9 Flat-Panel Displays

31 Mar, 2003 By: Ron LaFon

Most computer components go through a process of miniaturization over time, so it should come as no surprise that this is happening with monitors. Display sizes aren’t changing—19" or larger monitors are still the standard for CAD/CAM applications—but otherwise size, weight, and dimensions are certainly decreasing. The good news for you is that the prices continue to decrease as the quality increases.

What's new since I looked at flat-panel monitors in the April 2002 issue of Cadalyst? More vendors are producing such displays, the quality level and engineering is better, and prices are lower. Stability on monitors that pivot to portrait (vertical) mode is also better, though still far from perfect.


Cadalyst Labs tested nine flat-panel displays—seven 19" and two 20.1". Rating the monitors proved difficult—all were of high quality, and none showed dead pixels. Two earned the Highly Recommended five-star rating: Cornea Systems’ CT1904 and Dell’s UltraSharp 1900FP. Cornea System’s flat-panel received an extra credit point purely because of its quality—it shined even more than the others.

The monitors were all tested on @Xi Computers’ Xi 4306 MTower SP workstation, which earned a Highly Recommended in last month’s workstation lineup.

Surprisingly, only one flat-panel monitor offered USB 2.0 connectivity—the 20.1" Pro Lite 5131 from Iiyama. All the monitors come with a standard three-year warranty.

This time, monitors feature far stronger stands that make them more stable. But producing displays that pivot is still tricky. A quick look at the feature table [PDF] below shows the heftiest of the nine monitors reviewed here is a trim 26.4lb. The lightest weighed in at 13lb-a far cry from the 70lb that's typical of standard analog monitors of this size.

USB ports were mostly absent. When available, only USB 1.x was supported. The sole exception was the Iiyama Pro Lite 5131DT, which to my knowledge is the only flat-panel monitor on the market that incorporates USB 2.x hub. I was somewhat surprised that USB hubs didn't appear in more displays and that only one flat-panel had a USB 2.x hub. This will certainly change, particularly as newer computer systems rely more heavily on USB for connectivity.

Quality continues to be high-as in Cadalyst's last roundup, none of the monitors here showed evidence of any dead pixels. When I did find flicker and streaking, it was slight and generally in uncommon graphic modes. In general, the monitors offer better on-screen menu displays, with more logical navigation.

Viewing angles still average 170° vertically and horizontally, and connectivity (other than USB) is good. There's still room for improvement on warranty coverage-the monitors carry three years each for parts, labor, and the backlight.

All the monitors here hooked to an @Xi Computer Xi 4306 Mtower SP 3.06GHz Intel Pentium 4-based system with an NVIDIA 980XGL graphics card with the latest drivers. I used a default display mode of 1280×1024@75Hz (32-bit color). I turned the monitors for at least 45 minutes to allow the image to stabilize before testing. Once stable, each monitor ran through its paces using DisplayMate from DisplayMate Technology. DisplayMate is an industry-standard test suite for all types of monitors and includes several tests specific to flat-panel displays.

Tests don't tell the complete story-a monitor can produce good test scores throughout and still not fare as well as another because of a factor that's not covered in the testing. An example is a display that easily shows fingerprints. Units may also be reflective or physically unstable, or require a custom cable-all of which I encountered in this roundup.

With flat-panel displays, as with conventional analog displays, look at the specifications, determine the size and price you can afford, and, if at all possible, find a reseller where you can actually look at a model. You'll be spending a lot of time looking at whichever monitor you choose, so let your own eyes tell you which one is for you. Subtle differences among displays are beyond the ability of testing to evaluate, and these characteristics more often than not come down to personal preferences.

Be sure to look for a bright display that is viewable from a variety of angles, offers an easy-to-use and navigate on-screen menu system, shows clear text at the resolutions and color depths that you plan to use, and has no dead pixels, flicker, or streaking.

Looking forward, I expect to see continued evolution of the technology we already have, as well as lower prices. Though 20.1" flat-panel monitors have dropped substantially in price, 19" displays have not seen a price drop of the same magnitude. Whatever is next in display technology, flat-panel or otherwise, you'll find coverage here in Cadalyst.

Reviewer’s Report Card
Price Image
Star Rating
(36) (34) (32) (32)    
AG Neovo S19, 19" B+ A- A A N/A 4 stars

Cornea Systems
CT1904, 19"
A- A A A 1* 5 stars

Dell UltraSharp
1900FP, 20.1"
A A A A N/A 5 stars

TFT2025, 19"
B+ A- A A N/A 4 stars

Hitachi CML190B, 19" B+ A A A N/A 4 stars

Iiyama Pro Lite
5131, 20.1"
A B A A 1** 4 stars

MultiSync LCD
1920NX, 19"
B A- A A N/A 4 stars

Samsung SyncMaster
191T, 19"
A- B A A N/A 4 stars

ViewSonic VX900, 19" A- A A A N/A 4.5 stars

*Extra credit for quality.
**Extra credit for USB 2 connections.

About the Author: Ron LaFon

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