The GCN Lab monitors a dozen upper-end LCDs
The GCN Lab monitors a dozen upper-end LCDs<@VM>The other monitors
(GCN Photos by Henrik G. DeGyor)
Samsung, SyncMaster 191T
You can get a really good monitor for a little more than $1,000
Not so long ago, a large, space-saving LCD cost $2,000. Now, there's a plentiful market of such monitors priced around $1,000 apiece.
The GCN Lab evaluated 12 high-end LCDs in that price range to see how well they reproduced bright color contrasts and text. We also examined them with short color DVD clips at varying levels of light and dark. Then we sent complex images to the monitors to compare color, depth and detail against the original images.
We tested each monitor at its native resolution as well as at other resolutions to determine how well they could fill in the gaps at less than optimal resolution. We measured viewing angles with a protractor on a text screen to compare them with the marketing specifications.
To test ghosting, we left a black image in an open window for three minutes, then closed the window and looked for ghostly vestiges on the bright white screen.
Our overall grades factored in performance, price, ease of operation and form factor.
The 18.1-inch Eizo L685 ranked at the top for perfect still images as well as digital video. At $1,560, it was a little on the expensive side but worth it. The L685 exhibited no ghosting and reproduced our complex color wheel with richer detail than most plasma monitors we've reviewed.
In the past, Eizo LCDs have had cumbersome, attachable speakers. That has changed, and it was a pleasure to see another improvement: matte black menu buttons flush with the front panel. They were the easiest of all to manipulate, although difficult to see against the black monitor.
The Eizo L685 earned a Reviewer's Choice designation and our highest score.
The slightly larger, 19-inch Samsung SyncMaster 191T detected PC signals automatically and was overall the easiest to set up. Its images looked spectacular, only a notch below the Eizo's, and it came in third for digital video quality.
The $1,089 SyncMaster can tilt into portrait orientation, ideal for document study and Web page development. The buttons are well-spaced and easy to navigate. The only drawback we found was that the 160-degree viewing angle dropped to 150 degrees in portrait mode.
The 191T earned another Reviewer's Choice for excellent image quality and large viewing angle.
The third highest grade went to the Sharp LL-T1820-B, which earned a solid A- and a Reviewer's Choice for the best video images.
Reasonably priced at $1,299, the 18.1-inch portrait-capable LCD is an inch smaller than the Samsung. It has a functional, 165-degree viewing angle in both portrait and landscape modes.
Image quality was comparable to the Samsung's. A well-designed base and cable ports make for a solid structure and easy installation. One plus we especially like is a side power button as well as the usual front button.
The 18-inch Sony MultiScan SDM-S81 is a great monitor at a great price of $1,000, easily clinching our Bang for the Buck designation. It displayed crisp images and reproduced vibrant colors well.
The SDM-S81 tied for first place with the Sharp in video quality. But it can't tilt into portrait mode, nor can it rotate left and right because of the stand's design.
The controls are well-designed, if in an unusual spot'the upper right. A left-handed user might find this annoying.
The 18.1-inch Gateway FPD1810, priced at a mere $1,000, has such impressive image quality that it received our second Bang for the Buck designation.
It passed the ghosting test without difficulty and had a good, 160-degree viewing angle. But the cables were tough to install, and the DVD tests showed fuzzy, choppy images.
As a budget monitor that won't be used for viewing video, the FPD1810 makes a great buy.Ghost story
The Atec Systems NeoView AL181 was close in quality to the Gateway and the least expensive monitor at only $700. It took a little more trouble to install than the Gateway, but the menu buttons were better designed and easier to understand.
Ghosting problems kept it from ranking with the Gateway or the Sony. When we closed a window, images often lingered in background for several minutes.
Despite ghosting, the $700 monitor earned a B grade.
The NEC MultiSync 1880SX is a good all-around display on a slim stand that adjusts vertically, tilted forward and backward, and reorients itself as a portrait monitor. The 18.1-inch screen comes right up against the edge of the case, which lets it fit into tight spaces and makes it one of the lightest units reviewed.
At native 1,280- by 1,024-pixel resolution, color reproduction was excellent. The NEC did not display complex images as well as some of the others, and it came in fourth with DVD video.
The 150-degree horizontal viewing angle, dropping to about 100 degrees in portrait mode, keeps it from being a good presentation device.
If you need a light monitor with a tiny footprint and good quality, the 1880SX is probably your best choice.
The ViewSonic VX900 was the higher-end and better performer of two ViewSonic LCDs in the review. Its $1,000 price is a good deal for a 19-inch LCD.
The VX900's problems were not electronic. The stand can't adjust horizontally or vertically, though it does tilt forward and backward. ViewSonic tried to simplify attaching the video and power cables, but the design in fact complicated matters. To plug the monitor in, we had to remove two detachable back plates and the cables proved unusually hard to work with.
The VX900 did a good job with detail and had a functional 150-degree viewing angle. But similar colors tended to wash out markedly at the edges.
The CTX PV910MD has as many flaws as strengths. It was the only LCD in the review with a true 180-degree viewing angle, making text easily readable from either side of the screen. The PV910MD would be a good choice for kiosks or presentations.
But it did not display fine details accurately. Some of the other monitors could show individual branches of a stand of trees in a satellite photo; they were just a jumble of green on the PV910MD. It likewise fell at the low end in video images, showing more pronounced jagged lines than the others, even at 1,600- by 1,200-pixel resolution.
At $1,969, the PV910MD cost almost $500 more than the hands-down best performer. Except for the fact that it had a standout viewing angle, its higher price wasn't justified.
The IBM T860 displayed text beautifully and did a nice job with color images, though not nearly as good as the top performers. It came in dead last displaying DVD video.
The T860's stand can tilt horizontally, vertically, forward and backward. Its engineering was as solid as one would expect from IBM'bolts were tight and the monitor didn't slip out of place accidentally. But connecting the power cables was a chore.
The long, slim buttons, however, were some of the easiest to use in a wave configuration. And the viewing angle is a functional 150 degrees.
The 20.1-inch NEC MultiSync 2010X is the largest monitor in the review and also the costliest at $2,300.
The 2010X performed well at color display, though not quite as well as the NEC 1880SX. The 2010X can tilt to portrait mode, which seemed the most desirable orientation because it is so large. But in that position the viewing angle dropped from 150 degrees to about 90 degrees.
The stand can, however, adjust vertically'a good thing in a large monitor.
The ViewSonic VE800 was one of the lowest-priced and also lowest-performing LCDs in the review. At just $799, it seems like a steal for users who don't need top-end performance.
It did not display colors too accurately, though probably few users would notice. The viewing angle is 160 degrees.
The most serious weakness is the VE800's stand, which tilts forward and backward but is far too small for an 18.1-inch monitor. We could adjust the top-heavy monitor only by physically moving the stand. Plus, the control buttons along the bottom were unresponsive and had to be pushed hard, further endangering stability.
LCD quality has definitely improved. At the high end, we found it difficult to agree with each other about which monitor was really best.
Almost any LCD in this review would delight the basic user. The question then becomes how much extra to pay for somewhat minor advantages.GCN Lab technician Arthur Moser contributed to this review.CTX PV910MD
Gateway FPD 1810
NEC MultiSync 2010X
Sony MultiScan SDM-S81
(Note: Image of the IBM T860 was not available.)