Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Monitors: Not all created equal

Whether it be a LCD monitor, CRT monitor or a television, the monitor is one of the most important parts of a computer - without one, the computer is useless. In this day, LCD monitors are now more common than ever. Infact you are probably using one to view this site. We all know that they are sleek, small, and pretty especially when compared to the anchient CRT monitors. What you may not know, is what type of panel is hiding inside your new 22" inch widescreen monitor. When I say panel I am referring to the actual screen that is displaying the images. These "panels" are not created equally and if you are looking to buy one or even have one already it may be a good thing to know what is "under the hood."

A monitor is an expensive purchase so understanding the different quality panels used in common LCD's could help you from buying a $250 sub par monitor. To read the full article visit

The stickied thread is written by wonkman and is a very good explanation describing all the different panel types. For those of you who want a summary here it is:

The following is not my work and all credit goes to wonkman at

LCD Panel Technology Type and Characteristics

TN film (Twisted Nematic)
- low manufacturing/retail costs
- restrictive viewing angles
- fast pixel response times
- dead pixels display white. Stuck pixels display RGB colors
- lower contrast levels means blacks are not as dark as VA based panels
- lower color reproduction

IPS (In Plane Switching)
- improved viewing angles over TN
- very good color reproduction
- slower pixel response times than TN
- dead pixels display black
- lower contrast levels means blacks are not as dark as VA based panels
Super-IPS (S-IPS)
- same as IPS except ...
- likely best color reproduction of all TFT
- less expensive to produce than IPS
- improved pixel response
VA (Vertical Alignment) Technologies

MVA (Multidomain Vertical Alignment)
- compromise between TN and IPS technologies
- superior color reproduction over TN but not as good as IPS
- very good viewing angles but less than IPS
- higher contrast than TN or S-IPS means very good blacks
- dead pixels are black
- slower pixel response than TN or IPS
- details can be lost when directly viewing dark areas
Premium-MVA (P-MVA)
- same as MVA except ...
- "overdrive" technology increases pixel response but still slower than TN
- may have slightly degraded color reproduction due to "overdrive" process
PVA (Patterned VA)
- same as MVA except ...
- larger viewing angles
- higher contrast levels means darkest blacks
Super-PVA (S-PVA)
- same as PVA except ...
- “Magic Speed” (the Samsung equivalent to Overdrive) improves pixel response
- slightly improved color reproduction
- slightly improved viewing angles


TN - Cheap, fast panel for gamers not looking for the best color reproduction
MVA - Good compromise between price/quality
IPS - Expensive but one of the best panels

It is sometimes hard to find out what type of panel that the monitor has in it so here are a couple rules that I follow when researching a monitor:

  • Monitor has 16.2 million colors - TN panel
  • Monitor has 16.8 million colors - MVA or IPS
  • Monitor has less than 170 degrees viewing angles - Usually TN
  • Monitor has viewing angles larger than 170 degrees - MVA or IPS
You can also look up your monitor on

Using my quick tips, google and TFT Central you should be able to find out what panel is in your monitor. One last thing to note is not all TN panels are equal, some are bad and others can be quite good.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Desktop Memory: DDR, DDR2 and now DDR3

Desktop memory: one of the essential components of a PC. DDR is defined as double data rate, and it refers to the type of memory used in most household desktop computers. There are other various types of memory such as RDRAM and XDR RAM but this article focuses on DDR and the changes it has gone through.

DDR and DDR2 are the two most commonly used types of memory. Try not to confuse GDDR (Memory sometimes advertised on graphics cards) with the similarly named desktop alternative. One such example of this is how GDDR2 does not equal DDR2. Until a couple years ago, the way you determined which kind of memory to use decided upon what type of motherboard/cpu you were using. If you were using Intel you would go with DDR2 and if you went with AMD you were stuck using DDR. (DDR is shown in the picture above)

It was not until the release of the AM2 Socket platform, when AMD finally implemented DDR2 as the new memory standard. It is now safe to buy DDR2 memory and whichever route you go, Intel or AMD, the memory will be compatible.

Differences between DDR and DDR2:
  • DDR2 Data rate increased where DDR left of
    • DDR400 - Fastest DDR memory
    • DDR2 400-800
  • Voltage has significantly decreased with DDR2
    • DDR 2.5-2.8v
    • DDR2 1.8v
  • Prefetch size increased to 4 bits with DDR2 compared to 2 bits

For a good in depth article covering DDR vs DDR2 visit Overlocker Cafe.

DDR2 has been the standard for both Intel and AMD for a few years. As with all technology, memory is once again starting to move forward into the land of DDR3. DDR3 is raising the stakes with its even lower voltage, 1.5v; increased prefetch size to 8 bits deep and an obvious clock rate increase. DDR3 is a rare sighting due to its very expensive price tag. Thirty six DDR3 modules are currently listed on Newegg and the least expensive is 1gb value RAM priced at $150 and the price just keeps on rising from there, reaching prices close to $1000 dollars for a high performance 4gb kit. For now DDR3 is screaming enthusiast but give it a year or so and the price should be reasonable investment for consumers.

AMD/ATI release 3800 series!

Trying to capitalize on the shortage of 8800gt's, AMD/ATI released the 3800 series of graphics cards a few days ago.

The concept seems great: Release a graphics card competitive with the 8800GT, meet demands and offer a lower price; boosting up the price/performance ratio. Oh and a couple other new features such as DirectX 10.1 support.

ATI released two different versions of the 3800 series; the Radeon 3870 and 3850. These two cards are priced at $219 and $179.

Comparison chart taken from Anandtech article:
Synopsis: I really urge everyone to read the very informative article over at Anandtech. For everyone that doesn't have time to read through it, the 3870 is a good card especially if the $219 price point is reached. Although its not as quick as the 8800gt it is still a lot of card for your money.
If you really need a graphics card now and you can't find a 8800GT in stock the Radeon 3870 definitely deserves a glance, but for me I think I am still going to wait it out and purchase a 8800GT when the price comes back down.

Wheres my 8800GT?

When Nvidia released the Geforce 8800GT it was a god send for price/performance. The MSRP at $249.99 for the 512mb version and $199.99 for the 256mb version, which is currently unreleased. Great prices except for one thing, supply. Nvidia is not meeting supply demands causing the price for these cards to shoot past $300.00 and averaging around $325.00. There are eleven different versions of this card on Newegg and all eleven are sold out.

Personally I was planning on upgrading from my aging 7600gt but now with prices above $300 I can't bring myself around to it even if I can find one. Others are reasoning their purchase by explaining how the 8800GT commonly beats out the 8800 GTS 640mb which costs around $400.

For me, I will be waiting until the price starts coming back down.

8800GT Specs:

Do computer techs really know their stuff?

According to a Marketplace program, they don't. Seven out of ten computer technicians could not diagnose the problem correctly. If you have a bit of time to spare I would recommend watching this video as it is absolutely astonishing. Being a computer tech myself it is sometimes hard to diagnose certain problems just simply due to numerous possibilities that it could be. The problem faced in this video is very simple and professional (or so people may think) technicians should have no problem with. Just make sure you think again before calling up the computer tech next time you have a problem.

Enjoy the video: