Excited to get started with step 2 of the monitor project! In the previous post we have gotten a good high-level understanding of your needs.
The community has shown that they want a monitor with great graphics quality, such as wide color gamut and a high contrast ratio. Though there is a lot of interest in OLED technology, there are also concerns about its longevity due to the static nature of much monitor content. From the remaining technologies, IPS has been the most popular technology by far, winning out over VA and TN.
Though the most-picked use case in the previous round of discussion was ‘professional (photo editing, design work, etc.)’, @Walkop has brought up a valid point: The exact meaning of ‘professional’ use wasn’t made very clear. Will you use it for color sensitive work in a professional environment such as print, in which color accuracy and frequent calibration is a must? Or have you picked ‘professional’ because you would like colors to appear natural and as intended by creator instead of being oversaturated like a ‘Best of CES 2020’ cooking demo reel?
What you may not know, is that we have also asked people r/monitors to participate in an identical survey, where the results were quite different. They showed a heavy interest in true gaming monitors with fast response times and high refresh rates.
Because some of the results are unclear, we’ll be asking additional questions to get a better feel of our target audience.
Behind the scenes, we’ve been discussing our options with top-tier panel vendors such as Sharp, LG, Panasonic and BOE. We have a bunch of roadmaps, each offering a variety of monitor panels. Based on the results of Step 1 we have already disqualified many that do not meet your more popular feature requests, but there are still some interesting panels remaining.
We’ve found that the price of the panel almost linearly correlates to the price of the finished product, as the higher-specced panels require higher-specced electronics to drive them. It seems that the panel makes up about 70% of the cost of the entire monitor.
Seeing what panels are available on the market has also given us a substantially better understanding of the trade-offs that exist between the many options. In this round of discussion we would like to find out what type of trade-offs you would make to get the best panel for your needs!
Refresh rate VS. resolution
The term refresh rate refers to how often a display panel can update to show a new image. It is similar to the more commonly known frame rate, but whereas the frame rate determines how many different images per second a video file contains, or a graphics card can generate, the refresh rate determines how many different images per second a panel can actually display. It is expressed in Herz (Hz), with 100Hz referring to the screen refreshing 100 times per second.
Though a static image doesn’t benefit from this, anything that moves does. Higher refresh rates allow for smoother animations like scrolling through a page, or allows you to see more details in a fast-moving game. Note that there is only benefit to high refresh rate when the content you’re consuming or creating actually provides a high frame rate. If a video file only contains 24 frames per second, your monitor will not magically create more frames!
Resolution, when referring to monitor specifications, describes how many unique pixels can be displayed on a screen, usually represented by either the number of pixels across the width and height of the screen (like ‘1920x1080’) or a more marketing-friendly name (like ‘Full HD’). The more individual pixels exist across the surface of the display, the more detail can be shown. This can express itself in sharper text that’s easier to read, sharper images that display more detail, or simply more fitting onto the screen and still being legible.
In most cases, a higher resolution allows for a sharper image and is preferable. In some situations, especially when content has to be generated on-the-fly like in games, a higher resolution can be a hindrance
Click here if you want a numbers example about the impact on gaming
Full HD (1920x1080) consists of (1 920 x 1 080 =) 2 073 600 pixels, each of which the graphics card has to determine the right color for to generate an image. Ultra HD (3840x2160) consists of 8 294 400 pixels, allowing four times as much detail to be shown on the screen. But to do that, the graphics card actually has to do four times the work, which takes four times as long (for the sake of this example we’ll ignore some other factors that influence frame time).
A graphics card that can provide a smooth, 60 frames-per-second gaming experience at Full HD may now provide a stuttering 15 frames-per-second slide show at Ultra HD…
Refresh rate and resolution are not correlated in terms of technical implementation per se. But going over the roadmaps, we find that most higher resolution screens have lower refresh rates. Why? According to suppliers there is not much sense in having very high resolutions at very high refresh rates, since there is no (or hardly any) hardware available with the performance to drive that many pixels.
Faced with the choice ‘high refresh rate or high resolution’, how would you choose?
- I would prefer Quad HD (2560x1440) at 144Hz
- I would prefer Ultra HD (3840x2160) at 60Hz
Pixel density requirements
The pixel density of each screen is a measurement of how many individual pixels are shown along a 1" line, and is expressed in pixels per inch (PPI). PPI are an important metric when determining how sharp an image looks, and is directly related to resolution and screen size.
