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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  • Xenoterranos - Thursday, February 22, 2007 - link

    I've been waiting for a site I trust to do some monitor reviews, as I'm getting ready to purchase a new LCD (my first LCD) in a few months. Would it be possible to do some reviews of different-sized lcd's (i'm thinking 20" 24" 30" etc) as most of them are based on the same/similar panels (for their respective sizes).

    Or just a price range (sub 200 3-400, 5-700 etc...)
  • Avalon - Thursday, February 22, 2007 - link

    What's with the "long live LCD!" cry? Why would you want such a pitiful technology to have a long life? Most LCDs only eclipse CRTs in weight, power, and size (some might include eye comfort). Picture quality and video performance is at best, equal, and at worst, not as good. I say bring on OLED/SED ASAP so we can get the best of both CRT and LCD.

    All ranting's good to see some display reviews on the site again. Keep up the good work!
  • yyrkoon - Thursday, February 22, 2007 - link

    You, obviously, never used a LCD, or at least a good one, I have a 21" professional Grade CRT, sitting next to a non professional ViewSonic 19" LCD, and all I can say, is I'll never use that CRT again, if I can help it . . .
  • JarredWalton - Friday, February 23, 2007 - link

    I would have a bit of difficulty deciding between a 21" CRT and a 19" LCD, at least in terms of resolution, refresh rate, etc. When I ditched my 21" CRT and got a Dell 24", however, it was love (lust?) at first sight and I've never regretted the move. And now I have a 30" Dell sitting on my desk, although even I will admit that can be overkill. :)
  • yyrkoon - Friday, February 23, 2007 - link

    Yeah, that CRT is good, crisp (for a CRT), but it does not come close to my ViewSonic VA1912wb. Gaming, it could be a toss up between the two, because: 1) the CRT supports higher resolutions, 2) the refresh rate is higher on the CRT (important if you enable double/triple buffering). That being said, even in non native resolutions (I only do this for games, when the games do not support the monitors native resolution), it still looks great, and for pictures / text, the CRT is terrible by comparrison (especially with ClearType fonts, for text).

    If there were a complaint, I'd have to say that cleaning said monitors can be 'scary' at times. Pressure marks can completely ruin, an otherwise awesome LCD monitor, but, I for one, try to use a light touch, with antistatic alcohol soaked wipes, you can buy from wal mart for $5(anti static helps keep the dust build up to a minimum).
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, February 22, 2007 - link

    More a tongue-in-cheek comment than anything serious. I guess I've been reading too many high fantasy books lately or something (currently reading the King's Blade books).
  • dukerobillard - Thursday, February 22, 2007 - link

    Nice review; one request, though:

    A big concern about widescreen monitors in the gaming world is how
    they work with games that can't handle widescreen aspect ratios. What
    you want is to be able to tell the monitor to behave as a 4:3 display,
    and put black bars on the side, so the game still works (albeit at
    1600x1200 for a 24" or 1280x1024 for a 20"). I've read that the
    24" Dell Widescreen has some issues about this; apparently it doesn't
    work with some inputs.

    It would be great to hear how the Gateway handles this situation. There's
    a paragraph in the "Subjective Evaluation" section that sounds like it
    does it right, but I'm not 100% sure.
  • neogodless - Thursday, February 22, 2007 - link

    Just wanted to point out/remind you that 1280x1024 is actually 5:4. It is, however, pretty widely supported, and when done on an LCD there should be no distortion... but perhaps that is something that could be investigated in these monitor reviews. I used to use 1280x960 on my CRT because I wanted to avoid the skew (however imperceptible it may have been) and I had to read the specs and do the math about ten times before buying my 1280x1024 19" LCDs to make sure it was being done right.
  • Aquila76 - Thursday, February 22, 2007 - link

    It will do sidebars (true 1:1 pixel mapping) thru the OSD. This was great when I didn't have enough graphics power to run at the native 19x12.
  • Phlargo - Thursday, February 22, 2007 - link

    I trust Anandtech's reviews a lot and LCD monitors are one of the weakest set of reviews available across the internet hardware review gamut. I really like sites like BeHardware, Toms, and even our own xtknight's (props! Check out his site - exploration into monitors, but it'll be great to have good ole' Anandtech adding more reviews to the mix.

    Buying such an important component shouldn't be the mystery it is right now!! As I always say, there's only one part of the computer you look at: the monitor. Never skimp for price on it - get something that makes you feel warm and fuzzy every time you look at it :)

    Thanks Jared! Can't wait for more reviews!!!

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