Just a handful of of years ago, having an LCD screen or a laptop was as unique as owning a Ferrari. The technology was very clever and it inspired a lot of different companies to advance their production lines and start manufacturing the gadgets that we are using today. However, for many photographers and other professionals and prosumers that work with image processing, the LCD monitor was a huge disappointment over the old CRT monitor because they simply didn’t produce the same color accuracy and came with a host of other problems such as ghosting and poor response times.
Fortunately, things have progressed even in that department and (some of) the monitors that are sold today can offer the best of both worlds. These are usually monitors with IPS (In-Plane Switching) panels or VA (Vertical Alignement) panels instead of the budget TN (Twisted Nematic), which is still the most common over-the-counter computer monitors; thanks to their attractive price tags and low respose times, TN panels are good enough for gamers and most average users, but they rarely if ever offer the color accuracy needed for photo editing. Up until recently, however, IPS monitors have had the disadvantages of slow response times and a hefty price tag. This has changed–although they still cost more than the average TN-based monitor the prices have been significantly reduced, and so has the response times. On this page, we have gathered some of what we consider to be best monitors for photography and other color-critical uses. We have included both the most high-end products on the market as well as a few good alternatives for those on a tight budget.
1.) NEC MultiSync PA271W
The NEC MultiSync PA271W is definitely one of the best monitors on the market and offers a level of quality that only the top segment can provide. This model does have one problem and it is mainly related to its price tag. Affording the best possible monitor is not always a viable option, so other options may be more appropriate for the budget-conscious buyer. But for its money’s worth, this monitor is able to make the vast majority of other screens in the world look bad and few have as clear picture and accurate colors as the NEC MultiSync. A colorimeter is offered as an optional add-on and it supports 14-bit 3D lookup tables (LUTs) for calibration. The panel covers 97.1% of Adobe RGB color space and the brightness is 300cd/m2. Photo editing just scratches the surface of what this monitor can do.
2.) HP DreamColor LP 2480zx
Another one of the best selling professional PC monitors is the HP DreamColor LP 2480zx, which makes no compromises whatsoever with color reproduction (or with its pricing). It is clearly in the same category as the NEC PA271W as far as performance and features go, but it does not offer the same amount of calibration options as the NEC, which might be a deal breaker for some photographers. It is nevertheless considered one of the top monitors on the market for good reason–it deals out perfectly uniform backlighting as well as black level and color saturation that are second to none.
3) Asus PA246Q
When it comes to vibrant and dashing colors, this monitor is on top of things. With detailed OSD customization that covers every conceivable option, this unique product has features that provide amazing graphics precision and a monitor that is fully ergonomic. Additionally, it comes in at a very reasonable and affordable price. As all monitors, though, there are some pros and cons to consider, even if the positive aspects far outweigh the negative with the 14-inch PA246Q (“PA” stands for ProArt). As a consequence of its intensive backlight it doesn’t quite reach the deepest blacks. But this is a minor complaint for this inexpensive, professional photo editing monitor.
4) Dell UltraSharp U2711
This is quite possibly the monitor that strikes the most ideal balance between performance and price. The 27-inch Dell U2711 comes out with an extremely high resolution IPS panel (2560 x 1440) that both gives you a great deal of screen real estate as well as accurate colors. With its low response time, the monitor is equally suited for photo editing, playing games or watching movies–not least considering its size. The UltraSharp U2711 has received glowing reviews practically everywhere you look and this is no surprise with its feature set in mind. It comes with 12-bit internal processing that leaves you with 1.07 billion colors and a 110% color gamut. The U2711 comes factory tuned with specific settings for Adobe RGB or sRGB.
5) Samsung SyncMaster S27A850D
Samsung is one of the world’s largest display manufacturers and work with a technology similar to IPS that the company calls Super PLS (Plane-to-Line Switching), which is claimed to both offer better image quality and lower production cost. In the S27A850 (D), Samsung offers one of the most compact 27-inch screens on the market and includes a host of features for professional users. The SyncMaster has three USB ports that makes this monitor usable for different reasons than its cutting edge technology. Nonetheless it boasts great overall specifications with 178 degree viewing angles, 2560 x 1440 resolution, 5ms response time and an incredible static contrast ratio of 3,000:1.
