I maintain that in the everyday use of your Mac there are three things that matter most – a comfortable mouse, an ergonomically sound keyboard and a screen that is placed in the right position and displays your work in a way that makes it easy to work and isn’t uncomfortable.
Since last year’s look at LCD displays (AMW, August 2009) not a lot has changed. The technology hasn’t moved on in the same way as TV with the advent of 3D. What we have seen is prices falling – with 24in displays now offering good bang for buck – and higher resolutions becoming the norm so that 1080p content can be viewed without any downscaling.
When making your purchasing decision we’d suggest that you need to strike a balance between size and resolution. While a larger panel might seem like a good idea, it may be that a smaller one offers a higher resolution and, therefore, can display more rows of a spreadsheet or parts of a photo at one time.
One of the key differentiators between different models is the number and type of input options. With HD TV tuners becoming commodity items, we’re seeing desktop displays with integrated tuners becoming more common. For the office, this can be handy and it means that keeping up the day’s news is a snap, although it also means that there’s more capacity for distraction.
HDMI is slowly finding its way into the mainstream so you can connect a set-top box or Blu-ray player to the display.
For those running a Mac mini, the different connectivity options mean that the computer’s LCD can convert the office into a leisure area after hours. As screen sizes and connectivity options increase, so does the display’s flexibility.
With calibration, it’s important to note that there are two types. High-end LCDs allow the calibration to operate directly with the panel’s hardware. So, when the calibration hardware determines the best settings, it writes these to the panel’s controller chip. Cheaper models may allow you to calibrate the LCD for the best image but this only operates at the software level. Either way, it’s important that you repeat the calibration process periodically as the lighting conditions in your workspace change.
As always, it’s worth double-checking the warranty terms for any LCD purchase whether it’s for the office or the lounge-room. In particular, make sure you understand the dead pixel policy for the vendor and the manufacturer as they might differ. Some resellers offer a 100 percent guarantee against dead pixels for a limited time after purchase. This might be in excess of what the manufacturer offers.
While some manufacturers offer warranty conditions that protect you from any dead or stuck pixels, others apply more complex formulae that determine the impact of any dead or stuck pixels.
Such policies often determine the validity of a claim on the basis of the number of dead pixels, their proximity to each other and their position on the screen. For example, two dead pixels in the bottom corner of the screen might not allow a replacement but two dead pixels in the centre of the screen might.
As always, make sure you understand the relevant vendor and manufacturer policies as well as the local consumer protection laws for your state.
This Lab Test originally appeared in the August issue of Australian Macworld magazine.