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Roundup: 22-Inch LCD Monitors

Product Survey: 22'' LCD Monitors

Our Tests

We assess monitors on a lot of different criteria: design, handling, measuring color accuracy, response times for games and movie watching.

The ideal screen, of course, would excel in all of these areas. Unfortunately, that's rarely the case, and a compromise is often necessary. If you're touching up photos, then you might want to put an emphasis on accurate colors, but if you're a gamer, then quick response is what you'll need.

This roundup includes products released within one year preceding the publication date of this article. The product selection consists solely of review units made available to Tom’s Guide by vendors. While the products listed here do not constitute a comprehensive listing of all products in the category, they do represent a broad range of what is available to consumers in this category. We will quickly update this roundup with new products as they become available to Tom’s Guide, and soon add data relating to product specifications and test dates. In other words, these roundups are a work in progress. Please check back frequently to see what’s new.

In 2009, 22 inch LCD monitors have fast become the norm for day to day computing. Whether you’re buying one from your favorite online outlet or picking one up in a desktop package deal at your local big box retailer, it's not worth going any smaller as you won't save any money. Today's 22'' monitors start at about $150, and can go up beyond $400. While a 21.5 or 22 inch screen is nothing new, the game has certainly changed as of late. Up through 2008, you would expect a 1680 x 1050 resolution on your 22 inch monitor. But recent trends and the embrace of High Definition content has led to newer 22 inch monitors packing a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution, allowing for Full HD gaming and movie watching at a reasonable price.

22 inch monitors come in all shapes and sizes. The most advanced versions have very wide viewing angles, offer a plethora of inputs (VGA, DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort), and sit on smart stands that are height-adjustable. Even built-in digital tuners are becoming more readily available, allow your computer monitor to serve as a PC display, console gaming display, and TV all at once. Since the end of 2008, there is also a choice between two different resolutions: some screens are at 1680 x 1050 pixels while others are at 1920 x 1080 pixels. The choice is yours: you can either go for more pixels to cram more information onto the screen, or fewer for better readability.

The cheapest 22 inch screens aren't necessarily bad, but certainly more basic. On these models, the stand is usually fixed, and there won’t be any HDMI port next to your VGA and DVI connectors. These screens use TN panels with a 5 ms response time, which means that the image fades to black when you look at it from below and that games will suffer from ghosting, with moving objects looking a little blurry. In recent months, however, 2ms monitors have begun to appear below the $200 price point. If games like Quake Live and Left 4 Dead occupy most of your day, a 2ms monitor on the cheap will be your best friend.

An (Almost) Perfect Screen?

For us, a perfect screen would:

  1. be very responsive (fewer than one frame behind on an average scene) and without too much input lag
  2. have correct colors by default (a deltaE score of below 3)
  3. have excellent contrast (contraste > 800:1 at 200 cd/m²= black < 0.25 cd/m²)
  4. use wide viewing angles that give even colors
  5. benefit from high-end features, like a smart stand on a rotating base that's also height-adjustable

Let's be realistic: a screen this good just doesn't exist, or if it does it's far too expensive for us. However, for a screen to walk off with that famous five-star rating, it'll need to match at least four of these criteria. If it only has three, then it'll never get more than four stars, unless there are some pretty remarkable extra features.

20'', 22'' or 24''?

Up against today's 22'' screens, 19'' and 20'' monitors are largely outclassed given how close they are in price. Instead, it's time to look in the other direction, as the price of 24'' monitors is now falling rapidly. So much so, in fact, that the cheapest 24'' screens can be cheaper than some mid-range 22'' models. Moving up to 24'', the screens are easier to use with a larger display area, but the disadvantage is that they take up more space.

The latest generation of monitors is beginning to rely on some innovative new features to stand out. There are some which include TV tuners, others that can display certain games in 3D using special glasses, and others that show 120 images a second rather than 60 (120Hz), completely obliterating ghosting and improving the fluidity of movements.