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Help Choosing 19'' Monitor (inclined to ViewSonic)

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June 23, 2005 3:20:33 PM

Hello, I'm new here, I find Tom's hardware guide to be of great interest and value.

I currently wish to buy a new LCD monitor (first time I do it, have been using CRT's all the time).

I have read the review on Tom's guide and have to a conclusion that the overall best 19'' LCD monitor is ViewSonic VP19b, is this true? Has anyone got it? Is there a better 19'' monitor quality and specs wise?

On another side, I have also seen an equivalent 20'' monitor by ViewSonic (not reviewed by Tom's guide to the best of my knowledge) - the VP201b. Is it as good in specs and quality as the VP190b? I would be glad if someone could share ideas. Or maybe I'm moving in a totally wrong direction?? Thanks in advance and I'm glad to have joined.

<P ID="edit"><FONT SIZE=-1><EM>Edited by AINTD on 06/24/05 04:13 PM.</EM></FONT></P>
June 24, 2005 1:44:59 AM

Last week I replaced by Sony 500e, 21" crt with a VP191b. I am very pleased with the ViewSonic. The colors are much truer and more vibrant than the Sony! I do photo editing with Adobe and am very particular about my work. With clear type turned on in XP the font also surpasses my Sony. Fonts are sharp and crisp down to size 8. Gaming is very good with NO apparent ghosting. It is best to use the recommended native 1280 x 1040 resolution, Video are just ok and are not as sharp as the Sony in dark scenes. For example in shadows the overdrive goes past the requested color and then comes back to the proper color. This has been called sparkling. The best way to describe it this: the dark pixels change in grey intensity light and dark to try and settle on the proper request. The change is minor and only changes a few shades of grey, no bright white "static" as I was led to believe by some reviews. If you look for it you can notice it and once you notice it, it could bother you. I am used to it and ignore it. I would give the ViewSonic VP191b a 9 out of 10 and won't go back to the Sony.

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June 24, 2005 12:26:32 PM

I would recommend checking out the new Samsung 193p+ before making a final decision.
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June 24, 2005 2:53:34 PM

Thanks for replying, guys.

OldBear, I do not really intend to use it for movies, more for "office" work (internet, imaging, programming, Word, etc.) and for games (and I'm not a fan of real fast FPS's either). Do you think VP191B will do it?

noway1, do you have any additional info on 193P+? I have seen a kind of a review for 193P here at THG, but not the new one you talk about. Is it just an alternative or is it really better than the ViewSonic VP191B?

Once again, thanks for replying, I appreciate it. The first time I'm buying an LCD, it's hard to come by reliable info.
June 24, 2005 8:17:52 PM

I've been reading some reviews, it's such a mess. THG says VP191b is one of if not THE best 19'' LCD overall (unless I somehow got it all wrong). CNET only gives it a 6.9 score which IMO is quite low. With different versions of VP191B existing (20ms, 16ms, 8ms latency) it get even harder.

Anyone knows of an at least approximate ranking of current 19'' LCD's where price is not the issue? Samsung 193P+ seems to be nice. What about the LD90+? Any help would be appreciated.
June 25, 2005 12:19:37 AM

This is just aweful. I've read a few more reviews and was about to be turned off from ViewSonic VP191b. I was wondering, why the hell did THG rate it so high? And only then I came to realise that most if not all rewies were made with a 25ms version of VP191b. THG used the 8ms one.
June 25, 2005 2:48:12 AM

"With different versions of VP191B existing (20ms, 16ms, 8ms latency) it get even harder."

When I see this I start to wonder about a company that changes the panel of their monitor and yet keeps the same model number. The most likely reason would be that they want their OLD panel stock to sell well and possibly discounted to unsuspecting buyers while it is being replaced with better panels and better reviews. I won't buy from a company that does stuff like that because it shows a disregard for the customer. You will still find old stock on the internet and in stores and retailers will not tell every potential buyer that a newer 8ms model is available for a little more money. Someone not aware and informed could unwittingly get the 16ms model. A complete panel change warrants a new model number. I'm not just criticizing Viewsonic here, since some other makers do the same, but if I don't feel right about the way a company does business, I won't buy from them.
June 25, 2005 4:23:29 AM

THG rated it pretty well because among other things, it was a monitor that was "only" twice its rated response time. In other words, it claimed to be 8 ms but had a max of only 15 ms or 16 ms. Most that claim to be 8 ms go higher than that. At the time, THG didn't really take notice that it used over-overdrive to achieve that, but that all changed when THG went to review the VX924.

