We looked at a couple of BenQ LCDs last year and were generally pleased with their features, pricing, and performance. The E2200HD and E2400HD were among the first 21.5" and 24" 1080p computer LCDs to hit the market, and since that time we have seen a veritable deluge of similar displays. Pricing has dropped even further, and if you're not super concerned with image quality you can basically grab any of the current crop of 21.5" to 24" LCDs and walk away pleased with your purchase. The short summary of what you get is:

  • A reasonably large LCD
  • Pricing of under $200 for 22" or under $300 for 24" (and less during sales)
  • Limited extras - usually no height adjustment, portrait mode, or other extras beyond USB ports
  • Good processing speed - little to no image lag relative to other LCDs
  • Decent (average) color accuracy
  • Mediocre color gamut
  • Poor vertical viewing angles

The last four items in that list can be summarized with one simple statement: these inexpensive LCDs all use TN panels. There tend to be two types of display users, those that care a lot about image quality and those that really have no idea what image quality means. The latter are not necessarily wrong or uninformed; they just don't care enough about such things to worry about low-level details and they will usually be happy with any current LCD purchase. These are the type of users that give 5-star reviews to pretty much every LCD on Newegg, as an example. I say good for them and enjoy your inexpensive LCD. In truth, I use TN panels on a regular basis (pretty much every laptop out there uses a TN panel), and while I might notice the difference initially it will fade from conscious thought after a few minutes.

For those that want something better, the choices are far more limited… and far more expensive. Upgrade from a TN panel to a similarly sized PVA or IPS panel and you can usually count on spending 50% to 100% more - or more! - on the purchase. That might be perfectly acceptable if the PVA/IPS panels were all universally better, but that's not always the case. Color accuracy is almost random it seems, with some IPS panels scoring exceptionally well, PVA panels running the gamut from great to average, and TN panels that likewise fall anywhere from excellent to mediocre. Viewing angles always favor IPS and PVA panels over TN panels, especially in terms of vertical viewing angles. Color gamut is tied to the backlight used in the panel, so you can have poor or great color gamut with any panel technology. Last but not least is image processing speed, and here's where things get interesting.

To date, the fastest panels in terms of image processing speed (frequently referred to as "input lag") are all IPS or TN panels. These displays are essentially equal and very few people would notice any lag. PVA panels are a different story, unfortunately, with lag ranging from 20 to 50 ms in testing. That means if you purchase a PVA display, you should plan on your display running 1 to 3 frames behind your current input. Most people associate this lag with gaming, and it can certainly affect your performance in fast-paced, competitive games. If what you see is actually three frames behind the current action - and add in networking lag and other types of lag and it could be delayed five or more frames! - you could end up with a competitive handicap. However, it's not just a problem with gaming. Even in general computer use, a laggy display can make it seem like your mouse is sluggish. Personally, PVA panels with 40+ ms of processing lag feel like the early wireless mice, where there was a small but perceptible delay between moving the mouse and seeing the result on screen. Doing precise image editing, as another example, is an area where faster display processing times are desirable.

The vast majority of LCDs these days are TN panels, and the trend appears to be moving even more in that direction. With a soft economy, many are looking for any way to save money, and even those who really like quality displays may be willing to settle for a less expensive TN panel. S-PVA panels all come from Samsung (they hold the patent on the technology), while IPS displays come from a couple manufacturers. Similar to PVA is a lesser-seen panel type called MVA (A-MVA), and these panels also come from one source: AU Optronics. Some users prefer PVA/MVA images over IPS, for whatever reason, so while my personal preference tends to IPS I was excited to finally have an opportunity to look at an A-MVA panel.

BenQ is one of the retail arms of AU Optronics; they shipped me their FP241VW several months back, and I began testing. Before I could finish with the review, unfortunately, I was informed that the model was being discontinued. However, while that makes the review of the FP241VW less meaningful, AU Optronics still has A-MVA panels and these show up in other displays. That being the case, I felt it would be good to discuss some of the highlights of the A-MVA panels and show limited testing results for the BenQ FP241VW. Why would that even be useful? As you might have guessed there are some interesting performance characteristics to discuss.

Let's Talk Panel Technologies
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  • genegold - Saturday, August 15, 2009 - link

    Jared - Take a look at HP's Business/Performance monitors for four new IPS models and two PVAs.

    While I've never seen a PVA monitor, one thing I've read in serious user discussions is how they are made for photo professionals and not for use with typical web/office/standard applications. For the latter, these monitors' colors are oversaturated and the text mediocre or worse. Users who have bought them for the latter frequently complain and are advised to return them for something more for the consumer market. The common theme is that these monitors are made for use with Adobe Photoshop and to some degree with other color-managed applications (of which Firefox is the only browser).

    I did try a Dell 2209WA E-IPS recently, actually two samples, and found them to be very good monitors for everyday use, with the big exception for my purposes that the model's minimum brightness setting (0%) is equivalent to a bright office. That didn't work well with my moderate day lighting and evening darkness (and aging hazel eyes).
  • gking11 - Thursday, August 6, 2009 - link

    I got my FP241VW a couple of months ago after I was lucky enough to find it for sale online, and brand new to boot!

    While I did get a dead pixel (fortunately it was low enough that it didn't hinder my viewing much), the display is the closest thing to perfection in terms of an all-purpose LCD, especially for gaming. With my Pantone Huey, I have it calibrated and, boy, do the colors come out!

