A larger screen for your PC doesn't just make it more fun for watching DVDs, it can give you more workspace too. PC Advisor assesses seven new models, and offers flat-panel buying advice.
Price isn't everything
There's a lot of variation in the price manufacturers demand for their flat-panel screens. Remember that there's no hard-and-fast rule that says a £300 model is automatically better than a £200 screen with the same dimensions. Nor is it necessarily the case that spending, say, £350 on a 22in screen will get you a better display than shelling out the same amount for a 24in display.
Although the technical specifications of monitors can be explained with words, choosing a flat-panel monitor is best done by visiting a shop and comparing screen quality for yourself. That's because the colour palette and brightness settings, the level of contrast and the design are largely a subjective matter.
You may agree with our choice of design and onscreen display, but personal preference is an important factor when selecting the screen you'll be spending a lot of time staring at. Try before you buy.
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How we test
For the purposes of testing, two identical PC setups were used, with two flat-panels assessed simultaneously. Only one screen was replaced at a time, giving us a reference model for comparison.
Each flat-panel was tested in two different modes. One of these involved adjusting the screen to find its optimal settings. We used Datacolor's Spyder3 Pro calibrator (datacolor.com) to calibrate the display and get the most faithful colour reproduction. Graphics pros will always use a calibrator to get the most accurate image.
However, since most readers wouldn't expect to pay an extra £100 for a tool used to calibrate the screen - particularly when that flat-panel had cost only £200 or so in the first place - we also assessed screens as they would be viewed in a typical office or home environment.
This involved making appropriate adjustments using the screen's control panel, and loading up special software where bundled. Control panels were judged on ease of use, comfort, convenience and speed.
Displaymate was used to assess each screen's capabilities. We loaded up a number of images and tried each screen with Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel. Blu-ray and DVD movies were played on each display, and we also ran some Crysis and Fear demos to highlight the smoothness with which screens could handle fast-moving images. Native resolutions were used for most tests, although we experimented with lower resolutions as well.
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