The 20" TFT Boom - So Which Is For Me?
(Updated 10/6/06)


Since the end of 2005 the TFT market has really seen an explosion in the 20" market, as people move away from the now saturated 19" market and to larger screens, larger resolutions and, quite frequently, to Wide Screen format. Manufacturers have obviously noticed this trend and there has been a massive influx of new screens to the sector. The success of the 19" market was largely down to the wide variety of 'gaming' monitors introduced over the last year or two which bought more affordable panels to the sector with low response times. With the arrival of TN Film also helping to improve these 19" screens for the gamers out there the 20" market is starting to see the same. Along with TN Film there is vast improvements being made with other technologies, and there are a lot of excellent new models to choose from!

Read on below.

 

 

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The Arrival Of TN Film

Several years ago TN Film technology was almost exclusively used in the 17" market, helping to keep response times and costs down. The main TN Film manufacturers in particular like Samsung, LG.Philips and AU Optronics started to bring out larger format panels into the 19" market, as the public were more and more looking for larger gaming screens. Now, the 20" market, previously exclusively occupied by IPS or VA panel variants, has started to see a few TN Film models released. These follow in the footsteps of the 19" range, with low response times offered as low as 8ms and 5ms (at time of writing). However, while the arrival of TN Film in the 19" market helped lower costs and provide some variety, some users in the 20" range are reluctant to accept the draw backs of TN Film technology. Since the 20" models come at a fairly high price, it is a shame to accept the sacrifices that you have to live with if you use a TN panel. This is even more of an issue now that other technologies can offer the same kind of responsiveness as the TN models, and the availability of PVA, MVA and IPS panels means that in my opinion, the TN Film market might suffer.

At the moment, there are a few main models available with TN Film panels. Sadly you will have to live with restrictive viewing angles, especially vertically, and noisy movie playback. Remember that these also generally offer only a 6 bit colour depth, but manufacturers have recently begun to offer full 16.7 million colour screens, even with TN Film technology (see this article). Black levels are not really TN Film's strong point either. These are very much aimed almost exclusively for gamers. If their price was significantly lower, they may be good for a general user looking for a 20" screen on a budget. However, these models are over shadowed by the other technologies in this size range, and it leaves me wondering why the manufacturers bothered releasing models around this technology in the first place? There are bound to be some faster 4ms, 3ms and 2ms rated screens released sooner or later to follow in the footsteps of the 19" range, but in my opinion, it is a shame to settle for a TN Film panel particularly at this size and price.

Acer 2016WS

BenQ FP202W

Viewsonic VA2012W

Samsung 204B

Specifications:

1680 x1050 resolution
Chunghwa Picture Tube (CPT) TN Film panel (CLAA201WA01)
8ms Response Time
600:1 contrast Ratio
300 cd/m2 brightness
160 / 145 Viewing Angles
 

Specifications:

1600 x 1200 resolution
Samsung TN Film panel (LTM201UX)
5ms Response Time
800:1 contrast Ratio
300 cd/m2 brightness
160 / 160 Viewing Angles

 

 

The Growth Of P-MVA

2005 saw the re-birth of MVA panels with the addition of overdrive technology (RTC) helping to finally reduce response times to a level which gamers could appreciate. The infamous Viewsonic VP191B lead the way and became one of the biggest selling screens of last year. Users began to realise what they had been missing with the previous generations of TN Film panels which had saturated the 17" and now 19" markets. Viewing angles were wide, colour depth was improved (a true 8 bit colour depth without dithering in most cases), black was deeper, movie playback was smoother, and now...response times were good! Towards the end of 2005 AU Optronics, the panel manufacturer for the VP191B, released a 20" edition of this panel, the M201EW01 V0. This was first incorporated in the Belinea 102035W which quickly became the bigger brother to the very well established 19" models like the Viewsonic VP191B / VP930. Initial user tests were promising and BeHardware confirmed what everyone was hoping; that the 20" model was just a larger version of the 19", and offered the excellent all round performance that we were looking for. The responsiveness was even a little better than the 5ms and 8ms TN Film models discussed above The Belinea has become very popular, with the only draw back seeming to be the variable build quality. Some people have had issues with back light bleeding which is a shame, but this model still remains an excellent price and a very good all round screen. If you're wanting something more all round than the TN Film models, which can really be used for a wide range of applications then P-MVA panels are an excellent choice. It is the price of models like the Belinea 102035W which makes me question how successful the TN Film 20" range will be.

