Dual monitors with a hackintosh
For the past few years I’ve used a Dell 2005FPW screen, which although reliable was limited by its 1680 x 1050 resolution. I’m using a full HD video camera and TV so the next step was a HD or better monitor for editing. I wasn’t sure if the 9800GT card in my main hackintosh would need software tweaks to support two monitors but a quick test with a spare 15 inch TV/monitor showed it worked fine. Just to recap, I’m using an EFI string for video card support with the default 9800GTX setting from OSX86Tools.
Next step was to choose a monitor. Since I don’t play a lot of games the main use will be video and photo editing, so I was looking for something with good contrast and black levels as well as reasonable colour accuracy. The target was HD or better resolution and around a 24 inch screen. The most common resolution at this size was 1920×1200 until recently, but these displays are rapidly disappearing to be replaced with 1920×1080 panels. All the comments I found on this give cheaper manufacturing as the reason.
All the cheaper (under £200) displays I saw use TN type panels which while providing fast response offer poorer viewing angles and colour accuracy than more expensive monitors. Every review of a TN monitor I read said they are fine for games but not applications where you want accurate colours. My Dell LCD doesn’t list the panel type as anything comparable to current models, saying the 2005FPW uses an Active matrix – TFT LCD panel. That didn’t help much for comparing new monitors to what I already had.
After much searching I found some reviews of the Samsung F2380, a 23 inch 1920 x 1080 monitor using a cPVA panel. Here’s what Samsung have to say about the monitor on their US web site:
The Samsung F2380 23″ 16:9 widescreen LCD displays feature cPVA technology, for accurate image performance and professional-caliber color. With 100% support of sRGB color mode and 178º viewing angles, the color will be smooth and accurate to everyone gathered around your screen. High 3,000:1 static contrast ratio provides subtle transitions in shadows and details in the whites and blacks.
I quote from the US website as I there is no mention of this model on the UK site. There’s support in the form of manual downloads and drivers, but no UK product page. In their review of the F2380, the digitalversus site mentioned an updated F2380m model which adds a HDMI port and a few other features. I fired an email off to Samsung’s UK customer support asking if this was due to be released soon in the UK and received a brief ‘we don’t know’ three weeks later.
The F2380 still sounded like the best fit for my requirements so Mrs Basshead bought me one for Christmas. I’m happy with the display, and have sat it next to the existing Dell 20 inch for a dual monitor setup. This makes a big difference for photo and video editing, with iMovie and Lightroom both supporting dual monitors. The image at the top of this article and just below shows the desktop area offered by the two screens.
dual wallpapers from dualmonitorbackgrounds.com
iMovie is my video editor of choice for speed and ease of use. Using iMovie 09 and selecting the Window>Viewer on Secondary Display option moved the video preview to the second screen and gives twice as much room for the project library/project editing/event library.
Lightroom offers similar improvements, with the Develop and Library screens viewable together. This certainly speeds up editing, removing the need to switch between Library and Develop screens, or use small thumbnails at the bottom of the Develop screen.
Library screen with large preview
I’ll finish with a brief note about technical specifications. The Dell 2005FPW spec at the Dell web site gives 12ms Grey to Grey and 16ms Black to White for the response times. The new Samsung F2380 spec says 8ms Grey to Grey, but nothing for Black to White. While the Samsung may be a bit faster at Grey to Grey switching, the reason Samsung doesn’t give Black to White times is that they are visibly worse than the four-year old Dell. It’s not a problem for what I’m doing with the monitor, but it would be nice if Samsung were honest instead of ignoring details their marketing department doesn’t want buyers to know. It’s not as if every other brand isn’t guilty of the same thing, just disappointing.
To end with a positive comment, it’s worth mentioning the contrast ratio of the F2380. It’s claimed to be a 3000:1 static contrast ratio, and as the photo below hopefully shows it means blacks are black, not the dark grey of the older Dell.