How we test: monitors

CNET Australia's methodology for testing monitors.

Craig Simms Special to CNET News
Craig was sucked into the endless vortex of tech at an early age, only to be spat back out babbling things like "phase-locked-loop crystal oscillators!". Mostly this receives a pat on the head from the listener, followed closely by a question about what laptop they should buy.
Craig Simms
3 min read

The monitor is the window into the soul of your computer. As such, it's rather nice to have that soul reflected with vibrant images, high colour accuracy and maximum comfort. We use a variety of tools to help ascertain the quality of a monitor, as well as spend plenty of hands-on time to evaluate its usability.

The user experience

We analyse any major differences the monitor may have from the contending flock, whether physical, feature or user interface-wise. In particular, we pay attention to what panel technology is being used, the ergonomics of the stand, the connections offered, ease of use of buttons (in a well-lit and dark room), ease of use of the on-screen display and anything that makes the monitor stand above its price bracket feature-wise.

Test bed

Processor AMD Phenom II X4 955 @ 3.2GHz
Motherboard Asus M4A79T Deluxe
RAM 2x 2048MB Corsair Dominator XMS3 DDR3-1600C9
GPU AMD Radeon HD 5870
HDD Western Digital RE3 500GB
Optical drive Asus DRW-22B1ST
Operating system Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit

Performance testing

We calibrate all our monitors using an X-Rite i1Display 2, starting with Eye One Match 3 and then shifting to HCFR for fine tweaking if required. Occasionally, when the screen technology used doesn't work well with the i1Display, we switch to a Spyder 3. Both pre- and post-calibration, the screen is measured and the results recorded in HCFR. Depending on the capabilities of the monitor, we may only be able to adjust greys to produce a more accurate curve.

We then put the monitor through the Lagom.nl LCD tests, noting any it may fail.

Next up is input lag. Setting up the test screen in clone mode with a Samsung SyncMaster 975p, over 100 photos are taken using a Canon 40D with a shutter speed of 1/320, while a software stopwatch runs constantly. If input lag is observed, it is recorded.

If a monitor has an HDMI port, we run HQV 1.0 tests, along with judder tests using Mission Impossible III scenes 11 and 14. We also check for 24p and YUV capability, all via a PlayStation 3.

Viewing angles are then photographed using a Canon 40D in spot metering mode, with only shutter time adjusted to get a good idea of how the colours shift as the view changes.

Next, light bleed is tested by displaying a completely black screen in a dark room, followed by power consumption testing, using a Jaycar mains digital power meter. The monitor is measured in off and sleep modes, as well as displaying an image with contrast, brightness and RGB values set to maximum.

Finally, we look into the warranty of the monitor, along with its dead pixel policy — arguably one of the most important details.

Editors' Choice Award

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