Had to go to Taiwan or Korea for that super duper LCD monitor fix? Not anymore… China's got some interesting goodies, too, and much more to come.
The sad fact, much repeated in our stories, is that, compared to the processing power or memory capacity, PC monitor resolution didn't advance much – or at all – over the past decade. Ten years ago, you could buy a darn good 1920×1200 24-inch LCD display for less than S$1000, and, if you really had big bucks and need for photographic 3-D or multimedia publishing, spend $7K – average discounted price – on an IBM T221, with 3840×2400 resolution on a 204 dpi 22.2 inch screen. Yes, it needed twin dual-DVI links to get the picture across, but the result was worth the trouble. Mind you, both of these were in the visually attractive, production-friendly 16:10 'Golden Ratio' format.
Fast forward to today, and you're pretty much stuck with not so productive 16:9 displays in 1920×1080 resolution, with 1920×1200 as rare as hen's teeth in Sim Lim Square, and the rare remnants of better resolutions like 2560×1600 are, well, getting more rare. Of course, the 4K-class monitors like what T221 was are now only in the same computer-unfriendly 16:9 format and in the even more unfriendly $50K or so price bracket.
Enter China: even as a simple customer in one of Shenzhen's or Dongguan's electronics markets, you'll have a more interesting choice of some products that seemingly never reach our shores, yet solve this monitor resolution and productivity problems without tearing the wallets apart. Here's a good example: Tanpo is an absolutely unknown brand here, but up there they have something called P17EYM, a lovely, compact 1 kg-class slim 17-inch LED monitor with 1920×1200 resolution and, of course, the 16:10 ratio. The specs at 2 ms claimed response and good 170 degree viewing angle, which I tested to stand in the actual use daily, are good too, plus the whole spread of brightness, contrast and colour controls. Even more 'good' is the price, though – I got one from a small retail outlet at 450 RMB, or less than 90 S$ at today's rate, and it works like a charm after these 3 months. Not exactly a retina display, but sufficiently close to it to become a reference display for all 3-D tests and benchmarks I may do, plus the daily work. Have a look here!
And there are plenty of other offerings of that type, from multiple vendors – it just takes a simple search on Alibaba, if you're into more than just one unit.
On the other end of the spectrum, the large Shenzhen based TCL LCD panel plant now has stable production capability of 4K resolution (4096×2160 in 17:9 format, but they could do other formats too) 110-inch 'Star of China' panels, among the largest in the world. I've seen the plant, and the facility is roughly the size of whole one-north area in Singapore, with 8.5G glass capability just the beginning. The northern part of Shenzhen now has a designated 'Flat Panel City' area with massive incentives aimed at many panel design and manufacturing companies to set up shop, and they seem to be more flexible than their Taiwan, Korea or Japan counterparts, whose 'take it or leave it' approach resulted in the billions of lost productivity hours worldwide by computer users stuck with moviescreen 16:9 displays in low 1366×768 resolution that belongs to mid-nineties of last century… just to save few cents in panel cutting. So, China's got a chance, from S$ 90 1920×1200 to world record 4K – 8K screens at market-leading prices…