The modern VA (Vertical Alignment) panel monitor offers some attractive image quality benefits to the consumer over similarly priced models using other panel technologies. Case in point is the recent BenQ EW2430 which offers outstanding contrast (over 4500:1 static contrast ratio post-calibration), full native 8-bit per subpixel colour support and a novel light haze (‘semi glossy’) screen surface – all of which makes for a deep, rich and lively image. Unfortunately such panel technologies have an Achilles heel in the way of response times lagging behind competing technologies such as IPS, PLS and TN. This isn’t the most likely candidate to receive the ’120Hz treatment’ that helped turn TN panel monitors into the super-responsive and 3D-capable beasts that they are today, but recent information suggests AU Optronics (AUO) are doing just that. Recent information provided by AUO reveals two new panels are currently in production; the M240HW02 V5 and M270HW02 V2. Both are AMVA panels with 120Hz refresh rates; the M240HW02 V5 is 24″ and CCFL-backlit with a 350 cd/m2 rated luminance whilst the M270HW02 V2 is 27″ and LED-backlit with a 400 cd/m2 rated luminance. Both of these panels are 1920 x 1080 resolution parts rated at 5000:1 static contrast and 12ms response time (grey to grey acceleraton can boost this but that is done electronically and not integrated into the panel). As nothing is stated to the contrary and the colour support is stated at 16.7 million, as with their previous VA panels, these are believed to achieve 8-bits per subpixel without dithering. They are also listed as having a colour saturation of ’72%’ which equates to 72% of the NTSC colour space – roughly sRGB and therefore standard gamut.
BenQ are currently the prime adopters of such panel technologies and are often quick to bring such panels to market as a finished monitor – so we hope to see some 120Hz VA panel monitors from them in 2012 and perhaps some from other manufacturers such as AOC. There has also been a recent rumour originating from the Swedish technology website Sweclockers that claims monitors using 120Hz PLS and IPS should be expected in 2012. This claim is not backed up by any solid evidence or sourced in the original article. We have contacted LG and Samsung about this and they were unable to substantiate these claims – they did express their desire to see such technology at some point but see this article as nothing more than publicity-enticing rumour. As explored in this article it isn’t clear that a 120Hz VA or IPS panel would offer the kind of ‘trailing busting’ benefits that we see from exceptionally responsive TN panels and may be primarily aimed at broadening the ’3D scope’ of such panel technologies instead. We should remember that 120Hz really came about for LCD monitors as a means of supporting active 3D technologies and that LG’s current 3D technology is passive (and soon to be autostereoscopic as an alternative) and doesn’t rely on a 120Hz refresh rate for optimal performance. That isn’t to say that 120Hz IPS wouldn’t be brought to market without ’3D’ as a selling point but we would expect to see a passive 3D IPS monitor (perhaps including frame interpolation technologies to claim 120Hz refresh rate) first given the current market. It remains to be seen what advantages 120Hz could bring to the table non-TN panels in 2D – perhaps not so much a substantial reduction in trailing as enhancing the ‘connected feeling’ that you get from the monitor image responding twice as often to input polls from the mouse in particular. Progression in this direction is certainly a good thing and something to get excited about. The picture may become clearer during CES 2012 in January and this is certainly something we’ll be keeping a close eye on.