External monitor buying
May 5, 2014 1:19 PM   Subscribe

I want an external monitor for detailed 2D black-and-white work (so I mostly care about resolution-for-the-price, right?).

First time external monitor buyer. As I google, I see a lot of the criteria for monitor buying don't apply here: I don't care about great color accuracy, refresh rate for gaming, or viewing angle.

I'll be using it mostly for detailed work in black and white (specifically, large-format music notation -- think of it as line art where the more detail I can see at once within a big complex layout, the better).

Other points:
• my budget's flexible but ideally under $200 (shipped to east coast U.S.). I'm fine with refurbs and I'm in no rush (moving in late June so shouldn't buy before then; will check out 4th of July sales).
• I'm undecided re. size and I'd go with lower pixels-per-inch over huge size.
• monitor must do both portrait and landscape; it'll be mounted on the wall on a pivot mount, a couple of feet from my face.
• my laptop (mid-2011 MacBook Air) will drive up to 2560 x 1600 on an external monitor (Thunderbolt out).
posted by kalapierson to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You want either the apple Thunderbolt Display, or basically the same panel with a matte finish from dell(this one). We have both in my office, generally driven by MacBook pros. Both are really good, it comes down to personal preference, really.
posted by rockindata at 2:05 PM on May 5, 2014

Oh. Didn't see your price point. Scratch my recommendation for really nice but 4x your budget monitors.
posted by rockindata at 2:06 PM on May 5, 2014

2560x1440 27inchers are ~$400 and 1080p 27inchers are more like $300...so for $200 the best you're gonna get is 1920x1200 or 1080p in 22-24inches. Of which there are many many.

The Dell U2312HM is $190 on NewEgg and is IPS, rotatable and has native displayport. Spend the extra $10 on a MiniDP to Displayport cable (C2G #MDP2DPMM6) and you'll be good to go. You could go cheaper if you don't need rotation or are willing to settle for a TN panel, but a good monitor will likely outlast your laptop, so no need to cheap out.
posted by notpeter at 6:49 PM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you want something with the highest resolution you can afford, right? I'm afraid the $200 budget really limits that field by quite a bit; if you're willing to go with standard 1080p resolution (1920x1080) you can get decently good, inexpensive monitors for around $150 and up because of economies of scale, but even the next bump up to 1920x1200 generally starts at about $200, not including tax and/or shipping.

Not sure what you mean by needing to do portrait and landscape; that's typically a video driver feature, not a monitor feature, unless you want it to include a stand that pivots. It sounded like you were going to mount it though, so you should only need something with standard VESA mount points (assuming your mount pivots).

I'd probably look at buying something from Samsung, Dell, LG or ASUS. Personally, the best monitors I've had are either Samsungs or Dells in terms of reliability and lack of dead pixels, though I've never really gone this cheap before, which may change that. This NewEgg search might be a good place to start.
posted by Aleyn at 6:50 PM on May 5, 2014

Thanks all -- it looks like I'm seeking a refurb or used 1920x1200. That would roughly double my laptop's resolution.

So I want 1920x1200 in the smallest physical size I can get. (Do they make a 22" or 23" 1920x1200? Smallest I'm seeing are 24".)

(Aleyn: yeah, I read that some simply aren't capable of portrait so I was assuming that for some cheaper mfrs and/or cheaper models there aren't drivers available, and one can't use a generic driver.)
posted by kalapierson at 9:24 PM on May 5, 2014

And if I push the budget higher, I see there's a 25" at 2560 x 1080 for $300 shipped...
posted by kalapierson at 9:48 PM on May 5, 2014

Your mac should be able to do the visual image rotation for you. Go to System Preferences -> Display and then try out the "rotation" drop down.

Not all monitors come with the proper stand or mount on the back to physically rotate the screen though. The AOC monitor I have in front of me has a very cheap and flimsy stand that's designed to only show it in landscape mode.
posted by beep-bop-robot at 6:31 AM on May 6, 2014

I have a 6 year old Lenovo L220x (1920x1200, S-PVA, 22in) so they do exist, but new 16:10 aspect ratio displays are quite scarce and used/refurb can be a crapshoot. All monitors can be rotated on modern operating systems, the issue is their viewing angles when rotated: IPS/PVA panels do 178/178deg (horizontal/vertical) while a cheap panel (TN) perform worse (170/150) and when you rotate it the crappier horizontal angle become the vertical. Rotated TN look terrible. Stick to IPS, S-PVA when going portrait.

Dell has been selling quality 24inch 16:10 displays for a decade (U2413, U2412M, U2410, 2408WFP, 2407WFP all the way back to the 2405FPW) and one decent 22incher, the 2209WA but it's 1680x1050. All these are readily available on the secondary market while the L220x is definitely harder to find. If you'd settle for 1920x1080 and have your own mount it's hard to beat the value of a new 1080p IPS panel, some are even sub $150 (LG IPS226V-PN, ASUS VS229H-P, ViewSonic VX2270SMH) and you can just toss their cheap stands.

Honestly, as a happy owner of two potential displays for you (Lenovo 22inch @ 1920x1200) and (NEC 23inch @ 1920x1080) there's a reason Dell sold millions of 24inch 16:10 displays, they're f-ing great. If you want 1920x1200, don't look anywhere else.
posted by notpeter at 11:42 AM on May 6, 2014

Really appreciate everybody's help here!

(After looking some more for a high-res monitor under 20", I decided to reframe this entirely and upgrade my machine instead. Now: laptop with 15" screen at 2880x1800 physical res that scales incredibly well -- looks like paper even at non-integer-based scaling like 1920x1200. It was what I needed, but I didn't know it until this thread helped me articulate that I was looking for low ppi rather than big size.)
posted by kalapierson at 9:39 AM on May 29, 2014

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