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How We Test Monitors

Our jury-based testing evaluates displays using a collection of photos, test screens, and high-def video.

PCWorld tests computer products in real-world settings with applications that an average PC user is likely to use day in and day out. To evaluate monitors, we assemble a jury of PCWorld editors and analysts to rate the performance of each product as it displays a number of test screens.

The testing methodology we use was developed by, and is the property of, the PCWorld Labs.

Test Environment

We place the monitors on long tables of even height and depth. We use common overhead fluorescent lighting in our test room in order to simulate a typical office environment. We test all displays at their default settings connected to a Polywell Ignition x7900i-3960 PC with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 590 graphics card installed.

Using the 32-bit version of Windows 7 Professional, our jurors view high-definition video in Windows Media Player, as well as images from DisplayMate.com and our own test files created in Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Word. To eliminate any brand bias, we put cardboard shields over the monitors' bezels so that jurors can't see the brand logos. Jurors sit a consistent distance from each monitor in common office chairs.

The Main Group of Tests

Each member of our jury individually scores the quality of six different screen images. Jury members are asked to assign a score of Superior, Very Good, Good, Fair, or Poor. As noted above, some of the test screens were produced by the PCWorld Labs, while others came from DisplayMate Technologies.

Plain white screen: We use this test to check for hot spots as well as for brightness and color uniformity from the center of the screen to the corners.

Microsoft Word text document: This screen shows how well a monitor displays typical text documents with various text formats.

Grayscale chart: This DisplayMate test shows how accurately a monitor displays shades of gray at the black and white ends of the grayscale spectrum.

Color photo: This detailed, very colorful digital photo of a picnic scene (including fruit, vegetables, and people) lets us check a monitor's color accuracy, saturation, and detail.

Viewing angle: A mix of text, color screens, and color photos helps to highlight the loss of contrast and/or the color shifts visible when the viewer moves up and down or left and right of center.

Motion test: A high-quality, high-definition clip of a professional football game allows us to test how well a monitor displays video.

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