There have been a flood of big, cheap monitors (2560×1440 and up) becoming available on TigerDirect and other similar sites recently. But I’m here to tell you that these should come with warning labels, and explain why.
I’ve had some dolorous experiences with the no-name pair of big flatscreens I bought back in 2013 – the things called Aurias that I described in The Agony, the Ectasy, the Dual Monitors. Very recently I finally got both to finally work with enough stability that I’m sure I’ll be keeping them for a while.
But the troubleshooting process was arduous. Along the way I learned some important things, mainly because two friends who are unusually capable hardware troubleshooters actually took the suckers apart in my presence and explained things about the internals and the surrounding market.
Here are some of the things I learned…
The huge bargain monitors are usually factory seconds from Samsung or other name-brand vendors being resold by chop shops, pushed out the door with cheapest possible auxiliary parts surrounding the display.
One reason this gray market exists is because of the excruciatingly high standards for “medical glass” – very large, very high-performance monitors used for radiography and CAT scans and the like. These markets will not tolerate even a single stuck pixel or color even slightly off. Factory seconds of these are quite good enough for ordinary mortals but can’t be sold under the manufacturer’s brand (for fear of dilution, I gather).
What you get, then, is what I saw in my Aurias – spectacularly good displays surrounded by shoddy driver electronics. Power supplies are a particular bad spot: suspect this if your monitor develops a fast flicker but the display is undistorted. This happened to me twice. Both power supplies had to be replaced.
Remember the bogus industrial-espionage electrolytic fluid from the Great Capacitor Plague of a decade ago, the stuff that made electrolytic capacitor cans literally blow their tops? Well, there are barrels of that shit still out there and if you buy a huge cheap Korean monitor, just guess what might be in the trim capacitors in your power supply!
These things get stored (or possibly shipped) in environments so humid that the condensation can do serious water damage to the PCBs. One of mine eventually went tits-up, after the power-supply replacement, because conductive crud was shorting some leads on the mini-PCB backing the control buttons. Cleaning the crud off with a toothbrush solved the problem.
I got lucky twice. First, one of my hardware troubleshooters (Wendell Wilson, the TekSyndicate guy who built the Great Beast) was experienced enough to diagnose the power-supply issue and had the right connections in Korea to order replacements for me. Second, a local friend (Phil Salkie) physically disassembled the one with water damage, recognized that problem, and knew how to deal. (I’m now wondering if that whitish crud was condensed sea salt. it was conductive enough…)
Most of you won’t have those resources. Buy with care, and be sure about your vendor’s return policy before you do.