Is there such a thing as a cheap but good for color work 1600x1200 LCD?
July 4, 2007 11:31 PM   Subscribe

If, and it's a big 'if' because while I love to fantasize I never have any money to actually spend, if I were to buy a new display today, could I get one worth owning for under $300?

I've spent literally a couple of days, at least 16 hours all told, trying to find a decent monitor. The result is information overload. I've come away with the impression that everything is widescreen, low resolution, and offers piss poor color accuracy. Or it costs a minimum of $2000. All I want, really, is a monitor that covers the sRGB color space, provides reasonable contrast, and is somewhat adjustable. A Nec or a Lacie or an Eizo cost several thousand dollars. If I had money I'd probably just buy this. Viewsonic and Samsung and Dell supposedly sell monitors that, while unable to compete with, say, the L997, are reasonably accurate. But then what? Tom's Hardware and cNet and the like review and recommend products that cost $600 two years ago and don't exist anymore. The Dell 2001FP doesn't seem to exist except as a refurb, for instance, though several reviews say it was a good monitor. And Viewsonic has so many models it makes your head spin. Hive mind, please tell this bewildered fool what to buy. All I want is 1600x1200 and really fucking awesome color. And decent response times/low latency. I doubt I'll calibrate using anything other than my eyes so all around quality is more important than the capacity to achieve, through serious tweaking, colorimetric perfection.

Oh, and I actually have no objection to CRT except they don't seem much cheaper, they do seem to lose their sharpness rather quickly, and the one I'm using now, at least, started doing things like refusing to draw straight lines after a couple years. Just because my brain quickly learns to see a bowed border as straight doesn't mean it's OK that my windows are now trapezoidal.

Other factors, I'm on a PC, for what little that matters and plan to buy a very cheap video card that supports DVI very soonish. So a monitor with dual VGA/DVI support would be nice, but if the price is amazing and the recommendation fulsome for a monitor with only DVI in, I'll get both. Assuming I get anything.

posted by Grod to Technology (18 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

I went though thie same agony a while back. I finally Settled on the Samsung SyncMaster 225BW and have had no regrets. The only requirement it doesn't quite meet is the resolution. The 225BW is 1680x1050.

I simply can't say enough for this monitor. Not only does it have VGA, DVI, and great color, it is almost wafer thin (for LCD monitors, anyway)!
posted by ThFullEffect at 11:45 PM on July 4, 2007

You haven't told us how big or small you want it (other than the link to the 21.3" and resolution). Here's a few that are around your target price range:
Samsung 20.1" and another

These require mail-in rebates, so you can try scouring the net for more discounts (, pricewatch, fat wallet).
posted by spiderskull at 11:49 PM on July 4, 2007

yes. do it, I'm so glad I did.
Unless your a purist, don't worry too much about all the technical variables. Just get the size and res you want at the price you can afford, with the features you need.

There are plenty of reviews about, but avoid the forums as you'll *always* find naysayers trashing what you thought was the one for you.

If you are into specs, then you'll already know not all monitors are born equal.

Gaming, DVD and photoshop, are not the same as web browsing, email, or office stuff.

Good luck
posted by matholio at 12:01 AM on July 5, 2007

Response by poster: spiderskull, good point. I really don't understand the obsession with panel dimension, a thing that bothered me when I was doing my research, I could specify 19" or above but on many sites couldn't filter by the thing that marks the difference between a usable device and a waste of money: resolution. On a TV size matters because one sits well back from it but with a computer one's face is never more than two or three feet from the screen. 19" is great, ~21" is perfect for the space I have, I could even live with 17 though I don't think it's an option.

Matholio, In case it isn't obvious, overall color quality matters to me. I do not game. Well, from time to time I fire up Commander Keen or Tetris, but I don't think that's what you meant. At home I split my computer time between web surfing and photoshop (usually with a movie playing in a window).

I'm into specs but I try not to be, consider that all my student loads are in forbearance because I barely earn enough to live and you'll understand that while I frequently fantasize about buy the best hardware I rarely buy any hardware at all.
posted by Grod at 12:18 AM on July 5, 2007

Is there a particular reason why you are against widescreen? In my experience, once you go widescreen you never go back. If your video card doesn't support it, you can find one that does on the cheap. I bought two ViewSonic VX2035wms for my home office, and I absolutely love them. Mind you the integrated speakers are a bit cheesy and worthless, but for $265 you can't beat them with a stick. Oh, I game on them also... good color, good response time, and most importantly not one dead pixel in either of them.
posted by fusinski at 12:59 AM on July 5, 2007

Response by poster: fusinski: Because of the trade offs I'd have to make. Basically, to get a useful vertical resolution in the 16:9 ratio costs too much. The advantage of widescreen is largely limited to video since you can just easily "fit a word document and a browser" in a 1600x1200 rectangle as you can in a 1680x1050 rectangle and far more comfortably than in a 1440x900 rectangle. True, widescreen feels bigger but that's psychological. You get an extra 80 pixels left to right and lose 150 top to bottom and it costs the same or more. The cheap widescreens are 1440x900, which isn't much space at all.

