What's the difference? TFT Active Matrix/TFT LCD

Discussion in 'Apple' started by Otto Pylot, Aug 20, 2003.

  1. Otto Pylot

    Otto Pylot Guest

    It's time to make the move to a flat panel monitor. I will be getting
    one of the new/old MDD SP's soon with the nVidia Ti graphics upgrade.
    My current monitor is a 17" Sony 200ES CRT. Obviously my knowledge of
    flat panel technology leaves a lot to be desired. I'd like to keep the
    cost at about $500 or less. So what do I need to know? What's a
    recommended color resolution, dot pitch, refresh rate, resolution,
    response time, contrast/brightness etc. Thanks.
    Otto Pylot, Aug 20, 2003
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  2. Otto Pylot

    Matt Ruben Guest

    The only way to really know what the best LCD screen for the money is,
    is to look at them yourself. However, you can get a good idea by
    narrowing down the field -- according to size, resolution, even
    color/enclosure design -- and then reading reviews at macworld.com,
    pcworld.com or similar Web sites.

    Before getting in to all the details, however, I should say that the
    easiest thing to do for a prospective MDD G4 owner like yourself is to
    get Apple's own 17" Studio Display. Apple Displays are always rated as
    number one or in the top few in every LCD monitor roundup, and the price
    is fairly close to your range, at about $700. With an online coupon, or
    a refurbished unit, or a deal from a third party vendor, you might be
    able to get one for $600.

    If you want to do more looking, or you want to try to find an 18" or
    even 19" screen for arond $500, you need to look at a number of factors.

    First off, you want an active matrix screen. These days, every LCD is
    active matrix, so you need not worry about that. TFT stands for thin
    film transistor, but you can forget that too because all LCD active
    matrix screens are TFT screens.

    The main quality issues are resolution, brightness, contrast, viewing
    angle, color fidelit, sharpness and inputs.

    Resolution is very similar to CRT monitors. The main difference is that
    an LCD screen only looks good at its top resolution -- unlike a CRT, an
    LCD's top resolution is determined by how many transistors it has. So a
    1024 x 768 LCD has 768 rows of transistors, each row 1024 transistors
    wide. (Actually each pixel uses three transistors, one for red, one for
    green and one for blue, but we'll ignore that for now.) Obviously you
    want more transistors, but on the other hand a lower-resolution monitor
    will tend to be less expensive than a higher resolution monitor with the
    same measurement -- i.e. a 1024 x 768 17" LCD will be less expensive
    than a 1280 x 960 17" LCD. Also, if your eyesight isn't great (which is
    my situation), you might actually prefer less resolution on the same
    size LCD panel, because the text will be larger -- remember, if you
    reduce the resolution on an LCD in order to enlarge the text, everything
    will get fuzzy because an LCD only looks truly sharp at its top/optimal

    Brightness is rated in numerical units, and contrast is rated as a
    ratio. Well-rated screens can still look bad, and seemingly poorly rated
    ones can still look good. That said, your typical LCD monitor is going
    to offer brightness between 250 and 350 (I forget the name of the units,
    but it's not important), and a contrast ratio of 350:1 or higher. Some
    monitors offer brightness as high as 500, and contrast ratios as high as
    700:1 , but these are usually larger and more expensive monitors.

    Viewing angle refers to how far off-center you can look at the monitor
    before the color looks weird and text becomes hard to read. LCDs are
    much better on side-to-side angle viewing than on up-down viewing angle.
    These days they range from 140-170 degrees horizontal (that's 70 to 85
    degrees to left or right, out of a possible 90), and about half two
    two-thirds that figure vertical. But this spec is often not a great
    indicator of how the screen will actually look from various angles. You
    need to read reviews to get the skinny on that.

    LCD color fidelity is not as good as a conventional CRT, because of the
    viewing angle issue -- the color you see will not be 100% accurate
    except if you're looking at the screen straight on. At modest angles you
    won't notice the color shift, and even at fairly extreme angles it won't
    be intolerable. But you will notice it. If a review says that a monitor
    looks good from extreme viewing angles, then it probably also has good
    color fidelity.

    Sharpness: you need to read the reviews for this. Some LCDs render text
    very nicely, while on others it's fuzzy. Most good quality monitors will
    render text sharply down to 8 point or smaller, but if you don't read
    reviews and you happen to buy a monitor that doesn't render larger text
    (9 point or larger) sharply, you'll be miserable.

    Inputs: the basics are digital (DVI or ADC) and analog. Analog will work
    with any VGA monitor port, but the computer is converting from digital
    to analog, and then the monitor is converting from analog back to
    digital. This obviously impacts image quality. A digital monitor
    requires a computer (or a PCI or AGP video card) with a digital output,
    but you avoid the digital-analog-digital conversion process. Most
    monitors and video cards use the DVI digital connector. Apple uses ADC
    -- ADC is available on Apple monitors and a few others, and ADC monitor
    ports are available only on recent Macs (including your MDD G4).

    Okay, that's it. If I were you, I guess I would decide on the minimum
    size I could live with -- probably 17" these days -- and then read
    reviews and pick the cheapest one that has digital inputs and gets good

    Of course, as I said you could simplify the whole thing by saving up an
    extra few bucks and just getting the Apple 17" Studio Display.

    Good luck!

    Matt Ruben, Aug 20, 2003
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