Why are 30″ LCD monitors still so expensive?

Folks:

Five and a half years ago, I wrote a posting marveling that the Dell 30″ LCD monitor was selling for $1279. My HP-brand 30″ monitor seems to be flaking out, so I was considering replacing it with another Dell (my six year-old Dell monitor is still going strong). What’s the latest price from Dell? $1299! With LCD TV prices on a constant downward trend, how is it possible that the 30″ computer monitor remains stuck at over $1000? It is just that nobody wants this size? Newegg.com sells 27″ name-brand monitors (e.g., Samsung) for $300, but it would be hard to give up the extra size and resolution to which I have become accustomed.  I love being able to type a report in one window and review a source document (typically in PDF format) in another window. The 30″ monitor is ideal for that.

Maybe the right solution is to mount two 1080p 27″ monitors side-by-side vertically? I wonder if an average graphics card will drive that.

28 Comments

  1. Heroine Worshiper

    April 23, 2012 @ 10:48 pm

    1

    Scary that they can flake out after 6 years. Mine is 4 years old. Surely reflowing some solder joints can fix it. Demand is still fragmented between the small number of producers who need 2560×1600 & the large number of consumers who just need 1920×1080 to watch TV. It’s not clear if anyone’s going to want higher resolution without a Steve Jobs to drive them.

  2. Jonathan

    April 23, 2012 @ 10:55 pm

    2

    If you consider the cost of the monitor in terms of ounces of gold, or gallons of gas, you’ll see that it’s gone way down in price in five years.

  3. Jerry

    April 23, 2012 @ 10:59 pm

    3

    Yeah, I’d love that.

    My suspicion is that 99% of all LCD screens are being made and sold in 1080p format so you’re asking for something only a minority of people want, and no manufacturing company wants to make, stock, ship, or support.

    Hell, even a 1920×1280 monitor is much more expensive than a 1920×1080.

    That said, I’ve been having good success with running n monitors using USB displaylink adapters. Similar to this one: http://www.amazon.com/Kensington-Universal-Multi-Display-Adapter-Black/dp/B002F9NSMQ

    They are almost trivial to setup and range from $50 to $150.

    I’ve used my for the standard stuff. Emacs, web surfing, netflix, …

  4. Craig

    April 23, 2012 @ 11:03 pm

    4

    The 30 inch dell monitor has higher resolution than a 55 inch TV. That’s why the price is high.

  5. Mike

    April 23, 2012 @ 11:20 pm

    5

    It could be because all of the 30″ monitors I know of use IPS panels, which have always been more expensive than lower quality TN paels (see also the 27″ Apple display and the high end 27″ HP and Dell LCD’s which are all hovering around the $1,000+ mark and also all use IPS panels). I don’t know anyone who makes or sells a 30″ TN panel, they all settled on the 27″ screen size.

  6. phik

    April 23, 2012 @ 11:41 pm

    6

    I have no answer to your why-so-expensive question, although I suspect you’re right about it being an economy-of-scale issue. Given the resolutions, I expect that pretty much all 30″ displays require dual-link DVI? That alone may limit the uptake.

    But we do 2×24″ or 2×27″ on everyone’s desk for much the same reason. And we do it with very ordinary (i.e. not the expensive Quadro) NVIDIA cards.

  7. Matt Kerr

    April 23, 2012 @ 11:48 pm

    7

    My guess is that at the viewing distances (and thus viewing angles), the monitor has to be high quality (IPS etc) to be any good. 30 inch plus tvs are for viewing further back. I am surprised that there isn’t a cheaper, normal gamut 30 inch though…

  8. Josh Volchko

    April 23, 2012 @ 11:50 pm

    8

    A posting from 2004 about using three monitors from a fellow computer nerd… http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2004/06/multiple-monitors-and-productivity.html

    He has many other (recent) posts about 3 monitors and their impact on productivity and all-around usefulness.

    I have a Hanns-G 30″ monitor, and honestly, I can’t imagine viewing it at a finer resolution (I’m only 27 but my eyes are pretty terrible). I think plenty of times about buying a second one, and at only ~$230, two of them are less than half the price of one IPS monitor that everyone who reviews them seems to think are useless outside of graphic design — and are known to have as many color-bleed, dead pixel, and other issues as your name brand ones. If you REALLY want an IPS, I believe NEC makes ones around $500.

    Lastly, yes, any average graphics card these days will drive two monitors easily, especially AMD/ATI.

