Best monitor for watching movies
2nd Dec 2011 | 10:30
8 of the best media screens to buy today
Best monitor for watching movies
Even with the most powerful processor, a cutting edge graphics card and a range of HD media to enjoy, if your PC's monitor isn't up to the job then you're going to miss out.
When it comes to buying a monitor, there are many more features to consider than just the number of pixels. Muddying the waters further, many manufacturers see fit to boast about relatively unimportant specifications that serve only to let the marketing department put a big number on the box.
The biggest culprit here is dynamic contrast ratio. While the normal contrast ratio of a monitor is very important when determining the potential image quality - especially when it comes to the dark blacks and bright whites - the contrast ratio of most monitors will be 1,000:1. Dynamic contrast ratios, on the other hand, are usually much higher and can range from around 5,000:1 to 10,000:1 and higher.
There's no industry standard way of testing dynamic contrast ratio and extremely high numbers can only result in tiny improvements in performance that won't be noticeable under normal viewing conditions.
We've cut through all the marketing to look at the performance of these monitors where it really matters. When it comes to watching media, the most important specifications here are colour reproduction, response time and overall image performance. There are many monitors on the market that excel in some areas but are disappointing in others, which makes it easy to end up with a display that's not the best choice for your needs.
We're looking for the best media-playing monitor on the market today, paying attention to the figures that really make a difference. Here are the monitors we tested.
Dell U2412M - £310
Eizo Foris FS2332 - £345
Asus ML249H - £200
AOC i2353FH - £155
Iiyama Prolite B2712HDS - £268
Hazro HZ27WC - £549
BenQ EW24300 - £186
ViewSonic VX2753mh-LED - £250
This might look like a P2411H Professional series monitor, but there's one important difference: it's an IPS screen, not a TN.
Screen type is the single biggest deciding factor in your screen's image quality. In IPS screens, crystals are kept parallel in a lateral electric field, whereas in TN panels they untwist as voltage is applied, and their alignment alters as they drift from the anchored electrode. This hinders the flow of bulb light, and the contrast and colour representation as you look at the screen from wider angles than head-on.
TN panels are cheaper to produce because they need half as many transistors per pixel. They also produce much quicker response times.
Read our full Dell U2412M review
Eizo Foris FS2332
With two HDMI inputs nestled among the more standard DVI and VGA sockets, plus built-in speakers and a remote control, this monitor is clearly designed to double as a television. As a result, it doesn't look quite as glamorous as dedicated LED monitors.
The infrared port for the remote control and built-in speakers makes it a rather bulky and ugly device - at least on the outside. Thankfully, the hardware powering this panel suffers none of the compromises that plagued earlier monitor/HDTV hybrids.
The Eizo Foris FS2332 uses an IPS panel rather than the more popular TN display found in most LCD monitors.
Read our full Eizo Foris FS2332 review
Are the glory days of monitors finally upon us? Looking at the displays in this group test, it seems so, but the problem with glory days is that standards are so high across the board, it's easy to miss out on the very best devices.
Asus' ML249H monitor might not be aiming quite that high, but it certainly wants to beat the competition. With a native resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 and a contrast ratio of 3,000:1, it goes toe-to-toe with other manufacturer's screens at the £200 price point.
It also boasts an impressive 178-degree viewing angle horizontally and vertically thanks to the VA panel, although this is offset by a slightly longer response time. The screen itself produces the excellent picture quality and accurate colour representation we've come to expect from mainstream monitors outside the designers' realm.
Read our full Asus ML249H review
There's no denying that the AOC i2353FH is a fine looking monitor. Its easily one of the thinnest desktop displays we've ever reviewed at just 9.2mm deep, not including the base. The brushed aluminium design works well and the lower case 'i' in the name hints at AOC taking Apple's design ethics as inspiration.
There are no buttons - just touch keys on the base. This is a rare case of design working against functionality, because the touch keys aren't as quick or responsive as standard buttons. The base of the monitor looks good, but it doesn't let you swivel the display.
If you want a great looking monitor you might be happy to overlook this, but it does make positioning the screen more difficult.
