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View Full Version : DELL 2001FP review (long, but I try to be thorough)


raz-0
12-17-2003, 11:28 PM
OK, I've sort of reviewed this in another thread, but recently I have seen some people complaining about the 2001FP around various forums, and in the process have some additional comments I thought should be obvious as well as some caveats that might not be so obvious. In checking out the complaints I also have to revise some of my previous conclusions about analog performance.

I recomment htat you at least look at the controversy section if you ahve any interest in this monitor at all.



The basics:
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It's a 20" LCD with 16ms response time, true 24-bit display, 400:1 contrast ratio, .255 pixel pitch, and 250cd/m^2 brightness. It has DVI-D, sub-d, s-vhs, and composite video inputs which you can switch between with a hard button, or do PIP with.


Coolest feature not mentioned anywhere that I noticed:
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You can adjust the transparency of the on screen disply. It is SO nice to be able to adjust stuff without losing an index card sized chunk of screen real-estate while doing it. It's not a killer feature, but it is a superb ergonomic touch.


LCD vs. LCD vs. CRT:
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OK, think back to 1994 or so. The PC was REALLY starting to take off as a consumer item. Think about the ammount of lying, half-truths, and general variation of quality in the monitor market. People wanted 17" monitors, but people were NOT going to shell out $500 for one by the truckload. So what did you get? the $375 17" monitor with a .30 dot pitch, and odds are unless a computer magazine did a wel run comparo, you weren't going to find that out easily. If at all.

We are at the same point with LCDs today. Most manufacturers list half the specs you need to know, and even when they do, odds are they are lying or bending the truth a fair bit. To make it worse, the underlying technology is nowhere near as mature as the CRT was, and the differences between valid implimentations are probably greater than the differences in the CRT world even with the marketing departments factored in.

Color reproduction:
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In case it was unclear in any of my previous comments, let me get one thing clear here. THE OUT OF THE BOX SETTINGS ARE NOT ACCEPTABLE. There. I hope that's clear. In DVI mode, they are bad. It has a cool blue tint, and looks a bit like your gamma is up too much. In analog mode they are exceptionally bad, and result in weird greenish color with messed up reds. (think of the film treatment in the original matrix, except all reads above a certain threshold are kind of blown out and all reds below a certain threshold are a bit subdued) All the color temp presets? The news gets worse, they picked the best one out of the box, try the other two, and you will wonder why they are even there. You WILL have to adjust the colors using the manual user settings. Personally, if you care about graphics, I would have thought this true for every monitor. Maybe I'm wrong about that, but the 2001FP will need to be adjust by even the less discriminating user. Is my monitor color calibrated with an expensive tool? no. however I have fiddled with it enough to the point that it is VERY close to what I was getting out of my 21" CRT, and I will go so far as to say it is less significant than the differences I have experienced between CRTs and other LCDs I have compared.

Adjusting the brightness is a much more critical element in getting the color right on the 2001fp than it has been on any other monitor I ahve ever used. This monitor is bright, and the light source has a blue cast to it. For me the magic number was 43.

A final note on color adjustment, let themonitor warm up for about 2 miutes, the color temp of the light source in the monitor does change somewhat over the first couple of minutes. Moreso than on other LCDs I have used.

Visual artifacts:
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ghosting - IT doesn't ghost much. It is not quite as fast as a CRT, but damn close. For example, scrubbing thrrough a 2000 frame animation as fast as I could resulted in something like 4-5 afterimages on my CRT, and 5-6 on the 2001FP. The much bigger problem in this neighborhood is going to be 60hz refresh rate in it's native resolution and the impact of this on having v-sync on or off. With it off, tearing is more obvious than on a crt. With it on your FPS are capped at 60fps in many d3d or ogl programs. Since you can force v-sync by many methods, it's impact for 3d apps is reduced. For the gamer type it is a more serious dilemma.

blooming/halo - I'll actually cover two things. one is a light object on a dark background casting a halo on the screen, the other is leaving a streak on the screen. It basically doesn't. no glowy streaks from excited phosphors not returning to black completley. No real not-quite black streaks from LCD pixels taking time to adjust. I'm not saying there aren't any, but that if there are they are impossible for me to distinguish from the artifacts the human eye naturally produces when you move a flickering light colored objec over a dark background. As for haloing, I just don't think you can get it without a nice thick sheet of glass in there.

screendoor - the 2001FP exhibits a more noticeable screen door effect than a number of LCDs. All LCDs have this problem to some extent. There are plenty out there worse than the 2001FP. However, there are plenty out there that are better. SOme monitors minimize this problem by putting in a layer of material that blurs the screen very slightly, but plenty perform better without resorting to such tradeoffs. The 2001FP is so sharp, the argument could probably be made that blurring the image slightly would have had a net positive effect compared to the screen door effect. Screen door comes with LCDs. It will likely never have an industry standard measure you can go look up. It will also likely always be a matter of what your personal threshold is just like some people never stop seeing the little wires on trinitron screens.

