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DPChallenge Forums >> Hardware and Software >> LCD specs - what do they mean
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05/17/2005 11:41:12 PM · #1
I am looking for a new video card and LCD monitor. My 19" CRT is about 6 years old, my video card almost 4.
For cards, something in the ATI800 or nVidia6800. Any suggestions? running 2 monitors is a cool idea.

For the LCD...what do all the specs mean (to me, a non-gamer photographer).
As in repsonse time, brightness and contrast ratio?
Just for arguments sake, This one is $399 and is 8ms, 250 and 800:1 and this one at $329 is 21, 300, 600 respectively. Both have 170 degree viewing.
Neither is a brand name in monitors and mostly i don't care. My 19" CRT has no name on it, and my ancient 15" was a tiny no-namer when i bought it that later became a 'player' in the PC monitor game. It works and is maybe 15 years old now.
05/17/2005 11:48:08 PM · #2
I think the most important spec with regard to LCD monitors is contrast ratio...the higher the better. Specs for LCDs have to be taken with a grain of salt as each manufacturer does there own measurements and there aren't any standards, I believe. This makes it difficult to tell just how good or bad an LCD will perform, unless you see one at the store, or better yet, take it home and run it from your very own computer.

If you got the moolah, I would probably invest in something like the Apple Cinema Displays that start at about $799, I think. I am in the same boat as you, and am considering a new LCD and video card, but not that concerned about the LCD performance because my plans are to run a dual monitor setup and use the LCD only for reading, palettes and tools. Image quality I will judge from the CRT connected to the same machine. I would like to really get a CRT like the LaCie Blue, whatever it's called.
05/17/2005 11:53:25 PM · #3
You may have to replace your video card if it is that old. Many of the LCD monitors have only a DVI input connector vs. the standard VGA connector.
Response time is the rate at which the screen can display video updates, very important for fast gaming.
Brightness, as the name implies, refers to overall screen brightness when pure white is displayed. 250 candelas is decent, higher is better if the contrast ratio is also higher.
Contrast ratio is the ratio of bright to dark and 450:1 is considered acceptable, higher is better.
05/17/2005 11:59:32 PM · #4
Originally posted by Prof_Fate:

I am looking for a new video card and LCD monitor. My 19" CRT is about 6 years old, my video card almost 4.
For cards, something in the ATI800 or nVidia6800. Any suggestions? running 2 monitors is a cool idea.

For the LCD...what do all the specs mean (to me, a non-gamer photographer).
As in repsonse time, brightness and contrast ratio?
Just for arguments sake, This one is $399 and is 8ms, 250 and 800:1 and this one at $329 is 21, 300, 600 respectively. Both have 170 degree viewing.
Neither is a brand name in monitors and mostly i don't care. My 19" CRT has no name on it, and my ancient 15" was a tiny no-namer when i bought it that later became a 'player' in the PC monitor game. It works and is maybe 15 years old now.


8ms is the time the screen need to change the image from one to the other being measured with neutral gray pixel to whit to neutral gray to black, etc. It can be translated to a 125hz refresh rate (more than enough for any non-gamer) For brightness, the measure is how bright are the withest whites in the screen. 800:1 contrast ratio mean that the withest white is 800 times brighter than the balckest black. If you want a good advice, There are 2 or 3 way to take measurement for each one of these specs in order to get good marketing numbers. Often they don't really mean a thing. Buy the one that you find the picture good enough for you. I suggest you take one of your photo with you on a CD to the store to compare. If you want still better advice, buy CRT. Don't buy LCD.

Hope it helps

05/18/2005 12:20:38 AM · #5
I have wanted an LCD for about 3 years now...even though I keep hearing that CRT is better, I like LCD and will likley keep the CRT handy (hence one reason for running 2 monitors on 1 card). My old crd it getting dark and occasionally acts up. I have not noticed eye strain or anything of that nature.

THere was a poll here a week or 2 ago - i checked in but neverwent back to see any final results - got a link for it? When i last checked i was very surprised at how many LCD users there were.
05/18/2005 08:27:51 AM · #6
To put my 2 cents worth in, there are a couple of items you didn't address:

The most important thing (IMO) is the size, both the diagonal measurement and the pixel count. Both the ones you are looking at are the same (19" and 1280x1024), but some 19" and most larger LCDs have 1600x1200.

Next most important is a DVI interface. DVI looks much better to me than analog (I've tried both).

The rest of the items get fuzzy--as in fuzzy logic. If your room room dark all the time contrast is probably more important. If the room has lots of sunlight, then you'll need a brighter monitor. Response time is important for gaming and movies, it doesn't make a big difference with photos.

Remember that contrast is relative. You'll see a bigger difference between a 400:1 and a 600:1 than between a 600:1 and an 800:1. I've heard that paper has about a 450:1 contrast ratio.

