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My Acer x193w equals 1440 x 900, 0.283nm pitch, 16 million colors

I am thinking of upgrading the display, I'm editing photos and wonder if my suspicion of not being able to appreciate the fine detail contained in digital files is warranted. I feel I may be over-processing for that lack of perceived detail in the monitor.

I'm thinking of getting something like 3840 x 2160, 1 billion colors, better pixel density, etc.

Am I thinking sensibly or just on the precipice of wasting some $$.. ?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ What is the intended display scenario for your images? For what display conditions are you editing them? What is the source of your images? What capabilities does that source have with regard to detail and color gamut? \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Jan 23, 2021 at 5:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ "... wonder if my suspicion of not being able to appreciate the fine detail contained in digital files is warranted." – What is the basis of your suspicion? If there is none, it is not warranted. \$\endgroup\$
    – xiota
    Commented Jan 23, 2021 at 14:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ The most likely issue with a monitor is that it is set too bright. Is it calibrated? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 23, 2021 at 19:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ Improving capture in the camera is a good way of simplifying post processing. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 23, 2021 at 19:02

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Without a properly calibrated monitor with wide color-space coverage you are basically operating blindly, so for sure you need a better monitor but its not necessarily the resolution.

Start by looked for a monitor with good coverage of sRGB or AdobeRGB. Color-critical monitors can get 100% coverage for those but anywhere over 95% is fine. Try to find a monitor that you can calibrate. Those will often advertise a LUT/3D LUT, the more bits in the LUT, the better. NOTE This is different than calibrating the graphics card which introduces a loss of precision that causes banding and other color artifacts. While you can calibrate your graphics card even for you actual monitor, it will not do much good if color coverage is poor. The calibration process reduces innacuracies but can't make colors not possible with your monitor visible.

Most images are 8-bits-per-channel which corresponds to your 16M colors. This is sufficient for most people. 10-bit is theoretically better since it gives you 1 billion possible colors but support is really limited now, so the difference will likely not be noticeable for a while but getting a 10-bit monitor will reduce the likelihood that you will feel like changing it in the future. High end monitors are very durable and will easily last 10+ years, so consider the amount you want to spend on a monitor as spending for all those years!

Resolution is not that limiting anymore. In fact, it is harder to see detail on a higher resolution monitor because pixels are so small. You'll end up zooming in more than before to compensate. For a long time I was driven by advances in resolution and always upgraded as soon as higher resolution existed but once I got to 4K on a 27" display, discerning details become harder. Probably 32" would have been fine but otherwise, 2560x1600 QHD+ seems like the sweet spot but it may depend on your visual acuity.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm currently using a 2K (2560x1440) 27" monitor. I run the vast majority of web content at 125% just so I can read the text. LOL. It's still slightly smaller text than an FHD (1920x1080) 27" monitor would be. Sometimes I run at 150% to match the size of text or objects to what they were on my previous 24" FHD monitor. But with photos that have a significantly higher resolution than the monitor, the extra resolution does make a difference. You are correct, though, that gamut coverage is far more important than pixel pitch anywhere past FHD resolution. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Jan 25, 2021 at 12:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ I was recently considering a 4k/10Bit monitor and discovered that there is "10 bit" and there is "10 bit". A lot of monitors claim to be 10 bit but most are 8 bit + FRC. True 10-bit vs 8-bit + FRC Monitor | What is the difference? \$\endgroup\$
    – Peter M
    Commented Jan 25, 2021 at 14:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ On a different note, I was also considering different monitor sizes but wasn't sure what would work for me. In order to test different sizes I created cardboard templates for 27", 30" and 32" monitors and hung them on my existing 24" monitor. This showed my that for my physical layout 32" was too big. 30" would work, and 27" was good. But my research also showed that there are way more 27" monitors than 30" \$\endgroup\$
    – Peter M
    Commented Jan 25, 2021 at 14:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelC - At least with modern OS and browsers, you can apply scaling locally, otherwise some people use a non-native display resolution and you can imagine what that does to fine details! \$\endgroup\$
    – Itai
    Commented Jan 25, 2021 at 16:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterM - To me 30" is very comfortable and at 2560x1600, the resolution is extremely comfortable. 4K at that size would be quite dense. When I needed to get a 4K display though, those sizes were prohibitively expensive and so I went for a 27" which is really straining. So after trying to switch to that display, I went back to the 30" QHD+ and left the 4K 27" as monitoring screen solely for the purpose of evaluating 4K video which is what prompted the 4K need. \$\endgroup\$
    – Itai
    Commented Jan 25, 2021 at 16:37
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Yes, No, Maybe, but it's not as simple as you imply.

