Contrast and Gradient
While contrast ratio numbers often touted by manufacturers and retailers aren’t the most important aspect to consider when purchasing a new TV or monitor, contrast does play a key role in how good the image appears on screen. But don’t blindly follow a higher number on the box—here, we look at the actual contrast differences between lights and darks and how similar colors are visible side by side. Both the Acer and Alienware displays provided a good range of color contrast for lights and darks, although Acer edged out on the lights, where the difference between brighter colors was more visible than on the Alienware display. Both had identical performance for contrast between dark colors. When it comes to contrast, we rate the Acer a 9 and the Alienware an 8 (both out of 10). The Gradient is similar to the contrast test, except that it is completely black and white. In it, we found similar results, where the Acer display was able to better differentiate between lights and darks than the Alienware was. For more details on this, see the next page’s Video Quality. For gradient, we give the monitors the same scores as Contrast—the Acer gets a 9 and the Alienware a 10.
Black Level and White Saturation
Black levels refer to how deep the blacks on the screen can get and how easy it is to tell the difference between different shades of black on a pure black background. White saturation is the exact same, with different shades of white on a pure white background.
Once again, both displays were fairly close when comparing the black levels. The Alienware proved very sharp, and we were able to tell the difference between nearly all shades of black. The Acer had a few shades of black that didn’t stand out enough against the background, but overall performed well compared to other displays. In this case, the Acer rates an 8 and the Alienware rates a 9.
White saturation was a completely different story. Shades of white were almost impossible to distinguish on the Acer display, with only the first few shades of white visible. The majority were invisible to us. Alienware’s screen proved much more capable, and only missed two of the twelve shades, which is a very good score. We give the Acer a 4 here and the Alienware a 9.
Response Time and Ghosting
Response time is another supposed all-important number, but there are several different types of response time ratings, such as grey to grey, black to white, etc. These numbers are also often unreliable, so even if a display is rated 3ms or 2ms, it may not be an absolute figure. In this case, both monitors claim 3ms response times, currently the fastest for HD monitors.
Alienware’s listed 3ms proved true, and in our tests the response time is nearly perfect. Acer, on the other hand, lists its monitor at 3ms grey to grey, and as expected, performed significantly worse on the response time test. However, it should be noted that this test is made specifically to tell the difference between fractions of a millisecond. The human eye cannot actually tell the difference. Acer scores a 7 by our count, and Alienware did exactly as advertised and earns a 10 for this feature.
Ghosting, or the residual image left over on fast-moving graphics, didn’t occur on either screen, so both attained a perfect 10 score in this category.