“a consumer reports for the cheap” — the new york times
In this review:
  1. Cheap Computer Monitors
  2. Computer Monitor Reviews
  3. Flatscreen Monitors, Widescreen Monitors
  4. Best Computer Monitors
  5. Computer Monitors Deals
  6. Discount Monitors Features Comparison Table

Flatscreen Monitors, Widescreen Monitors

The size of the display is the most visible difference among flat screen monitors. But other features worth noting include display panel technology, response time, native resolution, contrast ratio, and brightness.

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The ports included in widescreen monitors vary from one model to the next.

Flat Screen Monitors Size.

The size of a display is one of the first features to attract a shopper's attention. The current generation of flat screen monitors range in size from 17 inches to a giant 65 inches, though smaller screens designed for on-the-go use are also available.

Large monitors are tempting, but consider a few things before buying one. First, the larger the monitor, the more expensive it will be. Second, if you have a small work area or sit fairly close to your screen, a large monitor may be overwhelming. Monitors up to 24 inches offer a fair amount of screen real estate and fall within the Cheapism niche; all of the models we researched are 24 inches or less.

You'll be hard-pressed to find an LCD monitor, even in low-price territory, that's not widescreen these days. Widescreen monitors are the right match for movies and games and also useful for office workers or anyone who needs the convenience of looking at two windows or documents side by side. All of the flat screen monitors discussed here are widescreen displays. The aspect ratio (defined as the width of a monitor relative to the height) on a widescreen monitor is typically 16:9, like most widescreen TVs.

Flat Screen Panel Technology.

There are different types of display panel technologies available on flat screen monitors. The two most common are IPS (in-plane switching) and TN (twisted nematic). IPS technology has been around for a while, but until recently has been limited to very expensive specialty displays. A much cheaper version of IPS technology has begun showing up in widescreen monitors priced below $200. TN-type displays still dominate the budget market, however.

IPS is superior to TN in most ways because it provides greater color uniformity and image accuracy and wider viewing angles (178 degrees horizontally and vertically compared to 170 degrees horizontally and 160 degrees vertically with TN technology). What you sacrifice with IPS, though, is response time (it's slower), which can result in some ghosting. Serious gamers will probably prefer TN flat screen monitors to IPS displays. Among the models we researched, the Asus VS229H-P, HP 2011xi, and AOC I2353PH are IPS displays; the rest are TN-based displays.

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Flat Screen Monitors Response Time.

The display on a flat screen monitor is made up of thousands of tiny pixels that change color very rapidly to compose the image you see. The speed at which the pixels change color is called the response time, which is measured in milliseconds. The faster the pixels change color, the better.

One way manufacturers measure this variable is the gray-to-gray response time, which is how long it takes for a pixel to turn from one shade of gray to another. This version of response time is very fast and manufacturers like to promote it; you'll usually see it listed as GtG. Among the models we researched, the Dell S2230MX and Asus VS247H-P (both TN displays) boast a response time of 2ms and most others list a 5ms gray-to-gray response time; the corresponding stat on the HP 2011xi (an IPS display) is 7ms.

A flat screen monitor with a slow response time may suffer from "ghosting," a fluttering effect that would be apparent in fast-moving video, such as games, sports, or movies. Most widescreen monitors, whether cheap or pricey, have a sufficiently fast response time so that ghosting isn't an issue. However, IPS-type monitors tend to have slower response times than TN displays, so you're more likely to see a bit of ghosting with this technology.

For the most part, the widescreen monitors we researched successfully ward off this unwelcome visual effect. Experts point it out where it does present but consider it negligible; consumers mostly seem blind to it.

The Asus VS229H-P is an IPS display with a 5ms response time and an expert from PC Mag says he occasionally observed a little motion blur during testing but concedes it was barely noticeable. The 5ms specification for the AOC I2353PH, another IPS flat screen monitor we researched, seems slow for dedicated gamers, asserts an expert review, although consumers say they're content with the gaming action. The few comments we found about the HP 2011xi barely mention the 7ms response time on this IPS display, with one user noting it seems fine for gaming.

As for the TN-based widescreen monitors discussed in this guide, experts at PC Mag failed to detect any motion blur in the 5ms Acer S230HL Abii. The 5ms response time on the ViewSonic VA2448M, however, led to some blurring during expert testing; again, consumers seem unperturbed and assert this flat screen monitor is fast enough for gaming.

Widescreen Monitors Contrast Ratio.

Contrast ratio refers to the difference in intensity between a monitor's deepest blacks and brightest whites; the higher the contrast ratio, the better. Many entry-level widescreen monitors, including the HP 2011xi, HP 2311x, ViewSonic VA2448M, and Dell S2230MX, have a static contrast ratio of 1000:1. Manufacturers don't always include this number in a model's specifications.

The dynamic contrast ratio measures darkness levels without backlights. Although similar to the static contrast ratio, a monitors buying guide at CNET asserts that the dynamic contrast measurement can be particularly misleading with LED panels. Whereas a monitor may feature a static contrast ratio of 600:1, the dynamic contrast will be much higher and this is the number manufacturers like to publicize. Asus promotes its VS247H-P monitor as having a dynamic contrast ratio of 50,000,000:1, which seems like a huge number but is essentially a marketing gimmick that doesn't say much about how well the monitor displays color.

According to the reviews we read, all the models we researched feature good contrast ratios.

by Michael Sweet (Google+ Profile)

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