When purchasing a monitor, first figure out what you want to use it for. I never bought into all the mass marketing that many companies do; my monitor at home is an old Amptron monitor with a 25 ms response time, but that was fine for me because 1) I used to work at Amptron and 2) the most advanced game I play is Starcraft and I don't watch movies. So I got one on the cheap, and working there, I knew it was quality. I didn't need one with MagicAwesome and ColorFabulous because I knew most of that was a marketing gimmick (just renaming existing technology) and/or stuff that I wouldn't need. Nowadays, the CMV and Polyview monitors that they sell run something like $200 for 17-inch and $275 for 19-inch, or something like that. They're quality because they're made by one of the largest manufacturers in the world (for budget monitors, be wary if you have no idea where they're from). So that's something to consider if you don't need a monitor that's heavy-duty but just need one for general use.

So after figuring out what it's for, figure out how much you want to spend. Options are different if you have $500 to spend versus $400 or $300. And as for the specs:

Brightness: I wouldn't worry about this one too much. LCD brightness nowadays is generally sufficient, I never have it turned up anywhere near max.

Contrast ratio: Don't believe what they tell you. Many manufacturers will claim 500:1 or 800:1 or whatever. But this is measured in complete darkness (they just take the ratio of outputs for all-white and all-black screens). In reality, in regular lighting, it's going to be about 80:1 to 100:1, due to reflection. However, it's still much better than CRTs, because with the horrible glare and reflection issues, a CRT has a contrast ratio of like 30:1 in regular lighting. You'd still want to give this number some consideration though, because a bigger ratio does mean that when you turn off all the lights (i.e. watching a movie), blacks are blacks and not grays. Higher contrast also means that you can see your targets in darkness better for FPS games.

Viewing angle: This is a spec that has nothing to do with reality anymore. LCDs aren't like CRTs where the image stays bright no matter the angle. Instead, once you move off the centerline, the image quality suffers. The viewing angle is thus the angle that manufacturers consider the image to be unusable. Previously, the viewing angle was defined as the angle where the contrast ratio falls below 10:1. That's a useless spec, because that's when the image is so bad that you practically can't see anything (when a spec of 500:1 becomes 100:1 in regular lighting, you can imagine what happens to a spec of 10:1). This is what allows manufacturers to claim viewing angles of 140 degrees or 160 degrees or whatever, even though you're not going to want to use the monitor long before then. But lately, some manufacturers have taken to using a 5:1 contrast ratio instead, which is even worse. Whether or not they're willing to tell you is another matter entirely. So that's something to prepare for, that you can't see the image from everywhere like a CRT, but that the image quality suffers if you look at the screen from too large and angle.

Response time: This is also a spec that no longer has anything to do with reality. Response time is supposed to be a measure of how long it takes for a pixel to shift from its initial value to its desired value. The ISO defined it as the time it took to go from black to white (0 to 255) plus the time it took to go from white to black (255 to 0). This seemed reasonable because those are the largest transitions. However, due to their technology, LCDs are actually the quickest at the large transitions, but really suck at small transitions (like say 156 to 180). So manufacturers have started using gray to gray instead. Is it because they wanted to better inform their customers? No, it's because the latest monitors feature a technology called overdrive, which greatly speeds up gray-to-gray times and thus render black-to-white and white-to-black times the slowest. Moving to a gray to gray standard, which isn't defined by anyone but the manufacturer reporting the spec, also means that they can make it whatever they want. For example, according to the THG review of the VX924 (Viewsonic's claimed 4 ms gray-to-gray monitor), it is true that it only takes about 4 ms to reach the desired value. But the kicker is that the monitor then spends the next 12 ms of a normal 16 ms frame (60 Hz means 16.67 ms per frame, which is the only times that the brightness value can be adjusted) going over what you want. So if you want to go from 0 to 175 brightness, the monitor spends 4.5 ms going from 0 to 175, but then spends the next 12 ms going up to 210. Then over the next 16 ms it gradually goes down, so that it doesn't actually *settle* at the desired value until about 31 ms from the start. But since Viewsonic gets to define how they measure things, they defined it that the overshoot doesn't count -- only the time needed for the pixel to first reach the value counts, ignoring that it actually goes to 20% above the desired value before coming back down, in order for them to claim their 4 ms. That's going 80 mph when you told your cruise control to be at 65 mph. As far as Viewsonic is concerned, that's close enough. What this means is that Viewsonic monitors exhibit sparkles, especially in darker scenes, because most video is dithered and thus the pixels keep overreacting as they try to adjust to those values. How much the sparkles annoy people is a matter of opinion though, so if you get one you may be fine with it. Note that this is an artifact only of Viewsonic's version of overdrive and does not exist with overdrive in general. Oh yeah, and did I mention, gray-to-gray response time is only one direction, rather than the ISO's method of one direction and back? They cut their reported spec in half by simply redefining the terms.