The Belinea was soon followed by the Viewsonic VX2025WM, offering a different design and backed by Viewsonic's normally very good build quality. The panels are obviously the same, but the colour adjustments by default are superior on the Viewsonic model. The success of the P-MVA panel continues in this excellent model, and the screen offers good all round performance. Other models are beginning to follow in the footsteps of these using P-MVA technology including the Asus PW201 and Fujitsu-Siemens S20-1W:

Belinea 102035W

Viewsonic VX2025WM

Asus PW201 Fujitsu-Siemens S20-1W

Specifications:

1680 x1050 resolution
AU Optronics P-MVA panel
8ms Response Time
800:1 Contrast Ratio
300 cd/m2 brightness
176 / 176 Viewing Angles
 

 

The Re-Birth Of IPS?

IPS development has been pretty quiet now for a couple of years, with not much change since the 16ms S-IPS panels made popular in models like the Dell 2001FP and 2005FPW. LG.Philips, the main manufacturer of IPS technology, has fallen behind the times with modern MVA and PVA panels using overdrive to boost response times and put them back in the lime light, even for gaming screens. BeHardware reported in mid February of plans to release new "fast IPS" panels after discussions with myself about the emerging 8ms and 6ms panels, seeming to be labelled as IPS technology. While LG.Philips don't have any new information on their site at present about new panels, and are remaining quiet about the whole thing, there are several models being released with response times listed as G2G, and much lower than the 16ms which seemed to have been the previous limit for the technology. This in itself implies improvements to the technology with overdrive almost certainly being to thank.

The Philips 200W6CS was the first to arrive with an updated panel from it's old 16ms S-IPS as used in the Dell 2005FPW. The new panel was listed as 8ms G2G, 800:1 Contrast Ratio, 300 cd/m2 brightness and 176/176 Viewing angles. In fact, the spec listed was identical to the AUO P-MVA panels above! Philips claim that it is an IPS panel, but their responses from technical support seem muddled, brief and not really convincing. There are some reports that it is an updated version of the LM201W01 panel with coincidentally the same spec as the P-MVA panel. Early reports from users are positive for this model, but I am personally withholding judgement until there is full confirmation to the panel being used or full reviews at reputable sites like BeHardware, Tom's Hardware or X-Bit Labs. Other models from Acer seem to have followed the 200W6CS and utilise the same panel. Acer at least list the panel technology on their site as S-IPS so that at least adds some support to Philips' claim.

Perhaps the most talked about 20"WS is Dell's new 2007WFP. Already available in the USA / Canada, it strangely only lists the response time at 16ms. Again, this is an updated version of the LM201W01 panel (with some also receiving the LM201WE2 version) from it's predecessor, the 2005FPW. When this screen hits the UK shores, it's bound to be big!
 

However, the real break through in the IPS market came with the release of the new NEC LCD20WGX2. This is based on a 6ms G2G rated AS-IPS panel, which stands for Advanced Super IPS. This is a successor to Super IPS (S-IPS which we know well), and Advanced IPS (A-IPS which we don't really see mentioned much). Apparently, it has improved the aperture ratio by approx. 30% compared with conventional IPS to produce higher brightness. It also features improved colour reproducibility. This could be an indication of use of an LTPS manufacturing process, but again, details are quite scarce at the moment.

The spec certainly looked fantastic and user reports suggested it was every bit as good as the spec implied. BeHardware reviewed the monitor here and were very impressed with it's performance. They tout it as being as responsive as even the fastest TN Film models like the Viewsonic VX922 for instance! Combine this with wider viewing angles (slightly) than even PVA and MVA panels can offer, good colour reproduction and 8 bit colour depth and this is certainly an impressive revival of the fading IPS technology. TFT Central has a full guide including an exclusive in depth review here.
 

NEC LCD20WGX2 Philips 200W6CS Acer AL2032WA Acer F-20 (Ferrari) Dell 2007WFP

Specifications:

1680 x1050 resolution
LG.Philips AS-IPS
6ms Response Time
800:1 Contrast Ratio
1600:1 with DFC
470 cd/m2 brightness
178 / 178 Viewing Angles

Specifications:

1680 x1050 resolution
LG.Philips IPS
8ms Response Time
800:1 Contrast Ratio
300 cd/m2 brightness
176 / 176 Viewing Angles

 

Specifications:

1680 x1050 resolution
LG.Philips IPS
16ms Response Time
800:1 Contrast Ratio
300 cd/m2 brightness
178 / 178 Viewing Angles

 

How does this compare with the P-MVA models though? The AS-IPS panel doesn't quite offer the deep black levels that the P-MVA panel technology can offer, as black depth has long since been a fairly troublesome area for IPS technology panels. There are some promising improvements since the days of the 16ms S-IPS generation in this area though. Movie playback is sadly a little noisier as well, perhaps due to a poor control of overdrive which after all, LG.Philips are new to in the IPS arena. Things might very well change in this field, but for now, this is an area which isn't the NEC's strong point. Responsiveness is reported to be about the best in the market on the NEC and it's new AS-IPS panel. I would like to see more reviews of this screen along with response time graphs from THG, but for now, it looks to be an excellent choice. The NEC is the first model to be released with this excellent panel, but the glossy screen finish may not suit everyone as well. Other models are bound to be released over the next few months, but this could well be the break through which IPS has been looking for for some time.


So Where's PVA In All This!?

So far Samsung haven't jumped on the 20"WS boom, and they don't have any current PVA panels in this sector. Samsung's current panel list is available here, and they have at least released a 4:3 format S-PVA panel, the LTM201U1. This offers some impressive spec which can compete at least on paper with the P-MVA and IPS panels. 8ms G2G response time, 1000:1 contrast ratio, and (supposedly - and most likely inaccurately) 180/180 viewing angles. The earlier 16ms / 700:1 version of this panel was used in a couple of models including Samsung's own 204T. You can use the panel search tool to find out which models use this LTM201U1 panel. There haven't been any models released with the updated version of this panel however, and we can only hope that Samsung make an offering in the 20"WS arena soon as well.

Samsung 215TW

Specifications:

1680 x1050 resolution
Samsung S-PVA
8ms G2G Response Time
1000:1 Contrast Ratio
300 cd/m2 brightness
178 / 178 Viewing Angles
 

Although it isn't a 20" model, I thought it was worth mentioning the Samsung 215TW. This is a 21" screen but runs at the same 1680 x 1050 resolution as the 20" competition. This might be nice for those who want a slightly bigger screen and maybe for those whose eyesight doesn't like the smaller text on 20" models. This is one of the first screens above 19" to use Samsung's PVA technology and with 8ms response time and 1000:1 contrast ratio it certainly competes with other technologies on paper. Colour rendering is quite good out of the box, on par with the Viewsonic VX2025WM and a little ahead of models like the BenQ FP202W and the Belinea 102035W. Responsiveness is not as good as the NEC LCD20WGX2 and not as fast as some of the 8ms TN Film and P-MVA models.

 

So Which One Is For Me?

If you want a budget 20" model and are not really bothered too much about it's all round performance, TN Film still has a niche in the market. The Acer 2016WS is certainly a good price, and if and when other TN panels start to emerge the price of 20" screens is bound to be reduced further. With the availability of cheap models like the Belinea 102035W however, it is hard to justify the purchase of a TN Film based panel from current availability in my opinion. Belinea have been known to release cheap models, often with questionable build quality, and so other models featuring this same panel are unlikely to be as cost effective. If you're looking for a good all round performer then the P-MVA panel is an excellent choice. The main battle as I see it at the moment is between the P-MVA and IPS market. I would like to see more info on the IPS panels (which TFT Central will of course feature) but for now it looks like these could be an excellent choice. Perhaps a little more responsive than the current P-MVA and TN Film models, but maybe not as suited to movie playback as the P-MVA models. It's a hard choice, but it will be interesting to see how the IPS panel is incorporated in new models (since the NEC might not be to everyone's taste) and how the P-MVA models compare in price to the other technologies.

See TFT Central News here for updates on new models being released: http://www.tftcentral.co.uk/news.htm

 

Useful Related Links:

BeHardware Round-Up (June 2006)
Bit-Tech Round-Up (March 2006)
Tom's Hardware Comparisons (June 2006)

 

 

 

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