Huge Screen Supertest (Part 1) - Twisted Nematic

5/9/2012 5:26:48 PM

Having lots of fun with your pc? We reckon you’ll have even more with a good screen .

We’ve said it before, we’re going to damn well say it again, and we’re going keep saying it over and over until somebody starts listening. By far and away and without a shadow of a doubt, the best long term investment you can make for your PC is a decent screen. Repeat, LCD. Screen.

Description: LCD buying guide

That’s especially true at the top-end of the market, where some specs have stagnated. Back in 2006, the pinnacle of PC screendom was 30 inches and a native resolution of 2,560 x 1,600. Fast forward to the dawn of 2012 and absolutely nothing has changed. That’s still as good as it gets.

In fact, if anything, prices of premium panels have hardened. Premium 24-inch monitors based on the better VA and IPS panels are quite possibly more expensive than they were five or six years ago. The problem is the market for higher-priced panels - there isn’t one. People buy almost purely on price; they just want cheap and cheerful.

That said, this obsession with cheaper screens means the focus is on squeezing the most out of a sub-$480 budget. Today, that figure doesn’t just secure full HD resolutions and stretch to 27-inch and even 28-inch monitors, it also bags you a multi-function monitor packing everything from an integrated TV tuner to full stereoscopic 3D support using the technology of your choice.

UntiL recently, what you wouldn’t get was anything other than TN technology for the panel, but there are now some exceptions. Along with some affordable VA panels, the new kid on the block is e-IPS tech, which is effectively a cheaper version of the IPS screens favoured for their colour reproduction and found in many premium devices including, yes you guessed it, Apple’s iPhone and iPad gadgets.

As for the TN masses, the good news is that the technology continues to improve, closing the gap with IPS and VA. It’s also worth noting that the increasingly widespread use of LED backlighting, even at the arse end of the market, has given TN a kick up the backside too. All of which means there’s serious value to be had if you know what you’re buying, which is exactly where this month’s LCD panelfest comes in. Every screen purchase should start from a position of informed awareness. You need to know what you’re buying and that means getting to grips with the different panel technologies. Yup, we have been here before, but given the lengths some monitor makers go to obscure and obfuscate the underlying technology, it’s more critical than ever to know your TNs from your PVAs.

Twisted Nematic

From the top, the cheapest and most commonly used panel tech is our old friend TN. Otherwise known as ‘twisted nematic’, in layman’s terms the thing that really matters about TN technology is that the liquid crystals in each picture cell are effectively fixed at one end. When an electrical current is applied, the crystals twist rather than rotate.

This explains TN’s strengths and its weaknesses. The tension involved in twisting crystals in one direction means they pop back the other way more rapidly. The result? Fast pixel response. Of course, with one end fixed, you never get the full rotation achieved by other LCD tech, which means light isn’t managed as accurately or blocked as fully. Result? Inferior colour accuracy, less expansive viewing angles and poorer contrast.

 One of the specific consequences of the restricted crystal articulation is the need for dithering. TN panels can’t natively display as many colours as IPS and VA screens. The solution involves forcing pixels to jump rapidly between two colour states in order to fool the human eye into observing a third, incremental colour. In theory, it should be invisible. In practice, it’s sometimes possible to see the pixels fizzing away as they hop between colours.

Everything is relative though Ongoing Improvement of TN technology has given us panels superior in some regards to IPS panels of six or seven years ago. What’s more, it’s not just the panel technology that has improved. The market-wide shift from CCFL backlights to LED technology has been a big help for TN screens. You get a broader spectrum of light, which helps compensate for the inherently poor colours. So, TN monitors with LED backlights are more vibrant and sock you with more saturated colours. Yay!

Despite all of this, there are limitations to TN, and they can be spotted on the spec sheets. That’s true even when the monitor maker doesn’t deign to mention the panel type. Unfortunately, that’s pretty frequent. Anyway, the markers you’re looking for go something like this. Start with the viewing angles, the metrics manufacturers use vary, but if either figure is under 1700, you’re looking at a TN. Typically a vertical angle of 160° really gives the game away.

The other major give away is contrast. The tricky thing here is that dynamic contrast — in other words, contrast achieved by modulating the backlight - is often the only figure quoted. Any figure of roughly 5.000 to one or greater will be the dynamic rating. If it’s lower than that, it’s likely to be contrast with a static backlight.

  •  Syndicate – Good, bloody fun
  •  Summer games
  •  Alan Wake - “I am A. Wake."
  •  Audio Cleaning Lab MX - makes some sounds sound better
  •  Open Pandora - Open source gaming handled
  •  3D Printing … for people who don’t have a 3D printer
  •  Share and stream media (Part 2) - Stream away to an Android device
  •  Share and stream media (Part 1) - Windows and NAS sharing
  •  Home Cinema, April-2012 (Part 2) - Philips 7000 series Smart LED TV & Toshiba Regza 46WL863B
  •  Home Cinema, April-2012 (Part 1) - Sony Bravia KDL-46NX723
  •  Three of the best new games reviewed : Skyrim, L.A. Noire & Batman: Arkham City
  •  Nikon Coolpix AW100 - Tough love
  •  Buffalo CloudStation Duo - Your personal cloud
  •  ASUS RT-N56U
  •  ASROCK COREHT - One-box entertainment solution
  •  AC Ryan Playon! HD2 Mini
  •  Batch convert your photos using IrfanView : Step-by-step batch convert your images
  •  Access media remotely : Step-by-step access your media remotely (part 2)
  •  Access media remotely : Step-by-step access your media remotely (part 1)
  •  Get more from your music : Step-by-step take control of your music
    Top 10
    Fujifilm XF1 - The Stylish Shooter
    Nikon 1 V2 - Still Fast and Handles Better
    Asustor AS-604T 4-Bay NAS Review (Part 3)
    Asustor AS-604T 4-Bay NAS Review (Part 2)
    Asustor AS-604T 4-Bay NAS Review (Part 1)
    Toshiba Satellite U925t Review (Part 3)
    Toshiba Satellite U925t Review (Part 2)
    Toshiba Satellite U925t Review (Part 1)
    iBall Andi 4.5H - Pretty In White
    The HTC Butterfly - Full HD In 5 Inches Only
    Most View
    Windows 8 Special (Part 2)
    Visual Studio 2010 : Understanding Solutions and Projects (part 1)
    Record Onscreen Action In Windows
    Programming .NET Security : Hashing Algorithms Explained
    A brief history of transforming robots (Part 2)
    Zalman F1-Series 240GB - New star SSD
    The Small Screen Revolution (Part 1)
    Learn How Too... Work Faster Than Ever With Windows 8 (Part 1)
    The Xperia T - Remarkable In How Unremarkable It Is (Part 1)
    Caching User Controls
    Stay Safe On Public Hotspots
    LG 42LM660T - Slick, Good Looking ‘Cinema Screen’
    .NET Components : Configuring Permissions
    Programming with DirectX : View Transformations
    New Year Gift Guide 2013 (Part 2)
    Apple Macbook Pro With Retina Display
    Chord QuteHD – Digital-to-analogue Converter
    Windows Server 2003 : Extending IPSec Operations, Designing IPSec Policies to Meet Secure Communications Needs
    Toshiba Satellite L850-F31R Notebook - Books & Covers
    iphone Programming : Integrating Your Application - Application Preferences