Image Quality: In Practice
Desktop use on the LCD2690WUXi is a real pleasure. The image is soft, accurate, and nothing looks washed out. The viewing angle is stable and the contrast is more than sufficient for reading text. The colors are punchy and vibrant without being oversaturated (at least after calibration). Grays are untinted and neutral and the monitor is able to achieve decent contrasts even at lower brightnesses like 140 nits. Scrolling websites presents a moving image devoid of color fringing or trailing effects. Antialiasing on fonts looks very pleasing due to the monitor's great grayscale performance.
The LCD2690WUXi's wide gamut backlight is a mixed bag. Based on my own observation, the WG-CCFL (wide gamut CCFL) can provide deeper reds, greens, and yellows, and lighter blues. It can have a subtle or considerable effect on the image quality, depending on the material being displayed. The wide gamut backlight falls a little short of covering the Adobe RGB (1998) color space.
Conventional CCFL vs. WG-CCFL (right)
Color management (by means of ICC profiles) is necessary to show images properly on a wider gamut LCD. Most material on the web is made for standard sRGB monitors, which means that the NEC will display these sites incorrectly. The solution for this includes configuring your browser to use the monitor's color profile, which right now is only possible with Safari (but only when an sRGB profile is embedded) and the latest Firefox alpha. The difference can be quite significant, particularly with saturated images on the web. Considering many already use Firefox, this upgrade may make a lot of sense if you also have a wide gamut monitor. It is worth noting that Microsoft Office 2007 also supports color management.
That I am aware of, no movie players or games support ICC profiles. Since the NEC LCD2690WUXi's calibration is internal (with SpectraView), movies and games will display with accuracy but still an ICC is required for proper gamut transformation (e.g. sRGB to Adobe RGB). If the movie was encoded in the NTSC color space, a wide gamut monitor might actually provide a more accurate rendition of it. For now, one can definitely expect more vibrant colors in his movies but whether they will be more accurate is up to the software and the color space transformations it performs.
The backlight is only one aspect of the LCD2690WUXi's great practical image quality, though. The H-IPS panel with the True Wide polarizer offers the best viewing angle of any LCD. Even the color black when viewed from a wide angle does not turn violet as it does on older S-IPS panels or S-PVA panels. So-called “white glow” at wide angles does not occur as with H-IPS panels without this polarizer (e.g., Planar PX2611W). This is quite an innovation in viewing angle technology. The amount of distortion was so minimal that it was hard to photograph, but there is some slight reduction in brightness particularly in the vertical direction. That's not a big deal though and it certainly won't be an impediment to use.
H-IPS panels offer slight contrast improvements over traditional S-IPS panels (750:1 vs 700:1 is a commonly cited figure). This panel does boast a decent contrast, especially with ColorComp set to Off which will be adequate for most multimedia users. Even in the absence of a 1000:1 or higher real contrast ratio, the wide gamut backlight helps make things more vibrant. The excess of contrast really is not needed for a nice-looking picture. Most calibration settings will yield a contrast anywhere from 200:1 to 700:1 on the NEC LCD2690WUXi, depending mostly on the ColorComp setting and contrast preference in the software.
Even with a 650:1 real contrast, the NEC can show tones accurately and smoothly with little to no banding. Let's take a look at how various photos and movies look on this monitor.
The images below are all HDR except for the last three. The HDR images, intended for viewing on sRGB monitors, will give you a better idea of how much detail this LCD can bring out. The last three give a better idea of how the bright the LCD actually is. All photos were shot without flash.
In games (particularly Battlefield 2) I noticed that the calibration brought out many details. Without calibration, the image looks compressed any too contrasty in certain areas. It also tends to look harsh. The calibration blends everything out, makes it more accurate, reveals more details (particularly in darker areas), and leaves you with a more warm and balanced picture. Everything ends up looking more believable and even easier on the eyes. With an L* gamma curve, sometimes it looks a little too balanced as the game wasn't designed for L*, so I recommend sRGB.
Quicktime H.264 HD Video
Calibration did not influence videos or movies as much, but they looked great nevertheless.
The primary complaint I could come up with is some twinkling in movies, but that is more a problem with the camcorder than the monitor. In fact, the monitor has nothing to do with the twinkling you see in film. CRT monitors are better able to blend and mask it, although it may be visible on some Trinitron-based CRTs as well due to their different pixel layout than shadow mask-based ones.
Even with all the compensation enabled the uniformity wasn't perfect. There is a small amount of light leaking at the top, which can be seen on the uniformity measurements a few pages back. As a matter of fact, ColorComp seems to have no effect on it. This is okay, since the problem is very minor.
I had the chance to watch a full 1080i movie on this LCD, and I was very pleased. Even with the lights out, backlight bleeding was not an issue for the black bars at the top and bottom of the movie. Full black screens simply looked dark gray, but there was no blue- or violet-tinted bleeding anywhere, and the dark gray was uniform so it was not distracting. ColorComp was off during this time to achieve maximum contrast and I still didn't notice much bleeding with my eyes. The special polarizer on this model helps prevent the violent tinting of IPS panels at wider angles, producing a stable black no matter where you sit. That's no easy feat for an LCD. The contrast ratio was pleasing if even too much at times. Overall, the experience was incredibly immersive. After $1,200, that hopefully does not come as a shock to you.
Image Quality: Color Calibration
DSP Performance: Response Time and Input Lag