This LCD monitor gets on the plasma trail

The default ratio was movie-style 16:9, but tapping one button on the remote control changed the aspect ratio back to a standard 4:3.

Henrik G. DeGyor

Image quality, features, light weight and reasonable price combine to present an alternative to higher-end plasma monitors

The LCD monitor for years has been a lightweight alternative to bulkier CRTs. Now one is taking on plasma monitors as an alternative presentation device.

The NEC MultiSync LCD3000's crisp, 1,280- by 768-pixel resolution resembles a miniature plasma monitor, though it isn't exactly miniature with 30 diagonal inches.

GCN Lab technician Arthur Moser noticed the large size of the shipping box and summoned help to lift out the monitor. To his surprise, he could heft it with one hand. It weighed only 35.2 pounds.

Images looked fantastic'some of the best the lab reviewers have seen on an LCD of any size. The LCD3000 also finessed the aspect ratio awkwardness of most LCDs. The default ratio was movie-style 16:9, but tapping one button on the remote control changed the aspect ratio back to a standard 4:3.

Text looked slightly warped in the default 16:9 mode, but much less so than on any plasma monitor we've reviewed. And, because the LCD3000 was totally functional in either mode, no special graphics card was needed for optimal performance.

Another button on the remote heightened the brightness level. Someone typing in front of the huge monitor would find normal mode easier on the eyes. But for giving presentations, maximum brightness is preferable.

No bad seats

The viewing angle was very close to an ideal 180 degrees, meaning viewers at the edges of an audience could see almost as clearly as in the center.

Like most plasma monitors, the LCD3000 had multiple input interfaces: DVI, 15-pin Mini D-Sub, Component Video and S-Video. Its 350:1 contrast ratio would do well at presentations with most any device'desktop or notebook PC, DVD player or VCR.

The only negative that the LCD3000 shared with plasma screens was heat generation. Its back panel was devoted almost entirely to venting, so the monitor should be in no danger of overheating. But users should exercise a bit more caution than with an ordinary LCD.

The LCD3000 was also high-priced: $4,299, not counting the $150 remote.

Each year the lab tries to evaluate plasma alternatives, because many people need presentation devices but don't want to spend $10,000 or more on high-end plasma. The NEC is the first strong competitor we've seen. And it already has a big brother, the 40-inch LCD4000. It wouldn't take much more of a leap to reach the standard 52-inch diagonal of most plasma monitors.

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