The truth about anti-flicker LCD technology

BenQ Flicker-free
The GW2265M is just one of BenQ's new family of flicker-free screens

Flicker-free LCD panels. They're the next big thing. Sorry, what? BenQ among other companies is bigging up a new generation of flicker-free flat panels. Yes, really.

As soon as I heard about this new 'technology' I was awfully tempted to fit my scoffing boots on and give BenQ a serious kicking. But then I remembered something.

Not all that long ago, I would sneered cynically at the idea that 60Hz LCD monitors were in any way substandard in terms of refresh rates.

But then 120Hz-plus panels arrived. They actually turned up to enable active-shutter 3D tech. But no matter. Suddenly, I had seen a smoother, slicker way of sticking images in front of my eyes. Put simply, once you've gone 120Hz, you don't ever want to go back.

BenQ bigs up flicker-free

In that context, I realised I needed to tread a little more carefully. Which brings us to BenQ. My first taste of this new flicker-free tech took the form of the GW2265HM.

Personally, I've never thought of flicker as being any kind of issue with flat panels. CRT screens, yes, but flat panels? Nope.

The theory here involves the way some monitors control backlight brightness. The supposed problem is something known as pulse-width modulation. Some monitors pulse the backlight on and off in order to modulate brightness. At full brightness, the backlight is simply on.

But turn it down a bit and the backlight is pulsed on and off at various rates depending on the desired brightness. The result, allegedly, is flicker.

Like I said, this being an actual issue is news to me. So, is firing up the GW2265HM a life-altering experience? In a word, no. I can't see the difference.

BenQ Flicker-free

BenQ's advice for spotting flicker-free? Put a fan in front of your PC

Now, this issue might be a bit like the DLP rainbow effect. Some are more sensitive to it than others. I for one am acutely aware of the rainbow effect on cheap DLP projectors, so I get that.

But I can only report my experience and that of a straw poll around TechRadar Towers. Flicker-free backlight technology is of marginal value at best.

Bizarre bumpf

As if to confirm this conclusion, may I appeal to BenQ's own bumpf. It suggests placing a fan in front of the screen and taking pictures of the screen as the best methods to reveal the benefits of flicker free.

Yes, really, that's the best they can come up with. Honestly, if you can't just see the difference, what is the bloody point?

The irony here is that the GW2265HM is actually a damn fine screen. It's only £105 and has plenty to recommend it besides dubious flicker-free capability. It's based on BenQ's latest VA panel technology, which makes a nice change from both TN and the increasingly ubiquitous IPS option.

Traditionally, VA's strongest attributes have been black levels and contrast. And that's exactly where the GW2265HM delivers. BenQ claims a static contrast ratio of 3,000 to one, as it happens, and the subjective experience bears that out.

It has seriously good blacks. In fact, I'm not not I've seen better from an LCD panel. Not bad for a mere £105's worth of monitor. Just don't get hung up this flicker-free stuff.


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