You need to read reviews and do a lot of research. A "great panel" means nothing if the electronics behind it are terrible. The "quality" of the internal electronics can affect overall color and the amount of input lag.
All models have different casings and firmware as well as inputs.
I generally stick with expensive LCD monitors, which are:
19" Planar PX191 - $650 back in 2002. Great monitor for general use not really geared towards gaming though.
26" NEC LCD2690WUXi - $1,200+ back in 2007. Spent at least 50 hours over 9 months when looking to replace my Planar PX191. It was a tie between this and another 26" LCD monitor. The NEC won out because of color quality; however, color quality has a price and in this case it is 32ms of input lag due to the color tweaking the internal electronics does. No regrets buying the NEC.
26" Planar PX2611w - $800 purchased this year. I basically wanted a part time monitor in a dual monitor setup to basically watch movies and videos or just for additional workspace. This was the 2nd place monitor back in 2007 when I was looking for my replacement. Although I did spend many, many hours researching, I couldn't find a 26" monitor that beats the Planar PX2611w (other than the NEC LCD2690WUXi).
Both NEC and Planar uses the exact same H-IPS panel manufactured by LG-Philips. However, the monitors diverge from there. The Planar PX2611w is more or less your typical LCD monitor with basic inputs (no HDMI) with very little input lag. It is an all round great monitor, except when playing console games at 1080p resolution where it has color banding issues.
NEC put a lot of additional electronics into there professional LCD monitors which explains the price tag of the LCD2690WUXi. Those electronics are used to improve color quality and uniformity as well as video output. The NEC has no color banding issues whatsoever and when using less than native resolution, texts appears clearer on the NEC than the Planar. Other than the large price tag, the extra electronic processes creates an input of about 32ms (2 frames) and is 4x higher than the Planar PX2611w.
Thanks for the informed opinions. I lurked around prad.de, tftcentral and the other usual places for a while and, given the limited offers in shops, ended up ordering dell's 2009wa (around $320 over here). Maybe I'll come back with a few impresssions once it arrives.