Monitor Contrast Ratio


Dynamic vs static contrast ratio. Contrast ratio is what makes your underground tunnels dark and explosions bright. Understanding the difference between static and dynamic contrast ratio will make buying a monitor easier.


Dynamic Contrast Ratio

The difference between the brightest white and the darkest black – not necessarily at the same time or in the same scene. When you are running through a dark tunnel the monitor will lower the overall brightness to create truer blacks. The difference between the darkest light seen and the brightest is what makes the dynamic contrast ratio specification. This is the 1,000,000:1 ratio you see on boxes for LED monitors.


Static Contrast Ratio

The measurement of darkness and light in a single frame. This determines the contrast ratio frame by frame and is what you see while playing your game. This is the much smaller number not advertised about 1,000:1 is normal for static contrast ratio.


LED vs LCD Contrast Ratios

The reason the dynamic contrast ratio is advertised so much is not just because its a bigger number but also because LED monitors have about 10x more of it. The dynamic contrast ratio is a great marketing tool for LED monitor manufacturers because an LED monitor can turn off individual LEDs allowing for no luminescence or absolute black. The number you need to be aware of is the static contrast ratio as LED monitors can actually have less depending on the manufacturer. When buying a monitor pay attention to static contrast ratio – there are poorer quality LED monitors just as there are higher quality LCD monitors.


Human Eye and Contrast

Gaming can be improved by contrast ratio. The eye can perceive a static contrast ratio of up to 10,000:1. The eye can adapt and over time with chemicals and iris movement with steady lighting allowing up to 10,000,000:1. This means that you can benefit for a monitor with up to 10,000:1 static contrast ratio.

After 10,000:1 static contrast ratio however you will only see a difference with proper lighting conditions and after staring at the monitor for about 30 minutes. Also at this point your causing eye strain as it has to adjust to the higher contrast ratio.


Contrast Ratio Example

To show the difference a higher static contrast ratio can make the below image shows a black and white checker pattern at different contrast ratios. Every monitor is different to determine the exact ratio you are seeing you need to find your monitors static contrast ratio then multiply by the percentage. For example if it is 1,000:1 the below would be 1,000:1 -> 10:1 contrast ratio.



The above shows the difference in static contrast ratio, the difference between a monitor with 1,000:1 static contrast ratio and 1,250:1 is the difference between the 100% and 75% you see above. This image can be used as a reference when shopping for monitors it shows you how much an improvement you will see with higher static contrast ratio.



Knowing the difference between static and dynamic contrast will help you understand why a monitor with 1,200 contrast ratio looks better than one with 1,000,000:1.  The static contrast ratio is what you see frame by frame, don’t be distracted by the big number on the box make sure to compare static contrast ratios, your eye can perceive up to 10,000:1 contrast ratio so until monitors reach that threshold you will see an improvement upgrading your monitor.