|ASUS VW266H Widescreen LCD Monitor|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Monitor | HDTV|
|Written by Doug Dallam|
|Monday, 06 June 2011|
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Panel Tehnology Features
The monitor is of the "twisted film" flavor. This is what most monitor panels are because they're the cheapest to produce. Like most things in life, though, cheapest isn't always the best, or, perhaps, never the best. So too for the ASUS VW266H. Panels are made from several different technologies, the main types being TA (Twisted Film), VA (Vertical Alignment), PVA (Patterned Vertical Alignment), and IPS (In Plane Switching) and each of those technologies has several iterations of each panel. Since this isn't a technical article on LCD technology, I'll try to make this short and informative, but if you want to know more about these types of panels, please visit Benchmark Review's article on LCDs and the very to the point and easy to understand TFT Central website.
Understanding panel types is important if you need accurate color reproduction and rendering of images. So down and dirty, here's the scoop: Twisted Film panels have a very limited range of visibility before you get contrast wash out and color shift. Even though the viewing angle on the ASUS VW266H states it as 170 degrees horizontal and 160 degrees vertical, that doesn't mean you're going to get a very nice picture at those angles. If you need the additional bonuses that an IPS panel can give you, then you need to know why the viewing angles don't tell you what you need to know.
I set the ASUS monitor side by side to my IPS panel for comparison. After I got the monitors set up, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the ASUS monitor did really well from extreme horizontal viewing angles, even though it eventually washed out the image contrast and color. The vertical was much worse and is typical of all TF monitors. Suffice it to say, if you need color accuracy, you'd do well to look at an IPS based panel. On the other hand, the ASUS VW266H does a nice job for everything else, and for basic graphics and photo editing, it's more than enough, and even good for a TF panel. I was going to leave it at this, but I got curious and decided to do some additional testing, and I'm glad I did.
I actually set the monitors up side by side again and hardware calibrated them with the Colorvision Spyder 2 Suite. I made sure each monitor was using the correct profile by using the Windows 7 Color Management option found in the Control Panel. Then off went the lights, and on went the show. And what a show it was. What I say next is in no way exaggeration. I could not believe how well the calibrated ASUS VW266H stood up to the Phillips IPS panel I use for photographic post processing.
My jaw dropped. I mean seriously dropped. The images on both monitors were nearly identical colorwise with a few exceptions. As far as contrast goes, the ASUS was much brighter, which is typical of TF panels when compared to IPS panels (IPS panels newer than mine have much higher contrast ratio though). There are caveats to this exceptional color accuracy compared to my IPS panel, so an IPS panel is still going to be better for those needing a monitor not only for normal use and gaming, but for professional color applications. Let's look at some of those caveats.
First let me restate that if you need color critical accuracy, be prepared to look at monitors in the thousands of dollars range. I wouldn't even trust my 1200.00 USD Phillips IPS panel for that. On the other hand, I previously thought I couldn't use the ASUS TF panel for photographic client proofing. I've changed my mind, sort of. What I can say is that after calibrating both monitors, and when sitting directly in front of the ASUS, most of the time the color and transitions were so close as to call them identical. This was incredible to me.
What impressed me was not only how close the color was, but how far I could actually move horizontally and continue to hold an "acceptable" degree of color and contrast. The problem is that when you move even a few inches any direction, especially vertically, the TF panel changes contrast and has color shift. That being the case, I'd still use my IPS for processing photography, but I would not hesitate to use the ASUS if I had to. It would be a matter of finding the sweet spot and staying there, for even a few degrees vertical and you shift contrast and color to some degree. Now let's actually see what a good TF panel looks like next to a good IPS panel:
We see here how the TF's color (on the right) is near identical to the IPS panel, and that's impressive. We can also see where the TF panel is a little more washed out than the IPS, which is on the left. This is due to the TF panel having such high contrast, even after calibration. One could back off on the contrast setting before calibration and that may or may not help. For instance, before hardware calibration, you might really turn down the contrast, yes, and then in turn that might prevent the monitor from achieving color calibration.
Another problem with that technique is that you never know how much to take it. On the other hand, I need to increase output contrast when printing many of my images from the IPS panel because it's contrast is relatively low. Confounding the matter is that our eyes become accustom to the contrast (and color temperature) we're working with, so everything looks fine-until you get the prints back. One way of getting around this problem is to go by the numbers in Photoshop instead of eyeballing it. Getting the correct contrast and color is beyond the scope of this review, however, so we'll get back to the ASUS VW266H.
