Best Under $500 Budget Photo and Video Editing Monitor 2016
If you're a photo or video editor, you know how important a good monitor is for color accuracy. In the past, this meant spending in excess of $1,000.
In the last couple of years I've seen a significant improvement in the quality and color accuracy of monitors in the under $500 category with few reviews accurately describing the budget options available.
In this post, I'll review the changes in technology I've seen and give you a few monitors that, in my opinion, should be at the top of your list.
Understanding IPS Panel Types
TN Vs. IPS
Perhaps you've heard the term IPS, or in-plane switching when referring to the panel types of monitors. These panels are known for wide viewing angles, color accuracy, and previously a steep price.
TN or twisted nematic panel monitors are your typical consumer option because of their inexpensive prices and quick response times. These monitors typically are 6 bit with less than desirable viewing angles.
e-IPS vs. p-IPS Vs. H-IPS
There's a lot of confusion when it comes to IPS panel types and their categories. What should be done is some type of standardization in these names; however, here is what technically should be associated with each of these names.
This is a cheaper-to-produce IPS panel that has become very popular as of late. Typically, the color gamut associated with these types of monitors is not as good as Pro-IPS or H-IPS panels but is still much better than what you see on a typical monitor. For those that don't necessarily have to have brand color sensitivity, then these types of monitors should be good enough. Typically monitors in this category are advertised as 8 bit with 16.7 million colors; however, in the case of some of the least expensive models are more 6 bit with A-FRC or 8 bit simulated. TFT Central's recent article expands upon this.
Most modern IPS panel models are made in this format with horizontal IPS pixels arranged in vertical lines.
The "p" in p-IPS stands for professional and typically means that a particular IPS monitor has a wider color gamut. While many of these models say they have a 10-bit color palette of 1.07 billion very few do and as in the case of e-IPS some which are advertised are actually 8 bit with AFRC simulation. True 10-bit monitors will exceed the 8-bit+AFRC module monitors in price.
There are many other IPS options available in the market. Overall, pay attention to customer ratings and reviews for a more accurate depiction of what you're getting in a monitor.
Why I Like the Extra 120 Pixels - 1920 x 1200 vs. 1080p
You typically pay a little more for a monitor that's 1920 x 1200p vs. one with a standard high definition or 1920 x 1080p resolution. If you're a photo or video editor, then you'll enjoy the extra vertical space as it will let you see more of the overall picture.
If you simply want an IPS panel monitor for work, then you'll like how much more of each document that's available to you without scrolling. Either way, in my opinion, it's well worth the extra cost for something that saves times and allows you to see more.
4 Good Budget IPS / PLS Monitors Under $500 in 2016
Best Under $300 - Dell UltraSharp U2415
Simply purchasing an IPS monitor without the correct features or panel quality won't net you a good picture. While calibration is important, those in this price category may not have the budget or experience to do a professional calibration.
For this reason, I really like the *Dell UltraSharp U2415 along with the other monitors in this series including the 25", 27", 29" wide, and 34" curved options. It simply comes with a better calibration out of the box, than other very good options in the same price category and Dell guarantees that each monitor will arrive with a deltaE of <3 with 99%sRGB coverage.
*Another really good option would be the 2016 version of this monitor, the Dell UltraSharp Wireless charging U2417HJ. It's guaranteed to have 96% sRGB coverage from the factory at deltaE <4. Still, at a lower price and arguably better out of box calibration, the U2415 will be preferred by many.
With 2 HDMI connectors, 1 Mini DisplayPort, 1 DisplayPort Out, 1 audio line out, 5 USB 3.0 ports downstream, and 1 USB 3.0 port upstream the U2415 fixes many of the issues I had with the previous generation model. Still, those using older graphics cards will notice the lack of a DVI output.
Inexpensive monitors don't often have much versatility when it comes to ergonomics. That being said the U2415 has a height-adjustable stand, tilt, pivot, and swivel adjustment. It also has built-in cable management features as well as VESA 100mm holes for mounting.
