Dell U2412M -- The Right Monitor For Me

Around five years ago I got a tip from a stranger. One of my friends was looking for a new computer with a budget of around Rs 25,000 and I had prepared a configuration for him. But I wanted others to see this configuration. So, I made a thread at a web forum where geeks gathered and showed them the configuration.

“It is all fine,” one of the guys commented. “But don’t pair the computer with a 17-inch monitor. Pair it with a 19-inch monitor. If money is a problem, get a slower processor, less RAM or cut something else. But get a bigger monitor. Your friend doesn’t care about what is inside his computer. He doesn’t know about parts. But give him a bigger monitor and he will thank you every time he uses it.”  

It made sense. When my friend, who was used to working on 15-inch monitors, saw the new computer, his first reaction was “wow!”

Moral of the story: A monitor is probably the most important component in a computer because you are going to stare and work on it all the time. A poor monitor and your user experience is going to suffer.  

So, how do you choose the right monitor? There are several variables. I will talk about how I selected mine and I hope that will explain the basics. I am sad to say this but monitor and display market is characterized by companies trying to sell lot of fluff with the help of obnoxious marketing. But that’s for later. For now, about the monitor…

Step 1

I decided the screen size. Yes, bigger is better. But bigger is also more expensive. For example, decent 27-inch or 30-inch monitors cost above Rs 50,000. I couldn’t spend that much, so I settled on 23/24 inches.

Step 2

This one is very important. Here I decided the resolution I wanted. In the category of monitors with a 22-inch or bigger screen, the most common resolution is 1920 x 1080 pixels. It is also called Full HD or1080P resolution.

I DON’T like this resolution on a computer monitor.

But panel manufacturers love it because it has an aspect ratio of 16:9 and allows them to make more monitors from a single sheet of panel. This is the reason why a 19-inch monitor is actually 18.5-inch and a 22” monitor is actually 21.5-inch.

Manufacturers push 1920 x 1080 a lot. They tell consumer that it is better for watching videos. Theoretically they are right but in real life it doesn’t work like this. I will explain when I talk about panel type.

What I wanted in my monitor was 16:10 aspect ratio. Ideally, 4:3 aspect ratio is best for work. And 16:9 is best for watching videos (theoretically). 16:10 is the best compromise. My choice of aspect ratio meant that I had to get a monitor with a resolution of 1920 x 1200 pixels and not 1920 x 1080. The difference is just 120 pixels on paper but in reality, it is more. The key here is the display area in physical terms. It is important and most manufacturers try to hide it. See the illustration for example.
Here are the screens (scaled to proportion) of three monitors. The red is U2412M (24-inch screen with 16:10 aspect ratio). The green is P2412H (24-inch screen with 16:9 aspect ratio). The yellow is U2312HM (23-inch screen with 16:9 aspect ratio). The extra height of U2412M makes a real difference in use. At least to me it does. 

Step 3

Again a very important point. Panel type. Almost 90% monitors in the market have TN panel. And almost 99% laptops have TN panel on their screens. This is a shame! Yes, TN panels are cheap to produce and manufactures love it. While it is perfectly alright for people to buy cheap monitors if that is what they want, I don’t like the way monitor makers have stopped creating good and affordable monitors that use anything other than a TN panel.

The problem with TN panel is that it has horrible viewing angles and it can't show good colour. Here is an example: Do you have a laptop? Yes, you say. Stare at the screen and then tilt your head and move it to right or left. Depending on how good or bad is the TN panel on your laptop, the colours will start to vanish. If it is a very bad panel, they may even disappear entirely, turning into grey smudges or white patches. This is the reason why I said it is unethical to tell people that 1080P is the best resolution for watching videos. Yes, it is. But when paired with something other than a TN panel. But manufactures won’t talk about that. Irrespective of the resolution, the picture quality on most TN monitors is generally so bad that they are not at all suitable for watching videos or pictures.

If I don’t want a TN panel in my monitor what are my options? Sadly, in India not many. I looked for monitors with IPS panel, which is suitable for general purpose computing.

