Monitors, why must the good ones be so expensive? In my quest to find a budget friendly IPS panel monitor, I asked my friend Nick Leadlay to talk about his recent experience with the Asus ProArt 246 which you can pickup anywhere from $450 (USD) and up compared to similar models from NEC, Eizo, and Lacie being anywhere from $1200 to $5000. I currently own an NEC IPS panel display so I was interested to hear Nick’s thoughts.
PA246Q is equipped with P-IPS panel that provides 98% of Adobe RGB coverage and 1.07 billion colors; 130% more color compare with conventional LCD monitors
Before continuing, if you’re not familiar about the benefits of an IPS panel over the cheap TN panel monitors, please see this youtube video: IPS vs TN panel
Hi everyone my name is Nick. I am a fashion photographer and retoucher from Toronto, Canada. My friendship with Pratik started mostly over me asking him
annoying insightful questions about retouching. Pratik is a very thoughtful and generous guy so he always took the time to answer my questions. After numerous messages back and forth it was decided that I should write about some of the things we had been discussing.
In my opinion there seems to be a big hole in the market place for information between the intermediate and pro level. Sure you can find lots of info about starting out in photography or retouching, but not so much past the basic level.
I am hoping to help fill in some of that void with reviews on intermediate level gear as well as interviews with pro retouchers and photographers. I am also going to pass on a few tips about shooting things that don’t get a lot of attention on other sites.
The first review I will be doing is on an intermediate level monitor for retouching. Hopefully this will be helpful for people looking to upgrade from the “$199 Best Buy Special LCD” to a more pro model but not looking to drop $1500-$5000 on an NEC or Eizo display. A position I found myself in recently hence the reason for writing this review.
As for photography tips, I will be writing a post about shooting models on the runway at fashion shows. I just wrapped up shooting a week of LG Fashion Week in Toronto as well as another fashion week in Ottawa. I feel I have a few tips for the novice shooter looking to jump into this field.
For interviews, I am lining up some great retouchers and photographers from Canada and hoping to add in some international shooters/retouchers soon as well.
So hello once again and thanks for checking out my first post.
Asus ProArt 246 Monitor Review
When I was looking for a new monitor I knew what I wanted but also knew I couldn’t afford it. I had grown tired of trying to color correct images on my cheap Samsung 24” display. I had tried everything to make it look good including constant calibration with my X-Rite Eye One Display LT. No matter what I did I just couldn’t get consistent color. I found the shadows lacked detail (despite outrageous contrast ratio numbers that the manufactures claimed) and the highlights were washed out. It got to the point where I was doing my color correcting on my Macbook Pro screen and then dragging Photoshop back over to the 24” screen to retouch the rest of the image. This was hardly ideal either because it’s not like the Macbook Pro display was bang on color wise either. I was fed up. (sound familiar? If so, continue reading…)
I decided I needed to upgrade. So I started researching my options online. Which to any tech nerd is probably the most exciting part of upgrading. More so than even purchasing the lucky device that had been so carefully selected from a group of it’s peers.
This is where I hit a roadblock. To me it seemed if I wanted a high-end display I had to drop well over $1000. Every retoucher I spoke to said to go with an NEC. Now don’t get me wrong the NEC’s monitors are amazing but I simply didn’t have that kind of money to spend on a monitor. I knew the main things I wanted in a monitor so I started my search for a “Poor Man’s NEC”.
I wanted an IPS panel with a full sRGB gamut and a high Adobe RGB color gamut too. I wanted a 24” screen and I wanted 16x10 ratio not 16x9. I work on portrait orientated photos mostly not video so that extra bit of screen real estate at the bottom really helps. These features alone pretty much erased all the sub $400 displays. Meaning me walking into Best Buy and trying to find the sales guy with the least amount of hair gel to help me wasn’t going to happen. (what a relief!).
It seemed there were only a few options. I had already decided I wasn’t going to buy an Apple display because they had the glossy finish that boosted saturation too much. Never mind the fact numerous retouchers had told me to steer clear of them. I also felt I could find a better monitor for less money by not paying for the Apple name. So that narrowed it down to two main options.
The first option was the Dell Ultrasharp series. Now I’m a longtime Apple user so the mere mention of Dell just makes my skin crawl but I had heard decent things about these screens. The other option was the little known about Asus ProArt 246 series monitor. Both monitors had similar specs (billions of colors, IPS/P-IPS, Full SRGB and High Adobe RGB gamuts) and were in the same price range (roughly $500). Also they both had great warranty’s including a “zero dead pixel” replacement policy for the duration of their 3 year warranty.
I started doing some more research and found a lot of reviews on the Dell monitor but not so many on the ASUS. The few I did find on the ASUS reviewed it very well including an “Editor’s Choice” award from CNET. The Dell on the other hand had mostly good reviews except for a few people complaining about color casts (either red or green) and the antiglare finish on the panel it’s self.
