Friday, May 09, 2014

LCD monitors still suck - I returned my ASUS PB238Q

I wrote earlier about how happy I was with my new (to me) ASUS PB238Q monitor. Welp, I've returned it. Two of them, in fact. Here's why:

Ignore the vertical lines - that's a camera artifact. You may not see the real problem initially - some people don't. Stare at it for a minute. It might help to tilt your own monitor upward.

The right side's brighter than the left. I mentioned this in my earlier report on buying this display, but I didn't think it'd bother me so much. But past experience tells me that I'm extremely sensitive to uniformity issues, and over a few weeks of use, I found myself constantly fiddling around trying to find a viewing angle, brightness or color setting where this was not so noticeable. Like a moth drawn to a porch light, I couldn't stop looking at the brighter right side of the screen.

Monitor issues have a way of driving you insane over time. If you notice something soon after buying one, you may as well return it while you can. You will drive yourself to drink eventually otherwise. You have to stare at these things for hours on end, sometimes every day - if you're bothered by something you find early on, you're never going to feel any better about it. For me, uniformity is the big bugaboo.

All LCD's have uniformity issues to one degree or another - it's the nature of the beast. Here's a useful graphic that shows the problem:

An LCD screen is made up of many layers, and they're never perfectly even. The biggest problem is usually the diffusion layer, which is all the way on the bottom and is supposed to evenly spread the backlighting generated by CFL's or LED's. These backlights are most often along only two edges of the screen - either left and right or top and bottom. First of all that diffusion layer itself is never 100% flat, and then the light it spreads out has to pass through all these other layers that aren't 100% flat either. The lights themselves may be too close to the diffuser, or not evenly close on both (or all) sides.

We all just have to live with this to some extent, until some new technology supersedes LCD. (Come on, OLED!) It gets worse as screens get bigger. This is a big reason why I have a plasma TV in my living room.

In the PB238Q's case, both monitors I got had the exact same non-uniformity pattern - brighter on the right side, with a dark patch near the bottom just in front of the power supply. It seems the diffuser is probably being pressed inward at that location. I'm not sure why the right side's brighter, though, but it seems it's just how this model is.

Anyway I realize I'm never going to get perfect uniformity and many monitors are technically worse than this, but I found the pattern of non-uniformity on the PB238Q too distracting to ever ignore. So on its way to me now is a Dell UltraSharp U2412M, which Amazon has at a little more than $250 right now - a great deal on a 16:10 e-IPS screen (that's what I really wanted to begin with). We'll see if it's any better, but there are more professional reviews out there for it and they're all positive - and more importantly, they at least show that it's brighter in the center, rather than on one side. I should be able to live with that.

I still think the PB238Q is a really good monitor for the price - it just wasn't for me. Most people probably wouldn't notice the uniformity issues at all, or if they did, they wouldn't care. (I asked my wife if I was crazy and she said no, she saw it too, but it didn't bother her.) Other than the uniformity, I loved my PB238Q with its old-school industrial look and build quality, its awesome stand, and its IPS panel for cheap - that's a rare combo right there. But I just couldn't help but be distracted and annoyed by the light side.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some batteries to change...

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About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


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