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I'm shopping for some good LCD monitors and considering something in the >= 25" range.

What are some things that I should look for when comparing brands/models? The specs given by the different monitor companies is confusing at best. How do you compare one to another, what specs are important, and makes a real difference in the quality of the image?

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Why "not a real question"? I remember seeing many somewhat similar questions asking for hardware recommendations. –  Jonik Aug 4 '09 at 19:55
    
Probably because "What are some good LCD monitors?" is an extremely vague question. There are thousands of different kinds of monitors out there, how can we suggest just one if you aren't more specific? –  Sasha Chedygov Aug 4 '09 at 19:56
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That's too bad. I was really looking for some information about how to figure out whether a monitor is high quality. :( –  tim Aug 4 '09 at 20:09
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I vote (even though I can't, I need more rep) to reopen the question. The specs given by the different monitor companies is confusing at best. How do you compare one to another, what specs are important, and makes a real difference in the quality of the image –  Larry Aug 4 '09 at 20:32
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There's a few comment here: superuser.com/questions/5844/… –  pelms Aug 4 '09 at 22:54

3 Answers 3

I think the best thing to look for when comparing models is to remember what your'e using it for: You will be looking at your monitor. If you use your computer a lot, you'll want something nice to look at that's easy on your eyes.

For this reason, I recommend going to a store and looking at monitors. Yes, online is cheaper, but you need to get an idea of what the thing is going to be like when you look at it. Admittedly, it might be hard to select one based upon the resolution of the video source in the store, but it's still worth it IMHO.

Here's some other tips:

  • If you're using it for gaming, make sure you get something with good gamma correction/backlight.
  • If you're doing serious things with photography, keep color management in mind. Perhaps even get a colorimeter like a Spyder to calibrate your LCD monitor.
  • If you're eyes aren't amazing, or they all seem to look the same after awhile, I suggest finding someone with good eyes. In my case, I usually grab my mother (fashion designer, very picky about color and I/O devices, she uses fashion design software very heavily) and have her go with me when I shop. I usually find that my mother picks out monitors that look amazing, last a long time. But they are usually the most expensive at the store. That said, no one ever complains about them in a family of 6 heavy computer users.

Specwise tips:

  • LCDs are designed to look excellent at only one resolution, the native one. Examine your apps/games and determine what resolution you want/need for this, and get an LCD that has that resolution as native
  • The higher the resolution the better, usually.
  • You want reasonably high response time, although sometimes these are reported incorrectly.
  • Some new ones have HDMI ports :)

Lest I make a brand preference, in the past these have been Samsungs. When I picked up an LCD like 2 years ago for school, I got a Samsung as a) it was the cheapest (smallest, though) there, and b) all the stores I went to used them for their POS terminals, they all took a beating and looked great, and c) the picture was very natural. I figured I'd be getting the same quality, and that seemed to be the case. After about 14mos of ownership, a 15lb hacksaw fell on top of it and cut a gouge into the bezel, and it's still okay. I also must admit that I am very happy with my 23" Acer at work, although the out-of-the-box color accuracy wasn't quite as nice and it needs a calibration.

As usual YMMV.

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+1 for Samsung. Never been happier. Bought three of the same monitor because I liked the one so much. –  Travis Aug 5 '09 at 16:01
    
"I recommend going to a store and looking at monitors". That is a very bad thing to do, as stores only show TN panels. Very, very small chance you will run into any of the quality screens with IPS or PVA panels. They are sold internet-only. Only chance to see a working IPS display, is go to an apple store and watch an iMac. –  bert Oct 30 '09 at 7:31
    
@bert - "Very bad thing to do"? If you can't see the picture quality, except after a large withdrawl from your bank account or a (possibly long for some people) trip to an Apple store, how do you know it looks good? A customer would have to go on is your opinion (or a web review), and whether or not they would want to take a chance on a money-back guarantee. That said, thanks for mentioning other panel technologies, that may have superior picture quality. Those are things I was not aware of. –  J. Polfer Oct 30 '09 at 17:18
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PC stores are generally not interested in selling good stuff. They just want to sell lots of stuff that has a low price tag on it. Putting 1 wide gamut IPS panel in an average store, would ruin the opinion visitors have on any other display on show. When they see the IPS costs twice as much, they run out the door puzzled without spending money. That's not what a store wants. So they only show standard gamut, cheap TN displays, and have a very good reason to do so. Therefore my argument that it is a bad thing to have a look in a store is completely valid. At least, if the TS wants good! –  bert Nov 19 '09 at 17:15
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The Tips list is too long and still leaving out very important stuff. The second link is dead. –  bert Nov 19 '09 at 17:18

Some monitors give specs regarding a normal contrast ratio and a dynamic (or similar named) contrast ratio. Examples might be 500:1 for a normal ratio and 10,000:1 on a dynamic ratio.

The contrast ratio is how well the monitor displays the darkest darks vs the lightest lights. A low contrast ratio will cause the image to look kind of washed out.

The reason the dynamic contrast ratio is so much larger than the normal contrast ratio is that the actual contrast of the screen is 500:1, but the back light on the monitor will dim or brighten to match the scene of the movie (or game, or whatever). If you have a very hight dynamic contrast ratio then bright will be brighter, and black will be blacker, but not at the same time. The contrast ratio is still 500:1 at any given time. It's a bit like advertising "This display can display colors out of a pallet of over one billion (only 16 colors at a time)."

So, don't put too much stock into dynamic contrast ratios. Just focus on the regular contrast ratios.

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