Cadalyst Labs Review: Large-Format CRTs31 Aug, 2005 By: Ron LaFon
Clear choices from ViewSonic and NEC, plus a look at a Philips widescreen LCD display
Though large CRT displays remain the choice of discerning users who depend on display quality, responsiveness and color accuracy, not many new models have appeared since our last CRT monitor roundup in September 2004. To make matters worse, some vendors, such as Eizo Nanao, now make only LCD monitors, and Hitachi no longer sells CRT displays in North America. Certainly, the popularity of LCD displays has affected the production of CRT displays. Though LCD monitors still lag substantially in responsiveness, they do take up less desktop real estate. Most major vendors still offer one or more lines of CRT monitors, which comes as good news to those—such as CAD/CAM or visualization professionals—whose work demands fidelity, responsiveness and color accuracy.
For this roundup, we tested two new CRT displays, the 20" ViewSonic G220f and the 19" NEC MultiSync FE992. We also look at the Philips Business Solutions 230W5VS, a high-end 23" widescreen LCD monitor, for those who might be more inclined toward an LCD display.
All CRT monitors in this roundup were connected to an NVIDIA Quadro FX 4000 graphics card with 256MB of onboard RAM installed in an AMD-based PC running Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 2 and its latest patches. The video driver used was v220.127.116.11 (WHQLCertified), the most recent available for this graphics card.
Each monitor was powered up and adjusted for our standard 1280x1024@85Hz test settings and allowed to stabilize for at least one hour before testing. Though most modern CRT displays don't require this long to come up to stable performance, some do, so this puts all monitors on the same footing.
When the monitor was stabilized, I used DisplayMate Technology's DisplayMate software (www.displaymate.com) to run through a range of video tests for brightness, contrast, focus, convergence, purity, geometric distortion and raster rotation. I also evaluate the on-screen menu, the connectivity options and the general functionality and accessibility of the controls.
I never know during the testing process what the scores for a given monitor will be until all the tests are completed and the results tabulated (see report card below). The quality of the displays tested here was generally excellent, but slight flaws have a way of becoming magnified in the final tally when the quality is as high as it is. Pricing is another area where an otherwise excellent monitor can get less than top ratings, though in this review both displays are reasonably priced for their size.
At the end of the last CRT monitor roundup, I expressed my hope that large CRT monitors would continue to be available, and that hope has not diminished. Large CRT displays still offer the best response times and best prices compared with large LCD units. It's not that I don't use LCD displays—I do so with my laptop for in-the-field photo editing and to control my Nikon Digital SLR camera. However, I'd use a CRT display if it were practical. Though LCD displays and their prices have improved, they don't yet offer the qualities of the large CRT displays like those reviewed here.
As a side note, it's very easy for a careless shipping agent to knock a display out of adjustment. Whenever possible, I'd recommend purchasing large CRT displays locally to avoid the perils of shipping. This also lets you see the displayed image prior to purchase, which is also something I recommend for a display that you'll be looking at and working with every work day for some time.
NEC MultiSync FE992NEC
The NEC MultiSync FE992 is a 19" monitor with 18" viewable image area. It's based on a flat-screen shadow mask CRT monitor with ClearFlat to eliminate counterproductive display anomalies. The display's surface has an excellent coating that minimizes environmental glare. The unit we received was housed in a sleek and slightly sculpted matte-black housing, though a version is available with a white cabinet. The attractive and stylish design saves space and makes the overall appearance easy on the eye. The tilt/swivel stand is removable.
The MultiSync FE992's recommended resolution is 1280x1024@85Hz, which happens to be our testing standard. The monitor displays resolutions as high as 1600x1200@75Hz. Its horizontal dot pitch is 0.25mm, with horizontal sync rates of 20–98KHz (automatic) and vertical sync rates of 50–160Hz (automatic). We conducted our tests at 1280x1024@85Hz and also tested the display at 1600x1200@75Hz. No problems were encountered at either resolution. Low power consumption features reduce electricity use and lower the total cost of ownership. Savings are further enhanced by EnergyStar 4.0 compliance.