Take a 17-inch laptop screen and a 34-inch TV, both Full HD. They both display the same amount of pixels (2 073 600). But since the 34-inch screen is twice as wide and twice as tall, so are each of its pixels!
In the above example, the TV has a pixel density of 64.8PPI. The laptop, cramming the same amount of pixels in half the height or width, measures 129.6PPI. That means that someone with 20/20 vision might just barely make out individual pixels on the 17-inch laptop if it’s on their lap. But that same person, sitting two meters away from the big TV, might at that distance still not be able to see individual pixels because it’s so far away. If they were as close as they would be to a laptop though, they could definitely see the pixels that make up the image, and it would not look perfectly sharp This shows that high pixel density isn’t always a necessity: the viewing distance plays an important role!
A higher resolution on the same screen size or a smaller screen with the same resolution, will have a higher pixel density, and as a result you’ll be able to get closer to that screen without seeing the pixels that make up the image. Ideally, the balance between screen size and resolution is such that individual pixels are just small enough that you can’t distinguish them.
This website has a nifty calculator where you can enter a monitor’s size and resolution, and it will not only show the pixel density but also a recommendation about the ideal viewing distance. Try entering your current monitor’s specs or play around with it to find what size and resolution (and the associated pixel density) best work for your preferred viewing distance, and then answer our following questions:
What is the lowest pixel density that you would accept in a monitor?
- It must be at least 60PPI
- It must be at least 80PPI
- It must be at least 100PPI
- It must be at least 120PPI
- It must be at least 160PPI
Of course at some point, increasing the resolution won’t do anyone any good. Showing more detail than your eyes can distinguish doesn’t benefit anyone…
At what point does having higher PPI no longer matter?
- There’s no point in pixel densities higher than 110PPI
- There’s no point in pixel densities higher than 140PPI
- There’s no point in pixel densities higher than 180PPI
- There’s no point in pixel densities higher than 220PPI
- There is no maximum, the image can never be sharp enough!
High resolution VS. low price
Finally, it’s time to talk about price. While a lot of factors affect the panel cost, the single biggest difference comes from increasing the resolution due to higher cost to manufacture.
In general, Ultra HD panels (3840x2160) are around 80% more expensive than Quad HD (2560x1440) panels with similar specs (approx $200 vs. $360 for the panel alone) . As we’ve already mentioned before, the price of the panel is a good indication for the price of the final product. So the total cost of that Ultra HD monitor would be about 1.8x that of its Quad-HD variant. Admittedly that gets you 125% more pixels, so though it’s not necessarily a bad deal, it does cost significantly more money So this trade-off is about higher resolution, or more money left in your pocket!
Faced with the choice ‘high resolution or saving money’, how would you choose?
- I would prefer to save money, Quad HD (2560x1440) is high enough for me
- I would pay 80% more to get Ultra HD (3840x2160), the higher resolution is worth it for me
Anti-glare VS. cover glass
iMac, Surface Studio, smartphones and a lot of laptops nowadays use a glass cover, while monitors traditionally use a matte anti-glare film.
Anti-glare doesn’t readily reflect whatever is in front of the display, which is especially useful on laptops where you might not be able to control the environment around you. As you won’t need your screen to overpower any reflections, you may be able to make do at a lower brightness setting which reduces power usage and can be easier on the eyes. That said, color performance is generally reduced, with colors looking more washed out.
A cover glass does make the screen more susceptible to reflections, but in return it generally offers richer colors. It is also a hard surface, making it more resistant to inquisitive fingers, which people with small children might appreciate. It looks very sharp, and is easier to clean.
Faced with the choice ‘matte anti-glare or cover glass’, how would you choose?
- I would choose the reflection-free matte anti-glare panel
- I would choose the rich colors and sturdiness of cover glass
This step will give us a much clearer picture about what matters most to you. Based on those criteria we can pick the most promising panels to share panels with you in a future step.
Let’s not forget to pick a codename for our project!
Time to pick a code name for our monitor project! As a reminder, this name will be used to refer to the crowd development project, the final name will be decided later when we know what the end product will actually be.
- Project: Spectrum
- Project: Moni Mouse
- Project: Vision
- Project: Phoenix