  9. J. Peterson

    April 23, 2012 @ 11:51 pm

    9

    At my day job, I have both configurations: one computer is set up with one 30″ monitor, the other with two 24″ screens. In general, I prefer the pair of screens. With two monitors, it’s more natural to divide your screen into workspace v. reference than it is on one screen.

    For example, when I open Photoshop on the two-screen setup, the application (by default) takes over my “main” monitor, leaving the second screen clear for reference material. On the one-screen setup, the application by default takes over the whole space, and you have to fiddle a bit to move stuff out of the way to make room for other stuff. Of course, if you want to watch movies on your computer screen, the cinema display is great.

    I find it annoying that because LCD manufacture is dominated by “wide-screen” TV sets, computer monitors are now vertically challenged. There are lots of tasks (e.g., editing source code or text) where having additional vertical space is really preferable.

  10. rj

    April 24, 2012 @ 1:08 am

    10

    30″ displays seem to have mostly been replaced by high-res 27″ models which have nearly the same resolution, but a different aspect ratio.

    For example, the Dell UltraSharp U2711:
    2560×1440, list price in Canada is $999, but it routinely sells for $749 or less

  11. Tiago

    April 24, 2012 @ 1:27 am

    11

    I’ve had the same problem and decided to buy a 24″ while prices are so high. I suspect the reason is because most monitors (and TVs) increase the size but keep the pixel count the same (full HD!). At 30″, keeping the resolution at 1080p would be so ridiculous that manufacturers couldn’t get away with it. So perhaps the mass consumer just wants 1080p, so it gets massively produced and anything higher is much more expensive.

    At work I have seen people using two 27″ 1080p mounted vertically side-by-side. I guess it makes sense, but you would need a proper desktop with two DVI outputs. I have an old Apple 30″ display at work, which I’d never buy for my home (if it were still sold) because it was so overpriced.

  12. Michael

    April 24, 2012 @ 1:59 am

    12

    16:10 monitors are on the decline. 16:9, used for TV (still the volume product), are massively cheaper.

  13. Maik

    April 24, 2012 @ 4:40 am

    13

    As far as I know, there is only one company that makes semi-affordable 30″ screens. There’s a few models (Dell, HP, LG, more?), but they all use the same LG panel. Without competition, there’s no reason for prices to race to the bottom. Sharp has announced a 32″ high res panel that’s supposed to be relatively cheap, this might shake up the market a bit.

    The “two upright 1980×1200 panels side by side” solution is popular at my workplace, but with 24″ screens. I use two of these side by side, but not upright.

    Using an average graphics card to drive these isn’t an issue, but you may need to use two different connections for the screens (e.g. one DisplayPort, one DVI-D) if the card doesn’t have two identical connectors.

  14. Jan

    April 24, 2012 @ 4:41 am

    14

    This has puzzled me for years too. Perhaps even more surprising: why can’t you buy anything larger than 30″ ? I would gladly pay for more screen real estate. (There are some options >$5K, but nothing consumer grade).

    I actually have a dirt cheap 24″ monitor mounted vertically next to my 30″, and that works really well. My 5 year old 30″ Dell is getting flaky as well, several analysts have been predicting that Apple will offer a line of “retina” displays soon, so I’m hoping that will happen.

  15. bob

    April 24, 2012 @ 6:09 am

    15

    I’d bet the problem is not the size, but the resolution. If you’re willing to live with 1920×1080 you can just use an HDTV. On the other hand, if you want anything higher, you pay the price. Vertical pixels seem especially endangered, with most laptops coming with 1388×760 these days.

  16. David Wihl

    April 24, 2012 @ 6:32 am

    16

    Most modern graphics cards will drive two monitors. Windows behaves nicely. Most of the tech people at the office run dual monitors.

  17. Jong

    April 24, 2012 @ 7:34 am

    17

    Can’t comment on the price of 30″ monitors. I can drive two 1920×1200 monitors from my cheapo $500 computer with on-board graphics. On an older machine you probably get 1x DVI and 1x VGA connectors. If you only have 1x DVI on the back you may be okay. You just need a cable to split the DVI into 1x DVI and 1x VGA. On newer computers you probably just get 2x DVI.

  18. Lawrence

    April 24, 2012 @ 8:07 am

    18

    I think you’re comparing the old TFT monitor to the new IPS monitor, two different LCD technologies. People claim that IPS makes for a much better viewing experience. Newegg seems to sell cheaper 32 inch monitors, e.g. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16824116492 for $670.

