Displays for Designers reviewed


Choosing a monitor for design work can be daunting. For a start, the price range is baffling – entry-level models are priced from around £300, while ultra-expensive, high-end panels reach four figures. The differences aren’t obvious, which means it’s not clear whether buying budget means settling for second or third best, or whether spending more for a high-end display means buying essential performance that you can’t live without. It isn’t realistic to expect a budget panel to compete with the performance of a much more expensive unit, but it’s useful to know exactly what you get for the difference in price.

Panel resolution is another key factor. Most of our panels are 1,920 x 1,200, which has become the default wide-screen standard, suitable for design work and for editing (and watching) HD video. Diagonal sizes vary, but not by more than a couple of inches. A larger panel with the same resolution will be slightly easier to work with, and may reveal details in photos and artwork more easily without having to zoom in. But the differences between 24in and 26in aren’t as worthwhile in practice as some of the other factors we’ll look at, such as colour accuracy and gamut.

The more screen space you have, the easier it is to switch between tasks or to keep all your tools and windows visible at once. But we haven’t included the 30in monsters from Dell, HP and Apple in this round-up. While 2,560 x 1,600 may be a magnificent resolution to work at, these panels are physically huge, and colour isn’t necessarily top of the line. You may be able to get as much of a productivity boost by splitting workspaces between two cheaper panels. Photoshop, Illustrator and Dreamweaver users often keep their main work area on one monitor and tools and tabs on a second one. The spec for the second monitor can be much lower because it doesn’t need colour accuracy or a big screen area, so buying a good 1,920 x 1,200 panel for previewing and a much cheaper 1,440 x 1,080 panel for tools, tabs and timelines can be a cost-effective option.

Finally, there’s market mythology about panel types and backlighting options. LED backlighting was once an exotic and expensive choice, but is now available at the low end. Different LCD technologies rely on an alphabet soup of makes and types, each with different, individual characteristics.

Instead of making assumptions in this round-up, we’ve decided to ignore the marketing and look as objectively as possible at the performance of each panel in a typical working environment. So with those questions in mind, how do the competitors rate? Read on to find out…

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