LCD Monitor Specifications

Ars Technica has an article about the deficient specs of Apple LCD monitors compared to those of Dell and NEC. And that the price cuts still leave the 20″ wide LCD monitor a bit lacking in specs. Let’s have a closer look at what they are complaining about.

“…competitors are turning out 20″ displays with 6-8ms refresh rates (Samsung 215TW) and 1600:1 contrast ratios (NEC 20WMGX2). Compared to those, Apple’s 700:1 and 14ms seem really lacking.”

Hmmm. I think the issue here is the lack of understanding of the LCD technologies used for these different products and the pros and cons of them. First, let’s start with Samsung’s 21″ wide LCD monitor, the 215TW. It is competitively priced around $500 and has a 8ms response time. The contrast ratio is stated to be 1000:1 and has a 300 cd/m2 brightness level, comes with DVI and VGA connections. Samsung uses a viewing angle technology called PVA, or Patterned Vertical Alignment, that improves front screen performance at different angles. The 215TW has a 178-degree viewing angle all around. Though it is better than TN on this front there are some caveats. The 1000:1 contrast ratio that Samsung mentions can be experienced only when you are look at the screen dead on. As you move from left to right or up and down, the contrast ratio quickly deteriorates. Let’s move on to the claimed 8ms response time. You have to be very skeptical of response time specifications because there are many types. Here are a few: gray-to-gray (GTG), Toff-to-Ton (Rise Time), and Toff-Ton-Toff. Which one is Samsung using? I have Googled for more information about Samsung’s MagicSpeed technology, but did not find the information that I was looking for.

Let’s move on to NEC’s 20WMGX2. This unit has a 20″ wide TFT LCD with 1680 x 1050 resolution, 1600:1 contrast ratio, 470 cd/m2 of brightness, 145/160 viewing angles and has DVI and VGA inputs. One of the things that quickly tells me the underlying viewing angle technology used is, quite obviously, the viewing angle capability of the monitor. In this case, the 20WMGX2 has a dismal 145/160 (UD/LR) viewing angle. This is quite terrible, and is because NEC decided to use a TN (Twisted Nematic) TFT LCD and used a Wide Viewing Film to enhance the viewability at odd angles. TN technology is much cheaper and has much better brightness. In this case, the 20WMGX2 trumps Samsung’s 215TW in brightness by a very large margin: 470 cd/m2 versus 300 cd/m2. The crucial point that I am trying to establish is this: the underlying LCD technology to a large degree determines the display performance.

Lastly, let’s have a look at our uber-expensive 20″ LCD monitor from Apple. The 20″ wide TFT LCD panel with 1680 x 1080 resolution is mostly suppied by LG.Philips LCD (LPL). LPL uses a different wide viewing display technology called IPS, or In-Plane Switching. IPS has pros and cons, like the other two I’ve mentioned. IPS does not have a very high contrast ratio but does not drop off as quickly as PVA (VA and MVA included). So, though the 700:1 contrast ratio seems low, as you start to move about 45 degrees to the left or right, contrast ratios for both Samsung’s 215TW and NEC’s 20WMGX2 will quickly drop to lower than that of Apple’s 20″ Cinema Display. For response times, Apple’s 20″ has a response time of only 14ms, but is stated as a typical response time. I went to LG.Philips LCD’s site and searched for some panel specifications and found one for its LM201WE2. The response time for LPL’s LM201WE2 is stated as 6ms GTG (Gray-to-Gray). If we assume Samsung was referring to GTG response times of 8ms, then Apple’s 20″ which most likely uses the LM201WE2 panel would in fact be a faster monitor. Just a hunch. There is a chance that Apple might be using LPL’s LM201WE1, which is the panel prior to the E2 (just a guess). This is probably the case since Apple states the luminance of its 20″ as only 300 cd/m2 while LPL has 800:1 for its E2 panel.

After all of this, I would like to point out that the individual specs are not where we need to focus on. The overall look and feel of the performance is much more important. Take the Apple monitor for a spin and see if you like it before making a hasty judgment based on a few specifications.

Source: Ars Technica

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