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The Secret Sauces of THG's LCD Tests

Design And Finish

It's easy to skip over aesthetic issues such as design and quality of finish and simply say that it's only performance that counts. But that's no longer true. It's certain that the efforts of the manufacturers in the area of pure technological development are important; but the aim has to be towards a product that is well-planned, well-designed, eye-catching and pleasant to use. There are manufacturers today who won't hesitate to contact the big-name design centers to assist them with their IT products. Philip Stark has been brought in to suggest the shape of a mouse, Siemens have been asked for their take on mobile phones and LCD monitors have felt the weight of Eizo's opinions: none of today's IT products escape the grip of the designers.

Ergonomics

The ergonomics of an IT device are important, especially when it comes to an LCD screen. A badly-designed screen can be a daily ordeal in regular use. Therefore, we've given big importance to ergonomics; always more so, when it comes to an LCD TV. If the remote control is badly-designed, if the OSD makes you go through 10 sub-menus to get to DVD playback or access the games console, then we're looking at a fundamental problem of conception. Before the advent of LCD TVs, the lion's share of the market had been carved up between just a handful of names. And these big audio-visual manufacturing companies had a lot of opportunity to study the ergonomics of their products in reality. But now, manufacturers from all corners of the world are launching themselves into the LCD TV market. As a result, the worst are right there on the shelves with the best.

Color Rendering

We'll start, first and foremost, with an area that will interest photographers and artists. If you're a photo enthusiast, it has to be your number one criterion. A score of 5 in this category will represent the ability of the screen to accurately reproduce the color shades, with an acceptable contrast and a well-controlled brightness. In the case of TVs, color rendering is especially important. If the colors are too warm, the skin tones are reddish. If the temperature is too cold, they become bluish; it's like watching ghosts on the screen!

Video

LCD screens are intended to be multifunctional products by their very nature. That's why you expect to be able to watch your DVDs, then do a bit of work in your study and finally play a video game on the same monitor. However, video playback is still a major stumbling block for office-oriented LCD monitors. Video noise remains one of the major problems for LCD panels. Most often this manifests itself as a "shimmering" effect in areas of flat color, sometimes even as annoying lines across the display, which is often the case with entry-level products. Obviously, this is disastrous if watching movies is the main reason why you bought an LCD TV in the first place. But this kind of interference isn't the only criterion to take into account, because the viewing angles, inherently limited by LCD technology, really throw the spanner into the works when trying to watch a DVD with several people seated in different places in a room.

Games

Video games represent the application that demands the most out of an LCD. Latency is the big weakness here, while interpolation can also be a monitor's Achilles heel. After all, what's the point of paying $500 for a fast video card if it's going to be constrained by the sluggish performance of a poorly-chosen LCD. Or, on the other hand, why buy a top-dollar LCD screen because its native resolution is awesome, only to put a run-of-the-mill video card between it and your enjoyment? This is a problem that also applies to the world of the LCD TV, because the interpolation qualities of the average LCD TVs are still fundamentally mediocre.

Price / Performance

This is, without doubt, the criterion that remains the most difficult to evaluate. For the most part, our competitors talk in terms of a quality/price ratio; which is an approach we find extremely dubious. Because what is the "quality" of an LCD monitor other than its overall performance? What it usually comes down to is that the so-called "quality/price ratio" instead represents the amount the buyer is prepared to pay for an acceptable level of performance.