6) Dell UltraSharp U2412M
The 24-inch U2412M is one of the latest professional monitors in Dell’s UltraSharp lineup and comes in at a very attractive price point when you take its feature set into consideration. It’s a top quality IPS monitor with higher than average resolution (1920 x 1200) thanks to its 16:10 aspect ratio instead of the more common 16:9. It comes well prepared for the photographer or other professional user with a full set of physical adjustment option including height, swivel, tilt and pivot. The 82% color gamut is perhaps not as impressive as the most expensive IPS panels, but still more than sufficient for most users. It offers a 1,000:1 static contrast ration (2 million:1 dynamic) and 178 / 178 degree viewing angles.
7) ViewSonic VP2365-LED
This monitor offers great value and also results in savings on your utility bill, as it’s energy efficient and powered by LED backlighting. The VP2365-LED is equipped with a professional-grade IPS panel with the excellent color reproduction and contrast that are both synonymous with the panel type. It comes with a full range of ergonomic features including height, tilt, swivel and pivot adjustments and also includes a 4-port USB port. It’s difficult to point out any flaws with this monitor at the current price range, where it is otherwise hard to find a monitor that is good enough for photo editing, CAD/CAM and other professional uses while also saving up to 40% energy in the process.
8. HP LP2475W
As opposed to the older business-class LP series from HP, such as the LP2275W, the 24-inch 2475W has made the jump from S-PVA panels to IPS, which is generally a good thing if not revolutionary. Its high quality LCD panel offers excellent color accuracy and a 102% color gamut. It comes with a wide range of features that should appeal to photographers, including a higher-than average 1920 x 1200 resolution and options for hooking it up via HDMI, DVI-D, DisplayPort, composite and even S-Video. While it is certainly more expensive than the average 24-inch monitor it makes up for it in the performance department. It is also equipped with tilt, swivel, pivot and height adjustments.
9) NEC MultiSync EA241WM-BK
If you think that a 27-inch monitor is needlessly large, this excellent 24-inch NEC screen offers most of the enhanced features of the larger models but at a much more attractive price. The MultiSync EA241WM-BK has received fantastic reviews all over the web for its wide feature range and very reasonable price tag. It is height, tilt, swivel and pivot adjustable and comes in a very discrete design that should fit in any office environment. The reason for its low price is that it actually uses a TN panel, but this is not your average panel–the viewing angles are almost as good as on an IPS panel (160/160 degrees) and the resolution is also higher than the standard 24-inch monitors offered right now. On top of that it also boasts 400 cd/m2 brightness and a 1,000:1 static contrast ratio.
10) BenQ EW2420
If you are looking for a high-end monitor for photo editing but want to steer clear of the price premium attached to the latest IPS monitors, the BenQ EW2430 offers a good compromise that probably hits the perfect balance between performance and pricing. The VA panel appears to be identical to the newer BenQ EW2430 that we reviewed recently, but retains the lower price tag. The response time is not quite on par with the latest IPS panels, but this is less of a problem for photo editing and there is certainly nothing wrong with the image quality. It comes with a true 8-bit VA panel and viewing angles that are on par with the best monitors out there (178/178). Additionally, there’s a USB hub included and the monitor can be connected via DVI-D, D-Sub (VGA) or HDMI.
In regards to the top quality panels offered in many different LCD monitors, having new designs and sizes help with the sale of these monitors and the more people to try the product means the more people to hear about it and want to get it, but it is hardly the most important factor for the professional. High-end monitors in our age have advanced to a point where the screen will adjust exactly with your vision to ensure the quality of your show and the comfortable feeling that comes with the latest technology. The resolution is often aligned with the prices of monitors nowadays and more people have started to realize that spending more money on a monitor is going to mean that they do not have to buy two bad monitors to save money when your expensive monitor will not only last longer but offer a lot more features and a lot higher quality and definition.
People everywhere would like to know exactly what they are spending money on, so making sure you know what you are looking for in a product and researching what you are going to get is the best way to get your moneys worth at times like this when every dollar counts. Having the best monitor is definitely on the smartest things to do that will save you money now and in the long run–whether photography is your profession or hobby. LCD monitors have advance and we have to advance with them and keep up with all the new tech that is developing around us everyday.
An important gateway was opened for many types of business and professional users when IPS panels started to be used more frequently and sold at lower prices. The price of LCD monitors in general has dropped down drastically since they were first invented and put in the market for the public to use. Now the same thing is happening for high-end panels that used to cost a fortune. This slow but certain move to better panel technology is a result of LCD manufacturers realizing that there is actually a huge demand for quality monitors. For many users the monitor is still the weakest link in their setup and a great deal of them has started to glance at IPS equipped displays, which are now quite common in handheld devices.