A couple of years ago, the most important factor in the race for the best computer display was millisecond (ms) response time. Today, everybody and his grandmother touts a low response time, prompting a shift of focus to contrast ratio.
The most ardent peddler of contrast ratio figures is LG. It's impressed us with the 3,000:1 Fantasy and Black Jewel ranges, and now it's about to unleash a 5,000:1 model -- the LG Flatron L226WTQ. It promises brilliant whites, dark blacks and is available to buy for around £210.
We'll get this out of the way quickly -- the LG Flatron L226WTQ has amazing contrast. Blacks are so dark you'll think the monitor was doused in crude oil and whites are so bright they could kill vampires. Hands down, this is the best contrast we've seen on any computer screen.
It's not all about throwing blacks and whites around. The Flatron L226WTQ is very good at distinguishing between like shades. This is great when watching night scenes as you can clearly distinguish the murderer in the black cloak from hapless, blood-soaked victim. By the same token, the L226WTQ does well with like light shades. Colour reproduction isn't a problem either -- great news for images or video editing enthusiasts that like to make out important subtleties in their pictures.
We tested the Flatron L226WTQ with a few of our favourite games including Crysis, and we're happy with its gaming performance. LG claims it has a 2ms gray-to-gray response time, and while it's difficult to verify this, we didn't see any signs of ghosting, blurring or tearing. The same was true of movies -- everything played back as smoothly as if the panel was lined with butter.
Butter or no butter, the L226WTQ does not have a glossy finish -- and thank goodness. Whereas some screens use gloss to improve the perceived contrast levels -- like the tech version of make-up -- the L226WT's natural approach is much preferred. The end result is a monitor that offers high contrast, great colour reproduction and a screen that doesn't look like a mirror.
Inputs include VGA and DVI-D. The latter is HDCP-enabled, so you can connect the screen to a Blu-ray or HD DVD player and enjoy copy-protected movies. There's no HDMI socket, but you can buy a DVI-to-HDMI adaptor if the need arises.
We found it difficult to find any problems with the L226WTQ. If we're nitpicking, we can point out the fact that the 5,000:1 contrast mode is only available in the monitor's 'movie' mode. You have to physically enable this each time you need it, which can be quite annoying.
Also frustrating is the fact it's not height adjustable. You'll have to lower your chair or place it on a pile of books or magazines to get it in the ideal ergonomic position -- with the top of the screen in line with your eyes. The L226WTQ can't be used in portrait mode and doesn't have a built-in USB hub.
The resolution of 1,680x1,050 pixels isn't particularly high considering the size of the panel, but it's the same as the vast majority of rivals so we can't moan too much about it. LG has installed an 'ez Zooming' button to switch to a lower resolution and make icons and text appear larger. It's a nice idea but we hardly ever used this feature. Finally, the silver (or grey depending on who you ask) bezel isn't particularly attractive. Go for the black version if you can, as it's far more attractive.
You could be forgiven for thinking the L226WTQ is expensive, but it's not. The £210 price tag is great value for money considering this delivers better visuals than just about any other monitor we've looked at. Anyone looking for a new screen should definitely consider this one.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday