David Thomas's Profile

Display Name: David Thomas
Member Since: 9/30/10

Latest Comments...

There are some issues with using tvs as monitors, primarily related to what's called chroma subsampling. The bottom line is that most televisions have difficulty rednering crsip red and blue text -- the edges are often blurry and muddled by the television's internal processing.


The bottom line is that you should either:

1. find a television that supports 4:4:4 chroma subsampling

2. decide that you can live with some of the rendering artifacts associated with non-4:4:4.


Using Large Monitors & HDTVs with Your Workstation
11/30/11 04:06 PM

I know that I'm a pain in the butt with the monitor posts on unplugged, but it really seems like you guys are giving poor advice here. In a multi-monitor setup, the three most important charactersitcis to look for in a monitor are viewing angles, ergonomic functions of the stand (unless you have an aftermarket stand), and connectivity options. When you are getting a second monitor, you want to make sure that you can position it in a way that is useful, so that you don't have to strain to incorporate it into your workflow.

None of the above options are remotely decent by this score. An LED backlight, as I've mentioned before, is nice for energy consumption and heat production, but has a middling impact on picture quality. There aren't many wide-gamut LED panels available, so if you're working outside the sRGB colorspace, you should avoid any LED backlight south of a grand; only the few models with full RGB LED backlights, like discointinued models from NEC and Samsung, provide wider gamut options. Some LED monitors also have backlight uniformity problems, as the edge-lit LED can be misconfigured to produce significant color discrepancies across the panel. CCFL backlights aren't immune to this by any stretch, but the more mature technology is generally going to provide superior results.

None of the above monitors rotate into portrait mode. With a dual display, it's often better to have one monitor in landscape and one in portrait. Many people prefer working with text and code on portrait monitors.

All of the above monitors use TN panels, with limited viewing angles. TN panels display significant color shifting and experience significant contrast reduction when viewed off angle, to the point where they can be difficult to position properly in multi-monitor configurations. Prices on IPS/PLS and PVA monitors have dropped precipitously in the past several months; it almost always going to be better to get a monitor with more image stability when setting up a multi-monitor configuration.

The dynamic contrast ratio figures you cite are nonsense; you really should avoid posting them, as it just encourages more garbage from manufacturers. The dynamic contrast functions almost never produce satisfactory results, and should be turned off. Static contrast ratios are important, but should be considered in context of viewing angles.

When it comes to connectivity, the general issue is whether you need displayport or not. Displayport works best with Macs, and is necessary for AMD video cards to drive more than two monitors. HDMI's cross compatibility with DVI makes it somewhat irrelevant, unless you are also using your monitor's audio for some reason.

The best monitors for multi-monitor setups at the moment are:

HP ZR2240w
HP ZR2440w
Dell U2312
Dell U2412
Samsung s24a850

There are others from LG and Viewsonic, but you get the basic picture. Unless you are gaming and want either 120hz or are acutely sensitive to lag, you will be better off with one of the above monitors.

The NEC EX231Wp will use less energy, has a better contrast ratio, provides more ergonomic options, and better connectivity options than anything you've got listed. It costs around $270.

Get A Dual Computer Monitor Set Up On The Cheap
10/20/11 05:51 PM

Laptops aren't "prosumer" because they're pretty. You guys should do a survey of what qualities your readership actually looks for in a work laptop -- appearance certainly matters, but I doubt it will be at the top of the list.

Battery life, screen quality & resolution, keyboard, and the quality of the touchpad will probably be at the top of the list. I use an x220 -- it has good viewing angles, battery life, and keyboard, but the touchpad is bad enough that I carry a USB mouse, and the resolution is painful.

The Upgrade Guide: Laptops
Upgrading From Entry Level to Prosumer

10/11/11 05:57 PM

The monitor stand review you linked to is from 2006, and that model is no longer available.

4 Vertical Monitors Stitched Into Monster 52" Display
9/7/11 01:56 AM

A 30" horizontal matches a 20" vertical. A three monitor setup, with two "flankers" in portrait mode surrounding a single landscape, is often referred to as PLP for shorthand. It loos great with a 20", 30", and 20".

Sideways: The Case For Turning Your Monitor Vertical
8/18/11 05:09 PM

Come on guys. Any of the 6850+ AMD video cards will power four monitors, and lots of companies offer products that can drive 6. There was a $200 AMD 5770 with 5 mini-displayport, each of which could drive a single monitor. I've been running three monitors off a single 5770 for a year and a half now, including a 2560x1440 monitor. Since I don't game, the card isn't even stressed.

You don't need to crossfire cards to get multiple displays -- it's actually a bad idea. 2 5770 (which have been rebranded as 6770) would run you $250, and not even break a sweat with 6 1920x1080 monitors. 2 5670s, for ~$200, would be more than sufficient.

If I still had an AMD motherboard with onboard graphics, I could use surroundview with my single 5770 and run 4 displays.

Some of the Asus 6950/6970 cards support 6 displays out of the box (look for the ones with 4 standard displayport), and there were a ton of 5870s with six mini-dp out.

The problem with most of these options is that you need displayport monitors or active DVI adapters, which can run some serious change, if you want to drive more than two monitors. Sapphire, I think, has just released a couple of AMD "flex" cards that let you use DVI.

How $500 in Video Cards Can Power 5 Monitors
7/19/11 11:22 PM

These have been available for a few months. I saw them on Design within Reach's site back in February, called and asked if they had one in the showroom. They didn't, but the salesperson offered to make me an appointment to try one out at a Herman Miller showroom.

I went, and tried a few out. The $549 version has more adjustability, particularly in the arms, but I was happy with the $399 version, and bit. I've used it as my main desk chair for a month or so, sitting in it ~8 hours a day. I'm happy with it. It's sturdy, comfortable, and appropriately sized. I feel like the tilt tension could be a bit tighter, which may be an option on the pricier version.

Herman Miller SAYL Task Chair
Daily Find

4/12/11 10:19 PM

I went with the zvox 525 sound bar -- it sounds great, and it will long outlast my current computer. It's built like a tank, but looks good. You can see some of their systems here:

Mine's pic 16.

Distinctive Desktop Computer Speakers For Every Budget
3/26/11 04:07 AM

Honestly, LED backlighting offers a negligible improvement on picture quality. Unless there's real local dimming, the backlight is largely irrelevant. LED is generally superior for environmental reasons.

The Five Elements of a Perfect Home Theater
3/17/11 05:22 PM

Big fan of the Corsair Obsidian 650D, 700D, and 800D. I have used Lian Li to date, and am happy. Will probably try out a 650D this year.

Unusual and Alternative PC Cases For Any Budget
3/9/11 01:10 PM

Mother in law came into town a few weeks back. Picked up the Encore from Room and Board to put in the home office. We slept on that, MIL slept in our bed. Worked well, but we bought foam topper and mattress pad. Would have been too firm without it.

Looks and seats great in the office, though, and I've napped on it multiple times with no complaint.

Cat likes it a bit too much for my comfort.

Bedroom in a Minute: All About Sleeper Sofas
3/8/11 05:07 PM

The tension is between usability and flexibility. When manufacturers focus on small form factor, sturdy, easy devices, they tend to remove the ability to upgrade and modernize the device. From putting memory on die to integrating tv/monitor controls in a base rather than the bezel, it's the simplest, and possibly only way to achieve some of the preferred designs.

I come down far on the other end of the spectrum. I build my own computers, try to keep my devices/equipment modular so that there are independent upgrade paths, and basically just make a mess of things.

The idea of a touch screen integrated in a capital purchase makes me cringe -- the processor specs for whatever's driving that thing will be obsolete in a year, are you going to replace your refrigerator, washing machine, or car on that cycle?

I want to keep the divide between electrics and electronics, but I'm obviously somewhat rare in my preferences. I can be condescending and judgy about it, but it does seem like a fairly clear case of the market having spoken (though I haven't actually done the research). An attractive, coherent computer, for instance, is going to sell regardless of whether it uses a non-ATX/ITX motherboard, nonstandard power supply, etc. Most consumers just have different preferences, at least while making their purchasing decisions, which is the point in time that matters most.

What's Better Than Glossy Black? Just About Everything
3/8/11 01:22 PM

The NEC 3090 is about to be replaced by the PA301W in the product lineup -- the announcement is supposed to be in Feb some time, afaik. The PA271 (a 27" 2560x1440 monitor), PA241W, and PA231W have been out for some time.

Three Feature Rich Computer Monitors Worth Considering
2/8/11 06:55 PM

A decent 128 gig SSD can be had for ~250, while 90 and 60 gig SSDs can be had for well under $200. I've got a 60 gig as a boot drive, for windows, firefox, gimp, openoffice, etc., and it has really paid off in improved responsiveness and general user experience. I have a 1tb mechanical drive for data and backups.

On most machines, a mechanical hard drive is the tightest performance bottleneck. Seek, read and write times are slow relative to the rest of a modern system. The faster your processor, the more bang you get from removing that bottleneck.

A new generation of SSDs is expected in the next couple of weeks; Intel is revamping their line. Their older drives, including the very popular x-25 80 gig, should see some heavy discounts, while still providing an impressive performance boost. It's a good time to be in the market for a drive upgrade.

Capacity Vs Performance: Solid State Drives.
2/1/11 04:34 PM

I just went out Monday and bought two of the Expedit units to create a pseudo-credenza. With the price drop to $39 for the 2x2 and $69 for the 2x4, the price is hard to beat. Each cube fits a standard file box, or 4 11x17 bigso boxes. Very please with the functionality/convenience, and they even look pretty nice.

Cubic Shelves Gives Graphic Designer Office New Life
1/20/11 09:57 PM

That's a very nice setup. I wonder how the experience is with the different panel technologies -- the Samsung 305t is PVA while the other two are IPS.

Any Windows 7 desktop with a modern dedicated video card will support at least two monitors out of the box. The Nvidia cards in the Mac Pro are two generations old, though the 8800 has held up quite well.

A desktop with an AMD (formerly ATI) video card from the 5000 or 6000 series will support up to 3 monitors out of the box. The only requirement is that one of the three monitors use a displayport connection.

I can't game on my system, but 2 20" 1200x1600 monitors in portrait and a 27" 2560x1440 monitor in landscape are plenty responsive for office work with only a single AMD/ATI 5770 driving them.

Simple 3-Monitor Setup Maximizes Screen Real Estate
1/4/11 09:16 PM

Resolution matters. There is a huge difference between a 1920x1080 27" monitor and a 2560x1440 27" monitor, even though their outside dimensions are going to be the same. The 1440 monitor holds almost double the screen content of the 1080 monitor, at much smaller size and higher definition. You can fit the same amount of content on a 21.5", 23", 23.6", and 27" 1080 monitor.

This is a useful tool for visualizing the relationship between monitor sizes: http://tvcalculator.com/

Increasing the diagonal size of a monitor without increasing resolution will result in larger, but less sharp, text and you will fit less on the screen. There are a lot of people who like a 32" 1080 television as their monitor (the LG 32LD450 is pretty popular, iirc), but TVs occasionally interject some lag because of extra processing, have conflicts with overscan, and have inadequate sharpness, particularly with colored text on a colored backgroud.

There are some hdtvs that work well as monitors, and they can be bought in the ~$500 range. They have nice panels and some swear by them. You can find some recommendations at avsforum.

What's the Best Computer Monitor Size?
10/13/10 11:00 PM

Glad to share, charmac. I just spent a month trying to decide on a monitor, before buying the NEC PA271W last week. Lots of agonizing and indecision led to lots of research...

Pixel Envy: Best Computer Monitors Around
9/30/10 11:03 PM

LED just doesn't matter much, except from an energy efficiency/heat perspective. It's certainly neither a reliable indicator of monitor quality nor something to envy. Aside from bezel aesthetics, monitors should be evaluated on three criteria: resolution/dimensions, panel quality, and scalar quality.

There are generally four top size/resolution combos out now in the high-end consumer market: 30" 2560X1600, 27" 2560x1440, 24" 1920x1200, and 23" 1920x1080. There are a few outliers, including a couple of 22" 1680x1050 (Dell's 2209WA and NEC's P221) and 21.5" 1920x1080 (Dell U2211 & HP ZR22w).

In the 30" class, there is the new Dell 3011 and the HP zr30w. They use the same panel from LG, an IPS with anti-glare coating. The Dell has a wider gamut (a product of the backlight), which is something of a mixed blessing, as a wide color gamut can produce oversaturation in non-color managed applications.

The real differentiation is the scalar -- the HP has a clearer pass through, reduces input lag, while the Dell has more intermediation, giving significantly more input flexibility.

The Dell u2711, 27" Apple Display, and NEC PA271W all use the same LG panel. It has the smallest pixel pitch of any modern monitor offering. The Dell has the most input flexibility, the NEC has the most refined color calibration suite, the Apple has a glossy panel. The Apple is the newest offering, and there are some fairly large questions about it's compatibility with non-Mac hardware; it apparently doesn't like the output of some of the AMD video card displayports (this doesn't make much sense), and it's not clear what degree of control over the backlight is available to non-Mac machines.

The Dell u2410 and HP zr24w are modern 24" 1920x1200 monitors (NEC's PA241 doesn't compete very well on price in this segment). The 24" Dell and HP share the differences of their larger brethren.

The 1920x1080 market has a few more options: the Dell u2311, the NEC EA231, the HP zr23w, the Samsung F2380(M/X), and the Viewsonic VP2365WB. The Dell, NEC, HP and Viewsonic all use the same IPS panel, and are all similarly priced, with the NEC a few dollars more, and the Dell the cheapest when on frequent sale.

The Samsung (and the Eizo EV2333W) use a PVA panel, which again brings some plusses and minuses. The black levels tend to be better, though risk crush, or loss of detail in dark areas. The anti-glare coating is milder, the response time tends to be a bit higher. PVA monitors also suffer from gamma shift, where dark details lighten when viewed slightly off angle, while IPS monitors suffer from glow, a lightening (that can also appear as a purpling of darks) when off angle. Compared to the color inversion on TN panels, both issues are negligible.

The TN panel space has some real strengths at the moment, but the better IPS and VA panels listed above are probably more appropriate for lust.

Pixel Envy: Best Computer Monitors Around
9/30/10 06:33 PM