Picture and Panel:
The Dell U2415 has a 1900 x 1200 resolution that gives you more vertical screen real estate to work with than the typical monitor.
Compared with the previous generation Dell U2412M, it has a better factory calibration, USB 3,0, MHL, touch-sensitive controls, and a thinner and more appealing bezel. The panel itself is an AH-IPS panel from LG that's capable of producing 16.78 million colors and has a light anti-glare coating on the front.
Ultimately, this monitor is color accurate enough for most, but those who work in branding and need true 8-bit accuracy may want to consider a pricier option. It comes pre-calibrated out of the box and is overall a great value for what you pay.
This monitor, as well as the U2312HM, also make good options for those looking to watch video or play games as shown in my IPS gaming monitor review.
Asus PB278Q - A Budget Large PLS Option
If screen real estate has a premium in your line of work, then the Asus PB278Q should be somewhere near the top of your list. With a 2560x1440 resolution, you get more pixels to work with and the 27" height and pivot adjustable screen is easy to work with.
The panel itself is PLS, a competitor to IPS, with some inherent advantages over your traditional IPS monitor. These include slightly better viewing angles for color and contrast as well as a higher level of transmittance. The result is more light to each individual cell which allows for a brighter display or a better PPI count.
In terms of black levels, the PB278Q is comparable to other IPS monitors out there. Color accuracy is better than average out of the box and calibrating this monitor will give you decent results.
It is listed as 100% sRGB color reproduction in Asus' specifications; however, with its LED backlighting you get more like 79% of the AdobeRGB gamut available which is still good for the money you spend.
Those who need a bit more contrast and sRGB quality should stretch their budgets and go for the Dell U2713HM. Otherwise, the Asus PB278Q is a solid option for around $150 cheaper.
Photo Editing Monitors for Mac or PC - $500 Category
Dell Ultra HD 4k P2715Q 27" Monitor
It's hard to ignore the additional screen real estate you get with the Dell Ultra HD 4k P2715Q.That, along with 99% sRGB coverage at deltaE <3, gives you a solid monitor for right around $400 for the 24" version and around $550 for the 27".
That, along with 99% sRGB coverage at deltaE <3, gives you a solid monitor for right around $400 for the 24" version and around $550 for the 27".
Put alongside my Macbook Pro 13 the colors and quality look exactly the same. Not only that, it's also plug and play and got rid of the monitor sleeping issues that previous generations had.
Compared to the 5k monitor, you'll get slightly better text on the 5k. Still, it's hardly discernible even when you put them side by side.
Overall, it still works as a great entry to mid-level display for photographers. Pixels aren't as clear as they are on Dell's UltraSharp series, but it still a solid option for those wanting to jump into the 4k realm. Those concerned about the pixel density should go with the UltraSharp Monitor series listed above.
Asus PA248Q - Another Downgrade in Panel and Upgrade in Price
If you're willing to pay twice as much and want a P-IPS panel, then Asus' previous model the PA246Q is a good option. That being said those looking for decent color accuracy will find another worthy option in the PA248Q.
Asus PA248Q vs. Dell U2412M
It's a lot like the U2412M in that it was changed to a less expensive E-IPS panel and has tilt, swivel, and height adjustment ergonomics.
When comparing connectivity it has the advantage including four USB 3.0 ports, a headphone jack. HDMI, VGA, DisplayPort, and DVI port.
This monitor is really a lot like the U2412M. Both have 1920 x 1200 resolution. Your best bet may be to compare the two for price and then go with whatever one happens to be cheaper that month.
What Brand Do you Trust the Most for your Editing Needs?
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Save Money and Build Your Own Editing PC in 2016
- Building a Photo and Video Editing PC on a Budget 2016
Building a PC for photo editing doesn't have to cost a fortune or take away your child's college fund. Here's a look at one of the best photo-editing and video-editing PC builds for under $2,000.
Overall there's a lot to like about the direction that monitor price and quality is going in. Advances in technology means that even at lower prices consumers get color accurate options with wide viewing angles and more responsiveness.
© 2013 Brandon Hart
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