Step 4

What else I wanted in my monitor? I wanted a stand that could allow me to tilt and swivel monitor as well as adjust its height. I wanted a Display Port because graphics cards already use it and it might become as popular as DVI in the next few years. And I wanted a matte screen because I couldn’t stand a glossy screen.
Apart from this, let me tell you what I did not care about. In other words, this is a note on the kind of nonsense monitor manufacturers sprout about their products and why it shouldn’t matter to you.

a)      I didn’t care about dynamic contrast. One monitor I saw claimed it had a dynamic contrast of 50,000,000:1. Are these people crazy? Dynamic contrast is bullshit. It doesn’t reflect the actual contrast you will get on the monitor. Static contrast ratio is a better parameter but even that is the best-case scenario. In fact, dynamic contrast is actually a problem during the use because screen keeps changing its contrast depending on the content it is displaying. If I get a monitor that has dynamic contrast, I turn it off.

b)      I didn’t care about input lag. TN monitors have better input lag (2ms/5ms) while IPS monitors have an input lag of 8ms/5ms. This number too is the best-case scenario. In real life, whether you are watching a fast-paced film or playing a video game, there is going to be no difference between 8ms or 2ms. Of course, monitor makers tell you otherwise but it is rubbish for 99% consumers.

c)      I didn’t care about colour gamut, brightness and viewing angles etc. The important thing to note here is that TN panels suck at these parameters. So stay clear of TN panels and specs won’t matter anyways.

d)      I didn’t care about energy efficiency much. During use, all of them suck more or less same amount of juice.

e)      I didn’t care about the design. As I said earlier I was looking for functionality in the stand. And not how sleek it looked.

So why Dell U2412M

If you have read what I have written so far, you know why. It ticks all the right boxes for me. It has everything I want. This means:

a)     A 24-inch screen

b)     eIPS, which is a wallet-friendly version of IPS, panel

c)     1920 x 1200 pixels resolution

d)     A fully adjustable stand

e)      Display Port

Plus a few extras

f)      LED display (somewhat better energy efficiency. Thinner screen compared to CCFL-based IPS display)

g)     USB ports

As I said, in India there is not much choice when it comes to quality monitors. Everybody is pushing TN panels here. The only companies selling IPS/eIPS monitors are, as far as I know, Dell, HP, LG and Asus. The 24-inch IPS monitor from Asus I couldn’t find in the market. HP would not sell its IPS monitors to me. It doesn’t believe in dealing with mere mortals in India. It only deals with corporates even though abroad it is happy to sell monitors to every Tom, Dick and Harry.

I kind of short-listed three monitors: Dell U2412M, Dell U2312HM and LG IPS225V. Only one of them had 16:10 aspect ratio.

I am using Dell U2412M for the last one month and I couldn’t be happier. Out of the box, its colours were too cool for my taste but once I finished with basic calibration (contrast and brightness stuff) it was all good. Truly a fantastic monitor for its price of around Rs 20,000.

A quick summary

1-     Decide the budget

2-     Go for a monitor that doesn’t have a TN panel. U2412M sells for around Rs 20,000. This is pretty affordable. If you want something cheaper Dell U2312HM sells for around Rs 14K and LG IPS225V for less than Rs 10K. There is simply no excuse for getting a TN monitor now unless you are buying it for a cheap cyber cafĂ©. UPDATE: BenQ also sells several affordable monitors with non-TN panel. For example EW2430V, which uses VA panel, is for around Rs 17K. VA panel is far superior to TN panel when it comes to picture quality. Asus, meanwhile, has PA238Q, which uses an IPS panel, around same price point. Viewsonic has VP2365 LED with IPS panel that should have a price of less than Rs 20,000. So, some more choices. Unfortunately most of this information is from the web. The actual availability could be an issue. For example, I couldn't find the Asus monitors when I was looking for them.

3-    Use 16:9 and 16:10 monitors with similar screen size. Then decide what you want.

4-     Look for ports. HDMI is essential if you want to hook up your gaming console to the monitor.

5-     Don’t bother about specifications shown on the manufacturer’s website. The key things are your budget, panel type (the info that manufacturers try to hide), stand, resolution and screen size (actual).

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One Response to Dell U2412M -- The Right Monitor For Me

  1. I definitely agree with the guy from the forum – always get a bigger monitor. Mostly, it is through the monitor that we enjoy the computer experience. And you’ll only realize this once you’ve experienced using one. A bigger screen size means more viewing options. This might mean higher price, but you’ll get better efficiency in return. And the reaction of your friend is enough to know you’ve bought the right monitor. ;) Lance Vartanian



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