More LCD tuning tricks

My most recent columns have, um, focused on little-known ways to sharpen the picture on the new, less-than-$US400 flat-panel LCD screens that have become popular in the past year.

My most recent columns have, um, focused on little-known ways to sharpen the picture on the new, less-than-$US400 flat-panel LCD screens that have become popular in the past year.

This week, I'll share with you some more industry secrets from Raymond Soneira, the president of DisplayMate Technologies, which produces the DisplayMate utilities I used to torture-test the new flat-panel technology.

Looks aren't everything. Soneira says many LCD panels that seemed great in the store are disappointing when placed in your business or home. That's because most manufacturers preset their panels to look best under the intense florescent lighting that's typical of trade shows and dealer showrooms. That's probably not the same wattage you have over your desk. You can often get a better picture in your own environment by adjusting the brightness, contrast and other controls as soon as a new LCD is installed.

Keep refresh down. Many people push their monitors to the highest refresh rate their PC's display adapters are capable of. They have heard this reduces flicker, but for CRTs and the new analogue LCDs, it isn't necessary.

"A very small number of people can see any flicker at 75Hz on a CRT," Soneira says.

"Most LCDs are happiest at 60Hz and you shouldn't see any flicker at this rate." A lower refresh rate produces screen pixels that are sharper, brighter and more crisply defined. It also minimises problems with LCD weaknesses such as pixel tracking and phase, which I described in previous columns.

Use 32-bit colour. There is no visible difference when a video board produces colors using 24 bits versus 32 bits. But performance can take a hit. "Most video boards run faster at 32-bit colour than 24-bit," Soneira says. "That's functionally true in all video boards I'm aware of."

And he urges that you never set a board to 16-bit colour. This assigns one more bit to the green signal than it does to the red and blue components of the image, resulting in a greenish tint to most images.

Use native resolution. Analogue CRTs may look good at almost any resolution they can physically support, but in an LCD display, "The pixels are rigidly fixed in place when manufactured," Soneira explains. "The only way to display a different resolution is with scaling and interpolation. It just doesn't look good for fine text and graphics."

So what are Soneira's recommendations when buying a less-than-$US400 LCD? The best in DisplayMate tests (in no particular order) are the KDS Rad-5, NEC LCD1530V, Samsung 570V, and Viewsonic VE150. The slightly pricier Viewsonic VG151, with a digital as well as analog interface, is "excellent for the price", he says.

Send tips to brian@brianlivingston.com. Send letters for publication in Computerworld to Computerworld Letters.

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