Results: Brightness And Contrast
Before calibrating any panel, we measure zero and 100 percent signals at both ends of the brightness control range. This shows us how contrast is affected at the extremes of a monitor's luminance capability. We do not increase the contrast control past the clipping point. While doing this would increase a monitor’s light output, detail would be clipped at the upper end of the brightness scale. Our numbers show the maximum light level possible with no clipping of the signal.
We chose a mix of QHD and FHD monitors from recent reviews to create our comparison charts for the Q2963PM. It’s evident from the results that neither resolution nor price is a factor in any performance metric.
AOC claims 300 cd/m2 for the Q2963PM, but we were unable to measure more than 237.8049 cd/m2. This is still plenty of output unless you have a lot of sunlight shining into your workspace.
The upside to a dimmer screen can sometimes be excellent black levels. Let’s see if this is the case:
AOC runs mid-pack turning in a very respectable .2729 cd/m2. Aside from the Samsung’s low measurement, our cross-section of monitors is all within a whisker of each other for maximum black level.
Turning up the brightness usually results in a lower contrast ratio than you would see at 200 cd/m2.
While the Q2963PM is second from the bottom in this group, a contrast ratio of 871.3:1 is still quite good. If you are forced to peg the brightness slider, you still get a very good picture from this AOC display.
For the next group of measurements, we turn down the brightness control to its minimum setting, and leave the contrast unchanged. The Q2963PM measures 80.9444 cd/m2, which is comfortably above our standard of 50 cd/m2. We recommend staying above this level to avoid eyestrain. At this low brightness setting, we often see amazing black level numbers.
AOC’s ultra-wide monitor comes within striking distance of our current champ, the Samsung S27B970D. And it embarrasses some more-expensive screens in the process. With a max white number of over 80 cd/m2, this makes for great contrast if you use your computer in a darkened room.
Here’s the contrast round-up at minimum brightness.
Again, we see excellent performance at this price point. In fact, the Q2963PM takes second place for Minimum Contrast among all the monitors we’ve tested this year.
Since we consider 200 cd/m2 to be an ideal average for peak output, we calibrate all of our test monitors to that value. In a room with some ambient light (like an office), this brightness level provides a sharp, punchy image with maximum detail and minimum eye fatigue. It's also the sweet spot for gamma and grayscale tracking, which we'll look at on the next page.
We start with the calibrated black level. This can sometimes rise a bit from the monitor’s default state. We consider the tradeoff in contrast well worth the gain in color accuracy.
The Q2963PM actually improves on its black level measurement from default. This demonstrates solid engineering and attention to detail on AOC’s part. Remember that the white level only went down 37 cd/m2 from its maximum.
We consider any calibrated contrast ratio over 1000:1 to be excellent performance.
The Q2963PM handily tops our standard of excellence for contrast. Its measurement of 1220.2:1 puts it in second place for this comparison, and overall third place for 2013. This monitor provides a punchy image with plenty of depth and pop, regardless of content. High contrast like this makes any picture look good, whether you're talking about photos, business graphics, or gaming.
ANSI Contrast Ratio
Another important measure of contrast is ANSI. To perform this test, a checkerboard pattern of sixteen zero and 100 percent squares is measured. This is somewhat more real-world than on/off measurements because it tests a display’s ability to simultaneously maintain both low black and full white levels, and factors in screen uniformity. The average of the eight full-white measurements is divided by the average of the eight full-black measurements to arrive at the ANSI result.
A high ANSI measurement like this is related to the quality and design of an LCD screen’s grid polarizer. One that is well-made allows little to no light bleed between the brightest and darkest parts of the image. A checkerboard pattern is the most extreme test of this. Maintaining a low black level while half the screen is covered with 100 percent white squares is a challenge for any monitor. You can see AOC does well, though. Achieving an ANSI contrast ratio over 1000:1 is actually quite rare.