After reading these reviews I was leaning more towards the ASUS. The final thing that made me decide on the ASUS was that I could drive to my local computer store and buy it that day. The Dell on the other hand wasn’t available at any of the local stores since it was considered a more “high-end” monitor. Thus I would have had to order it online and wait. Also if I had any warranty issues I couldn’t return it to the store I’d again have to send it back in the mail to Dell. So I jumped in the car and rushed off to my local pc retailer. Low and behold they had none left. The sales guy told me that had just sold three in the last hour! Was the secret about this Asus monitor already spreading? Luckily the sales guy managed to find one last unit in the back warehouse and I bought it on the spot!
Once I got home with my HUGE monitor box (it really is huge) I opened it up and was instantly shocked to see it came with every cable. Very rare these days. I’m sure anyone who has bought a printer only to get home and have no A>B USB cable to connect to to your computer knows what I’m talking about! The Asus came with a VGA, Display Port (not “mini” unfortunately for the Apple users out there) and DVI cables as well as the Power Cable and even a USB cable and some Velcro cable ties. Also included was a print out of the actual Color Calibration done at the factory for MY individual monitor. Impressive.
After setting up the monitor and turning it on I was in shock. In fact I had to write Pratik and ask if my monitor was supposed to be this saturated! He assured me it was and to wait a week or two to get used to it. The dock icons had never looked so good and rich in color. One thing I did notice right away was the default brightness setting of “50” was retina burningly bright and would cause anyone to get a headache after 10 minutes of use I’m sure. I decided although it was “Factory Calibrated” (remember the fancy sheet it came with) that I should calibrate it anyway. How did I know it hadn’t been sitting in the box for 8 months?
This is where I encountered my first problem. As I mentioned earlier, I had an X-rite Eye One Display LT. A great calibrator for my Macbook Pro and somewhat made my old TN based Samsung LCD usable. Well when I ran it on my new wide gamut P-IPS Asus monitor the colors went very blue and strange. It was so bad in fact that I had to return to the default settings. I tried numerous calibrations in different modes. Nothing looked right. The screen has five default modes factory installed. They are “Standard”, “sRGB”, “Adobe RGB”, “Scenery”, “Theatre” and “User”. I figured using the “Adobe RGB” would be the safest for now until I could try a new calibrator.
After doing one full beauty shoot retouch I found out the hard way that the “Factory Calibrated Adobe RGB” setting was more “Factory” and less “Calibrated” than I had hoped for.
Once again I started my search for a new toy. This time for an updated monitor calibrator. I discovered the new X-rite i1 Display Pro supported the new wide gamut screens and IPS too. I bit the bullet and made the purchase knowing I could sell my old calibrator. I also based it on how bad the old x-rite software was compared to the new Pro software that was included with the i1 Pro.
After the first calibration with the new i1 Pro it was like night and day. It also took the brightness down to “0” and knocked off a bit of contrast just to get the display to the 120 cd/m2 brightness measurement that I asked for (I told you it was bright!). This took a little while to get used to since it was so much darker than I was used to after owning the screen for a few weeks.
Fast forward a month:
Well I can now say after a few more weeks with my (newly) calibrated monitor that I am very happy with the picture. The colors are deep and rich and I don’t see any color casts on the display. The anti-glare finish is nice and the menus (On Screen Display) for changing settings are well thought out. They even included an option to move the position of the OSD so it’s not always in the middle. A very helpful idea for when your calibrator is sitting in the middle of the screen. Another feature I have never seen is the virtual overlay of different crop dimensions, paper sizes and grids. Basically the overlays appear on the screen with a push of a button.
They show you exactly how big the photo is in inches or centimeters or the size of an A4 piece of paper etc. Neat trick but I’m not sure how often I would use it. The monitor also has inch markings around the black plastic bezel. Again sort of neat but I haven’t really used them yet. As far as connectivity it has all the standard ports: DVI, VGA, HDMI as well as a full size Display Port. Nice additions include: multi card reader, built in USB hub (2 ports and included cable to run to the computer), Headphone jack. Also included is the industry standard security lock input, in case you don’t trust your sticky fingered co-workers. The monitor comes with a fantastic stand that looks very similar to the NEC ones. It is height adjustable and tilts and pitches in all directions. In fact I almost forgot to mention the screen can go fully vertical so you can use it more efficiently for portrait photos I suppose or more likely for programmers or writers.
All in all I think this monitor matches up very closely in specs to many monitors twice its price. Having seen Eizo’s and NEC’s in person I can indeed say they are better of course. But I really don’t think the low end pro NEC screens are three times better than the ASUS, as the price reflects. If you are looking for a good monitor in between the entry level and the Pro level I would fully recommend the ASUS ProArt 246. Just keep in mind you may need to set aside a few extra pennies to buy a new calibrator.
Author Profile: Nick Leadlay