    Without further ado, here's the direct link to the site where I bought it from (it's $385 as of this post, I bought it for $400 then): http://www.entercomputers.com/benq-fp241vw-24-wide...">http://www.entercomputers.com/benq-fp24...l?SID=cf...

    *Running away from stampede!*
  • rlx - Sunday, July 19, 2009 - link

    Two points often disregarded in reviews.

    I bought a Samsung SM275T and although I am very happy with it, I find the readability of small anti-aliased text to be not as good as I expected. I find the reason to be that each pixel is in fact made of two pixels on that monitor. Both subpixels combine to double the number of different colors the monitor can display. I find that in some cases one subpixel is on while the one below is off.

    This creates a dithering effect and somehow interacts with antia-liased text. The net effect is that I find small text to be harder to read )or I should say recognize). I compared with an analog monitor and with a 720P LCD tv and I am quite sure that using two subpixels the way Samsung does it is not the way to go for a monitor that is intended for general use.

    The other point is that vertical viewing angles are very important to me on a portable computer screen. Since my vision is not that good I sometimes need to move my head closer to the screen and this movement changes the angle of view. This is why I find laptops (TN) very difficult to use. People with normal vision can do everything from a single position and the vertical angle of view might not be as important for them.

  • rlx - Wednesday, July 22, 2009 - link

    I meant twice the number of gray levels of course (re. twice the number of colors) but why Samsung has done all that work of doubling the number of pixels just to gain one bit in the number of gray levels.

    If both sub-pixels have a slightly different number of levels, say sub-pixel No.1 has four levels of gray 0,1,2,3 and sub-pixel No.2 has 6 0,1,...,5 then the number of achiveable gray levels is 24 out of 31. They are 0, 3/15, 5/15, 6/15, ... up to 2.

    The light coming through sub-pixel No.1 is l1/3 and the light through No.2 is l2/5. The total light through both is (l1*5 + l2*3)/15.

    The 24 achivable levels out of the possible 31 are, (going from 0 to 30): 1001011011111111111111101101001.

    If one scales those numbers up then one sees why Samsung can do much better than double the number of gray levels by using two sub-pixels instead of a single pixel.

    Maybe I learned something from my typo.
  • rlx - Tuesday, July 21, 2009 - link

    I just wish to clarify my statement about the readability of small size anti-aliased text on the SM275T. I double checked with my older analog SM950P that I run at 1600x1200. From a distance, the small text is definitely much easier to read on the SM275T.

    I am a bit annoyed by the dithering effect when I take my glasses off so I can get close to the screen. From that short range, small size text looks smooth on the analog screen while artifacts appear on the SM275T.

    However even at this small range the text on the SM275T is still readable while it is not really so on the analog screen.
  • - Sunday, July 19, 2009 - link

    Just wanted to say great review, it mirrored my sentiments exactly.

    P-MVAs (A-MVAs perhaps not as much) were incredible displays. Found in $300 24" soyos I was amazed how much better they were than pre-highgamut S-PVAs in every regard(color response and even slightly in gamma shift). When AUO stopped their entire MVA line it was party over for cheap high quality displays, as Samsung thinks alittle too highly of it PVA technology.

    Although I still have an LG 24" with a P-MVA, my other two recent additions were H-IPS HP2475w. Great deals at $600 and worth every penny and then some, but still not bending the price curve down enough. TN has its place, but not in anything over $150 imho.
  • Sabresiberian - Thursday, July 9, 2009 - link

    Beats the heck out of any LCD made to date. Yeah they were $2500 when they were made, but that would likely be much less now, especially if it were made for gamers not professionals and priced to sell properly to that market.

    Sorry, I just had to say it; maybe there's a Sony exec that reads Anandtech and will get sparked, lol!
  • Mr Bill - Friday, June 26, 2009 - link

    I bought this monitor last fall from BenQ for $400 just before they went out of production. I wish I had bought two. Its a very nice monitor.
  • ocyl - Thursday, June 25, 2009 - link

    Thanks, Jarred, for the efforts that you've put into writing this article. Here is a bit of idea sharing :)

    1. You might be interested to check out NEC's MultiSync P221W (S-PVA, 1000:1 contrast, black level control, GammaComp, sRGB preset, 4-way adjustable stand, 16ms response time; $500) and the newly announced E222W (looks like a PVA given its 178º viewing angle; 1000:1 contrast, sRGB preset, 4-way adjustable stand, 5ms response time; $270). I spent two weeks of time on research when I was in the market for a new TFT-LCD monitor last November. I ended up purchasing a NEC MultiSync LCD1990SX (LTM190E4 PVA, 1500:1 contrast, ColorComp, OmniColor, black level control, sRGB preset, 4-way adjustable stand, 20ms response time; $480) and couldn't have been happier.

    2. As we know, scaling is one of the main contributors to processing delay. While I don't currently own a Radeon and therefore don't know if this can be done in Catalyst, it's possible to relieve monitor from scaling tasks in ForceWare. There are four options available at nVidia Control Panel -> Display -> Change Display (Flat Panel) Scaling: Use nVidia Scaling, Use nVidia Scaling with Fixed Aspect Ratio, Use My Display's Built-in Scaling, and Do Not Scale. I don't have measuring equipment so I can't perform any meaningful investigation, but perhaps it's something that AnandTech may find worthwhile looking into.
  • ocyl - Friday, July 17, 2009 - link

    NEC announces MultiSync EA231WMi, a 23" IPS monitor

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