A Tale of Three Monitors

October 25th, 2008

For quite a few years now, I’ve been using a Dell 2001FP 20″ LCD. Aside from the fact that this is the monitor that has apparently placed me on Dell’s “permanently harass with paper catalogs” list (BTW, USPS has sent them a nasty enforcement letter over that), and the fact that when it needed warranty repair, Dell didn’t know how to do it because it wasn’t connected to a Dell computer, it’s been a good monitor.

With Terah’s recent conversion to Linux, she needed a monitor. We decided she could use the 20″ LCD, and I’d get a new monitor. I have a nice 24″ HP LP2465 at work, 1920×1200, so I thought I’d hop on newegg and see what 24″ monitors I could find.

I found a Samsung T240 over there. Apparently Samsung’s premium “touch of color” line. I did some research. It got glowing reviews — people seemed to think the display was brilliant, and the only problem was that its stand wasn’t height-adjustable. It got rave reviews on Newegg. It was $400 after rebate. And it arrived here Thursday.

I opened up the box, and I have to tell you that it looks beautiful. The bezel is this reflective black with a hint of dark red at the bottom. I put it together, hooked it up, and…

Well, let’s just say that “Touch of Color” isn’t all that accurate. “Touch of Crap” is more like it.

As I write this, my Firefox window covers half the screen. The center part of it is this brilliant color. The lower part has the white faded to this sickening blue, and the bottom right corner has almost turned to a black-and-white image. While the top part of my screen simply is more contrasty, except for the very top of the screen, which has half an inch of brighter area than anywhere else.

In short, the viewing angle on here is so bad that sitting directly in front of the screen gives significant color variations. An xterm with a black background maximized to fill the screen has a black background some places and a gray background others. My solid midnightblue background looks more sky blue at some places and more… really dark blue… at others. And of course, moving my head slightly varies the color that I see. Also, on photos, there is very visible horizontal banding in them — apparently some sort of dithering going on since this is only a 6-bit display. Ugh.

How on earth this monitor got glowing reviews, I have no idea. I learned a bit about LCD panel types. Apparently the T240 is a TN display. The horror. I’ll never buy another one of those again.

The HP LP2465 that I have at work, and which is great with solid colors all across it, is an S-PVA. So I’m buying one of those for home. It’s more expensive, but — it’s a good display.

I am still trying to figure out exactly who thinks this is a good monitor. I tried games on it. It was responsive, but again, colors were distorted due to viewing angle. And this distortion means it’s completely useless for photo editing, where precise colors are important.

I bought it from Newegg, and their policy generally prohibits refunds on LCDs. I called them, explained the situation, and told them that I wanted to buy an HP LP2465 from them to replace it. After being on hold for a few minutes, they agreed to waive their policy — and even the 15% restocking fee, once I placed the order for the HP monitor. Classy show, Newegg. That’s the one bright spot in all this.

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  1. directhex

    The TN/non-TN question seems a very personal decision. Personally I agree with you, and wouldn’t consider a TN screen, but many insist that they’re just as good as PVA/MVA/IPS (your 2001 is a S-IPS screen, by the way; i have the same one).

    Other PVA screens to consider, if they’re affordable, are Dell’s 2408WFP, and Hyundai’s W241D. Or SOME models of Hyundai W240D (check with your retailer). I got the Hyundai for my wife, and it’s a lovely screen – for £100 less than the Dell.

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  2. eccentric

    I recently ran into this very same problem buying a couple new monitors a few months ago. I ended up getting a pair of Samsung monitors that had great reviews and as soon as I turned them on I noticed the colour was horrifically bad and no amount of calibration helped it. After spending far to much time trying to figure out what was wrong I came to the same conclusion that they were TN panels. I don’t know how anyone could not notice the horrible colour representation, but whatever.

    I ended up selling those monitors and after much searching found a pair of S-PVA panel monitors (they don’t seem to make many monitors with these panels anymore). They were much more expensive than the TN panels but have excellent colour and look great. Well worth the extra cost.

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