Design Con 2015

The LCD computer monitor: A belated upgrade leads to a winning score

-September 05, 2013

"The only constant is change." This well-known saying, originally attributed to Greek philosopher Heraclitus but also ascribed to French author Francois de la Rochefoucauld, American author Isaac Asimov, and others, is one that I try to keep in mind in all areas of my life. It certainly applies to technology. Periodically, I do market-status writeups in which I wax enthusiastic about the plummeting prices and increasing capabilities of various tech commodities, such as semiconductor memories (DRAM and NAND flash memory, for example), HDDs and SSDs, and flat panel displays. And each time I press "publish," I know that in a few months-to-years I'll look back and wonder what all the fuss was about, because prices will have further plummeted and capabilities will have further increased.

Take a piece published in September 2006 and ironically titled "Plummeting Prices," for example. Note, for example, that 3.5" HDDs hadn't yet even hit 1 TByte capacities; they're now at 4 TBytes. And, germane to the topic of this particular post, note how excited I was about the 19" LCDs I'd bought four months earlier; a $200 Acer AL1916W and a $220 Viewsonic VA1912wb. The $20 price differential between the two is explained by the latter's inclusion of audio speakers, along with its DVI and VGA input options (versus VGA-only on the Acer AL1916W).

Seven years later, both displays are still in regular use. I even moved them with me from CA to CO. But my recent reconnection with a longstanding-but-inconsistant photography hobby has finally compelled me to replace them. Specifically, I just purchased two Acer H226HQL bid 21.5" displays from Newegg for $119.99 each.



What prompted the upgrade? You might think "screen size," but not really. The per-display incremental real estate is actually not all that notable, particularly in a two-display side-by-side configuration. The higher per-display native resolution, on the other hand, was helpful, particularly considering that I'm now also doing some 1080p HD video editing. The 19" LCD precursors had native resolutions of 1440x900 pixels, whereas the Acer H226HQL bid displays are native 1920x1080 pixel products.

The Acer H226HQL bid displays' use of long-life, even illumination LED backlights, versus the CCFL backlights of the 19" LCD predecessors, was also an attraction. I'd first gotten a taste of LED backlights' advantages with the two Gateway FHX2152L bd 21.5" LCDs that I bought two years ago at $139.99 each, to mate to my Mac Pro:



But the Gateway FHX2152L bd, like my two 19" LCDs, is a conventional TN (twisted nematic) LCD. The Acer H226HQL bid, on the other hand, is a more advanced IPS (in-phase switching) display, with a wider viewing angle and more accurate color reproduction (including almost no off-angle color shift) that, I'm sure you can imagine, is quite compelling in image editing situations.

Other Acer H226HQL bid attributes are less obvious but also worth mentioning. For one thing, the new displays come with a full complement of cables; VGA, DVI and HDMI. This connectivity accessory suite is a rarity at any price, far from $119.99. Build quality was also attractive to me, as it was with the Gateway FHX2152L bd. The vast majority of 21.5" LCDs you'll find on the market have plastic bases and cheap bezels; peruse their reviews and you'll find lots of comments such as "don't bump your desk or touch the display, or it'll wobble like crazy." The Acer H226HQL bid, conversely, offers a sleek case and a sturdy metal base.

And speaking of $119.99 ... that's a pretty amazing price, eh? It'd be eye-catching for a 21.5" TN LCD; for an IPS LCD, particularly one with a full included cable set, it's almost unheard of (at least at the moment; as I said earlier, in a few months-to-years I'll look back and wonder what all the fuss was about). About the only thing that the Acer H226HQL bid doesn't include, versus some alternative manufacturer and product options, is a set of built-in speakers. But I've already got audio covered via an outstanding-sounding external speaker set. And by not including speakers, the Acer H226HQL bid has a much slimmer bezel than it otherwise would be capable of touting.

My Mac mini was previously hooked up to the Viewsonic VA1912wb via a generic HDMI-to-DVI adapter cable, and to the Acer AL1916W via a StarTech MDP2VGA mini DisplayPort to VGA adapter. Since HDMI is an interface option with the Acer H226HQL bid, I'm directly connecting one of the new displays to the computer's HDMI output. And for the other Acer H226HQL bid, I'm using a StarTech MDP2HDMI mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter. Mac OS 10.7 recognizes the new displays with no issues. And calibrating them to each other and to the ambient lighting environment using a Datacolor Spyder3 PRO is equally glitch-free. I hope to get at least seven years' worth of usable life out of these new LCD computer displays. But even if I don't, I'm confident that I'll still consider the upgrade to be money well spent.

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