Dead pixels: About 30% of LCD monitors will have at least one dead pixel. Manufacturers don't like to talk about it because talking about it makes them look bad, not to mention, the vast majority of them have crappy policies. Lots of deception in these policies too, but this is a topic best left for a Powerpoint presentation. I'll finish it someday, really. But this is something to think about, whether or not a green or red or blue dot or two is really going to bug you. If so, then spend the extra money and go to a store, and ask to see and test out the monitor that you're actually going to get (and also see if the store has a return-for-any-reason policy if one pops up once you get home). If one or two is something you can live with, you can get monitors online (i.e. www.newegg.com) cheaper. If you want I can point you to manufacturer's dead pixel policies on the web since I collect them for fun.

So yeah. Unfortunately this probably muddles the waters more than it clears things up. The point though is that manufacturers are all trying to figure out how to outdo each other in deceiving customers, so watch out for it. The best advice I think is to do your research and not be suckered into their marketing schemes.

Edit: I forgot to address the panel changing. Manufacturers will change the panel from time to time, in order to capitalize on an established model's reputation. For example, it's been reported that Dell changed the panel maker for one of its monitors (the 1905? I forgot now) from Samsung to AU Optronics. Without telling the public, of course -- users found out by themselves. So it may happen from time to time. The thing about LCD monitors is that the panel itself is where a majority of the cost of production goes -- other stuff like the casing are just cheap add-ons by comparison. (Note that I'm talking about cost of production though, the actual cost that you pay has other stuff built-in like paying for returns, paying for their advertising, extra money that they think they can charge because of brand name, etc.) So you would think that changing the panel warrants a new model since well, pretty much all the specs change somewhat. Nah. They know that people can't really tell the difference between 800:1 vs 700:1 contrast, etc., so they do change the panel from time to time.

There's also other stuff to consider when moving from CRT to LCD. An LCD's image quality degrades when you use it at anything less than its maximum resolution (1280 x 1024 for most 17-inch and 19-inch, 1024 x 768 for 15-inch) since the pixels are of a fixed size, and they thus have to interpolate to display any other resolution. The cost is higher than a CRT, but as has been pointed out in many sites, over time the cost may well end up being lower because of less electricity consumption. LCDs also produce very little heat and are much more compact. Also, a refresh rate of 60 Hz is perfectly fine for an LCD, there's no need to go all-out 85 Hz or whatever like you're supposed to for a CRT. Getting an LCD with DVI (digital signal) is going to improve the image quality, just make sure that your video card supports it first.<P ID="edit"><FONT SIZE=-1><EM>Edited by Chuck_Hsiao on 06/25/05 00:46 AM.</EM></FONT></P>
June 25, 2005 1:20:00 PM

Wow, thank you for your input, really apreaciate it. I wanted to just share my ideas:

1) ViewSonic indeed does bad not changing their VP191b name when they have already changed from 10ms to 16ms and from 16ms to 8ms. Yet, one thing is clear: they make good monitors and to reject this option simply because they practice unpopular tactics is hurting yourslef. As long as you know what you're doing and what you're getting it's fine. Everybody trys to fool everyone these days, ViewSonic is not an exception.

2) The reason I like VP191b (8ms) is according to THG indeed is very good. You have mentioned that VX924 is very similar, yet in THG's review they explicitly mention that VX924 is NOT as good as the VP191b. The overdrive issue the VX has is much stronger than the VP's, so the "sparkle" effect is VX924's thing. Here's a quote:

"... the video experience was fairly mediocre. A lot of noise was visible in scenes where there was smoke or certain color gradients, like a sunset for example. It was unpleasant to watch, and the performance here was clearly not as good as the ViewSonic VP191b/s."

3) As far as I know VP191b is the one and only monitor nowadays that truly stays under 16ms response time all the time and that's what matters for gaming. 16ms is not "little", but constantly under 16ms pretty much guarantees stability, while other monitors can sometimes do a bit better and other times A LOT worse. That's the main reason I have respect for the VP191b

4) VP191b has no real weak spots really. The closest to weak is "some" noise in video playback. Give me an example of a monitor which performs great for office use, playing games and good at watching videos? With a stable response time of <16ms? That's what convinced me really.

5) Of course, there is more to VP191b - it has very dark blacks (0.34), it's brightness is reasonable, it will not hurt your eyes. It's stable in contrast when changing brightness, it's got a decent spatial uniformity (how equally lit the area of the screen is). Very good color fidelity.

Maybe I'm missing something but I truly don't see weak points in VP191b (8ms model). Has anyone got any experience with it and can say something about it? Or name any monitor which has something better than the VP, being just as good for the rest of the specs?

I plan to use it intensely for office work and for computer gaming (which can range from anything like a 2D classics to all the new 3D action, adventure, RTS, and some FPS games). DVD playback would only be occasional.
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