The new desktop displays
offer a tantalizing
view of your world.
All LCD monitors are
not created equal, and
sadly, those that are
best suited for accurate
color work have
been too expensive
for many small studios—
until now, that is.
A new batch of professional
through the price barrier
with screen size
and color fidelity that
begs a closer look. And
with LCD display production
record levels, the 2007
24- and 26-in. displays
are priced at last year’s
Why should I switch to an LCD display?
The bulky CRT (cathode ray tube) monitors of
yesteryear are fading away as new LCD displays
ratchet up their color range and lower their price.
LCD displays are brighter, sharper and completely
flicker-free, operating at less than half the power of
equivalent CRT monitors. But video editors know
that LCD displays often suffer motion trails and
have a limited viewing angle. New displays with
faster response times and wider viewing angles are
here and these issues are rapidly fading. So CRT
users, it’s time to say goodbye to hot spots, geometry
problems, electromagnetic interference and conversion
to analog VGA signals. It’s time to move up to
pure processor-to-screen transfers with one of these
new digital displays—you won’t be sorry.
What is a professional LCD display?
The displays below are not the super-expensive “reference”
monitors you’ll find soft-proofing in prepress
shops, but a few are closing the gap in color accuracy,
enhanced color gamut and professional control—
and at a fraction of the price of the reference
monitors. To reach full potential, a high-end display
should be calibrated with one of the many devices
available today. The Gretag Macbeth (Pantone) Eye-
One Display2 is a favorite and works with all the
monitors reviewed here.
What do the numbers really mean?
Midtone pixel response time provides a good measure
of a display’s performance in media-critical
applications such as video, 3D and motion graphics.
Monitors with low numbers (6 milliseconds, for
example) will display on-screen motion smoothly
with no ghosting.
Widescreen format provides a 16:10 aspect ratio
for significantly more horizontal space than standard
format (4:3 aspect ratio) monitors with the same
Contrast: The higher the contrast ratio, the
sharper images appear on screen. The best monitors
Brightness: Measured in candelas per meter
squared (cd/m2), CRTs were only able to reach 75-
150 and as high as 300 cd/m2 on professional monitors,
but now the best LCD screens are able to reach
400+ cd/m2 and more. This is important for viewing
in bright ambient conditions.
Viewing angle: LCD displays, once limited to
nearly straight-on viewing only, now are viewable
at extreme angles. This is important for multiplemonitor
setups with screens angled around the viewer
and when clients want to see over your shoulder.
Warranty: Four- and five-year warranties are
becoming more common and definitely should be
factored into your buying decision.
WIDE-GAMUT PROFESSIONAL LCD
The holy grail for graphic monitors is to display
the entire AdobeRGB (1998) color gamut. Laptop
screens and office LCD screens typically display
around 50 percent, while higher-priced graphic
monitors display about 75 percent of the AdobeRGB
colors. But two new LCD monitors offer extremely
wide-gamut color under $2000.
NEC MultiSync 2690WUXi
This is the most accurate color monitor under
$2000. The 2609WUXi displays 91 percent of the
AdobeRGB color space while minimizing off-angle
color shift. Neutrals remain dead-on throughout
the entire gray scale and the few vibrant greens or
yellows that fall outside its reach are displayed in
perceptually correct hues. This monitor supports
an internal programmable 12-bit lookup table
(LUT), providing for calibration as well as more
points of shading between white and black and
overall improved representation of gamma curves.
The 2690WUXi includes a detachable stand that is
height adjustable with pivot, swivel and tilt. Other
specs: 6.5-millisecond midtone response time;
DVD-I, DVD-D & VGA inputs; 800:1 contrast
ratio; 400 cd/m2 maximum brightness; and a 178-
degree viewing angle (horizontal and vertical).
Samsung SyncMaster XL20
The XL20 was the first of a new generation of
monitors with a much wider gamut, displaying
an amazing 114 percent NTSC and 100 percent
AdobeRGB color. Samsung has achieved this coup
by giving the XL20 true LED-based backlighting,
the technology behind those $5000 prepress monitors.
Unfortunately, with the XL20’s AdobeRGB
emulation preset selected, the XL20 suppresses reds
and greens so much that only about 95 percent of
the AdobeRGB colors display. But if you’re willing
to venture into Samsung’s included Natural Color
Expert software, you can rewrite the emulation
profile to achieve the full AdobeRGB color gamut.
Additional specs: 8 ms midtone response time; DVID,
DVI-D inputs; dual USB 2.0 ports; 1000:1 contrast
ratio; 250 cd/m2 maximum brightness; and a
178-degree viewing angle (horizontal and vertical).
Following Apple’s lead, the major display manufacturers
are introducing many new wide format displays
this year. While not true professional models,
here are a few of the best performers:
Ezio FlexScan S2411W
Renowned for its highest-quality prepress displays,
Ezio recently released the 24-in. widescreen
FlexScan S2411W LCD display. Targeting video
editors and graphics professionals, the S2411W
boasts 14-bit color processing for accurate shadow
details and smooth gradations—areas where 10-bit
processors typically fail. Onboard processing renders
sharp images in a wide range of contrasts up to
an astonishing 3000:1 contrast ratio. Simplifying
setup, the S2411W has five preset screen parameters
that touch-toggle between text, picture, movie,
sRGB (web) and a user-configurable custom mode.
Additional specs include a fast 6 ms midtone
response time; dual DVI-I inputs; dual USB 2.0
ports; a high 450 cd/m2 maximum brightness; and
a 178-degree viewing angle (horizontal and vertical).
On the negative side, there is only an HTML
user manual and no hardware calibration tool
included. While the FlexScan S2411W isn’t a widegamut
monitor like its soft-proofer cousin, the Ezio
ColorEdge CG221 ($5000 for 22 in.) or CG211
($3000 for 21 in.), it does share many of the same
professional controls. The on-screen menu includes
adjustment of gamma, saturation, hue, gain and
color temperature. For fine-tuning color, the hue
and saturation settings for red, green, blue, cyan,
magenta and yellow can be adjusted independently.
Apple Cinema Display
The original 23-in. Apple Cinema Display was
replaced by a newer version last year and its price
reduced to $999, making this stylish anodized aluminum
beauty worth a second look. The new model
is an excellent display that calibrates well and is
able to display about 76 percent of the AdobeRGB
gamut. The Cinema Display is SWOP certified and
one of the most popular displays among graphic
designers today. It has two FireWire 400 ports and
two USB 2.0 ports built in, and its 1920 X 1200
native resolution translates into exactly 100 pixels
per on-screen in., purportedly a great resolution for
viewing images and handling type. Additional specs:
8 ms midtone response time; a good 400 cd/m2
maximum brightness; 700:1 contrast ratio; DVI-D
interface and a 178-degree viewing angle (horizontal
and vertical). The only negative is Apple’s low 1-year
warranty, woefully below the industry standard.
The Viewsonic has great backlight uniformity, and
rich blacks yield exceptional image quality. But considering
its lower brightness and $200 higher price
than the 23-in. Apple Cinema Display (after Apple’s
free shipping), the VP2330WB is hard to justify.
8 ms midtone response time; DVI-I, VGA inputs;
800:1 contrast ratio; 250 cd/m2 maximum brightness;
a 170-degree viewing angle (horizontal and
vertical) and 4 USB 2.0 ports.