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Comparative test of low priced 8, 12, 16, and 25 ms 19” LCDs
by Vincent Alzieu
Published on December 2, 2004

Comparative test of low priced 8, 12, 16, and 25 ms 19” LCDs
Up until now, gamers with LCD screens could only use 17”s as 15”, 19”, 20” and other sizes didn’t show any technological improvements. This is finally changing! TN panels are asserting themselves more in a market dominated by VA panels. BenQ and NEC use an AU Optronics 16 ms, Philips a LG-Philips 12 ms, and Samsung an 8 ms (on paper) of its own production.

Faster and cheaper panels

In one year, prices have dramatically reduced and are comparable to those of 17” LCDs a few months ago.

The release of these new screens raises a few questions:
- What is the future of 17” LCD screens?
- Are the technological breakthroughs noted in the last 17” comparative test, included in these screens?
- What is the interest of having the same resolution as a 17”?
- Is it possible to play and/or watch movies with these screens?

The beginning of the answers to these questions:
Using TN considerably improves the quality of games and it’s finally possible to play UT2004 without bothersome distortion. It’s less good for video, however as TN panels are very reactive but have smaller viewing angles and only display 256K colors. A software trick named dithering interpolates 16.2 millions colors, but the result is never perfect as a “twinkling” effect in large color areas is noticeable. For more information on TN, IPS and VA technology see this article

17 and 19” LCD screens have an native 1280 x 1027 resolution, but it hasn’t always been this way. A few years ago, a few rare 19” LCD screens had 1600 x 1200 pixel resolution. They are no longer available, but this choice is a double-edged sword. Even if it has advantages, some users don’t like the non-standard format of this current resolution (it isn’t 4:3) and wish the additional 2” be used to its full potential.

In practice, resolution isn’t an issue as applications always fit their images to the screen display size (unlike with CRT screens). In addition, with games a graphic card has to render 46% more pixels in 1600 x1200 than in 1280x1024, and so it would be easier to play with this resolution. We calculated the space occupied by a “pixel” compared to the size of the screen display. Here are the results:

In fact, a 19” CRT in 1280*960 is almost half way between 17” and 19” LCD screens in 1280*1024. Compared to a 19” CRT, a 17” screen’s pixels occupy a little less space while a 19” LCD’s occupy a little more. This isn’t so surprising and users used to a 17" CRT in 1024*768 might even find the 1280*1024 of a 17” LCD screen a little too small in 2D.

As 17” and 19” screens are priced more and more the same, we will probably see the end of 17” LCDs. This transition will be smooth, however. This year 17”s replaced 15” screens more and more and next year, 19”s will be released progressively. Most users will most likely buy them a little later, perhaps in the second half of 2005 and businesses could be the last to acquire them. Even if prices go down, 19” LCDs are still a little more expensive than 17”s. When buying hundreds or even thousands of computers this small difference can add up.

The tests

Screens are examined from every angle; color accuracy and calibration, reactivity in games, video quality, ergonomics, viewing angles, and their quality of interpolation.

For color accuracy we used a LaCie colorimeter. The Blue Eye 2 probe from this professional picture company is based on the Xrite tool and also includes software developed by LaCie. We use this colorimeter to check the screen’s color spectrum and then to calibrate it. It’s placed on the screen and measures the difference between the desired and displayed color. A color table is then created and it attempts to correct errors.

In terms of gaming, in September we started measuring response time between grays with a Tektronix oscilloscope and a photosensitive sensor (see this article). We had problems, however, as measurements with this process were contradictory with our visual tests. We assumed these measurements would only be misleading, and we went back to the “good ole” method of simply playing the games.

The test computer is comprised of an AMD Athlon XP3200+ and NVIDIA GeForce FX 5950 Ultra graphic card.

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