Saturday, August 8, 2009

30" LCD Monitor for Video Editing

It kills me that I can't find any decent reviews of 30" monitors from this year (2009). A lot of the reviews I'm reading are from 2006. WTF? Has nothing changed in the world of 30" monitors since Dell upgraded the 3007WFP to the 3008WFP?

I'm looking to purchase a larger monitor. I love my Dell 2407WFP, but at a maximum resolution of 1920x1200, it's just not up to the task at hand. I need to be able to view RED files at 2k resolution (2048x1024).

Here are the top models to choose from at the consumer level (under $2,000): Dell 3008WFP (some still swear by the 3007WFP), the Apple Cinema Display, HP LP3065, Samsung 305T, and I suppose the Gateway XHD3000 and LG W300H.

There are also 30" models from NEC and Eizo, but they definitely bump you up over the $2000 mark into the "pro-sumer" level of things.

There are many things that factor into what would be the best monitor (contrast ratio, response time, gamma display, etc.), and the biggest factor in these is how the screen is constructed.

Here is an explanation from jaguarskx on Tom's Hardware (in 2007, I might add), and yes, I consider "jaguarskx" to be the preeminent expert on LCD panel types:

TN = Twisted Nematic - These are 6-bit screens that cannot really reproduce 16.7 million colors. They can only reproduce 262,144 colors; 64 shades of Red, Green & Blue. Thats (2^6)^3 or 64^3. All the other colors are created through a process called dithering. These typically have fast response times (for gaming) at the expense of color accuracy. These are inexpensive monitors.

MVA = Multidomain Vertical Alignment
PVA = Patterned-ITO Vertical Alignment

MVA and PVA panel are the most common 8-bit LCD screen around. They are relatively slow compared to TN, but offers better color accuracy. Good viewing angles and contrast ratio. However not all MVA and PVA panels are 8-bit screens. S-MVA and S-PVA are typically the ones that are 8-bit panel from my research. S = Super.

8-bit LCDs can truly reproduce 16.7 million colors. That's because there will be 256 shades of each color (2^8 ); Red, Green & Blue. Therefore 256^3 = 16.7 million (actually, a little more).

S-IPS = Super In-Plane Switching. These are high end and really expensive LCD panels. All these panels are 8-bit panels and comes the closest to CRT image quality. From what I've read they also have very good response times as well. LCD monitors geared towards graphic artists who demands the most color accuracy are designed with these type of panels. That means the shades of color you see on the screen are the exact shades that will be printed out on a good color printer.

That's at least a beginning. I need an IPS panel. But this seems pretty standard these days. Some gamers prefer the TN panels because they're a little faster and much cheaper, but I definitely need color consistency, so IPS it is.

Now I have to decide between the monitors on my list above. The big three seem to be the Apple, the Dell, and the HP (the Samsung gets pretty good reviews, but nothing's changed since 2005... that makes me nervous --should it?).

There are no definitive winners regarding any of these. Depending upon the review you read, any one of these is the superior monitor. Can this really be the case?

The Dell 3008WFP often wins the debate because of the sheer numbers of inputs on the device. I could care less. Give me my DVI port and I'm happy. I guess I'll enjoy the upgrade to 10-bit color (via the DisplayPort) over 8-bit (via DVI), but it's not really a battle-winning factor. That said, I am starting to doubt all choices but the Dell because of the DisplayPort... so I guess I lied. It does matter.

Dell seems to be the brand that gets commented on for color inconsistency the most often. But none of the others really "shine" in this area, anyway, so it doesn't really help with my decision. Most of the comlaints also seem to be from back in the year 2007, so I wonder if they've fixed the problem. I don't know, because I can't find a damn review from this year.

If I go simply by price, Apple loses the battle hands down. You can't really find it for less than $1,699 (and there are lots of people bitching about the ACD problems to boot, so it's not a matter of "the higher the price, the better the monitor"). The "regular" price for the Dell isn't much better, but it goes on sale all the time, and can usually be purchased for around $1299, depending on the day (it's really annoying how Dell fluctuates their prices all the time --the 3008WFP was actually $1039 in March of 2009). The HP is usually $1,199. The Samsung can often be found for less than $1,000.

Awwww who am I kidding? I'm buying the Dell. Having the Display Port for 10-bit color is the clincher. Now I just have to figure out how to get them to sell it to me for the price I've seen a million times ($1,299 instead of $1,699... or better yet, $1,039), but isn't available "right now."


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