It has been quite some time since we've done any display reviews at AnandTech. It is a topic that comes up on a regular basis, and the display is definitely an important aspect of any computer system. Quite a bit has changed since our last display review, nearly all of those changes for the better. Many of the concerns we used to have about LCDs have now been addressed - pixel response times, color purity, and pricing have in the past been the major deterrence towards purchasing a large new LCD. While there is always room for improvement, desktop LCDs are now at the point where very few people would prefer anything else. Simply put, the CRT is dead; long live the LCD! That is not to say that LCDs are the only foreseeable display technology for the future, but before we get into the technologies, let's briefly talk about displays in general.

For some applications/scenarios the display is of little importance. Many large corporations will have headless servers - servers that aren't connected to any display - because they don't need to use the system directly. Logging into a server from a remote location is more than sufficient for most administrative tasks. A single KVM switch (Keyboard Video Mouse) can also be connected to a bunch of systems for times when physical interaction with a server is necessary. It's possible to have as many as 24 systems sharing a single KVM setup, which allows you to conserve space in a data center, not to mention cutting back on cable clutter and power requirements. In such usage scenarios, the display is probably the least important component in the system.

The reverse of that is the typical home or office user. Depending on your work and hobbies, you may find yourself staring into a computer display as much as 12 hours a day, and even more in some instances. Hopefully you take periodic breaks, but more likely than not you get too involved and forget such minor considerations. A typical power user will load up a lot of web pages in the course of a day; work on some documents, images, spreadsheets, etc.; maybe play a few games; answer email, and perhaps even watch a video or two.... That's a lot of time looking at your display! While having documents and web pages open faster is always nice, most people agree that the fastest computer in the world connected to a lousy display would be a chore to use.

We have frequently argued that the display should be a primary decision when purchasing a new computer - unless you already have a high quality display that you'll be keeping. Unlike computers where you might upgrade systems every year or two - or at least a few of the components - it is not unusual to use a display for a very long time. Some people will spend as much as 33% of their computer budget at the time of a new system purchase on the display, with the intention of using the display for at least five years. Once you have a good quality display, there are only a few reasons to consider upgrading: either you want a larger display, your old display starts to wear out (i.e. poor colors/contrast/brightness), something breaks, or now we have the new problem of not being able to support HDCP content. As much as that last item can irritate some of us - anyone who purchased an expensive LCD two years ago feel free to raise your hand - HDCP support is now a feature that the majority of users will want to have, if only as a safeguard. If you never intend to watch video content on your display, you can probably manage to live without it, but all other things being equal why not spend a few dollars more for something that might be useful?

Besides the features that go into a display, there are plenty of new technologies in various phases of development that are worth keeping an eye on. CRTs have basically been relegated to the budget sector, and very few manufacturers are interested in that market anymore. LCDs are the most common display right now, generally offering high contrast ratios, clear and bright colors, and an attractive slim profile that so many people like. Looking towards the future, OLEDs show a lot of promise, and different methods of backlighting are being used with LCDs to further improve image quality. Outside of computers, various other technologies are in development/deployment, but most of these aren't likely to move onto the desktop. Rear projection HDTVs have been around awhile, with many projection systems now moving towards DLP, but rear projection/DLP displays require far too much space for most people to want them on a desktop. Plasma displays have also been around for quite some time, but their increased weight relative to LCDs is likely to keep them away from the computer market. SED (Surface-conduction Electron-emitter Display), FED (Field Emission Display), and various other display technologies may steal the spotlight in the future but for now it looks like LCDs and OLEDs will be the primary choices for computer users.

We're going to kick off our return to display reviews with a look at one of Gateway's newest offerings, the FPD2485W. This is a relatively high-end display intended to compete with offerings from other major manufacturers (Dell, Samsung, HP, Viewsonic, Acer, etc.) In contrast to some of the other 24" LCDs currently on the market, it has only been available for a few months and it sports one of the newer LCD panels. Priced at under $700, it's also reasonably affordable though certainly not cheap. Given what we've just said above, however, we would definitely recommend anyone considering the purchase of a midrange or faster computer take a serious look at their display and decide whether or not it's time to upgrade. After seeing what we have to say about the Gateway FPD2485W, you might be willing to make the investment.

