Hold the front page: there's a new king of high contrast and it's called the Flatron L1960TR, also known as the Black Jewel. Whereas the average PC screen can produce a contrast ratio of approximately 700:1, this £250 beast allegedly separates darks and whites by as much as 3,000:1 -- potentially making it one of the best displays for movie fans.
LG's design department deserves a pat on the back. It's not always got things right, but the Fantasy series, and now the Flatron L1960TR, show it's really got its act together.
The touch-sensitive power button and accompanying v-shaped LED are particularly drool-worthy, as is the arrow-shaped lower bezel and circular base section, both of which have a glossy piano-black coating. The bezel and rear of the monitor don't have a glossy coating, but this is probably a good thing as there's no chance of depositing unsightly fingerprints every time you touch it.
Round the back there's a removable panel that keeps the power and video cables out of sight. There are cable hoops for securing the D-Sub and analogue ports, although you won't need them as the panel itself keeps the cables from getting unruly.
Picture quality on the L1960TR is mostly very good. We threw a few movies at it and were astonished by how black the black levels were, and how bright light tones were. This is, hands down, the widest contrast we've seen on an LCD monitor. Colour reproduction was also very good. Best results were achieved when viewing dark scenes but we fed it some footage of Delia Smith chopping up multi-coloured foodstuff and could almost taste the melons.
The monitor uses a technology known as DFC, or digital fine contrast. This adjusts the contrast level automatically depending on the type of picture being shown. It's also possible to set contrast levels manually, or by using one of the pre-set video modes. The monitor lets you apply each new setting to half the screen, leaving the remaining half in the previous mode so you can see how the two compare.
The L1960TR has a claimed response time of 2ms, which puts it right up there with the best LCDs. Unsurprisingly it showed no tendency to blur when displaying fast-moving images. We tested it with games and videos of ice hockey matches and it coped admirably. If you can see blurring it's probably because you've had one too many shandies.
LG has opted to install both D-Sub and DVI ports, which gives you plenty of choice about how you connect it to your PC. The DVI port is HDCP-enabled, too, which means it can play back copy-protected HD movies, provided you have an HDCP-enabled graphics card.
The biggest drawback with the L1960TR is the fact it isn't widescreen aspect ratio. Its 1,280x1,024-pixel SXGA resolution offers a 5:4 aspect ratio, but this is a shame as the majority of movies use a widescreen aspect ratio -- usually 16:9.
The monitor's contrast ratio is breathtakingly high -- its blacks are extremely black and its whites are extremely white -- but there's a loss of detail in tones that sit somewhere near the middle. Near-white tones in particular appear as total white, but luckily near-blacks can still be distinguished, which is good news for anyone who likes to spot horror movie villains lurking in the shadows.
LG has done a good job in making the Black Jewel as stylish as possible but there are some compromises in its usability. The on-screen display buttons are hard to access on the side of the screen. Craning your neck around the side doesn't help much -- the inscription accompanying each button is inset embossed so they're hard to read.
The Black Jewel is a great piece of kit. Not only does it have a good design, but its high contrast ratio and fast response time make it ideal for playing movies or games. The 5:4 aspect ratio and the fact it loses detail in some light tones diminishes its appeal, but on the whole it's a great product.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Kate Macefield