Here we can see an example that with some images, the TF panel has a hard time rendering transitions, and color. This isn't due to the brightness or any other settings because the image is dead on exposure wise as reported in Lightroom 3. It's a TF problem. Some gradients are so complex that the TF technology just can't cope. You can see that the IPS panel on the left does a nice job of rendering the facial contrast and color tones. The TF panel, conversely, gives up by showing us a reddish hue and by blowing out the face. It's not this extreme in real life; but even so, you can't get it under control either. No matter what you do, the face will retain blown out sections and an off color tint. This is an instance where you'd be printing an inaccurate picture because of the limitations of the TF panel. This is not too often a problem and only happens on a few images. It's also the reason you'll want an IPS panel if you do lots of professional level graphics. Next, lets look at how the TF panel compares to the IPS panel at horizontal angles.
Here we have the IPS panel on the left, and the TF panel on the right again. You can see that even at this extreme angle, the ASUS hangs in there pretty well, especially for a TF panel. We are, however, beginning to see a little washout compared to the IPS panel that's now showing us a little muscle. (Let me state here and now that the point of showing you angle degradation isn't so you can set up your monitor at an extreme angle to play Crysis 2 in your front room while looking over your shoulder into your bedroom. It's to demonstrate that changes in angle, even subtle, can and do affect color and contrast on TF panels. Even small adjustments in angle have an affect, and the degradation is vastly increased when moving vertically. So keep that in mind.) Now let's take the angle step further.
This is just what we figured was going to happen. Now we see the TF panel trying hard to keep up with the IPS, and the IPS is starting to not only show its muscles, but flex them too. We see here that the TF panel is starting to wash out pretty good. Let's take it even further.
Now this is what we wanted. You'll notice that I've even angled the IPS panel further away from the camera than the TF panel here. The IPS panel is so far to the side of the camera that the picture was getting distorted when I viewed it with my eye, like looking at the picture from it's edge. And look at that baby go! It doesn't even look like a darn monitor, but, rather, a static hard print picture. This IPS panel isn't flexing it's muscle anymore. It's pumping iron!
On the other hand, we see the real limitation of TF panels in this example. The poor thing is about to drop from angle exhaustion. But you know what, I was probably 150 degrees to the side of the TF (and 165 degrees from the IPS) and that's really good for a TF panel. Well, there you go. That's the best I can do to demonstrate general differences between IPS and TF technology without hardware equipment and a lab, and I'm fresh out of friends at NASA.
The last thing I want to say about TF panels is that they tend to bleed back light. That means that you can see light coming from the edges of the monitor when in a dark room with a black screen. In gross situations, it can and will affect picture quality. The ASUS does bleed, but not like a stuck pig. Also, I can't really see that it makes a difference when viewing images generally. In the spirit of accurate reviewing, though, here's what it looks like.
Yep, just what we thought. A little bloody on the ASUS side on the right, while the IPS on the left is black as coal.Like I said, it's not bad at all. It probably shows on your screen as a little blue compared the the IPS on the left.
Moving from color and contrast to pixel pitch, let's look at monitor size in relation to pixel density. The pixel pitch of the AUS VW266H is .287. The pixel pitch of most 23" LCD monitors is .258. This means that the larger display actually has less pixel density per inch, which means less image information on the screen. The reason is because the ASUS is a 25.5" panel while the 23" is a smaller monitor--but both have the same display resolution of 1900x1200. Think of this as you would when you blow up an image in a graphics program, or when you have it printed in a large format. The same information in the image becomes less and less compacted because its information is static, while at the same time you're increasing it's viewable area. The result is that the image becomes more and more grainy looking the larger it gets. Does it matter for your viewing purposes on the ASUS?
Not really, since you're not buying this monitor for high end graphics work. In fact, to my eye, the only time I notice it is when I am processing photography (I'm a professional photographer) and some of the images some of the time show a more harsh transition between colors and tones and sometimes grain (in addition to the problems already stated above). Not all images show this. Mostly it's images with a large transitional area, such as sunsets. Overall, I'm impressed with the quality of the picture for a TF panel and I could not believe it's overall horizontal angle of useability and hardware color calibrated accuracy.
I mention these "negatives" in the spirit of accurate reviewing, but I don't see any of the negatives as any reason not to buy this monitor. For with gaming, business use, typing, surfing the web, and 99% of other activity, you're not going to see any of these negatives. In fact, after my tests, I'd be willing to use it for photo processing if I didn't have access to my IPS panel.
One more thing is particularly noteworthy for our less technical readers. Although this monitor is larger than say a 23", you won't get more stuff on your desktop. Again, the reason for this is that both the 23" and the ASUS 25.5" use the same resolution of 1920x1200. What you will get is a bigger gaming experience, bigger text (which is easier to read), bigger images, and so on. In other words, all the same stuff will look larger, and that's good.