Large flat panel displays for gaming
By Dave Spohn
Your monitor is a central part of your computing experience, and now that we're well into the era of widescreen LCDs, it's easier than ever to immerse yourself in the game. Display technology continues to get both better and cheaper, bringing large 24" and 26" monitors within reach of the average consumer. Gamers tend to spend a lot of time with their monitors, so here's a look at what some of the latest LCDs have to offer.
Speed and Size
The days of worrying about response times and contrast ratios are almost behind us. At 5ms or less (gray to gray), the vast majority of flat panels on the market today are easily fast enough for gaming, and contrast ratios are also much more consistent than they used to be. Larger monitors are typically of the widescreen variety with an aspect ratio of 16:9 or 16:10, with the older 4:3 aspect ratio available only on 19" or smaller screens.
It's important to remember that monitors of the same size can have different resolutions. For example, 24" monitors are available in resolutions of 1920x1080 (16:9) or 1920x1200 (16:10). These resolutions are frequently seen in monitors right up to 28" in size, although higher resolutions are available. It follows that, of two screens with the same resolution, the smaller one will have a finer picture (more pixels per inch).
People who use their LCD to watch movies often prefer a 16:9 aspect ratio, as they fit the screen with no black space at the top and bottom. For gaming purposes, having a bit more screen is usually a good thing. Of course, the higher the resolution you use for games, the more demanding they become on your system.
Most of the displays on the market today use are of the relatively inexpensive twisted nematic (TN) variety. TN displays offer good response times, but their color gamut tends to be limited. This isn't a big concern for gaming or many other common computer applications. People whole need extremely accurate color for photography or high-end graphics work often look to monitors that use pricey in-plane switching (IPS) or patterned vertical alignment (PVA) technologies. Although 3D displays have begun to appear, we'll save that for another article.
As LCDs continue to evolve, different sources of backlight are emerging. The bulk of monitors are still lit with cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFL). Some recent models now use LEDs, which are more energy efficient and smaller. They are normally just an alternative light source, but manufacturers are experimenting with using RGB LEDs to increase color gamut.
Some monitors have integrated features like speakers, cameras, USB hubs and even HDTVs. They can be handy when used in conjunction with a console, but for the most part, I steer away from these extras, which are usually reflected in the price tag. Although they save a little space, internal monitor speakers cannot compare to a good external sound system.
Glossy vs. Matte
One recent trend in LCDs is to place them under a polished glass surface rather than using the more common matte finish. Glossy screens tend to produce more vibrant color and slightly crisper, brighter, images. The downside is that they are highly reflective and prone to smudges and fingerprint. While they are fine in a dimly lit room, in bright surroundings you might as well be staring into a mirror, making them practically unusable. Glossy screens often come with names like "Fine Bright," "OptiClear" or "SuperBright."
Since a lot of people connect their displays to consoles and Blu-ray players, HDMI ports are becoming more common, particularly on larger models. Some have DVI, HDMI and VGA ports, while others forego either the HDMI or the DVI port. If necessary, adapters can be purchased to convert between HDMI and DVI for around $20.
Displays to Consider
The following 23" to 30" displays are a great way to go big. Manufacturers don't always provide suggested retail prices anymore, so the prices are a rough estimate based on prices found online at the time of writing, not including sales and rebates.
LG W3000H 30" Monitor - $1300
If you have plenty of funds and don't want to make any compromises, this monitor from LG is not only huge, it uses S-IPS technology for superior color. Early IPS panels were slower than TN panels, but recent iterations of IPS (in this case, Super-IPS) have good response times. The W3000H is rated at 5ms, which is more than adequate for gaming. Naturally, you'll need a top-notch video card with abundant memory to push games at this monitor's native resolution of 2560x1600 pixels. The W3000H is also suitable for graphics professionals, and despite being an S-IPS panel, the price is very competitive with other 30" displays.
Hanns•G HH-281HPB 27.5" Monitor - $350
While it's hard for most gamers to justify the expense of a 30" monitor, a small concession on size can result in dramatic savings. Hanns•G's HH series is a bit sleeker than the earlier HG models, although the technical specifications haven't changed much. The HH-281HPB has a resolution of 1920x1200 pixels and a response time of 3ms. It's affordable in part because it is a standard TN panel, so it's color performance might not meet professional needs. Though I doubt many gamers will use them, this monitor does have integrated speakers.
Samsung T260 25.5" Touch of Color Series Monitor - $300
Samsung offers an almost dizzying selection of monitors, and every few months they roll out something a little different. As with most other brands, they never seem satisfied with the style of their cases. The "Touch of Color" they're talking about doesn't actually refer to the screen itself, but the plastic bezel surrounding it. For the T260 they've blended a dark rose color with the black and rounded out the edges slightly. It has all three types of ports and the 1920x1200 resolution is great for gaming. They also sell a version of this display with an integrated HDTV.
Dell G2410 24" Green Flat Panel Monitor - $310
Fortunately, Dell's green series of monitors have environmentally friendly features, not green bezels. As well as using recyclable packaging, Dell assures us these monitors are free of arsenic, mercury, polyvinyl chloride, BFR and CFR. They're also designed to be very energy efficient, with LED backlighting and an ambient light sensor that can (optionally) dim the display automatically when there is less ambient light in the room. To top it off, the external chassis is made of more than 25 percent post-consumer recycled materials. The specs are solid for a screen in this price range, with a resolution of 1920x1080 and a 5ms response time.
Acer S243HL 24" Monitor - $300
Acer is also engaged in the quest to become ever more stylish, so the S243HL sports an unusual off-center stand and an extremely thin profile made possible by LED backlighting. Along with the distinguished look, there are a few other things about the S243HL you'll either love or hate. The base holds all of the controls, ports (two HDMI and one VGA) and, oddly enough, a single speaker. Subsequently, wall mounting this display is not an option. The 1920x1080 screen has a quick 2ms response time, and the LED backlighting will go easy on your power bill.
ViewSonic Value Series VA2323WM 23" Monitor - $200
The Value Series from ViewSonic have long appealed to budget-conscious consumers, and they continue to offer impressively-sized displays that are remarkably affordable. The VA2323WM has a native resolution of 1920x1080, a response time of 5ms and, once again, integrated speakers. Not to be left behind in the green department, it features an "Eco-mode" that reduces power consumption and extends the life of the fluorescent backlight.