Overview of Features and Specifications
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  • Justin Case - Thursday, February 22, 2007 - link

    As you say, the problem isn't so much the LCDs themselves (with reaction times of 10ms and below, they can do 100 fps), it's the DVI interface. Not because it's digital, just because it's (relatively) slow.

    The "reaction time" of a CRT isn't zero (unlike what some LCD vendors and tons of clueless retailers claim); in fact, a white-to-black transition takes longer on CRTs than it does on most LCDs. So all this obsession with reaction times ends up hurting consumers, that treat that number as a magical definition of a panel's quality, and completely ignore other (far more relevant) aspects, such as the actual number of displayable colors (without dithering or flipping), color variation with viewing angle, luminance uniformity, etc.

    To quote an engineer working for a major (high-end) LCD manufacturer: LCDs are still 2-3 years away from catching up with top CRTs in terms of color reproduction. But when 90% of people can't even tell the difference between a 6-bit panel and an 8-bit one, I wonder what incentive the manufacturers have to improve that...
  • yyrkoon - Friday, February 23, 2007 - link

    If we're talking about ghosting / screen lag, I use a 8ms 19" widescreen LCD, and see none. The only real problem I have, is when I'm playing a graphics intensive game, at the monitors native resolution, and my video card ( 7600GT) can not keep up.

    This is not to say, that some 'lag' does not exist, but in my case, it is not percievable.
  • Justin Case - Friday, February 23, 2007 - link

    Lag is not the same as ghosting. Lag refers to the fact that the frame you are seeing on screen is not the last frame your graphics card rendered. Some flat panels display the image with a delay of 1 or even 2 frames. This is fine for LCD TV sets (as long as the audio is also delayed, by the same amount), but in interactive applications like games it can be a killer.
  • yyrkoon - Friday, February 23, 2007 - link

    As I said above, I see none, and seriously, I play Oblivion, F.E.A.R., not to mention a multitude of other games ;)
  • StevenG - Thursday, February 22, 2007 - link

    The game I play doesn't support 1280x960 so I play at 1280x1024. Sure there's some distortion, but it doesn't bother me. And the higher res looks much better than 1024x768 (the next lowest supported resolution in the game).
  • Aquila76 - Thursday, February 22, 2007 - link

    This is by far one of the worst LCD's for color accuracy, IMO. I bought one at Best Buy a couple weeks ago, and no matter what settings I used, gradients did not look fully smooth. It is what is refered to as a 'gradation' not a banding.

    Check here for more info:">Gradation v. Banding

    Check here for a test:">Gradient Downloads

    What's really sad is that the HP L1706 I use at work (came bundled with the PC) does the gradients flawlessly. A $150 display outperforms this $650 one. I noticed this in games and movies a lot, especially when in a dark place, looking at the sky, etc. I ended up returning mine and am waiting for the NEC 24WMGX3 to come out. I loved the size/resolution for my desktop workspace, but the rest was too much for me to stand.
  • demani - Monday, April 16, 2007 - link

    I wish I had seen this review and comments before I bought mine- The gradient thing is horrible. I am trying to see if I can return mine it is so bad. I haven't seen a panel have that much of an issue with gradients in years-and it ruins what would otherwise be a great panel.

    If only the Dell could dimmed to regular brightness...
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, February 22, 2007 - link

    Yikes! Glad someone pointed this out. Some things slip through the cracks when you're trying to come up with a good set of display evaluation tools. I had intended to check color gradients but forgot to actually do it. Ummmm... wow. The Gateway FPD2485W is definitely inferior to competing LCDs in this respect. I will try to get a good picture of the result, but have been unable to do so at present. Regardless, there is definitely a lot of banding visible, something that I didn't see at all in a quick test of a Dell 2407WFP. My 2405FPW shows a slight amount of banding, but not as much as the Gateway.

    To be honest, this isn't something that was really a problem for me during actual use, but that's likely because I don't do a whole lot of gradient work on a day to day basis. I have updated the text accordingly on pages 8 and 9. Thanks, and I will definitely remember to run this sort of test future display reviews!
  • mcfraggel - Thursday, February 22, 2007 - link

    Input lag is a concern for 24" displays and larger. Some displays have more than 50ms delay. Google for it and you'll find quite a lot about it. Shouldn't this be adressed in this review somewhere?
  • Aquila76 - Thursday, February 22, 2007 - link

    I didn't notice any input lag. I had my old CRT side by side for a bit to test this and didn't perceive any difference. Note my post below for the deal killer, though.

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