Updated

Our Picture Quality Score and Tests
Monitors

Score distribution

Picture quality is one of the most important aspects of a monitor. Like with TVs, we define picture quality as the ability of a monitor to display an image as closely as possible to the content creator's intent. This usually means great blacks and accurate colors, visible from any position or lighting condition. 

We test many different aspects of picture quality, and combine their respective scores to arrive at a combined picture quality score. Note that you shouldn't look just at this score, as some of those tests only matter in certain viewing conditions. For example, contrast, black uniformity, and local dimming only really matter if you are using your monitor in a dark room.

Monitors have less variation in picture quality than TVs. The majority of monitors we've tested deliver decent overall picture quality, and most of them have very similar strengths and weaknesses.

Test results

Our tests

Contrast

What it is: Brightness difference between white and black. This is the main component of picture quality.
When it matters: Always, but especially when watching dark scenes.
Score components:
Score distribution

Our contrast ratio tests verify the ratio between black and white on a monitor. A higher ratio means that the monitor can produce deeper, darker blacks; whereas a lower ratio means blacks look gray. As contrast is one of the most important factors in picture quality, this test has a very high weight. It is especially important if you watch a lot of dark content in a dark room.

Monitors are typically grouped into two: VA, and IPS/TN. The majority of VA monitors tend to have contrast ratios over 2500, whereas most TN/IPS monitors vary between about 600 and 1500.

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Local Dimming

What it is: The lights behind the LCD layer adapt to the picture displayed, improving the contrast ratio.
When it matters: Dark scenes viewed in a dark room.
Score components: Subjectively assigned
Score distribution

Our local dimming tests check to see how well a monitor can increase contrast by dimming, or turning off the backlight on certain portions of the screen. We use a local dimming video pattern to compare multiple monitors side-by-side, and assign a score subjectively.

Very few monitors support local dimming, and most people shouldn't consider this factor when purchasing a monitor, so this test isn't weighted as highly as for TVs.

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Peak Brightness

What it is: How bright the screen can get. Measured with local dimming and with SDR content.
When it matters: Bright living rooms; bright objects; SDR content.
Score distribution

Our peak brightness tests evaluate how bright a monitor can get. In SDR, this test demonstrates how well a monitor can fight glare in a bright room. The brighter a monitor can get, the better it can overcome reflections or glare.

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Horizontal Viewing Angle

What it is: Color accuracy when viewed from the side.
Score distribution

Our viewing angle test evaluates monitors for how well they retain picture quality when viewed from the side. This doesn’t matter for people who sit at a comfortable distance directly in front of their monitor, but if you like to sit close to the monitor, or often share your screen with some one else, a good horizontal viewing angle is a must.

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Vertical Viewing Angle

What it is: Color accuracy when viewed from the top or bottom.
Score distribution

The vertical viewing angle test evaluates monitors for how well they retain picture quality when viewed from above or below. This usually isn't much of an issue for most people, 

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Gray Uniformity

What it is: Evenness of colors onscreen (not just gray).
When it matters: Solid colors. Sports, panning shots.
Score components:
Score distribution

Our gray uniformity tests evaluate monitors for how well they can display a solid gray screen. The results of this test apply to pretty much all solid colors you can see on the monitor, which means it’s important for any uniform scene, including browsing the web.

Gray uniformity defects tend not to be noticed by most people unless solid colors are displayed, so this weight a little bit less in this category.

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Black Uniformity

What it is: Evenness of blacks.
When it matters: Dark scenes viewed in a dark room.
Score components:
Score distribution

Our black uniformity testing checks to see how evenly a monitor can display solid black across the screen. This is an important test for dark scenes, as poor uniformity could mean some parts of the scene are not lit in the manner intended by the source, thus affecting the kind of mood that is established.

This isn’t that important for people who use their monitor in a room that has lights on, but it’s quite important if you plan on using it in a dark room.

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Pre Calibration

What it is: Monitor's color accuracy before a full calibration. The measurements are taken with out of the box 'factory setting'.
When it matters: All video on an uncalibrated TV. This represents most people's uses.
Score components:
Score distribution

Our pre calibration test evaluates how accurately the monitor can produce color before a full calibration. How well a monitor can reproduce color affects the appearance of everything your monitor displays, so it’s something worth considering when making a purchase.

Most people don’t see much difference if color is a little bit off, so this test doesn’t hold much weight in our scoring.

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Post Calibration

What it is: Monitor's color accuracy after a full calibration with a spectrophotometer.
When it matters: All graphics and video content on a monitor that has been professionally calibrated.
Score components:
Score distribution

This test evaluates the monitor's ability to display color accurately after we have performed a full calibration with a colorimeter.

This test is not that useful for most people, as very few people professionally calibrate their monitors. However, it is an indication of how accurately the monitor can display colors.

Color Gamut

What it is: The palette of colors the monitor can display.
When it matters: General content consumption or production.
Score components:
Score distribution

Our color gamut test evaluates the range of colors a monitor can display. We test coverage of the sRGB color space, which is used by the vast majority of SDR computer content, as well as the Adobe RGB color space, which is mainly used for professional photo and video editing. Most monitors can display almost all of the sRGB color space, 

On monitors that support HDR, we repeat these tests with the DCI-P3 color gamut and the Rec. 2020 color gamut. Very few monitors 

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Color Volume

What it is: How much of the SDR color spaces the monitor can reproduce.
When it matters: General usage and SDR media creation.
Score components:
Score distribution

Image Retention

What it is: How much a static image is retained on a monitor screen after a certain amount of time.
When it matters: When working or playing video games on your PC monitor.
Score distribution

Our Image Retention test evaluates how long a monitor keeps displaying a ghost of an image once the signal is no longer there. The longer an image lingers on the screen the worse experience you will have.

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Gradient

What it is: How finely levels of color can be displayed.
When it matters: Details in shadows, sky, and skin tones. Matters more for HDR content.
Score components: Subjectively assigned
Score distribution

Like with TVs, our gradient test evaluates monitors for how well they can display gradual differences in color, which is important for reproducing subtle details in color. More detailed color is especially important for a good HDR display.

We also check the color bit depth that the monitor can display, usually either 8-bit or 10-bit. We don't differentiate between true 10-bit or 8-bit panels, and panels that have a lower bit-depth, but use dithering (FRC) to approximate a higher bit depth.

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Color Bleed

What it is: How much the color from one area of the screen affects the color in another area of the screen.
When it matters: All usages, but especially media creation.
Score components:
Score distribution

Color bleed is an undesirable artifact that appears on some displays, causing discolored stripes to appear on the screen, both vertically and horizontally. Essentially, large elements of uniform color are displayed with a faint "ghosting" effect that extends past their boundaries.

We test for both horizontal and vertical color bleed. This used to be a fairly common issue, but in recent years it has all but disappeared. On the few monitors that we've tested that showed some signs of color bleed it is almost completely unnoticeable with normal content, and most people shouldn't worry about it.

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Reflections

What it is: How much light is reflected by the TV.
When it matters: Bright rooms.
Score components: Subjectively assigned
Score distribution

Our reflections tests evaluate monitors for how reflections will look on the screen. This is especially important if you have a lot of windows in the room, or a lot of lights, which is usually the case for an office setting. Although the majority of monitors have very similar reflections handling, some are better than others.

Unlike TVs, we don't currently measure the actual reflectivity of the monitor, this score is instead assigned subjectively, by comparing the monitor with other similar models.

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