A Tale of Two Displays, Part Two: A Tale of Two Displays (really!)

Over the weekend, I decided it was time to stop waiting on Apple to pave the road that leads to my new screen real estate. I did a bunch of research — although not very well, as we’ll discover later in this tale of woe — and landed on a pair of Samsung T260 25.5″ widescreen monitors. Generally, they got good reviews, and looked as good as they could at BestBuy, given that every monitor in the store was being driven from a VGA signal with more splits than a high school cheerleading squad. I was planning on a single DVI source, so I knew it’d only get better from what I saw.

I unpacked the two beastly panels, and plopped ’em on my desk. My gosh, were they ever big! I felt like a kid in a candy store as I connected them to Doc Oc, and proceeded to bask in the electronic glory of the two brightly lit beacons on my desk.

My next step (as it should always be) was color calibration. I pulled out my trusty Gretag Eye-One, and calibrated both monitors. The colors looked great to my eyes, although the monitors were pretty bright, so I lowered the brightness a bit to keep the sunburn down. I brought up Lightroom, and began walking through some of my favorite images. The brighter the image, the better it looked on the new panels. And then I hit some low-light images…. and the house o’ monitors began to tumble down.

All my low-light images showed splotches and degradation in the shadowed areas — something I’d never seen on my 20″ Apple Cinema Display. The more I worked to eliminate the problem, the more I began to get concerned that I’d made a huge mistake.

It was back to research, and I learned that the T260’s used a TN LCD panel. Apparently, TN panels use 6-bit color (256k colors), and dither to get to the 16.7m colors that are advertised. And from what I could see, my photos didn’t like that kind of treatment. (For comparison, my Apple ACD uses an S-IPS panel — 8-bit color, and true 16.7m colors without dithering.)

Tail between my legs, battered and bruised, Beck and I took the two Samsungs back to BestBuy for return. Surprisingly, they gave us no guff about returning them, and I didn’t have to get into a philosophical discussion of the religion behind various LCD panels. And, no restocking fee, which I was fully expecting to be asked for.

However, that leaves me back at the smaller screen real estate, but I think that’s a problem I can schluff off until after the first of the year. No reason to rush, and it appears that I have a good deal more research to accomplish! 🙂