Budget monitors group test

Introduction

The LED screens that Apple now uses in its Cinema displays, and in the all-in-one iMac, provide excellent image quality. We know many graphic designers and photographers who happily do all their design and editing work on an iMac. Unfortunately, the standalone Cinema displays are extremely expensive – starting at almost £650 for the 24in model and rising to a thumping £1,200 for the 30in model – and some designers are put off by the glossy screen.

It’s not surprising, then, that many creative users will want to look for less expensive alternatives. There are many attractive flat-screen monitors available these days, and even some of the budget models are impressive, such as LG’s stylish 23in E2350, which comes in at well under £200. In fact, most of the monitors we tested came in at £300 or less, with only more sophisticated models from Eizo and NEC pushing the price beyond that level.

When choosing a monitor, professional designers and photographers will want to pay close attention to the ‘colour gamut’ provided by their monitor. The colour gamut refers to the range of colours that the monitor can reproduce. If your work involves editing detailed, high-resolution photos then you obviously want a display that can reproduce all the colour information stored in that photo as accurately as possible.

We used special colour calibration and testing software to measure the colour gamut provided by each monitor and it soon became apparent that this is one area where you really get what you pay for, as it was the more expensive Eizo and NEC displays that produced the best results in our tests. The less expensive models from LG, Samsung, Viewsonic and HannsG would still be adequate for basic design work, such as page layouts, marketing brochures and simple photo-editing, but some of these models put their emphasis elsewhere.

The Samsung and LG monitors have clearly got their eyes on the home entertainment market, with their slimline designs, HDMI interfaces and additional audio capabilities, while HannsG focuses on sheer value for money by providing an impressively large 27.5in screen for under £300.

In the end there was a clear dividing line between the displays aimed at home users and those intended for everyday design work in an office environment, so read on to find out which monitor will be the best for your needs.

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