contrast - Contrast on this monitor is good for an LCD. COmbined with the anti glare coating, It has very nice blacks in a well lit workign environment. Probably better than my CRT does in the same. In a dim working environment however, the blacks look less black even compared to itself under other lighting conditions. In a dark room, the difference between teh CRT and itslef is pretty vast. Compared to a good LCD today, I don't think ti is exepctional. Compared to a budget LCD today or a good lcd from a year or so ago, I think it is an improvement.

viewing angle - Viewing angle is not best in class. This is due to the IPS mode of operation for the lcd element. If you are asking for opinions about color from people pullign their chairs up next to you, or tend to slouch in wildly different directions in your chair, it may not be the monitor for you. However, don't take this to mean it sucks like a cheap LCD. The viewing angle is an artifact of the technique used to get fast response times, and affects left right variation more than up and down. up/down viewing angle is pretty solid. Not best in class, but definitely not something to worry about.

anti-glare: it has a good anti-glare coating, probably from a strictly glare reducing aspect it is an example of best-in-class glare reduction. However, it ahs a dark side i'll touch on later.

resolution scaling: It's nice, it's very nice. It's honestly one of the few LCD monitors I have seen where doing real work in a non-native resolution might actually be a viable idea. Now don't take that to mean it is flawless, jsut that in my opinion it is one of the best I have seen. For gaming it definitely surpasses acceptable.

analog vs. digital:
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I highly recommend using the DVI input. IT behaves better and looks nicer. With resolution changes it does the right thing 99.9% of the time. I had one problem with a resolution switch, and can't properly place blame for it. Gut response is taht it wasn't the monitor, but I can't say I had zero problems.

AS fro analog, I previously would have said it was verging on unacceptable. The colors were messed up and resolution switches were all not right. After taking more time to test out the analog mode of operation though, I ahve to change my tune somewhat. By reducing the brightness, I was finally able to get the analog colors to something reasonable. AS for the resolution switching, they seem to have mitigated the badness from anandtech's sample and from some other LCDs I have seen it on. The current state is that it seems to get the autoadjust on resolution change wrong pretty much 100% of the time. However if you force another autoadjust after it gets it wrong, it seems to do a pretty good job on the second try. It would still encourage me to get a DVI capable card, but it would be useable while I saved up the money.

The controversy:
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Oh man, where to begin. Well I guess I'll just list the non crazy gripes first and my response to them including any suggestions I think might be useful.

Backlight problems:
We have two categories here. Folks who have either a light problem or a LCD matrix problem, and people who have light bleed. SOme of it is a QA problem where there is a overbright area somepalce on the screen that isn't just light bleeding around the edge. For some it is a QA problem where light bleeding around the edge is really beyond acceptable. Almost all of the people who appear to have an honest gripe with a defective monitor seem to have september production monitors. a number of the light bleeding around the edges folks seem to be the kinds of people not well suited to owning an LCD because they find the limitations and the tradeoff of the technology unacecptable. Many won't admit this to themselves though. but if you have a random bright area of the monitor, call dell, it is not indicative of the average 2001FP and you should be able to convicne them to exchange it.

screen door:
Ok, this is probably the most serious gripe out there. Like I said before, there is more screen door on this than on a number of the top of the line monitors out there.

From pictures I have seen posted online, the screen door effect seems to vary. Th pics are examples of bad screening, but at the same time, I can honestly say that my 2001FP does not exhibit the same degree of screen door as they show in their photo. The majority of gripes I have seen so far are from people with september build dates. However, there are a number of folks with october build dates complaining as well. The nature of LCD manufacture means that you are going to have yeild issues much liek a cpu, jsut with less room for covering up sub-optimal units in your product line-up. The basic underlying technology of LCDs is going to stick you with some artifacts that some folks may never find acceptable,a nd they likely will not be going away.

It is hard to say where people's problems lie. From evidence, I'd say there were people out there with monitors I'd say shouldn't have passed QA. The QA problem might have been fixed though, or simply reduced in frequency. Alternately, as production ramps up economy of scale might let them ditch more bad units for the $750 price point than they could afford to at lesser volume. It results in less bad pieces out hte door, but isn't quite the same. The fact that some of the complaints are going to be subjective makes this impossible to tell which it is.

Regardless, this monitor is once again VERY bright. Turn the brightness down and it will minimize the contrast of the inter-pixel grid. This will minimize the issue as much as possible.

graininess:
ok, this is the hardest to discuss due to lack of uniform vocabulary and the fact that you can't reproduce it well with your average digicam to show people. Some call it graininess, some describe it as "looking sort of dirty", to be crude, others have referred to it in significantly cruder ways. In my attempt to try and communicate what it loks like, imagine someone trying to simulate film grain forgot to animate the grain and it was floating about 1/8 of an inch over the lcd grid. That's the best I can do to describe it.

What I think it really is, after some pondering, is the anti-glare coating combined with the fact that there is some kind of protective layer between it and the lcd grid. For example, touch a finger to a dell 1702fp and drag, nice blue stream. On my 18" sun LCD, do the same and you get a trail of blue dots like skipping a rock across a lake. It feels frimer because it has a protective film in the screen. The 2001FP doesn't streak and is way stiffer feeling. frankly, you have to put a fair ammount of pressure to get distortion just pressing it.

