Choosing a computer monitor

After audio, video. I’m trying to find a good computer monitor for gaming and for reading/writing documents. For the former, my CPU is a Phenom II X4 3.2Ghz with 8G of RAM and a 1G Radeon 6850. As regards the latter, I’ll have to read from and write in several word files at the same time.
What’s a good maximum resolution for that CPU/GPU mix?
16:10 or 16:9 ratio?
Is the difference between 60hz and 120hz noticable?
After how many inches does the price start to really go up?
Anything else I should know?

Your best bet is a 24" 1920x1080 or 1920x1200 monitor. The 16:10 or 16:9 thing doesn’t matter too much - the 16:9 will give you perfect renders of 1080p movies (it won’t add any black bars, but the movie itself may have black bars if it converts 2.2:1 to 16:9, etc). The price after 24" goes up pretty quickly but 24" monitors are cheap.

There are a lot of hidden aspects of monitors that you can’t gather from the sales page, like actual reactivity (they’ll say 2ms, 5ms, etc… and lower is better, but it doesn’t tell the whole story), color balance, black levels, etc. Generally you’ll want a sight that does very detailed reviews, depending on how anal you are. For gaming reactivity and input lag are a big deal, and this can vary significantly between monitors.

I have a Asus vw246h 24" monitor. At $200 that’s a great price. I’m very, very anal about monitors and I’m happy with this one, so it should satisfy anyone but maybe hardcore artists or publishers or other people who need the super accurate color of high end IPS units.

I don’t know about the difference between 120 and 60. On A CRT, I can definitely tell the difference between 100 and 85 and 65 hz, but LCDs don’t work in quite the same way so I can’t comment on it.

120hz is essentially only good for 3D content. They will appear sorted as “3D ready” monitors.

So unless you’re going for a 3D (with glasses) gaming solution, I’d skip them.

The single most important part of a monitor is its display technology. The big two are twisted nematic (TN), which is used in cheaper monitors, and in-plane switching (IPS), which is used in higher-end displays. TN panels offer very low refresh rates to prevent ghosting, but the colours are muddled, you’ll see banding in gradients and it’ll desaturate badly as viewing angles increase, which is especially problematic on monitors largers than 20". The colours on IPS screens are incredibly vibrant, viewing angles are extremely wide, and the colour range is huge. The problem is that they’re far slower to switch colours, so ghosting is possible. However, a panel needs to be faster than 16ms to prevent image problems, and IPS panels have been faster than that since like 2005. It’s like burn-in on plasmas. It’s mostly a solved problem these days, but it exists. You won’t see a 120 Hz 3D IPS panel any time soon, for example. 8ms is pushing it on IPS. The real problem with IPS is that they cost double (or worse) what TN do.

Anyway, you want an IPS panel. Everyone wants an IPS. TN is terrible. The 24" Dell U2410 is worth every penny of its $600 price. The HP zr24w is almost as good and cheaper, but inventory is basically zero. The 21.5" Dell U2211H is 1080p and only $230. That’s probably your winner.

What he says is true, but it exaggerates the downside of TN panels. Low end panels tend to be TN panels, so that would at least in part give them a bad name. But a high-end TN panel can still be very good, you just need to be selective.

“Ghosting” isn’t the only concern with an IPS panel, or a slow monitor in general, it’s just the most obvious. But even panels that are fast enough to avoid ghosting can still give very smooshy animation. It just doesn’t feel right - everything just sort of blends into the next frame rather than having clear and distinct frames. The other issue is input lag - LCDs have a certain amount of time that the hardware on the monitor processes and decodes the image before it displays it … I haven’t looked into it recently so perhaps IPS panels are improved in this regard, but a 30-50ms delay between when your computer sends the image to the monitor and when it actually displays is very noticible if you’re sensitive to that sort of thing.

High end TN panels are much better about both. They can’t quite be as good as CRTs, but it’s much closer than it used to be. Colors can also range from very bad/inaccurate to very good on TNs. My Samsung 226bw(s) has artist-quality color accuracy - although unfortunately you simply can’t buy a monitor as good as that one anymore. It’s silly, but every subseqent Samsung model is inferior, and no one else has come as close to a combination of reactivity/color accuracy/blacklight level/etc as that model. And samsung ruined hunting used ones by subtracting some of them to other manufacturers which didn’t make them as well. Uh, yeah, sorry, got off on a tangent there.

Anyway, go to a fry’s or something where you can take a look at some monitors. Figure out if reactivity/input lag is a bigger deal to you than viewing angles/colors, etc. I’m very sensitive to reactivity/lag issues, but maybe it won’t be as big a deal for you, in which case IPS is the better choice if you have the money.

It’s my understanding that input lag is more of a model-specific issue than a display technology-specific issue and that the only really bad displays are televisions that need to deal with scalers and other processes that add latency. For computer displays that avoid a lot of that, the difference between the two is at worst a frame.

Having a Samsung-panel 226BW is pretty sweet. I don’t know about “artist quality” from an 8bit panel though. That’s certainly much better than most TN though. Making sure your TN panel is 8bits instead of 6bits is definitely a good idea, which is something else to note.

Apparently the 226BW is a 6bit with dithering and Samsung just lies about it. Nuts to that display.

I may not fully understand exactly what artist-quality color is, but if you look at it with a colorimeter, all the colors are under 2 delta-whatever units they use to measure color, which I’ve heard is about as good as you can expect on any monitor, including high end IPS.

Having looked around a bit more, what kind of horizontal and vertical refresh rate ranges should I get for gaming?

I see that it sometimes says 30-75hz or 50-80hz, why such a broad range?

LCD panels are either 60 Hz or 120 Hz. As far as I know there are no 30 Hz, 75Hz 50 or 80 Hz panels.

You should get a 60Hz panel.

My laptop can do either 59 or 60. Just saying.

When I look at this: http://www.newegg.ca/Product/Productcompare.aspx?Submit=ENE&N=100007616%20600030155&IsNodeId=1&bop=And&ShowDeactivatedMark=False&CompareItemList=20|24-009-245CVF^24-009-245CVF-01%23%2C24-009-255CVF^24-009-255-04%23%2C24-002-536CVF^24-002-536CVF-S01%2C24-009-243CVF^24-009-243CVF-01%23

it tells me the Horizontal Refresh Rate is 54.2 - 83.8KHz and the Vertical Refresh Rate is 49 - 75Hz of one monitor (the others are similar in their variance) by scrolling down a bit.

Artist quality is usually considered to be 10bit or 1 billion colours. 10bit displays are the crazy expensive-end of IPS. Most IPS are true 8bit, which is 16.7 million colours. To my knowledge, all TN panels are 6bit, which is 232,000 colours and use dithering to achieve 16.2 million colours. Manufacturers round that up to 16.7 million, so people think it’s 8bit. 6bit with dithering will have a gritty look to its colours from the dithering, whereas a true 8bit is crisp and consistent. A colorimeter won’t detect the grittiness of the colour, so don’t rely on that so much.

The higher the vertical refresh rate of your monitor, the more difficult it is to use vsync to eliminate tearing. If you can’t push a frame rate above your monitor’s frame rate, vsync will cause your frame rate to drop to Refresh/n, where n is your refresh rate divided by your frame rate rounded up to the next whole number. So if you’re only able to push 50 fps on a 60 fps display, vsync drops your frame rate to 30 fps. Triple buffering eliminates this problem, but it’s a slight performance hit and not everything supports it. Of course, if you can push 75 Hz though, 75 fps is better than 60 fps.