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March 03, 2008

Display Upgrade

For the past couple of years, I've been using a ViewSonic VX2025wm 20" display. It has served me well, overall, but the DVI port has been causing problems for me over the past few months (a known issue with a remedy that sometimes works). Because of that, I decided to retire the ViewSonic for a new display. Since buying another 20" display wouldn't seem like much of an upgrade, I set my sights on the 24" display category. I pondered over several choices, including models from Samsung, LG, BenQ and NEC. Image quality was the most important requirement in the decision, with gaming performance a close second. Unfortunately, those two factors are often diametrically opposed when considering an LCD display. That is, the best displays for gaming usually have sub-par color accuracy and vice versa (more information about panel technologies here). The reality is that there is no perfect LCD display on the market. All of them have compromises, and you have to determine which compromise is the least bothersome when considering a purchase.

Ultimately I decided on the NEC LCD2470WNX. This display uses a S-PVA panel, which offers a good balance between performance and color accuracy. Reports from users over at AnandTech and HardOCP stated that the 2470 had some input lag, but that it was better than other 24" panels. Taking that into consideration, I pulled the trigger on it. The first unit I received had two stuck pixels, so I sent it back for an exchange (thanks goes to Buy.com for the great return policy). The replacement unit was flawless - no stuck or dead pixels, and no backlight bleeding. It has standard VESA mounting holes, so mounting it on my Innovative 7500 arm was easy. Now that I've had a chance to use it for a couple of weeks, below are my observations:

Overall build quality is top notch. The on-screen display is easy to navigate, and has enough options for most users. The bezel is small and unobtrusive, and lends a minimalist look to the display. As it is positioned as a business-class display, there are limited connectivity options -- VGA and DVI only. A two-port USB hub rounds out the external connections. There are no built-in speakers (which is a plus in my book).

Image quality is absolutely gorgeous. Colors are vibrant, whites are bright and blacks are very dark. There are five display modes (Standard, Text, Movie, Gaming & Photo) that offer various gamma settings according to how you are using the display. You can also choose from 5 different temperature settings, including a standard sRGB setting (my setting of choice). Out of the box, the brightness was too much for me. I knocked it down to 55%, and it is much more usable. I also noticed some pretty nasty ghosting, especially on white objects, with the default settings. Turning the contrast down to 35% rectified that problem. I don't have calibration equipment, so I can't comment on how accurate the display is out of the box. It's definitely pleasing to the eye, though.

The much maligned image lag may or may not be noticeable to the user. I noticed some lowered sensitivity with my mouse cursor in general computing tasks. I've adapted to that over the past couple of weeks and don't notice it unless I focus on it. It's less apparent in games, in my opinion. Hardcore or professional gamers will probably want to steer clear, but most users won't notice the difference. Game performance overall was quite good. Because the resolution is high (1920x1200), users may want to adjust their settings to compensate for potentially lower game performance (depending on the game and graphics hardware, of course). I played a few rounds of Unreal Tournament 3, Crysis, Bioshock and Company of Heroes without incident, so the display should satisfy most casual and mainstream gamers. More sensitive gamers will want to stick with the higher-performing TN panels.

All in all, I'm very pleased with the display. It's not the fastest display out there, but I feel it offers the best compromise in terms of price, color accuracy and performance. I would definitely recommend this display to anyone looking for a quality display for most computing activities.

Excellent image quality
Build quality
No backlight bleed
Easy to use menus

Only VGA and DVI input
Some input lag - not for hardcore gamers
Some ghosting apparent with default settings