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Choosing a Color-Accurate LCD Display

updated November 20, 2008

The LCD display you use with your computer can have a dramatic effect on your imaging. A monitor that displays color accurately makes it much easier to create a beautiful print. The typical LCD monitor you might buy from a retailer like Best Buy will not deliver accurate color. It's well worth the extra money to invest in one of the more expensive LCD displays branded as "color accurate."

Typically, the accuracy of a color-accurate display is rated against a known standard--usually AdobeRGB. Current color-accurate displays can display from 69% to 107% (or more) of AdobeRGB. The difference between 69% AdobeRGB and 94% AdobeRGB is only showing up in very saturated colors that rarely appear in nature, and not even a 94% Adobe RGB display can accurately soft proof for fine printing, so you'll still need to make hard proofs if you are seeking the utmost in printing accuracy.

For photographers on a budget, a 69% AdobeRGB display and hard proofing is still a proven combination capable of producing prints of the highest quality.

With color-accurate monitors, there are only a few choices, and even fewer manufacturers. Our current favorite pick is the (now discontinued) Apple 23" Cinema Display. The 23" Cinema Display is nearly as accurate as our NEC LCD2690WUXI-BK, and costs about $300 less. We’ve also had good success using NEC brand displays for nearly a decade, and find them to be an excellent choice (other color-accurate display manufacturers include Samsung, LaCie and EIZO-unfortunately they do not provide AdobeRGB ratings for all their displays). Here is a quick reference to some current offerings and their color ratings:

Color-Accurate LCD Display Reference

model

% of AdobeRGB
diagonal size
actual screen  size

Street Price

(search with froogle)

Apple 23" Cinema Display - DISCONTINUED

about 90%
23"
19.5" by 12.25"
NEC LCD2180WG-LED-BK
107%
21"
17" by 12.8"
NEC LCD3090WQXi
97.8%
30"
-

NEC LCD2690WUXI-BK

94%
25.5"
21.7" by 13.5"
NEC LCD2690WUXi2-BK
97.8%
25.5"
21.7" by 13.5"
NEC LCD2490WUXI-BK
72%
24"
20.4" by 12.8"
NEC LCD2190UXi-BK
69%
21"
17" by 12.8"
NEC LCD2090UXi-BK
69%
20.1"
16.1" by 12"
NEC LCD1990SXi-BK
69%
19"
14.8" by 11.9"

 

NEC Buying Tip

You can buy NEC's color-accurate displays either with or without a calibration kit. If you already have a calibration kit like the excellent Gretag EyeOne Photo, you can order the model without the calibration kit and save a few dollars. Models with an "SV" at the end include the calibration kit; no "SV" means it does not come with the calibration kit.

Example:

NEC LCD2490WUXIBK-SV - Includes calibration kit

NEC LCD2490WUXIBK - Does not include calibration kit

 

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