In the end what you have is this anti-glare coating that normally you wouldn't notice. but because there is parallax shift due to the notably robust screen protector, you can see it more because it looks different as you shift your head.

If I venture into the realm of taking a scientific wild ass guess, I'd suggest it is exacerbated by the fact that for the IPS mode of operation, I think the polarizing filter layers ahve to be aranged differently. I'd also suggest that the protective layer although very stiff is not glass as the monitor is hefty for an LCD, it jsut doesn't feel heavy enough to have a glass electroflourescent tube and a nice sized chunk of high quality tempered plate glass in there. It might even be polycarbonate with the high refractive index exagerating the parllax even more.

Once again, reducing the brightness eases this. Hoever, even with the brightness turned down, it jsut stands out more on some colors and gradients.

Color problems:
There are a number of folks out there bitching about the color reproduction of the monitor. PErsonally, from reading their gripes there appear to be 3 basic camps.

camp one is the person with really sharp eyes, and a real need for the best color reproduction they can get. Their gripes are basically valid. The 2001FP is not for them, and they should avoid it or return it. It hasn't transcended the limitations of LCD technology, just minimized some of them. They want the benefits of an LCD without the drawbacks, and something managed to convince them the 2001FP was it. Nope.

The second camp are the people who make adjustments and still think it sucks. SOme of them I can tell by the nature of their complaints are using the vga connector and expecting perfection. No dice. It has an odd color cast on every LCD I ahve seen, and moreso on the 2001FP. Use DVI. Additionally, a number of cases seem to think they have already radically tweaked the brightness from reducing to 90 from 100. To this I say think more like 50 than 90.

As for the third camp... well.. you remember when 21" monitors started dipping below $600? you remember the people who would have balked at $700, but at $599.99 were tempted without any clear need for a 21" monitor or much knowledge about what tradeoffs you might be making for the screen real-estate? yeah.. they are back. Set your bullshit filters appropriately after you ask yourslef which is more idiotic. A $750 monitor that isn't perfection out of the box, or someone who would rather bitch about that than ask for help adjusting the thing or return it?


My suggestions for dealing with it are use DVI and tweak away. Try bringing the brightness down to under 60, and pull back on the reds more than anything else when tweaking the colors. Whatever you do do not settle for the out of the box settings.


conclusions:

The 2001FP is not a perfect monitor. It excells in some places, and this costs it in others. It is razor sharp, but to do this, it seems they omitted a difussing layer from the screen. This makes the screening more obvious on a part that is not best in class in that category to begin with. They put a really good anti-glare coating on it, but it doesn't necessarily play well with the nice rigid protective layer and the technology for the fast response times. The default color settings are laughable, but could very well be a concession to the fact that this monitor is also designed to be able to accept home electronics being plugged into it.

It is not the one true monitor. But then I shouldn't have to tell you that. What it is is an exceptional value. When people compare it or complain about it, the samsung syncmaster 19 and 20 inchers come up as well as the dell offerings in 18 and 19". Well, the dell 2001FP costs $750 compared to $1200 for the samsung 20", $640-680 for the other 19 inchers. Most of it shortcomings aren't even a symptom of that buget price, but rather they are mostly design decisions that you may not agree with.

Sieb
12-18-2003, 02:41 AM
Good review. And the batch processing is a good point, not all LCDs are equal (any electronic isn't). I had two 17" LCDs that were the same and one was perfect, the other darker and could never get adjustments to match the other. The cheap price of the 2001 is a grabber, but I am still comfortable shelling out the 1200 I did for my Samsung 213T for the satisfaction that it was perfect out of the box. I am happy paying a little bit more for quality. I have a feeling the 2001 is cheap because its meant to be mass produced for Dells new multi-media push (explaining why it accepts so many inputs). Definetly wouldn't turn down a chance to grab a couple though.:thumbsup:

raz-0
12-18-2003, 03:41 AM
Like I said, I'm not so sure I would describe most of the issues with the monitor as flaws. More design decisions that you might disagree with. I have yet to get to see a 213T in person.

As for mass produced and cheapness, I would not say that the screen in the 2001FP is NOT (man what a typo had to edit this back in) cheap in a build quality way. It's cheaper because it is the latest generation from phillips and they are figuring out how to get larger yeilds.

I do think you might have something with the multi-media angle though. The rigid screen protector smacks of being overbuilt for being in a higher traffic area than your desk. And it is a source of some of the issues.

I also got to try and reproduce the pictures I have seen of the screen door grid type effect up close, and I have to say, that although it is more pronbounced than the 1702FP sample pictures, it is not as bad as the 2001FP pictures I have seen from the people complaining about it.

Oh yeah, one thing I forgot to mention that might be pertinent to the cgtalk crowd is that the razor sharpness of the monitor is quite nice for fiddling with wireframes.

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