CCFL Versus LED: Is There A Downside To Going Green?

The Monitors: Asus And BenQ

Before digging into quality, we need to discuss power, and to do that we need to detail what ended up on our test bench. The first question we had to answer was whether there really is a significant difference between the two backlight types. Claims of 80% savings sound impressive, but vendors aren’t terribly consistent about when you might realize those savings. Philips advertises a new LED monitor with 80% energy savings, but this is in standby mode, and it depends on motion-sensing to dim the brightness when no one is directly in front of the display. This doesn’t really tell us anything about the advantages of LED technology in particular.

To get the most meaningful comparisons, we wanted monitor pairs that were essentially identical, save for the backlight tech. It turned out that this was easier to request than receive. Very few such pairs are available in the market, but we got as close as possible, having to dip back a bit into the product archives at times. Quickly, here’s a rundown of what we received:

Asus MS238H

Asus promises a lot here, with LED backlighting responsible for a 10 000:1 dynamic contrast ratio. Tack on 250 cd/m2 brightness, 2 ms gray-to-gray (GTG) response time, dual HDMI outputs (one of which handles AV), and a power spec of under 33 W. I found Asus' touch-sensitive display controls to be fairly average in usability. The glossy black bezel around the 23-inch screen is attractive, and the company’s ring stand design is clever. If you’ve never used one, the ring stand is exactly what it says—a plastic ring that attaches to the back of the display and helps balance the screen in an upright, tilted position. Just a bit of pressure forward or back on the top of the monitor will tilt the screen. The only catch is that there’s no height adjustment.

Asus MS246H

On the surface, the MS246H looks almost identical to the MS238H, only it’s 23.6 inches and uses a white frame and ring rather than black. As with the other model, I was stunned at how lightweight the unit is—a mere slip of a monitor at 8.6 pounds. This is a CCFL-based model, but you don’t see that promoted anywhere in the specs. You do see Asus trumpet its Smart Contrast Ratio (ASCR) of 50 000:1, which must mean it takes very “smart” engineers to figure out how on earth to measure that screen to arrive at such a number. This isn’t the time or place to discuss wonky, dynamic contrast specs; that’s been flogged to death elsewhere. Suffice it to say that this is still a good-looking screen with a maximum power consumption of 33 W.

Asus VK246H

For reasons we’ll discuss momentarily, we also tested Asus’s somewhat-older VK246H. Our unit was manufactured in February 2009 and used the prior-generation power circuitry compared to what the company planted in its MS246H. We were less interested in the 24” screen’s webcam than its 300 cd/m2 brightness and 20 000:1 ASCR ratings. Asus specified a top power draw of less than 60 W. Already, you may have hints of what’s in store. And while it’s not central to our discussion here, the jump to 12.1 lbs. with this model, for little more than a webcam and older innards, is interesting.

BenQ EW2420

BenQ didn’t have an equivalent CCFL screen to offer up, but the company did want us to throw its 24” EW2420 into our mix. This is a vertical alignment (VA) panel rather than the usual twisted nematic (TN) found in entry-level LCDs. VA explains why the EQ2420 has an excellent 178-degree viewing angle, but only an 8 ms GTG response time. That’s the trade-off you make—not that 8 ms is anything less than perfectly acceptable in most applications. Cranking the Ludicrous Number Scale to new highs, BenQ boasts a 20 million:1 dynamic contrast ratio on top of its 250 cd/m2 brightness, 3000:1 typical brightness, and 53 W maximum power draw. Yes, 53 W. That’s quite a step higher than Asus' LED power specs. We’ll see if BenQ is being overly pessimistic or not.