Read our full AOC i2353FH review
Four more media monitors reviewed
Iiyama Prolite B2712HDS
The Iiyama Prolite has a native resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, and will handle HD content from a number of sources thanks to the DVI, HDMI and VGA connectors. At this price, it shouldn't come as much of a shock that this is a TN panel.
Response times are good, with no noticeable blurring in games or movies. Contrast is impressive, with the deep blacks, though whites can be a little washed out - not a problem for gamers, but if you spend a lot of time working or on the internet then a TN panel may not be for you.
The horizontal viewing angle is a bit of a downside, with a yellow tint creeping in on lighter areas of the screen if it's not viewed straight on. This is only really an issue if you're planning get the whole family round to watch a film.
Read our full Iiyama Prolite B2712HDS review
Acres of screen real estate in a frill-free case - that's the idea behind the Hazro HZ27WC monitor. There's more to it than that though, because this simply styled 27-inch screen has strong specs where it really counts.
There's an IPS liquid crystal panel for great picture quality, with an LED backlight for cleaner, longer lasting and more efficient lighting. You don't get much else though. There's a single DVI video input and no controls, contrast or colour buttons.
The only image adjustment on offer is a five-stage backlight level control. If you want to fine-tune the image, you have to do it in software. But just how good is this display? The HZ27WC almost certainly packs the same LCD panel as Apple's expensive 27-inch Cinema Display, which will cost you somewhere north of £900.
Read our full Hazro HZ27WC review
The BenQ EW2430 is impressive on paper and at first sight too. First, there's that VA panel, packing an LED backlight and 1,920 x 1,080 pixels. It also boasts a 3,000:1 contrast ratio, which is the best we've ever seen. It has 178-degree viewing angles in both planes, and a decent pixel response of 8ms.
The EW2430 is an imposing physical specimen. The stand only offers tilt adjustment, but the combination of a glossy black bezel and brushed and anodised surfaces communicates quality in a manner few, if any, competing sub-£200 monitor screens manage.
The feature set is solid too, and includes two HDMI ports, DVI and VGA, along with a four-port USB header. All of which makes it disappointing to report that the image quality is not what we were expecting it to be.
Read our full BenQ EW2430 review
Unsurprisingly for a 27-inch monitor, the VX2753 is a bit of a beast. Even though it takes advantage of LED technology, it isn't particularly slim; its dimensions are a rather imposing 25.91 x 18.9 x 8.35-inches.
However, while the LED doesn't result in a slimmer model, it has an impact on power consumption. ViewSonic boasts that the VX2753 is around 40 per cent more efficient than comparable 27-inch displays. The large screen and 1,920 x 1,080 resolution make it ideal for watching media.
As with other TN panel-based monitors the response time is excellent - just 1ms - which makes it excellent for fast-moving action movies and games. While the VX2753 comes with two HDMI ports and a VGA, it lacks a DVI port.
Read our full ViewSonic VX2753mh-LED review
The best monitor for movies is...
One of the conclusions we can take away from this test is that when it comes to monitors - especially ones designed for media playback - all is not what it seems.
As we said at the start, the specifications that manufacturers stamp on their boxes are only a small part of the story and sometimes hardly affect the monitor's overall image quality. Astronomical dynamic contrast ratios and boasts of full HD 1080p resolutions are all well and good, but nowadays what really sets monitors apart is the oft ignored panel type.
In our tests the IPS-based monitors blew away the TN, and to some extent the VA monitors when it came to image and colour quality - their Achilles' heel being a slightly sluggish response time. The Dell U2412M was a worthy winner, but our value award goes to the AOC i2353FH for proving that IPS panels don't have to break the bank.
When all is said and done, the most important thing a monitor can do is provide the greatest possible image quality, and in that respect the Dell U2412M excels. Colour reproduction and contrast - two elements that are so important in ensuring image quality is at its peak - are handled wonderfully by the Dell.
The Dell U2412M excelled in all our benchmarks and we wouldn't hesitate to recommend it as a media-playing monitor for your PC.
The AOC i2353FH looks fantastic, offers brilliant image quality and, despite lacking DVI, offers plenty of connectivity for your media playback - all at a great price. What's not to like?
It might not be the largest screen on test, and lacks some advanced features, but for just over £150, the AOC i2353FH is excellent value for money and well worth considering.
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