The NEC MultiSync FE992 monitor earned excellent marks on brightness, contrast, focus convergence, geometric distortion and raster rotation, with only a 0.25-point deduction for color purity. Yellows were slightly dull, and reds tended more toward orange than a clean, clear red. Though neither of these color anomalies were profound, they were noticeable during the evaluation process. Generally, the FE992's display is crisp and attractive. Its overall contrast, combined with its vivid colors and good design, make the FE992 a noteworthy monitor that deserves the Cadalyst Labs five-star rating.
CRT Monitor report card
The onscreen menu is among the best I've encountered—easy to understand and navigate. Control buttons include a power on/off button with power indicator, a menu "on" button, a Set button for selecting menu items, and four directional pointer buttons: left/right and up/down. These buttons further simplify accessing the monitor controls.
The MultiSync FE992 carries an estimated street price of $219.99. The display is covered by a three-year limited warranty that includes 24/7 support. NEC's Premium Protect plan extends the warranty for as long as five full years.
The NEC MultiSync Fe992 weighs 40.8lb and measures 17.6"x17.9"x18.5" (WxHxD). Connectivity is via a standard D-sub connector; no USB capabilities are provided. This is an excellent monitor at a very good price, with a stable and attractive display that should be easy to live with for extended periods of time.
The ViewSonic G220f is housed in a clean but conservative putty-colored case. A black model—the G220fb—is also available. The G220f is a 21" display with a 20" viewable area, based on a PerfectFlat screen that provides realistically proportioned, precise images with reduced reflection. ViewSonic's SuperClear screen technology incorporates enhanced phosphor treatment and an optimized glass filter to deliver vivid colors and image clarity. The G220f delivers a maximum resolution of 2048x1536@68Hz, with 1600x1200@87Hz among the display options. We performed our base tests at our standard 1280x1024@85Hz resolution, but a higher sync rate of 101Hz is available at this resolution. The display is compatible with both PC and Macintosh computers. Dot pitch on the G220f is 0.21mm horizontally and 0.25mm diagonally.
The ViewSonic G220f produced excellent scores on brightness, focus, convergence, color purity, geometric distortion and raster rotation, but received a 0.5-point deduction for contrast, which seemed weak and resulted in blacks that appeared dark gray. The onscreen menu design was adequate, but not the easiest to navigate, particularly when compared with other menu designs. Despite the weakness in contrast, the G220f earned the Cadalyst Labs five-star rating—it's an excellent monitor.
Philips 230W5VS widescreen LCD display
Controls consist of power on/off with an LED power indicator, two menu buttons, and two control buttons (up/down). Though there are fewer control buttons than typically appear on a CRT display, they easily manage the available menu functions. The incorporated ViewMatch feature allows users to adjust color temperature and individual color intensity for screen-to-print matching. A fairly broad range of controls beyond those we typically look for are available from the ViewSonic's menu system, and are noted in the online feature table (www.cadalyst.com/0905crt).
If you are so inclined, a TV/video processor is available as an accessory to turn the G220f into a TV.
Priced at a very reasonable $439, the ViewSonic G220f is covered by a fairly standard three-year warranty. Extended warranty and Express Exchange programs are available as options. Connectivity options are limited, with only a standard D-sub connector and no direct provision for USB. A USB-hub compatible base is available as an accessory.
The weight of the monitor, not including packing materials, is 59.4lb, so if you have to pay to have it shipped, you'll be paying more. Even with shipping included, the price is very good for a large CRT display of this size. Although the price that ViewSonic quoted was $439, its Web site lists it as having an MSRP of $519.
Ron LaFon, a contributing editor for Cadalyst, is a writer, editor, and computer graphics and electronic publishing specialist from Atlanta, Georgia. He is a principal at 3Bear Productions in Atlanta.