Hardware

LCD Monitors

1 Feb, 2004 By: Ron LaFon

Cadalyst Labs finds improved image quality.


Big displays are more readily available and the underlying technology is improved, so in this roundup of LCD monitors, Cadalyst tests larger displays than in past reviews. Monitor requirements included a minimum 20" viewable screen area with resolution of at least 1280X1024 in 24-bit color. We required RGB analog input in the form of a 15-pin mini D-sub connector. Digital DVI-D input support was optional. Because all monitors included the digital input, I opted to test with this connection.

Review Summary
Review Summary

I also tested each LCD monitor at its optimum resolution and sync rate, which on these larger displays was 1600X1200 pixels at either 60Hz or 75Hz. I also checked 1280X1024 and 1024X768 resolutions for any display problems.

Starting with this roundup, I incorporated a response time category that you can find in the feature table online. Computer speed has increased so much that monitor response time is now a factor. On tests such as the Cadalyst Labs C2001 benchmark, the shaded rotation tests are sufficiently complex and written to screen so fast that the generally slower response time of LCD panels causes the display to lag and appear jerky. The faster the response time, the smoother the presentation is on screen.

Though this is not a factor that affects all users, those whose work requires the fast display of complex shaded models in motion should look carefully at monitor response times when making purchasing decisions. In the long run, this is likely to become a more significant problem as computer systems continue to deliver enhanced performance.

Ultra high-resolution displays, such as certain models from IBM and ViewSonic that are used for medical imaging, require digital connections that enable resolutions up to 3840X2400 pixels. We expect to review the IBM IntelliStation T221 22" flat-panel monitor in a future issue of Cadalyst.

The mechanical problems I found in the past with displays that pivot from landscape (horizontal) mode to portrait (vertical) mode have disappeared. Not all the monitors pivot, but those that do seem solid and stable.

I tested all LCD monitors using DisplayMate Technologies' DisplayMate 2.1 Multimedia Edition, a new version of this application ( www.displaymate.com). Watch for a First Look review in the next month or two. I tested all displays at their optimum display resolution and also checked lower resolutions. I evaluated each monitor on how well it met the minimum configuration requirements specified, its benchmark test results, features, warranty, and documentation.

Reviewer's Report Card
Reviewer's Report Card

My test system was a workstation from @Xi Computer (see p. 26) that incorporates an NVIDIA FX3000 graphics card. I used Windows XP Professional with the latest drivers from NVIDIA, v52.14.

What you see is what you get

All of the LCD monitors look best at their optimum resolution. At resolutions lower than the optimum, the image scales to fit the screen, which usually produces a somewhat granular appearance. Though this is expected, the appearance isn't what you want from a monitor you're using all day.

This brings us to what I call the "look" test, a personal evaluation based on whether I'd want to use a particular monitor for an extended period of time. This evaluation is not incorporated into our benchmark tests or scoring. All of the LCD monitors reviewed here are easy to look at, but in my opinion they're not yet as easy to look at as their analog counterparts. Combine this with some lag in writing to the screen, and you may find that the results are not to your liking.

Even though the display quality on LCD monitors has greatly improved, particularly at the optimal resolutions recommended by the manufacturers, many users still perfer analog displays. This largely depends on the type of work you do, your preferences about how you want an image to appear, and what your budget is.

When you purchase any monitor, LCD or analog, one of the best approaches is to look at the models you're considering, preferably as they display an image at the resolution you intend to use for your daily work. Certainly the quality level of the monitors tested is higher than ever before, and prices are reasonable. Whether you find the displays attractive and easy to live with is really a matter of personal preference.

UltraSharp 2001FP

Dell
Dell's UltraSharp 2001FP 20" TFT LCD monitor earned excellent test scores and is priced at an attractive $999.
Dell's UltraSharp 2001FP 20" TFT LCD monitor earned excellent test scores and is priced at an attractive $999.

www.dell.com

Star rating: 5 stars out of 5

Price: $999

Dell's UltraSharp 2001FP is a 20" TFT LCD monitor with optimum resolution and sync rate of 1600X1200 at 60Hz refresh. Its attractive design, one of the best I've seen, features a thin black bezel above a silver and black stand. The stand and the mounting for the panel are very stable. A quick-release button detaches the panel from the stand. The display pivots, rises, tilts, and rotates so you can obtain the optimal viewing angle.

The pivot is very well engineered and remains stable and jiggle-free throughout the range. Viewing is comfortable at ±88° horizontally and vertically.

You access monitor controls via five buttons on the lower-right front bezel, which also includes a power switch with an LED. The on-screen menu is well designed.

The Dell UltraSharp 2001FP lists the fastest response time of any of the LCD panels tested here-16ms as opposed to the average 25ms. As a matter of curiosity, I ran the Cadalyst Labs C2001 benchmark test on this display and found the faster response time made a noticeable and distinct improvement. Because this characteristic may be a factor in purchasing decisions, I figured in an extra bonus point for this display on the report card.



