I screwed up in planning this article. To understand why, you have to look back to the LCD monitor round-up I wrote a few months ago. While we had 8 monitors in the competition back then, our monitor selection was disappointing. I did my best to produce a "definitive" discussion of color and LCD image quality, but it was really only a battle between a handful of monitors because many of the competitors were such poor performers. The problem was that with that article I had no role in selecting the monitors for review. So, when FiringSquad asked me to do another LCD roundup a month ago, I agreed only after ensuring that I could select the list of monitors to review. So, I went through various manufacturers websites, looking at the specs, and picked out monitors that I might want to buy on my own. The problem? I've ended up with a group of 5 stellar monitors, and figuring out how to distinguish the leader among the pack ended up being far tougher than expected.
The best LCD roundup is the one with the most monitors. Unfortunately, due to the complexity of our testing and the time demands of the "top-secret" articles I'm working on to be published June 27 (the most ambitious project I've done to date, add it to your calendar) I've had to limit the number of monitors in this Summer Roundup. Since we went with budget 17" monitors and threw in one non-DVI 19" last time, I decided to take a look at 19" monitors this time. We are also continuing to include a mix both gaming and office monitors into the roundup.
going to assume that you've read the 17" monitor roundup before, and so I'll actually go through the reason of why DVI is critical, and how contrast ratio and advertised pixel refreshes can be misleading. It'll be almost verbatim from the previous article though, so I'll understand if you want to breeze right through it. But in case you are planning to skip ahead, I do want to make a comment that currently, more so than ever before, advertised pixel refresh is virtually useless. In our last roundup, we threw in a Samsung 915N lent to us by Newegg.com and it had a respectable 3rd place finish (impressive considering it is analog-VGA only). We in particular were impressed by the 8 ms panel. Well, in this current roundup, Samsung wanted to send us a 4ms 19" panel... the 915N. Was this a different and upgraded panel? No. They just changed the method of measurement. The 8 ms reflected the complete full on-off-on cycle, whereas the 4 ms rating was only on-off. Now, before you cry foul and decide that Samsung is involved in shady marketing, the important thing to realize is that the entire industry is being shady. Samsung's 8ms panel was already stellar, but with other manufacturers advertising their 8 ms panels as 4 ms panels, Samsung felt they had to accept the new "industry standard." So it's not their fault although they are conveniently not taking a stand. In a way, it's our collective fault too because measurement of pixel refresh isn't as easy as you might think it is. After all, even a CRT will smear so distinguishing the difference between monitors requires more than just a simple number from a photoelectric sensor. How do you translate x ms improvement into tangible measurements? What about overdriving technology that produces fast measured results but results in some artifacts that can be more distracting than the smearing effect? Iím not sure. For now, we'll continue to rely on describing the smearing as a) not interfering with competitive FPS gaming, b) acceptable for FPS gaming, but smearing can be distracting and c) acceptable only for desktop and RTS games.
So let's take a look at the monitor's I've hand-selected for this round-up and see why finding the best monitor is going to be challenge.