuracy using a variety of internal GCN Lab visual benchmarks and the DisplayMate Professional video benchmark testing suite from DisplayMate Technologies. These results, which made up the largest part of each LCD’s grade, contributed to their image quality score. Extra features, such as the ability to calculate how “green” the monitor’s current settings were, or an innovative menu system went into the features grade, which was 30 percent of the total score. Finally, value was calculated based on how well the monitor performed in image quality and features relative to its price and the price of the other LCDs in the review.

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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