Saturday, December 26, 2009

What's a Good Monitor/Display?

I've been reading a lot of reviews and misconceptions regarding what constitutes a good display/monitor. Many people are under the impression that you're overspending for an Eizo and you could easily get something "just as good" with an HP2475w or an NEC2490WUXi2. This post is dedicated to dispelling the "myths" from my point of view.

What is the purpose of a display? As a photographer/retoucher, the display exists only to reproduce the image of what I capture, subsequently process, and occasionally print. It needs to be true to the original image according to a standard via calibration and hold that standard over time (i.e. not fluctuate). It needs to be reliable and gain my trust.

The purpose of a display is NOT to show the most vibrant colors. NOT to show more contrast than that is possible through printing. NOT to show more brightness than industry standards 120cd/m2. Really NOT to show you what you want to see, but what you're supposed to see.

I suppose that's the primary misunderstanding as far as what constitutes a good display. Yes the new displays all use IPS panels. They do provide better viewing angles than traditional PVA panels. Yet, I opted for a PVA panel CG241W over an HP2475w or an NEC2490WUXi2? Am I crazy? Or does it come down to trust? At the end of the day I need to believe that the images I produce can be reproduced by others (assuming they calibrate to the standard as well). Sure the CG241W uses the same Samsung panel as the Dell 2408FPW and several other displays as well. But I know for a fact that the Dell 2408FPW does not calibrate well under 180cd/m2. It's kind of like saying the Audi S8 uses the same engine that a Lamborghini Gallardo uses. Funny, the S8 makes less power and sure doesn't sound as good as a Gallardo. For the record, the S8 does not accelerate faster, does not have a higher top-speed, can not run the slalom faster, does not stop in shorter distances... but it does cost less and seats 5. Perhaps tuning and the other relevant parts of the car are the difference?

If Eizo's could easily be replaced by cheaper displays, they'd be out of business in a heartbeat. There's a reason Eizo has carved out a niche in the medical imaging and photography/retouching marketplace. I tried to live with a cheaper display but the Dell 2405FPW being a 4-year-old display using cheaper parts just couldn't output the type of reliability that I needed. It would band on gradients. Brightness and gamma would fluctuate wildly particularly between the time you turned it on and 30 minutes later. At the end of the day, I didn't trust it to produce images that would reproduce the same on a different display.

Yes, the Apple Cinema Displays look great. Yes, the 27" iMac uses an IPS panel. But, unfortunately the gradients band in Photoshop... and while glossy screens look great they aren't functional for retouching. How could they when there's always a reflection unless you're in the darkest environments?

Anyway, consider this on your next monitor/display upgrade :)


  1. ...but now, would you get a CG243W if it was only a $200 difference to the CG241W?

  2. Of course! If I were buying new products, I'd be all over the CG243W instead of the CG241W :)