Huge Screen Supertest (Part 3)

5/10/2012 9:04:42 AM

Vertical Alignment

The last of our trio of panel technologies is VA or ‘Vertical Alignment’. There are two types of VA panels, PVA (Patterned Vertical Alignment) and MVA (Multidomain Vertical Alignment). PVA is more common, but both share the same basic characteristics and give similar image quality. For the most part, VA panels fall halfway between TN and IPS technology. In terms of cost, colour accuracy and pixel response, VA panels split the difference.


Description: All use S-PVA (super patterned vertical alignment)

All use S-PVA (super patterned vertical alignment)


Description: Vertical Alignment. MVA - Multi-Domain Vertical 

Vertical Alignment. MVA - Multi-Domain Vertical

That said, VA screens also have a number of distinct characteristics that set them apart. Most notably, the default position of the liquid crystals in a VA pixel blocks light from passing through. The upshot is that VA screens deliver the deepest, inkiest blacks of any panel type, and the best static contrast ratios. Colour saturation is another plus point for VA screens, even if outright colour accuracy is a click or two behind the best IPS screens.

Colour gamut is another VA strong point. Like IPS technology, VA panels are typically true 8-bit per colour channel. That means colour dithering isn’t necessary. Overall, VA panels give the most vibrant, eye-catching image quality of any LCD technology. The richness and depth of a good VA monitor is spectacular. For that reason, many high-end HDTVs, including Samsung and Sony sets, use PVA LCD panels. If VA technology does have a weakness, it’s pixel response. In an attempt to reduce response times, many VA monitors use a technology known as pixel overdrive. While it can be effective for speeding up pixel response, it creates problems of its own, including input Lag and inverse ghosting.

The spiel here involves altering the colour of a pixel. That requires a change in the voltage applied. The idea behind overdrive is to either increase or reduce the voltage fed to any given pixel more acutely than required for the target colour state. This accelerates the pixel towards the new colour state more rapidly. Before the pixel can overshoot the target colour, the voltage is norm alised.

OMG, it’s that 3D

Is stereoscopic 3D really the next big thing?

The prospects for stereoscopic 3D on the PC presents quite a conundrum. You can analyse the technology ad infinitum, but that doesn’t get you past the subjective issues and more than most technologies, the benefits of 3D are terribly subjective.

But a good starting point goes something like this: Are you the sort of person who went out of their way to watch the normal 2D version of Avatar at the cinema? Does the very idea of wearing silly spectacles make you sneer? If so — and we’ve no argument with you - current stereoscopic technology for the PC Is definitely not your bag.

Even for 3D fans, it can be problematic. Whatever technology you go for, achieving the perfect viewing position Is difficult, and we’ve yet to experience a3 solution that’s comfortable for really extended use. But if you’re thinking of going 3D, what are your options?

The most obvious and established platform is Nvidia’s 3D Vision. It’s proven, It works and its main advantage Es that It requires relatively little from your display. All It has to do is deliver a 120Hz refresh. Admittedly, that rules out most current screens, but it’s easy to imagine 120Hz becoming the norm soon enough. It’s also worth noting that the high refresh isn’t just a boon for 3D. It makes everything notably smoother. We’d happily pay extra just for that.

Of course, the downside to 3D Vision is that is requires both relatively expensive active shutter glasses and an Nvidia graphics card. It doesn’t work with AMD boards. The alternative Is the TriDef platform. It works with both AMD and Nvidia hardware and also offers pretty broad game compatibility. Strictly speaking, It’s just a software package. You’ll need a TriDef compatible screen and some polarising glasses, too.

As for which is better, in our experience. Nvidia’s active shutter tech Is clumsier, but at its best gives superior image quality than TriDef’s polarising techniques.


 Jargon explained

Grey to grey pixel response Two monitors both claim 5ms pixel response. They must have the same performance, right? Nope. There’s more than one way to measure pixel response. The best way is the full on-to-off state, but many makers quote the shorter time taken to change between two arbitrarily chosen but much closer colour states, as big numbers are deemed as bad.

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