The Dell UltraSharp 2001FP produces slightly warm grays, as if a slight sepia cast is present. This doesn't affect the overall color character and doesn't result in a deduction-it seems to be a characteristic of the panel rather than a flaw. Although apparent, the tint falls within what I consider normal range.

When I put the UltraSharp 2001FP through DisplayMate testing, it turned in perfect scores for brightness, contrast, focus, purity, and raster rotation, with only a quarter-point deduction for some color fringing on vertical lines near the edges of the display. I saw no apparent bad pixels, interlace flicker, or LCD display streaking.

This is a very good monitor-attractive and well designed-at an attractive price. As with all the other LCD monitors here, it's covered by a standard three-year warranty that includes the backlight. Highly Recommended.

L2035

Hewlett-Packard
The L2035 from Hewlett-Packard offers excellent response time and a great image for a bargain price.
The L2035 from Hewlett-Packard offers excellent response time and a great image for a bargain price.

www.hp.com

Star rating: 5 stars out of 5

Price: $949

The L2035 LCD monitor is a new release from Hewlett-Packard. Its estimated street price of $949 makes it the least expensive LCD monitor in this roundup. The L2035 has a 20.1" diagonal viewing area with a 350:1 brightness range. The display pivots, tilts, and swivels. Its 16ms response time falls in the speedy range for this group of LCD monitors. If response time is a factor in your purchasing decision, this is a very good display at a very good price.

You access controls from seven buttons at the bottom center of the flat silver bezel. Other assembly components are black, making for an attractive black and flat silver housing. A USB hub is optional, as are accessory speakers in what Hewlett-Packard calls a Commbar.

The L2035 achieves excellent scores on all benchmark tests. The L2035 produces warm grays, though its color purity is excellent. This tendency seems to be a characteristic of the display-it's not unattractive or obtrusive, just a little different from the norm. Optimal resolution for the Hewlett-Packard L2035 is 1600X1200 at 75Hz refresh, a slightly higher sync rate than other monitors in this roundup.

I noted no evidence of bad pixels, interlace flicker, or LCD display streaking. The L2035 has 170° horizontal and vertical viewing angles. One nice feature of the L2035 is its support for a picture-in-picture display. The L2034's four connectors include a 15-pin mini D-sub VGA, DVI-I (VGA analog and digital input), composite video, and S-video.



The stand and pivot mechanisms on the L2035 are quite stable. The base is detachable and the bezel is very thin on all four sides of the screen, so you can tile multiple L2035s to create a panoramic video array. The integrated power supply eliminates the bulky power adapter. This is not only convenient, but also helps make a wall-of-monitors configuration possible. Highly Recommended.

CML200UXW B

Hitachi
The Hitachi CML200UXW B doesn't pivot or have a USB hub, but it does include speakers. Image quality is excellent.
The Hitachi CML200UXW B doesn't pivot or have a USB hub, but it does include speakers. Image quality is excellent.

www.hitachidisplays.com

Star rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Price: $999

With an estimated street price of $999, the Hitachi CML200UXW B is one of three LCD monitors in this roundup priced just under $1,000. The CML200UXW B features a 20" TFT MVA LCD screen with a native resolution of 1600X1200 at 60Hz refresh rate.

The Hitachi CML200UXW B is a horizontal-only display. It doesn't pivot for vertical use, although it swivels and tilts and offers a VESA wall-mount option.

Though it has no USB hub, the Hitachi CML200UXW B is the only monitor in this roundup that includes speakers. The speakers are two narrow units that you can attach to either side of the display. They are well designed and unobtrusive when installed.

Brightness is rated at 250 cd/m2, and contrast ratio is a high 500:1. Response time is an average 25ms, and pixel (dot) pitch is 0.255mm in both directions. You can view the screen vertically or horizontally through a 170° range.

On our test bench, the Hitachi CML200UXW B performed quite well. The only deduction is a quarter-point for color purity, the result of reds that are slightly orange rather than pure red.

It achieved excellent scores for brightness, contrast, focus, geometric distortion, and raster rotation. I found no bad pixels, interlace flicker, or LCD display streaking.

My one complaint is that the controls are located on the bottom-left front of the display where they are a bit awkward to access. The bezel is wide and seems to offer adequate room to better locate the controls.

The base of the Hitachi CML200UXW B is relatively large, which contributes to the monitor's very good stability. The display swivels form a ring assembly at the bottom of the base-a smooth way to accomplish this. In all, the housing and the base create an attractive unit at a good price.

ThinkVision L200p

IBM
A solid LCD display, the ThinkVision L200p from IBM produces a near-perfect image.
A solid LCD display, the ThinkVision L200p from IBM produces a near-perfect image.

www.ibm.com/monitors

Star rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Price: $1,349

The ThinkVision L200p is part of the Performance line of flat-panel LCDs in IBM's ThinkVision family of monitors. IBM positions this monitor as best suited for advanced graphic applications such as CAD/CAM and engineering design.

