6 of the best mid-price monitors for your Mac
10th Sep 2011 | 10:00
Monitors from £300 to £500 reviewed and rated
6 of the best mid-price monitors for your Mac
Choosing a great display for your Mac is a big decision - and it can be complicated too. It's one of the most expensive purchases you can make outside your Mac (so you'll want to get it right) and yet there are all kinds of choices to make about about screen size, price and the technology inside.
One of the biggest changes in technology has been the introduction of LED backlights, which are gradually replacing cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFL). They promise more even lighting across the height and width of the display and offer better contrast ratios, so colours can be truer with more realistic black levels. Or at least that's the claim.
The second biggest change has been the huge improvement in display technology. Vertical Alignment and In-Plane Switching (IPS) displays offer wider viewing angles so you don't have to sit dead centre in front of a display to see its true colours.
Third are the efforts by display makers to improve LCD panel performance by using overdrive technology. This reduces monitor's response time to eliminate ghosting.
We've gathered six £300-£500 models that have some or all of these features on board, and thoroughly compared them against each other. The aim? To help you find the best one for your needs.
Acer S273HLbmii - £300
EIZO FORIS FS2331 - £315
Fujitsu P24W6-IPS - £480
Hazro HZ27WA - £500
Philips Brilliance 273P3LPHES - £349
Samsung C23A750X - £400
Mac monitor reviews
Test one: Design and build
Choosing a new monitor isn't just about what it can do - you have to live with it every day too. In other words, it has to look good, be well built, have lots of connectivity options and be easy to use.
The monitors that come closest to doing all these are the EIZO FORIS FS2331 and the Fujitsu PW24W6-IPS. The EIZO's big win is the simple but brilliant inclusion of a remote control, which saves you from having to tweak its settings using the somewhat fiddly adjustment controls that bedevil other displays.
The EIZO also has a good range of connectivity options, including two HDMI ports, and has a matte display and feels robust.
The Fujitsu PW24W6-IPS is fantastic too. It might be clad in boring beige, but it's the only monitor here to include a DisplayPort and it includes height, tilt and swivel adjustment. The Fujitsu's 24-inch screen can also be rotated by up to 90-degrees - a feature it also shares with the Philips Brilliance 273P3LPHES.
Test two: Viewing angles
Problems with viewing angles on LCD displays aren't quite the issue they once were, thanks to advances in display technology like In-Plane Switching (IPS) and Vertical Alignment (VA), which help reduce colour shifts and loss of contrast and brightness as you move away from the centre of the screen.
Of the six, the Fujitsu P24W6-IPS and Hazro H27WA both feature IPS panels, while the EIZO FORIS FS2331 includes VA. This gives them all theoretical viewing angles of 178-degrees in both the horizontal and vertical planes - although manufacturer's figures don't always live up to reality.
Of these three, the Hazro is quickest to lose colour fidelity and brightness from the centre, while the Fujitsu and EIZO fare the best.
The Philips Brilliance 273P3LPHES is a fair performer too - there's a subtle but noticeable drop in brightness when you get away from the centre, but its built-in swivel, height and tilt adjustment help to make up for that.
Test three: Light consistency
One of the biggest tests of any monitor is to see how well it stays evenly lit from edge to edge. Why? Because not only are excessively dark or bright spots annoying when you see them every day, but they also make it less easy to assess differences in colour - something that's important if you do a lot of design or photography work.
Most LCD monitors break down into two different camps: ones with cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFLs) backlighting and others that use LEDs. Both make claims for being able to display the most accurate colours, but LED monitors have the edge when it comes to an even spread of light - or at least that's the theory.
In practice it's the CCFL-backlit Fujitsu and EIZO monitors that are the best performers here. Both are evenly lit, with only a hint of darkness at the edges. The worst performers are the LEDs: the Samsung and Philips both have particularly noticeable dark patches in their corners.
Test four: Screen test
This test is all about picture quality and it's here that our monitors really start to stand out from each other: can a display that's great at showing off your photos be as accomplished when it comes to playing games, watching movies or making it easy to read and write text?
For a business monitor, Philips Brilliance 273P3LPHES performs surprisingly poorly with text, showing noticeable blurring at even moderate point sizes.
At the other extreme is the EIZO FORIS FS2331, which surprises for precisely the opposite reason, with text staying wonderfully readable right down to four point. The Fujitsu P24W6-IPS comes a very close second.
Both the Philips and Samsung are great with greyscale, clearly distinguishing between 0% and 5% black at one end and 95% to 100% black at the other, with the non-LED EIZO coming closest. It's also the best performer when it comes to playing games - and looks brilliant with HD movies too.
The best monitor for your Mac: EIZO FORIS FS2331
Spending £300-£500 on a monitor is a big ask these days, so which one is for you?
The first to go are the Samsung C23A750X and Hazro HZ27WA. Both are let down by poor design decisions, non-features and so-so monitor performance.
The Acer S273HLbmii and Philips Brilliance 273P3LPHES fall at similar hurdles, but for different reasons: in the Acer's case, it's a lack of connectivity options, while with the Philips it's poor text quality.
In second place is the Fujitsu P24W6-IPS. It's easy to use and delivers great performance where it counts - on-screen; but our pick is the EIZO FORIS FS2331. From text to games to ease of use, it gets all the right things right and it's sensibly priced at £315.
First published in MacFormat Issue 237
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