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Good 4:3 LCD Monitor

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First post, by RichPimp

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I currently have a 21" ViewSonic CRT monitor that I use to play any games that were released from about the year 2000 and before, be it on vintage hardware or through DosBox on my newer machine. The experience, for me, is just so much more authentic to that time frame, and I find the response times to be subjectively better than even on my G-Sync display. Alas, any CRT display is destined to die and, given that there is no one currently manufacturing new ones (that I'm aware of), I'm looking toward the future with potential replacements. Also, that monitor is freaking huge and I'd love to reclaim some desk space. Does anyone have any good recommendations for a 4:3 LCD for retro gaming? I'd like to avoid using a widescreen monitor, if possible, though they seem to be the best options when it comes to color quality and refresh rates. Whenever I use a letterboxed resolution on my 27" G-Sync, I find the picture to be too artificial and the black bars are off-putting. I'm probably in the minority here, but there's a softness and glow to CRT's that I prefer to the sharpness of such a high res LCD.

On a side note, I wonder if there's a large enough retro market for a niche manufacturer to make CRT's (televisions more so than monitors). I have a CRT TV as well for retro consoles and I find that, even with the best scalers, the image still doesn't beat running on a CRT. Probably not as I'd imagine the cost and especially shipping would be too high. Such a shame.

Reply 1 of 114, by dexvx

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Problem with 4:3 LCD's is most are older, and their response time and/or color reproduction is worse compared to newer widescreen LCD's of the same series. If you buy a new 4:3 monitor, it'll cost you much more compared to a similar widescreen (e.g. Dell has some new 1280x1024 (5:4) for $120/$200, but they are way worse than the Ultrasharp WS in terms of quality).

Also, not sure about G-Sync, but Freesync + AMD Polaris/Fiji running > 100 fps beats the hell out of any CRT in terms of smoothness (still sucks for color reproduction).

Reply 2 of 114, by totalizator

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I'm still using Dell 2001FP. It has IPS, pivot and it's cheap as dirt. Unfortunately it's 20" so hardy a compact one. You can look for a smaller ones of the same series though (there is also a 17" model that I know of).

Reply 3 of 114, by Roman78

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And I have a Dell 2000fp (the older one whit the big border around the screen).

Good is that it has 1600x1200 native resolution, so 800x600 looks sharp as a bitch. Also 320x240 (1600x1200 divided by 5) looks amazing.

Reply 4 of 114, by PhilsComputerLab

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Not for everyone, but my tip are 1920 x 1200 screens. But you got to not mind black bars on the sides.

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Reply 5 of 114, by oeuvre

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Dell 2007fp/2007fpb. 20" 1600x1200 with VGA, DVI, composite video, S-video, USB 2.0 ports. Good quality too.

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Reply 6 of 114, by amadeus777999

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As already mentioned buy a larger 16:x display and just use it pillar-boxed. As long as the display is big you get a nice "canvas" for your pixels.
I personally use various second hand 19inch panels from Eizo(IPS).
Latter even produces a sweet square 26.5 inch 1920 x 1920 display(EV2730Q-BK) which goes for less than 900€.

Reply 9 of 114, by The Serpent Rider

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If you want 1600х1200 panel for native DOS, you're pretty much out of luck. Most of them can do proper scaling, but none can do 70hz refresh rate without frameskip.

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Reply 10 of 114, by maximus

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Having been down this road before, I've come to the conclusion that CRTs are still the best option for older games. LCD monitors have fundamental limitations that prevent them from serving as true CRT replacements, and this is especially true for older 4:3 LCDs. Black levels and colors in particular continue to lag behind CRTs.

CRTs are becoming hard to find, yes, but there are still plenty out there in serviceable condition. The other good news is that 4K OLEDs are on the horizon, and these may finally match and even surpass CRTs. The extra pixels will help with scaling non-native resolutions, and the colors are reported to be fantastic.

See also:
Who made the best 1024x768 LCDs?
1280x1024 LCD with scaling options?

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Reply 11 of 114, by Azarien

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I just bought Dell 2001FP. 1600x1200 looks great. 800x600 is also sharp, but only if I switch off GPU scaling. My Radeon HD5770 is blurring 800x600 instead of doubling the pixels...

Unfortunately 1280x960 is broken on this monitor. They decided to display it as a letterboxed 1280x1024, which itself is pillarboxed. The result has correct aspect ratio, but doesn't fill the whole screen, instead it has black frame on all sides (much smaller than when using 1:1 scaling but still noticeable).

GPU scaling semi-fixes the problem but now I have to switch it off and on depending on the resolution. I said "semi-fixes" because it looks more blurry this way. I didn't have this problem on my previous 1680x1050 monitor, 1280x960 looked great on it with just a little CRT-like blur.

There's also some excessive plastic cover with Dell logo at the rear of the monitor that prevents you from pushing it further to the wall. I removed it and reclaimed an inch of space on my desk this way.

