Top Ten Monitors on Display

30 Apr, 2000 By: Art Liddle,Ron LaFon

Ten 21" Monitors Reviewed

Certainly the most popular monitor size among CAD and visualization professionals, the 21" monitor provides enough visual real estate to really see what you're doing without completely dominating the desktop.

How we tested
The primary monitor characteristics that CADALYST evaluates are brightness, contrast, focus, convergence, color purity, geometric distortion, and raster rotation. We also check the range of adjustments possible for a given display, determining whether the monitor has an on-screen menu and whether the following adjustments are available: pincushion, trapezoidal, tilt/rotate, convergence, moiré, and color as well as other features such as language, zoom, and ambient light sensor. Finally, we evaluate the range of display modes (resolution/Hz) and warranty. Tests are done at 1600X1200 true-color mode at 85Hz.

For this particular roundup, through the courtesy of Cornerstone Peripherals Technology, we had a Klein Gauge available to determine the exact convergence for each monitor, except for the ViewSonic, which arrived too late in the review process. The Klein Gauge is a precision instrument that checks a coarse grid of white lines on a monitor and determines how much (if at all) the red and blue electron guns are out of convergence. See the chart for our test results. Note that red alignment is much more visible when it's off the zero mark. This affects how the display appears to the unaided eye.

Aside from the physical characteristics that make a great display, two monitor manufacturers get gold stars for packaging: IBM and Eizo/Nanao. Both companies use innovative and very well-designed packaging that makes it a very simple task to unpack and repack your big monitor. Certainly this is not some-thing you'll use on a day-to-day basis, but you'll appreciate it when you do need it.

Among the trends we're seeing in new 21" displays are more short-neck monitors for reduced monitor depth, higher band-width (dot clock) for higher resolution screens, innovation in monitor controls, and USB connectors for use with Windows 98 and 2000.

Although all these trends are welcome, perhaps the most welcome is the steady drop in prices for these big monitors. In this review, the ESP (estimated street price) for 21" monitors range from $849 to $1,900, with many clustered around the $1,050–$1,250 price point. This is quite a change from a couple of years ago when you paid $1,500for equivalent monitors. This trend is just getting underway, so we expect to see even better bar-gains in our next roundup.

More monitors are shipping with dual connectors that let you switch between two computers, and two of those we reviewed had DVI (digital video input) connectors for digital video cards. Some monitors, particularly the short-neck models, opt for vertical connectors for power cords and video cables. Although these are usually more difficult to access, this method of connection lets you position the monitor closer to the wall, saving a bit more valuable desktop space.

The way we see it
As with most computer and peripheral purchases, what you need determines your choices. Many of the more inexpensive 21" displays don't have the feature range, highest resolutions, or fine dot pitches found in their more expensive brethren. The good news is that if price is a significant factor in your choice, you have more and better choices than ever. The quality level of all these displays is remarkably high—the best group we've seen. Whatever your price range or needs, it's easy to make a good choice from among these latest big monitors.

About the Author: Art Liddle

About the Author: Ron LaFon

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