Maximum PC

Editor’s Pick: A.N. Other broken miniLED monitor

What’s going on with monitor makers these days?


I’M NOT GOING to reveal the brand responsibl­e for this particular train wreck for reasons that will become clear. But the model in question is a 34-inch ultra-wide with miniLED backlight, 165Hz refresh, and an eye-popping peak HDR luminance spec well into four figures in terms of nits.

Sure enough, it was a sizzler out of the box. At default settings, it was also clear the color saturation was out of whack, but I’ve learned not to panic at that sort of thing. Often there are alternativ­e modes that get the screen running right without the need for calibratio­n. Anyway, I flicked the switch in Windows to enable HDR and it was obvious something was up. At first, I thought it suffered from the same flickering problems that blight the Samsung Neo G9. But this wasn’t the same kind of flickering.

Instead, it became apparent that the local dimming algorithm was doing some odd things in response to the image being displayed. When any significan­tlysized and lighter-hued object appeared, whether in a video stream or web page, the whole panel would brighten and then darken again when it vanished. Watching a YouTube video in a browser window, the panel would brighten and dim in sympathy with the images in the video.

The only saving grace was that it didn’t flicker with a static image, which isn’t something you can say of that Samsung display. Speaking of which, were it not for my experience with broken monitors, I’d have found it hard to believe that this other big brand could deem this monitor fit for customers. But if Samsung can sell such an obviously flawed product, why not another major outfit?

As I dug deeper, I found further flaws with the local dimming algorithm. It turned out the excess color saturation was a global calibratio­n problem present in every SDR and HDR mode, including SRGB mode, which can normally be relied on to be accurate. All this from a brand that usually delivers quality monitors.

I’ve yet to see a local dimming algorithm that I’d be happy with day-today. Obviously, this doesn’t change that, or my conviction that any LCD panel with local dimming is inherently a kludge. There will always be trade-offs compared with true per-pixel lighting. Of course, issues with other PC component classes aren’t unheard of—consider Nvidia’s melty GPU power connectors or the problems AMD had with vapor chambers on its Radeon RX 7900 XTX boards. But those are isolated issues that only emerge in specific circumstan­ces. Most of the time, the product works so, you can see how the problems were missed, even if proper quality control should have found them.

With these borked local-dimming screens, problems are visible all the time in HDR mode, and SDR mode when local dimming is enabled. I can’t understand how multiple companies think this is acceptable. The one saving grace with this panel is that an email arrived just before we hit the ‘publish’ button, saying the manufactur­er was aware of issues with the monitor and that the launch was on hold while the problems were addressed.

If the final retail version is sorted, it doesn’t seem fair to name and shame the brand for now. But this screen was so bad on so many levels, I’ve got a feeling that when it re-emerges it will only be partially fixed. If they do manage to make it perfect, it will be the world’s first miniLED monitor that isn’t a bit broken.

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