At work I use an Apple Cinema display (highly overrated, like most apple crap, looks nice until you turn it on. The color, while well saturated, isn't all that good, latency is extremely high no matter what the spec says, ergonomics are lousy, I can't say enough against it. Before I started using it I thought it was gorgeous, though) which has a nice big 1920x1200 resolution. After using it for over a year I still don't have any problem coming home to a 4:3 display (except that mine is a rapidly aging crt) maybe my brain is broken but I don't respond to the illusion of open space as strongly as other people seem to respond (makes apartment living easy). You can't find a widescreen display with that resolution for under $400 and any lower resolution would feel extremely cramped and wouldn't be worth it to me. That said, if a 1680x1050 is significantly cheaper I'd be willing to forgo those 150 pixels.
posted by Grod at 1:35 AM on July 5, 2007

Tom's Hardware and cNet and the like review and recommend products that cost $600 two years ago and don't exist anymore. The Dell 2001FP doesn't seem to exist except as a refurb, for instance, though several reviews say it was a good monitor.

That's because the 2001FP was replaced with the 2005FP, and then the 2007FP.
posted by advil at 1:54 AM on July 5, 2007

I feel your pain. I was in a similar boat when my 6 year old 24" Compaq monitor died *sniff*, and I didn't have the scratch to buy an equivalent replacement. I looked at LCD, but felt that CRT was still superior in most respects, as LCD has to make the color vs. refresh trade off. Finally I did what I've never done before, I bought a refurbished piece of equipment. It's a bit of a gamble, but it definitely paid off for me this time. I got a 22" NEC diamondtron from AccurateIT. If you are on a budget, I can't recommend them enough.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:54 AM on July 5, 2007

I too feel your pain. I bought a cheap BenQ monitor a few years ago, its serves its purpose and has decent colour accuracy but 2 dead pixels within a few days of purchase, but now I'm financially in a position to upgrade I want something over 19" that isnt widescreen.
Why not widescreen? Because my PC is not a cinema, if I want to watch a DVD I have a perfectly good DVD player and TV in my living room where I can slouch on a nice comfy sofa and chill out.
If anything most applications could benefit from a 'high-screen' monitor - extra room for toolbars/menus. I dont think I've ever been working on my PC and thought so myself, man this application would work so much better if it was wider! Theres been a few times when I would have like a little more headroom though.

But everything is widescreen these days eurgh :(
posted by missmagenta at 4:43 AM on July 5, 2007

May I add a related question? How do I figure out whether my old laptop's (Compaq Evo N410C) video card can successfully drive an LCD screen of a given size / resolution, or if it can handle widescreen?
posted by sevenyearlurk at 6:11 AM on July 5, 2007

Sevenyearlurk, ask on the main page. I suspect the answer is 1024x768 maximum resolution though.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:36 AM on July 5, 2007

Grod, I've been to the retailers and looked at all manner of LCD's. They suck. I can't really explain it, but the picture they give just feels rough compared to a good quality CRT. I picked up a used 22" Trinitron for $90 at a local place. As for the loss of sharpness in aging monitors, the focus adjustments on the high voltage transformer can bring it right back to life sometimes.

7YL: Use system info to find out which video card it has, then google it for the specs.
posted by IronLizard at 6:51 AM on July 5, 2007

I got a great 20" widescreen BenQ for $200something off of NewEgg. It was marked hugely down. The display tends to make things darker than they should be, even with color correction, so it may not be great for intense photo/video work, but for general use and basic photo work its fine. No lag, high res. What's your problem with widescreen? Combined with high resolution, it lets you put two Word documents side by side, or a Word + web, or something of the like. Plus your movies don't get letterboxed as much.
posted by devilsbrigade at 7:04 AM on July 5, 2007

This Anandtech forums thread is where I turn when I want to gnash my teeth over how a significant improvement over my Dell 1905FP would cost more than I can justify.

The listed recommendations don't include anything meeting your specs and price.

And remember that you may have to upgrade your video card to handle 1900 x 1200.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 7:44 AM on July 5, 2007

Yes, unfortunately, you basically just asked for a $20,000 Porsche or Lamborghini. You don't have the garage or the money for it. other words you'd need a new graphics card and would be spending much more than you want to on the monitor itself. Although I can second the never going back from widescreen. It fits the human field of vision much better.
posted by Phyltre at 8:16 AM on July 5, 2007

I have fusinkski's absurdly cheap widescreen monitor also. I picked it up for $250 and I'm very pleased with it. Speakers *are* pants though.

I n'th widescreen is goooood. Having side panels open in Outlook, properties / navigators in development tools (Visual Studio for example), Gimp etc. is now far less intrusive. And it's great for the odd widescreen movie.
posted by NailsTheCat at 11:52 AM on July 5, 2007

Best answer: A few models to get you started:

ViewSonic VP930b
LG Flatron L2000C
HP LP2065

As far as I know, their prices don't quite fall below $300 but you might have luck finding less expensive monitors with similar specs.

In addition to the aforementioned Anandtech thread you might find this buyer's guide helpful as well as this Panel Search. Also, the Monitor Guidester lets you search by screen size and resolution.
posted by healthytext at 6:58 AM on July 6, 2007 [1 favorite]

The eye naturally goes left and right more than it goes up and down, which is why widescreen is superior. Information side by side is easier to read than information above and below. It's not just for movies. Therefore a comparable resolution widescreen display isn't as silly as some of the answers here might suggest.

I've always heard that the Dell displays are nice, and at the 20" 1680x1050 point, there are many different price levels to choose from.
posted by thethirdman at 9:07 AM on July 6, 2007

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