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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  • tomoyo - Wednesday, June 17, 2009 - link

    AUO seems to have focused on using AMVA and AMVA3 (their latest tech) only on LCD TVs. The only way to get their good stuff is to buy a 32" 1080p LCD TV using their panel. If you look at their current monitor production, it's literally ALL tn-film. Depressing to the extreme.

  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, June 17, 2009 - link

    And the worst part is that the page starts out by talking about how great AMVA is... and then they only have TN panels listed. Ugh.... Reply
  • tomoyo - Wednesday, June 17, 2009 - link

    Going by B5 analogies. Looks like E-IPS is now our last best hope for good LCD panels. S-PVA would interest me more if there was less input lag, but E-IPS seems to have a good chance of giving us good viewing angles + decent panel speed. Now if we could only get LED backlights + 120hz + ergonomic stands in a 16:10 format over a wide variety of sizes, then we'd be in business. I can't imagine that some company out there wouldn't see an opportunity for premium lcd monitors that hardcore gamers/photography/graphics lovers would love to have at moderate prices. I think this area is a completely unrealized market opportunity.

    I also really dislike the 16:9 format for LCD monitors. It's takes away the balance between fullscreen and widescreen that we have with 16:10. Another cost cutting move that annoys me greatly.
  • darklight0tr - Wednesday, June 17, 2009 - link

    LED backlights on computer LCDs seem to be a very low priority for manufacturers right now. The focus for that tech seems to be LCD TVs, which is disappointing. I'm beginning to think we'll see OLED computer displays before LED backlight LCDs at the rate they're going! The other problem with the LED backlighting is many manufacturers have been pairing it with TN panels. Its like putting a V8 into an econobox.

    E-IPS looks to be very good, but one of the reasons I went with S-PVA despite the display lag possibility is contrast is a weak point for IPS technology, and that was an important feature to me. Plus, it wasn't widely available in the screen size I was looking for.

    If they make 120hz PC LCDs available, I want it to be TRUE 120hz, not the crap they've been selling with LCD TVs. I've seen "120hz" TVs and its obvious that it is an image processing technology that emulates 120hz, and it looks like crap. My friend has it on his TV, and I had to make him turn it off because it was so distracting.
  • erple2 - Monday, June 22, 2009 - link

    To be fair, the bulk of the 120Hz technologies in TV's (particularly flat panel sets) exists solely for de-judder purposes. It conveniently lets you display 24 fps, 30 fps, and 60 fps content at an even multiple.

    My Sony TV is a 120 Hz TV - I think that there are 2 things that it's used for:

    1. "Motion Smoothing" - very cool but super-annoying technology that smooths out and essentially interpolates intermediate frames in slower than 120Hz content. It's somewhat distracting with film - you can think of it as watching a movie, but filmed with a modern high end digital video camera. The "action" is interpolated to appear more than 24 Frames per second. I don't like it.
    2. Solid de-juddering. Since most TV's are 60 Hz, when showing content that isn't an exact multiple of 60, the TV has to do some pulldown to get the image to appear right on the TV (the so-called 3:2 pulldown). The 120 Hz "fixes" that, since you don't need to do any complicated pulldown algorithms to get the proper effect.

    Since there is no 120 Hz content available that you'd normally watch on a TV (games displayed from a very high-performance computer being the only exception I can think of), I think that it's mostly a marketing talking point.

    So, no, generally, the 120 Hz TV's are actually 120 Hz TV's - they do update the display ever 1/120th of a second. However, given LCD's inability to fully RENDER a new pixel that fast is a whole 'nuther issue. 120 Hz translates to 8.333 ms response time necessary to actually change the image on screen.
  • darklight0tr - Wednesday, June 17, 2009 - link

    On top of all that there has been a disturbing move to 16:9 displays. I know they are trying to standardize things, but I really like the extra real estate offered by 16:10. I guess I'm going to have to keep my DELL 2709W until something amazing comes along or it explodes. Reply
  • hyc - Thursday, June 18, 2009 - link

    Second that. I want a 42" 1920x1200 monitor to replace my living room TV, but no such beast exists, they're all 1920x1080. Talk about frustrating.

    The interesting thing about "voting with your wallet" is you can only vote from a selection of what the manufacturers offer you, there's no way to vote for a new product that none of them currently offer. These days, my wallet has been staying closed...
  • tomoyo - Wednesday, June 17, 2009 - link

    The market for LCDS has been terrible for over a year now. Basically all the high quality non-tn films have been discontinued with a few rare exceptions. Also all the high quality height adjustable stands are mostly gone, which makes it almost impossible to put lcds in a position that doesn't cause back/neck/carpel tunnel/etc issues. It's idiotic what we have these days.

    I'm lucky I have two older dell models that are non-tn film at work and a similar one at home, all with adjustable stands. 1905FP and 2001FP to the rescue. Sadly I can't even imagine changing these out for any new model, because in general the new models are WORSE. I consider myself stuck with these models until a miracle happens.

    Now for a secondary screen, generally the best solution I've found for a good panel is to get a 32" LCD TV 1080P. That's one of the only ways to get a moderately usable screen at a low price, which also has FAR more inputs than any Lcd monitor. You can't get $600 Lcd Monitors that are 32" with 3-4 hdmi inputs and massive amounts of composite/component/s-video. The only huge negative is the low resolution, but 1080P is certainly liveable and great as a secondary video watching device.
  • BugblatterIII - Wednesday, June 17, 2009 - link

    I've got a Dell 2407WFP but that's being reallocated so I'm planning to get the Dell 2407WFP. H-IPS screen, portrait rotation, fantastic quality, low latency etc Reply
  • BugblatterIII - Wednesday, June 17, 2009 - link

    Of course I meant planning to get the HP LP2475w. Reply

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