How to choose a new monitor
December 13, 2010 2:22 PM   Subscribe

Choosing between two Dell monitors - UltraSharp U2211H or the ST2220M full HD monitor with LED

I'm upgrading my PC setup, and looking to purchase two new Dell monitors. After reviewing Dell's site, I think I've narrowed down my choices to these two:

A: UltraSharp U2211H

B: ST2220M full HD monitor with LED

My general question - how am I supposed to make sense of all the jargon and "tech specs" to choose the right one?

Here's the data from Dell (Ultrasharp first)...

Size: same
Aspect ratio: same
Panel type: IPS vs TN (no idea what that means)
Optimal resolution: same
Contrast ratio: 1000-to-1 vs. 8,000,000-to-1 (?!?)
Brightness: same
Response time: 8ms vs 5ms
Viewing angle: close to identical
Pixel pitch: same
Price: $259 vs $139

The Ultrasharp lists "Color Gamut" and "Color Depth", the other only lists "Color Support"; I have no idea what any of those three mean.

I'm a programmer, so I'll use them 8+ hours per day, 5 days a week - a LOT. Mostly development-type stuff, plus the occassional video game.

I'm OK spending a little extra if it's worth it, but I can't figure out how to know if it is. Is the Ultrasharp better? If so, why?

As an aside - I'm a computer professional, and I can't make heads or tails of this information, so I can't possibly make an informed decision. I wonder how on earth laypeople manage their way through this.

Many thanks in advance for any advice or insight!

p.s. I realize Dell may not be the best place to buy new monitors. But it's my only option - gift certificate...
posted by stuehler to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: IPS panels have greater color depth. TN panels only display 6 bits of color per pixel, but IPS panels can do 8 (doesn't matter what the input is, this is referring to the actual LCD elements on the panel). This is a noticeable difference. TN panels can have higher per-pixel refresh rates than IPS, but that won't matter at all for your programming work. What this translates to: More accurate colors with greater depth and less posterizing.

I have a pair of the precursors to the U2211H and they are EXCELLENT. I wish I had waited and bought the U221h because my only complaint about my IPS monitors is that they're only 1600 pixels wide. In fact, I'd give you a deal on mine to get that extra vertical space. :)

FWIW, I hack on LCDs and projectors day in and day out, and used to calibrate them for neuroscience studies, so I feel competent in answering your question. Go for the Ultrasharps, you will not regret it in the least.

Oh, and be sure to search on for a good deal on them, or sign up to Dell's mailinglists for coupons, or whatever. I got 20% off each display that way.
posted by fake at 2:36 PM on December 13, 2010

and oh, re: p.s. I realize Dell may not be the best place to buy new monitors. But it's my only option - gift certificate...

Dell IPS panels are *excellent*, Dell is a fine place to buy monitors.
posted by fake at 2:37 PM on December 13, 2010

Best answer: You can read more about the differences here.

Generally, I think IPS (S-IPS) monitors have better color production. I use my monitor for digital photography, and I would only buy a S-IPS monitor. If you're just looking at text on a screen, you're probably fine with TN panels.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 2:37 PM on December 13, 2010

As others have said, the main difference in those two monitors is IPS vs TN.

IPS will generally be better as others have said, particularly for colors and still images. The TN may better for certain fast paced video games.
posted by jameslavelle3 at 2:51 PM on December 13, 2010

I am currently using a Dell 2311H for light graphic design (nothing that needs exact pantone matching), and am quite happy with it.

I chose it because it was an IPS panel, so it gives you a wider range of viewing angles compared to a TN panel. Ie you can look at it from a 45 degree angle and the colours don't go funky. Useful because I work on two screens, and am often showing work to coworkers.

The advantage of a TN panel is a faster refresh rate, but it comes at the cost of lower viewing angles and poorer colour reproduction. With that said, I don't notice any ghosting or motion trails on my 2311.

My buying methodology was to read a bunch of reviews, and pick the one everyone else was buying for my intended purpose. Its a technique thats served me well through several monitors.
posted by Pink Fuzzy Bunny at 3:02 PM on December 13, 2010

Over 5 years the more expensive monitor works out at about 1 cent extra per extra hour of your programming time. I think the upgrade is worth it as a treat to your eyes - even if you are only able to vaguely quantify it.
posted by rongorongo at 3:05 PM on December 13, 2010

The second one will be better for gaming and media viewing. The first one might be more pleasing to the eyes for programming work. But it might not make a difference.

I'd buy the first one if I was planning on doing any kind of photoshop kind of work.

If it was me, I would buy the $139 one and see how it works out. If you don't like it, sell it to someone for $100 and the experiment will cost you $39. If you get the $259 one, you won't know whether the $120 was worth it or not.
posted by gjc at 7:50 PM on December 13, 2010

I never noticed the difference between an S-IPS and TN LCD display until I had the two of them side-by-side.

2 years ago, I was copying some files from an older Mac Mini with a 6-year-old Apple Cinema Display attached to it (which is an IPS panel -- it's not a new technology) to a new iMac that would be replacing the Mini.

The "new" iMac's TN display looked *awful* next to the old IPS display, particularly when looking at heavily-saturated photographs. Color gradients were noticeably not-smooth when you looked at the two side by side. (I also wasn't a huge fan of the glossy screen)

In short, you probably won't notice a difference if the display's on its own. If the two are side by side, though, the difference is very easy to spot.
posted by schmod at 7:54 PM on December 13, 2010

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