I suggest checking //www.froogle.com, there's a refurbished Princeton LCD19D for $228.06 (19", 1290x1024, DVI, 250 cd/m, 700:1, 25ms) or if you're not in a rush, keep your eye on a site that lists discounts, like //cheap.typepad.com/
05/18/2005 08:50:05 AM · #7
By far and away the most important thing is the technology of the panel. And unfortunately, this information is not always easy to determine.

Just because a display is an "LCD" doesn't mean that they are all created equal. Today's LCD monitors are all "TFT active matrix" displays, but there are various technologies, including TN+Film, MVA, PVA, and (S)-IPS panels, and they all have their pros and cons.

An excellent article that explains the differences between these various technologies is available here. You'll also learn that like most specs, "response time", "viewing angle", etc. need to be taken with a grain of salt unless the manufacturer is very specific about what and how they determined those specs. For example, TN+Film manufacturers changed how they specifying their viewing angles by measuring the point where the contrast ratio falls to 5:1 rather than to 10:1. This way, their panels "acquired" 160-degree angles without any real technological improvement. And in terms of response time, the time it takes to change from the extremes (black to white) may be ultra fast, but for a more subtle change (e.g. 25% gray to 30% gray) the response time is much longer! The long and short of it (no pun intended) is that TN+Film LCDs are inexpensive and are taking over the market (it is hard to find a monitor under 19" these days that isn't TN, and even the 19" market is now moving to TN) but it is definitely not the best technology if you care about color accuracy.

So be aware of "cheap" monitors. TN+Film panels are the least expensive and offer great "comparison chart specs" (which is how a lot of people shop... looking at numbers, without understanding what those numbers really mean), but that's about it. Many "typical" LCDs (especially if 17" or smaller, or has a really low response time) are TN+Film panels that only display 6 bits per channel (meaning the crystals only rotate to one of 64 angles instead of 256) resulting in a display that is only capable of displaying 262,144 colors instead of the full 16.8 million colors like a real 8-bit panel. The 6-bit panels "cheat" by synthesizing extra colors through temporal dithering via Frame Rate Control (FRC)... quickly switching between two colors that the panel can display, but it isn't quite the same as the real thing. Sometimes a manufacturer will list such a panel as having "16.2 million colors" in the specs (example) but not always. Quoting from the above article: "the colors of TN matrices are anyway bad they are faded, unimpressive, rather far from natural ones, which makes TN matrices a bad choice for working with colors even amateurishly." (emphasis mine. Bummer for DPC, since many voters likely have TN panels.)

If you are working with photographs, an IPS / S-IPS based panel will likely provide the most accurate colors. Apple's oft-referenced Cinema Displays use S-IPS panels, as do displays like Eizo's ColorEdge CG220 (a 22" $6300 display with "only" a 400:1 contrast ratio... that should tell you something about the importance of that "spec"!) and ColorEdge CG210 as well as others. A lot of folks will tell you that you "can't beat a CRT", and while that is certainly true from a price standpoint, I personally feel that LCD technology has progressed far enough to where they are capable of replacing a CRT... you just have to know what to look for and be willing to spend the money on a technology that offers accurate colors. (Since this is a photography site, I'm assuming color accuracy is more important than response time to most people reading this. Folks over on XtremeOverclockingSoICanGet300FPS.com might disagree. :)

As always, the golden rule ("you get what you pay for") holds true in LCDs. Make an informed decision so you know what you are getting when you spend your money. And remember: price is only an issue in the absence of value. =]

Finally... whatever you do, make sure you run your LCD at its native resolution! If you buy an LCD that is 1600x1200, run it only at 1600x1200. If things are "too small" for you at that size, then don't buy a 1600x1200 resolution panel. LCDs are not like CRTs; they have a fixed array of pixels and setting your video card to anything but the LCD's native resolution results in scaling artifacts that significantly degrades the quality, prevents things like Microsoft's ClearType technology from functioning correctly, etc.

Just my 2¢!

Message edited by author 2005-05-18 10:36:33.
05/19/2005 06:09:05 PM · #8
I haven't had time to read the forums in months... so yesterday I actually had some spare time, read some recent threads and even replied to this one... but it looks like I unintentionally killed it! D'oh! =]
05/19/2005 06:25:51 PM · #9
Originally posted by EddyG:

Just my 2¢!


2¢? 2¢??? At 2¢ per word, that was about 4 million bucks! ;-) Welcome back Eddy!
01/08/2006 11:59:49 AM · #10

Eddy,

thanks so much for your post and the links through to other articles.
I've taken your advice and bought myself a nice new S-IPS based display - NEC 1980FXi.

It is fantastic well recommended

Message edited by author 2006-01-08 12:00:36.
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