It's been a ridiculously long time coming, but affordable IPS screens for PCs have finally arrived. That makes right now perhaps the best time ever to upgrade that dusty old flat panel.
And we've Apple to thank for it.
Yup, I know that sounds ridiculous. I'd say both Apple's technological prowess and its overall influence are often overstated. And the relationship between Apple gadgets and PC screens seems pretty tenuous. But I'm convinced it's true.
Once I've explained it all, I reckon you'll agree.
It starts with Apple's shift in recent years to near-exclusive use of IPS panels in its iMacs, iPads and iPhones. IPS, of course is a sort of superior LCD technology. It delivers the best colours and viewing angles by far.
Apple doesn't just use IPS, is shouts about it. That matters because it wasn't very long ago that monitor makers wouldn't dream of putting IPS panels into their mainstream displays. I know this because I asked them and they told me. The problem, they said, is that punters aren't willing to pay even a small premium for a superior panel. The market was extremely price sensitive.
But now Apple is using IPS, punters have heard of it and think it's worth paying for. I doubt most of them really understand why. They just know Apple uses IPS, so it must be good.
The result is that LCD panel makers have tooled up for IPS in a big way. And that, somewhat ironically, means that IPS is actually cheaper than ever.
The best example here is the new AOC i2352vh. Ostensibly, it looks like any cheapo 23-inch monitor. The chassis feels flimsy, the tilt-only stand is even worse. It's the sort of screen you'd expect to see priced a little over £100 and sporting a washed out, substandard TN panel.
Except it cost a little bit more at around £135 and has a genuine, bona fide IPS panel. OK, it's very likely only a 6-bit, rather than 8-bit or 10-bit, IPS panel in terms of native colour depth. But it's still a lovely looking thing with great viewing angles and far, far better than the TN screens that normally dominate this price point.
A little further up the scale, Viewsonic has released a couple of affordable IPSers in the £160 to £200 region. The ViewSonic VP2365-LED is particularly nice.
OK, the DVI and VGA connectivity isn't exactly comprehensive. But it's got a proper, fully adjustable chassis and that gorgeous IPS panel. And not much else. Not tricks. No gimmicks. Just a great screen at a reasonable price.
My only real issue with it and other members of this newly affordable IPS army is that they all buy into the 1080p Full-HD thing. In truth, the extra vertical pixels of the 16:10 aspect 1,920 x 1,200 resolution suit PCs better than 16:9 and 1,920 x 1,080.
Moreover, TN technology has improved enormously of late. There are one or two TN screens that run IPS panels surprisingly close.
So, the absolutely ideal affordable PC monitor remains a little elusive. But things are still immeasurably better now than they were just 12 months ago.
Whether you're willing to doff your cap in Apple's direction or not, right now is simply a great time to pick up a new panel for your PC.