Computer monitors are pretty cheap these days and you can pick yourself up a quality branded 22 inch or even a 24 inch LCD display for less than a few hundred dollars. But once you get it unpacked and plugged in, on many occasions when you fire up a new monitor for the first time, something just doesn’t look quite right.
The screen looks funny, the display is skewed at the side, there are waves in the view, it’s not a sharp picture, certain colors look too overpowering or even washed out. In my case, my current LCD display came with the brightness set at 100% and looked like it would burn my eyes if I used it for too long! In a large number of cases, the default out of the box settings for monitors are rather poor at best.
Obviously the monitor will have an accompanying manual that tells you the basics on how to adjust your new screen but sometimes it’s confusing, and attempts to adjust your screen without having any idea about what the settings do can often make things worse. Thankfully there are a few tools around to help you get the best picture out of your monitor with the minimum of effort. Here’s a few for you to try…
1. Eizo MonitorTest
This monitor test and calibration tool is a free and a portable standalone executable that guides you through the process of setting up your screen and getting a good quality picture. A number of tests including Auto Adjust level, a basic Color test, Brightness / Contrast / Homogeneity, Geometry, Convergence and Sharpness are carried out to help you get the best out of your display.
Eizo MonitorTest is a very good tool for the less experienced because it runs the process like a wizard in which you press the play button to go through a series of 24 steps. Each screen then gives you a brief description about what you should see and what you need to change on your monitor for the best result.
Pressing the “i” icon on the welcome screen shows an information screen where you can disable some of the tests if you think they’re not necessary. Works from Windows 98 up to Widows 7 64-bit.
2. Nokia Test
This is a freeware utility by mobile phone makers Nokia that will help you in adjusting your monitor for a more satisfactory display. The program is portable and includes 12 languages and there are 10 tests to go through in any order you wish.These include Geometry, Convergence, Brightness and Contrast, Focus, High voltage, Resolution, Moire, Readability, Jitter and colors. There is also a left to right stereo speaker test.
The included help file (arrowed) explains in an easy to understand way how to correctly set up the and adjust your monitor for the best display. The Nokia Test tool was originally developed for CRT monitors but still works well enough for LCD displays also. Unfortunately due to the programs age, it won’t run on a 64-bit Windows although Windows 7 32-bit works OK.
3. TIREAL TFT Test
TFT Test is a tiny portable utility of 30KB and squeezes a number of tests into the executable including a Basic color test, Interference and video noise test, Greyscale test and an RGB test. Clicking the left mouse button while in each test will cycle a number of different screens for you to tailor the display to your liking.
Sadly the tiny size of this utility comes at a price which is there is absolutely no help or documentation whatsoever included. It does work on just about all operating systems, I tested on Windows 7 64-bit, but because of the lack of help, TIREAL TFT Test might be best suited to the experienced user.
4. Monitor Tester
Monitor Tester is another small and portable utility which lets you show test images for Geometry, Picture size and position, Convergence, White balance, Brightness and Contrast, Focus, Colour purity and Moiré. A sound test is also included.
All the different tests can be run from the icon buttons on the control panel which can be hidden, and you can run each test in any order you choose. The help file doesn’t open in Windows 7 which is a shame but the program works OK. Like the TIREAL tool above, you will need to know what the tests actually do beforehand.
5. Online Tools
In addition to the downloadable tools I have listed here, there are also some useful websites where you can perform a number of the tests online through your web browser. Vanity’s Online Monitor Test is a flash based tool that has a number of tests accompanied by lots of useful information. The different tests can be accessed by moving your mouse to the top of the window.
The The Lagom LCD monitor test pages are also a very useful resource because they are downloadable static pages as well as extensive online tests. There is a huge amount of very useful information including examples and what good and bad results might look like. If you want to understand a bit more about what all the tests in these utilities are actually for, the Lagom pages are a good place to visit.