Reply 12 of 114, by Jo22

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We're using a NEC MultiSync LCD1550ME right now. It's a 4:3 screen w/ 15 inches in size.
Reponse time is fine, I think. But I'm not using it for a gaming rig actually, but for an office machine.
That's because my dads previous monitor has failed and we are now using my old monitor on his office PC.
But again, as far as I can tell, it works just fine in respect of its age. Heck, it even has an auto addjust feature! 😀
The only downside is the old CCFL backlight. It needs to be replaced sometime (I think I'll really do that, the NEC is still worth a repair).
DOSBox also runs nicely and I didn't notice any lag (if we speak about the same lag 90s LCDs had).
By the way, another company that made good monitors was Belinea, I believe. We once had another 15" model
made by this company and used it on my dad's telefax computer (he still loves all kind of fax machines!, haha ^^)
Datasheet NEC MultiSync LCD1550ME (PDF)

Edit: Oh, and it works with the Atari ST also! I made a custom mono-cable for TOS Hi-res mode and this monitor did actually sync.

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Reply 13 of 114, by dr_st

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Azarien wrote:

Unfortunately 1280x960 is broken on this monitor. They decided to display it as a letterboxed 1280x1024, which itself is pillarboxed. The result has correct aspect ratio, but doesn't fill the whole screen, instead it has black frame on all sides (much smaller than when using 1:1 scaling but still noticeable).

Strange. Gonna have to try it on my 2007FP, to see if it has the same problem.

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Reply 14 of 114, by KCompRoom2000

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I mainly use a Dell 1504FP 15" 1024x768 LCD as a general purpose monitor for testing/using old computers, It works fine for gaming in my experience, 640x480 looks great on there and it even supports EGA resolutions since I managed to use a Windows 1.01 boot disk on a computer and the OSD settings reported 640x350 as the running resolution, and the image quality is really good, it has both VGA and DVI-D so it's perfect for driving early high-end systems with DVI output (works miraculously on the DVI-D out on the Rage 128 GPU on my PowerMac G4).

I also use a beige NEC Accusync LCD5V 15" LCD monitor on a few older systems and it's pretty good too, seems to be better than the Dell monitors when it comes to displaying odd resolutions.

I've noticed that newer LCDs seem to display better than older ones, the quality/lag difference between a Dell 1907FP and a Dell 1704FP is like day and night, Dell still makes 5:4 LCD monitors for varying price ranges so getting a newer monitor at a non-wide aspect ratio is still do-able, not sure how good the quality is though.

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Reply 15 of 114, by Reputator

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dr_st wrote:
Azarien wrote:

Unfortunately 1280x960 is broken on this monitor. They decided to display it as a letterboxed 1280x1024, which itself is pillarboxed. The result has correct aspect ratio, but doesn't fill the whole screen, instead it has black frame on all sides (much smaller than when using 1:1 scaling but still noticeable).

Strange. Gonna have to try it on my 2007FP, to see if it has the same problem.

I'm curious to hear about your result!

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Reply 17 of 114, by gravitone

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I'm going to break the trend by adding another option into the mix. specifically a choice that I feel is the best fit for anything designed to run at 640x480.
I'm using the Samsung LT-P2045 / lw15M23cp (europe). It's officially a tv, with a 640x480 Lcd panel, but comes equiped with a handy VGA connector, as well as a 3.5mm jack input so you can use the internal speakers and heaphone jack if needed.
Some people will probably start frothing at the mouth the moment they see the 16ms response time, but its not all that bad in real usage situations.
The big plus: these things are bright. Remember those 1024x768 15" to 19" TN panels that were common for what seems forever? they look like washed out unsaturated crap compared to this LCD.
Even in a fairly bright environment it still looks great. Color saturation is also heap better then most alternatives.
Because the physical size of the pixels, and faint visible lines between the rows and columns, anything integer scaled looks wonderful.
I havent actually tried any dos game natively, but used dosbox for testing purposes. I decided to try out something that I think looks downright appalling on a modern display.
I have a Dell 2405FPW IPS 1920x1200 panel sitting right next to it for comparison. I fired up rebel assault 2, and after a few seconds instantly realized this was exactly what I needed.
Instead of being annoyed by a washed out pixaled fmv mess, the experience was how I remembered it from when I first fired it up on a CRT all those years ago.
Next up I fired up the curse of money island. Absolutely lovely to behold. A thing that always ticks me off on modern displays is how fonts in games look. Scaled/stretched mess with rough edges. With this setup it all looks perfect.
I'm sill going to have to hook this up to my voodoo2 some time and give some early titles a spin, but I'm pretty sure results will be equally impressive.

Reply 18 of 114, by dr_st

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I believe that 2405FPW is PVA, not IPS, but it is a great monitor indeed (albeit probably quite slow).

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Reply 19 of 114, by JetSetWilly

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anthony wrote:

How to perform a frame skip check in 70hz dos mode?

That´s a nice question. My Samsung SyncMaster 710v shows 70hz on screen info while running DOS games like Turrican II. However, although the scrolling effect is apparently smooth, I don´t know if there is some drawback I can´t notice.