Display Quality is not all what it Seems
Modern computer displays are so vastly different to the old CRT variety that it has created confusion amongst potential buyers. This article is not meant to tell you what display to buy but rather act as a guide. Often incorrect terms are deliberately used by sales personnel to misguide the end-user into buying a product which he or she is not looking for.
The television type receiver of the early 80s was a fixed frequency device, running at a fixed line frequency (scan from left to right), interlaced (scanning odd number of lines and then even) with a line blanking pulse (so you could not see the retrace as the dot moved from right to left) and a frame blanking pulse (where the picture would be blanked as the scan would move from bottom to top). The PAL television receiver may only have had 625 lines and a frame speed of 25Hz with a line speed of (frame speed x number of lines) 15,625kHz but for anyone purchasing a television receiver all you needed to know was screen size, delta, in line (or Trinitron). Not many people were even aware that the tubes were sometimes different. Modern technology has changed all that. Yes, the digital age has made things not easier but more difficult and compounded by the fact that as broadcast transmissions become more evolved so you need to change your receiving device. Technology of the 21st century has become so complex that manufacturers churn out different breeds every six months and if you want to keep up to Fred the neighbour you had better have a rock steady bank balance.
Some pitfalls of modern technology in display quality
Having serviced TV receivers and display devices for about twenty years there is one thing which is abundantly clear – modern technology does not allow one to hold on to any gadget for more than 3 to 5 years, unlike our older CRT television receiver which may have lived up to 20 years, possibly without ever changing the tube. Here we have plasma, LCD and now LED all coming out over a ten year period. Modern technology is not landfill friendly – we live in a throwaway age. That 3 000 Dollar plasma devalued faster than your car – the repairs are twice as much and who wants plasma anyway now that LCD is out? First generation plasma also drew more power than your old CRT, in fact it drew sometimes more than your swimming pool pump. In came LCD, low power consumption and often a very dodgy gray scale. Analogue was simply better. Now we have LED which uncannily has the picture quality of LCD and the latest and greatest, OLED. Don’t be fooled, if that LED monitor or TV set costs the same as LCD it is LCD. With an LED backlight. And now plasma is back in vogue albeit less power hungry than it’s forefathers. As much as things change they don’t.
Buying OLED for better display quality
There are two types, PMOLED and AMLED, one being passive matrix organic LED and the other, of course, active matrix organic LED. Remember the first LED monitors? Also active and passive. If you can afford it stick to active matrix. Now of course you can also buy an LED unit which surprise, surprise is an LCD with LED backlight. It is superior to the CCFL or fluorescent tubes of first generation backlighting but with no visible flicker and a much longer lifespan. LCD panels just do not live up to being bigger and better so always check that plasma first. Horrendously expensive when they first came out, plasma screens are now larger and cheaper than first generation but not only that, are in many ways superior to LCD technology. OLED is another story altogether, lighter, faster and a really incredible detailed picture. At a price.
See what people say about plasma. My case rests Your Honour. In this author’s twenty years of consumer product repair the one product which stood out in reliability was the Panasonic television receiver. Simply the best. I am talking not only CRT but plasma as well. Panasonic television receivers were quick to fix and once repaired could run for another 100 years happily. Plasma? Shopping center down the road has been using the same plasmas for over ten years – not one failure. Only now are they replacing.
LCD and LED technology is the way forward unfortunately, with OLED being the main and of course natural winner by 2020. Plasma for now offer better contrast and black/colour depth. If you prefer leaving your curtains open and having sunlight fill the room then LCD or LED is the way to go but as evening falls you may find yourself reaching out for the plasma remote. OLED technology is very expensive but gives you the best of both worlds.
Lastly on this topic, if your Apple computer says you can use other makes of monitor, only use OLED. I discovered this by chance – family needed to replace their monitor. The model equivalent given by Apple was three times the price of conventional LCD/LED backlit – it was of course OLED. The replacement was a Samsung.
Display Quality – Manufacturer Wars
Having repaired television receivers much of what I learnt 30 years ago still stands today. If you want to buy quality and reliability, buy a tier one brand: Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, LG – there are others of course but the bottom line is that many manufacturers are using competitor panels and chipsets. They just put them together. A company very rapidly coming into it’s own is Hisense. Don’t be fooled by the price tag – Hisense is out there to compete and they do this very seriously.
When making any purchase know whether the manufacturer has dropped the panel spec to make them more competitive. This is no secret. Also whether your warranty covers dead pixels. This is used to be very important 15 years ago – medical and military spec is very high compared to the different grades of consumer spec and price alone does not tell you the whole story. Manufacturers of today often have zero tolerance to any sign of pixel failure, such is their QC.
Digital Signage: Large Format Display Quality
Want a system which lasts forever? LFDs have fast made their way into malls, airports and well, almost all commercial and industrial sectors. Doing some research on the web does not bring much in the line of information except people with a lot of money wanting to use them for gaming and watching movies. Read here for an interesting rundown on LFDs and display representation.
LFDs are manufactured by almost all of the major companies which specialise in displays of any sort. Specialised displays are designed to be on 24/7, focusing on messaging and advertising. This means cooler running, top quality components and absolutely zero tolerance on panel defects.
For consumer use? Totally overkill, unless you game 24/7.
Projected Image Display Quality
There is no hard or fast rule to preferencing projectors for conference facilities over LFD or any flat panel. Indeed, flat panels and projectors are now both fitted with bluetooth – flat panels have an almost maintenance free advantage over projectors but projectors still remain supreme for mobility. Projector mounts often make maintenance work difficult – many companies are now opting to use a fixed flat panel or panels over projected images because the owners see the flat panel as having obvious advantages over projectors, a fact not always shared by projector manufacturers. The fact remains, there will always be a projector in the work place until someone develops a robust and inexpensive roll up OLED display. Projectors, with the current swing to use high intensity LED lamps are also becoming more popular – both from a mobility point of view as well as pricing. Projectors are also becoming increasingly smaller while panels get larger. So large in fact that mounting them becomes a problem.
Projectors will not disappear in to the woodwork overnight – their advantages still far outweigh the disadvantages no matter what the pundits of doom have to say.
Display quality, to conclude…
3D imaging, another subject, coming up in due course is the way the manufacturers have been plying their wares over the last five years. In it’s infancy, yet there have been immense strides in the technology used, moreover in the visualisation and 3D optometry used. Sony have brought out some incredible equipment, from 3D ready to now, full 3D, matched to their 3D players but sadly the user has very little media to choose from.
From the ever reliable Panasonic Quintrix CRT, the Sony Trinitron and in-line tube technology our picture has improved 100 fold over the last 10 years. Running out of ideas, innovation has moved to quick connectivity and in the near future, fold up display units. We no longer talk about a TV set but a display, just as stereo has moved to home theater. Pictures are realistic and 55 inch panels come at a price of a 72cm CRT in 1995. All homes are using Wi-Fi, APs and routers – cable is becoming redundant. We have come a long way in 20 years – are we on the right track?
There is fierce competition out there but the cheapest will not necessarily win, product support and compatibility is still key to having a sales advantage but from what I see, having the trendiest system on the block is what sells – and that comes at a price. Product support plays second place, which includes that of an extended warranty. Until it fails.
Display quality is no longer just 1920 x 1080, it does include style and whether 3D can be rendered.
4K and 3D TV broadcasts – a passing fad or reality….