Eye fidelity

Introduction

Because many Macintosh users are involved in design, video and DTP, working with clear, colour-accurate screen-images is crucial. Here, we take a look at the current range of large-screen monitors – 20-inches and up – to determine which can be considered professional monitors. For anyone working with colour, screen-size is just one of many considerations when choosing a monitor. Calibration is one of these – something I found out the hard way. A while back, I produced a complex collage for a holiday brochure cover. It took ages to get the job right, but the end-result looked fantastic. I transferred the image to a disk and took it into the agency. Full of pride, I opened the image on the client’s computer and – to my horror – was greeted with what looked more like one of Goya’s Black Paintings than a bright and breezy holiday image. My fatal mistake was to have cranked up the brightness on my dying monitor. It looked fine on this, but awful on anyone else’s. Monitor calibration, then, isn’t just for obsessive art directors. Eye screen
CRT (cathode ray tube) monitors use one of two different technologies: shadow-mask or aperture-grille. Years ago, aperture grille (aka Trinitron) was synonymous with high-contrast images and flatter screens. Shadow-mask screens had softer, more colour-accurate images with better convergence, but rounder screens. These differences still exist, but are not nearly as pronounced. Aperture-grille screens are always vertically flat because images are projected through vertical wires held at high tension. You will also be able to see an artefact caused by the guide wires that keep the vertical wires in place. On a plain background you will see a faint line across the screen; large screens have two. If the tube is curved both vertically and horizontally, then you’re looking at a shadow-mask screen. Many people believe aperture-grille is always better than shadow mask. Because of its colour-accuracy, shadow masks have tended to be more popular – yet aperture-grille technology is less likely to experience problems such as convergence and pincushion alignment. Eye Mac
The monitors in this round-up fall into two camps: those with calibration and those without. The quality of all modern, large monitors is good – but without some kind of calibration you can never be sure. Colorific is simple and effective calibration software (see “An eye for colour”). Although it doesn’t cost manufacturers more than a few quid to include it, some still don’t. Even if you can find a bargain among the un-calibrated models, you’ll always be better off with a calibrated model. This is because, as a monitor ages, its picture deteriorates. Some things – such as focus – you can’t fix, and convergence is tricky to keep perfect. Colour, however, can be calibrated accurately, and this adds life to your monitor. A number of calibration-less models that still warrant a mention are the Mitsubishi 2020U, the Sony GDM-F500 and the ViewSonic G810. These products did well in our tests. The Sony and Mitsubishi monitors have perfectly flat screens, which cuts down on reflection. The Sony boasted great contrast – typical of Sony machines. The Iiyama Vision Master Pro510 and the Nokia 445 Pro also had perfectly flat screens, but sadly, the image quality isn’t as good as the Mitsubishi or Sony models. Although they have the same CRT, it is the electronics, as much as the tube, that makes the image sharp. The Viewsonic G810 was quality right out of the box – though the shadow-mask screen is, by necessity, curved. Its convergence and sharpness were extremely good. If it had included Colorific, it would’ve scored better in our tests. Many of the models include a USB hub (see the chart for the full list), which is a nice bonus. USB is now common throughout modern Macs and it doesn’t take long to run out of ports. It’s also handy to be able to plug a keyboard straight into a screen. Eyeful tower
Apple has reintroduced the idea of industrial design in its latest range of computers, and carries the idea forward with its peripherals. The Studio Display looks a bit like a giant iMac, clothed in the Graphite colour scheme to match the high-end G4 Power Macs. The bandy stand is designed to let you hide your dinky Apple keyboard underneath the display – which will be taking up a great deal of your desk, anyway. All the other displays, except La Cie’s electron22, are beige – a bit boring, but with no real impact on screen quality. The electron22 is a respectable deep blue, and also features a hood to keep external light nuisances from interfering with your screen view. While the colours don’t match, this display looks fine standing next to both blue-&-white and Graphite Power Macs.
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