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    Top Comments
  • nevertell
    How about doing this with IPS panels ? :>
  • Other Comments
  • Anonymous
    In the "Wrapping It Up" section, perhaps you meant "LED" instead of "LCD"?
  • nevertell
    How about doing this with IPS panels ? :>
  • nforce4max
    I am going to get such a monitor later this year. Imagine the leap from CRT to Led LCD.
  • Ragnar-Kon
    I personally can't wait until the OLEDs manufacturing process becomes cheaper. Having seen Sony's new OLED displays at this year's NAB in Vegas, I can say they are VERY VERY impressive.
  • scook9
    I know that I have been rocking a pair of Gateway FHD2400's for a few years now and love them as they meet all my needs and have never left me wanting
  • g00b
    Ummm ... LED? They are all LCD :).

    "Ultimately, we’d pick LCD for media consumption, but we’d pick CCFL for editing work where detail and accuracy are paramount. LCD is more fun to watch; CCFL is more reliable."
  • Anonymous
    Please substitute "LCD" with "LED" everywhere in the conclusion section!
  • theshonen8899
    Basically the differences are very dramatic right? I'm gonna sound like a hippie for this but I'd definitely go for the greener option. Just being polite for our future generation is all.
  • Anonymous
    what g00b said. At the end you start saying LCD instead of LED, might confuse some poor soul.
  • wrxchris
    May not be too relevant here considering that this article was based around image quality, but as a gamer, I'm still plenty satisfied with my trio of 25.5" Asus TN monitors. Yes, they bleed a bit of light around the edges and the colors may not be very accurate, but they handle fast moving images with no problems and only cost $750 for the set. And my favorite feature is the 16x10 aspect ratio, which is becoming quite hard to find these days; not sure why people are so willing to give up vertical screen space.
  • haplo602
    still does not beat a high quality CRT in image reproduction. size/weight/power are another thing.
  • pirateboy
    if you check the evidence of osama's death on a ccfl screen you would discover he isn't really dead but it's just some random bearded dude they shot
  • Kisakuku
    X-Rite's iMatch software doesn't have a correction for LED backlighting. A colorimeter like i1 Display 2 is not a spectrophotometer and can't just measure any screen thrown at it. It requires corrections for LED and WCG-CCFL backlighting. Not sure how you can make far-going conclusions from these inaccurate measurements.
  • LuckyDucky7

    It's starting to look bad- if you're spending 200+ dollars you might as well be buying a REAL screen instead of these ones.
    Even 40 more dollars buys you a screen FAR superior to these crappy TN panels.

    So why aren't they being reviewed?
  • g00ey
    It would be interesting to look at which LED lit panels use local dimming and which ones do not.
  • masterbinky
    The funny thing in the opening of the article, it typically isn't the CFL that goes out in monitors. It is the power inverter, that powers the CFL. When I did dell repairs, it's funny they didn't let you just get the inverter to replace, you had to replace the whole panel.
  • masterbinky
    nforce4maxI am going to get such a monitor later this year. Imagine the leap from CRT to Led LCD.

    I image it's a leap off a cliff. You'll be dissapointed if you place them side by side. Well, depending on what your looking at, but try a dark image with detail in it,hint: you'll have to use the CRT to identify that image. Black crush sucks.
  • mcd023
    great article. thanks.
  • bildo123
    I was going to make the switch from a 24" VA panel to a newer LED panel (in which I tried two). The first was an Acer LED 23" and the blue hue this thing put off was gross. It didn't how much I calibrated it the colors were dull and the blue hue remained. The next LED I tried was the Samsung BX2450, 24"; the colors were better and the blue hue was less noticeable but it was still apparent (at least to me). I realize both are TN panels as well but I think I'll wait it out until a nice LED-IPS panel comes out for sale in the States.
  • haftarun8
    @ masterbinky Have you looked at top quality IPS panel LCD's calibrated compared to a CRT lately? The HP LP2475w at work beats out an old NEC Multisync 22" CRT with darker blacks even though the whites are brighter, has very accurate colors after calibrating, and has zero black or white crush - every shade of extreme blacks and whites can be discerned on test images. If you don't want crap for LCD's you still have to spend over $500 for your monitor, no getting around it.