  19. Tom

    April 24, 2012 @ 9:25 am

    19

    I have 2 24″ monitors mounted vertically for similar reasons and it works great. Most modern cards easily drive two monitors. I got mine over two years ago. The mount is the Atdec VFS-DV Visidec Freestanding Double Vertical available at Amazon. Two monitors and the mount are about a third of the price and more square inches and twice the pixels.

  20. Will

    April 24, 2012 @ 9:57 am

    20

    Pixel density, probably – there just isn’t a lot of demand for 30″ displays that can run at 2560×1600, so there’s no competitive force driving them down. Apple doesn’t even make them anymore.

    I’m typing this on a five year old Apple 30″ cinema display, but in the office I have a 27″ monitor and a laptop hooked up in a screen extension mode. I actually find that more useful for most tasks than the big monitor, since the 30″ is just a little too large to orient quickly. I can still do a side-by-side document review on a single display, and for other tasks I can dock a window on the laptop and another app on the big display. A lot of developers I know use a similar setup, since you can have an IDE on the big monitor and the app on the smaller display.

  21. m

    April 24, 2012 @ 10:55 am

    21

    As was pointed out, 1920×1080 can be had for very cheap, but for what used to be standard for high-resolution you’ll pay a lot more. As for concerns about monitors going bad, my Viewsonic LCD display I bought in 2004 is still working quite fine after 8 years (and my older, 15″ which had remarkably fast transitions for its time is still working with reduced usage but fine after a decade).

    What drives me nuts is that you can get really cheap 1920×1080 LCDs below about 30″, but they get really expensive after that while if you throw in a TV tuner the price drops significantly in 50″ displays. Considering that in either case you’re probably getting the same resolution it boggles the mind when I’m looking for a MythTV display.

  22. M.B. Drapier

    April 24, 2012 @ 11:12 am

    22

    What’s bizarre is that I’ve been unable to locate a high-resolution (over 1900 × 1200) computer monitor of any size that costs less than a whole entry-level iPad 3 with its 2048 × 1536 display. Though maybe things are better in the US. Hopefully the next upgrade cycle for Apple’s (OS X) computers is going to drive decent resolutions into the PC mainstream.

  23. Thomas

    April 24, 2012 @ 1:40 pm

    23

    Currently using two 27-inch monitors at work with no complaints. (Dell Optiplex 755, Windows XP, Intel chipset video card)

    Also use WinSplit Revolution’s hotkeys to move applications from monitor to monitor or split application windows within a monitor.

  24. Paul A. Houle

    April 24, 2012 @ 4:04 pm

    24

    Dell’s known for crazy pricing for things that aren’t competitive. If you want a Dell laptop with 32GB of RAM, for instance, you’ll pay about $5000.

    Here’s my rig

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/paul_houle/4681895723/

    the monitors are in the mass market sweet spot and cost about $120 each. I had to add a $75 graphics card to support the third monitor, but that leaves me with an extra HDMI port that can drive a HDTV on the other side of the room.

  25. Paddy Mullen

    April 24, 2012 @ 5:12 pm

    25

    My 30 inch samsung started flickering on half of the display when it was about 3 years and 5 months old. I’m pretty disappointed. Does anyone know where I could get it fixed?

  26. Richard

    April 25, 2012 @ 10:42 am

    26

    On Newegg.com, the $300 27″ monitors are 1920×1080: when you filter by 2560×1440, they start at $680.

  27. atp

    April 27, 2012 @ 1:45 am

    27

    Richard, I’d rather filter by 1920×1200 resolution. The two cheapest look promising; the smaller HP unit comes with a stand that lets you rotate the screen to vertical while the larger Hanns-G does not:

    $270 27″ Hanns-G HZ281HPB: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16824254052
    $280 24″ HP LA2405wg: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16824176141

  28. Michael Brian Bentley

    April 27, 2012 @ 3:11 am

    28

    I’ve been told that 30″ displays are not as convenient as 27″ displays for desktop use, and high-end customers have been migrating toward the slightly smaller size. Apple doesn’t sell a new 30″ any more.

    I’ve been planning to get two or three 16:10 monitors when more manufacturers are able to use Thunderbolt ports. I don’t need them for color accurate work so I should be able to not have to buy at the super-high-end, assuming a lower tier starts to exist and aren’t stupidly expensive.

    Considering that the iPad has a 2048 x 1536 display in a 9.5 x 7.5 inch device, one wonders what kind of desktop and laptop displays might show up later this year.

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