I recently acquired a 32 inch 4K monitor and it's nice for the price ($400). It doesn't support high frame rates required for gaming but it handles photos nicely.

However:

The 16 million colors thing comes from 8-bits each of Red/Green/Blue for a total of 24-bits, or 2^24 which is 16 million (more or less). The billion colors thing comes from 10-bits per each R/G/B. You would need a graphics card capable of 10-bit color. You would need to be working in RAW. You would need a monitor capable of 10-bit color. The first two requirements are fairly straight forward, but a 10-bit monitor is going to be really really expensive.

Monitors vary tremendously in contrast, gamma, color balance, and the ability to adjust them.

The standard response to questions like this is to suggest calibrating your monitor. This is certainly a good thing to do in order to make the most of your monitor, but a poor monitor is still a poor monitor. Calibration allows you to generate an ICC profile for you monitor. In lieu of direct calibration, using a published ICC for you monitor is a good starting point.

So should you upgrade?

Ultimately that's up to you, a new monitor won't be magical but your current monitor leaves much to be desired. A big 4K monitor is much nicer to work with, but be aware it takes substantially more video horsepower to run.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The cost of 10 bit monitors are't expensive is comparison to monitors in general. \$\endgroup\$
    – Peter M
    Commented Jan 25, 2021 at 14:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterM it depends on whether you get a true 10-bit monitor with close to 100% coverage for whatever wide gamut it's supposed to cover, or if you get an 8-bit + FRC monitor with well less than 100% coverage for whatever gamut it's supposed to be able to do. Of course the same is true of 8-bit monitors: Some are 6-bit + FRC and have well less than 100% coverage of even sRGB while others are true 8-bit with near 100% coverage of sRGB.. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 16:46
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Normally I'd say that you've just got GAS and are dying to throw money at something that would be better solved by gaining more knowledge and experience. That's the answer to the vast majority of "Should I spend money on this to improve my photography?" types of questions.

But a 19" 1440x900 monitor in 2021 is pretty weak. I'd say you could definitely benefit a good bit from getting a solid 24" (or larger) FHD (or higher resolution) IPS monitor with near 100% coverage of sRGB.

Things to look for:

  • IPS. In plane switching. It makes colors look the same at a wide variety of viewing angles.
  • True 8-bit technology, rather than "8-bit" that is actually 6-bit + FRC.
  • Near 100% coverage of sRGB at a minimum. Most monitors with around 99% sRGB coverage will also be rated at 72% of the older NTSC color television standard.
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No, your monitor is fine as long as it is calibrated correctly and it's at the proper viewing angle. If your monitor does not offer the adjustments you need or is dying you should get a new one. However, if it is adjustable and working it is not hindering you. A larger monitor will only make you zoom in more often.

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You've got to cover :

  • resolution
  • bit depth
  • color space
  • calibration possibilities
  • possibly size is also a factor

Better is to adapt to the photos you are editing.

If you're working on pro photography, it is likely that 8bits (16 million colors) and sRGB color space is not enough. Gradations will not be smooth enough. Even Adobe-RGB could not be enough if you are editing iPhones pictures that are now in the new Display-P3 color space, with deep reds.

If you're working exclusively on web pictures, your current display could be enough.

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