The model I tested features a black housing with five control buttons on the lower front bezel. Though dark buttons on a dark housing are often difficult to see, IBM places symbols on the housing and power switch to make them somewhat easier to find. The ThinkVision L200p is a very attractive monitor in both its design and the image it produces.

In terms of our benchmark tests, the ThinkVision L200p has a near-perfect display. I found only a very slight weakness in the greens, not significant enough to merit a deduction. You can view the display from a fairly wide angle-176° in either direction. The display has an 80mm height adjustment as well as tilt and swivel capabilities. With no pivoting ability, it's limited to horizontal (landscape) mode.

The ThinkVision L200p's internal power supply eliminates the bulky power adapter often seen with LCD monitors. Though all monitors tested in this roundup show greatly improved mechanical stability, the ThinkVision L200p is an especially solid display supported by a substantial base that remains stable throughout its adjustment range.

Two connectors, a standard analog D-sub and a digital DVI-I, are located at the back of the L200p so you can attach two workstations at the same time. An intelligently designed on-screen menu system makes display adjustments easy, particularly when used in conjunction with the automatic image setup, brightness, and input selection buttons at the front of the monitor housing.

At $1,349, the IBM ThinkVision L200p is neither the least nor the most expensive display. It's covered by a three-year warranty that includes IBM's Rapid Replacement Service. The contrast rating on the L200p is a comfortable 400:1, and the optimal display resolution is 1600X1200 at 60Hz refresh rate.

NEC MultiSync LCD2080UX

NEC-Mitsubishi Electronics Display of America

www.necmitsubishi.com

Star rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Price: $1,699.99

The NEC MultiSync LCD2080UX is economical in terms of its rated wattage (54W), but not in terms of its $1,699.99 price, the highest in this review. The MultiSync LCD2080UX is a 20.1" TFT active matrix LCD monitor designed for optimal display at 1600X 1200 at 60Hz refresh. Brightness is 250cd/m2, and contrast ratio is 400:1.

The review unit was housed in a black case, and the display is also available in white. Warranty coverage is an industry-standard three years for parts, labor, and backlight. You can reposition the display with rise, swivel, tilt, and pivot mechanisms. The pivot mechanism is substantial, with no loss of stability when the LCD panel is vertical. Direct monitor controls are accessed via eight buttons on the bezel, which also holds the LED power indicator and power toggle.

In general, the NEC MultiSync LCD2080UX performed well during benchmark tests. It earned two small deductions: a quarter-point for color purity-the reds were slightly orange-and a quarter-point for geometric distortion-the right and left edges of the display presented color fringing on vertical lines immediately adjacent to the edge of the display.

Connectivity options abound on the MultiSync LCD2080UX, including connections to two analog or two digital sources. Unfortunately, no USB connection is available, hub or otherwise, but speakers are optional.

The NEC MultiSync LCD2080UX offers a great deal of sophisticated technology and many niceties. I am, however, troubled by the high price and a couple of quality deductions, albeit minor. Also, the display's 25ms response time may present problems in certain applications.

That said, the NEC MultiSync LCD2080UX is very well engineered, attractive, and mechanically stable.

SyncMaster 213T

Samsung Electronics America

www.samsungusa.com/monitor

Star rating: 4 stars out of 5

Price: $1,199

At 21.3", the Samsung SyncMaster 213T LCD monitor is the largest display in this roundup. LCD response time is 25ms, average for this group of displays. Only two units offered faster response times. At $1,199, the Samsung SyncMaster 213T is priced in the upper midrange of this group.

The SyncMaster 213T has a narrow (0.73" wide) silver bezel. This, combined with a removable base and a relatively thin panel, makes it useful for tiled side-by-side or stacked configurations for a continuous flow of virtually uninterrupted data. In such a tiled configuration, the 0.27mm dot pitch is not as apparent as when you view a single monitor from a normal viewing distance. The dot pitch is the coarsest of all the monitors reviewed here.

The SyncMaster 213T gives you the option of using either a digital or an analog interface. The DVI (digital video interface) ensures a sharper, cleaner image and a more accurate representation of the original video source.

When used with analog input, the Samsung SyncMaster 213T offers an easy-access, one-button auto-calibration system for greater control over the image. It provides quick proportioning of screen geometry, contrast, brightness, and clock phase. The on-screen menu system features a comprehensive menu of controls, including auto adjustment, color, and image size. You control the display via seven buttons at the bottom center of the front bezel.

You can use the LCD panel in vertical and horizontal positions, and the mounting tilts, swivels, and rises to position the display. The SyncMaster 213T is viewable through a 170° range and includes Pivot software by Portrait Displays to orient the displayed image.The Samsung SyncMaster 213T has a stylish silver body with a stable footed base.

On the test bench, the SyncMaster 213T achieved excellent scores for brightness, contrast, focus, color purity, geometric distortion, and raster rotation. The displayed image isn't without problems, however, as some slight interlace flicker was apparent. Due to the slightly coarser dot pitch, the smallest legible font size proves to be 8–9 points.


About the Author: Ron LaFon


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