Bigger, better, cheaper

Seven monitors put the full range of LCD technology on display

The world of LCD monitors these days is red and rosy ' but
only when you need them to display that particular color. Initially
cursed with high prices, slow response times and somewhat dubious
quality, LCDs have overcome a lot to become the default displays at
most agencies.


The monitors are extremely precise in both image display and
color accuracy. Their solid images create less eyestrain than
flickering CRTs, especially for those of us who stare at a screen
all day. They take up less space, generate far less heat and
consume a pittance of energy compared with the old
electricity-guzzling CRTs. Plus, they don't each weigh 50
pounds.


And LCDs have dropped in price so that anyone, or any agency,
should be able to afford them, especially when you factor in the
energy savings both directly in energy consumed and indirectly by
putting less stress on your climate control systems. There is no
reason why anyone should still be cursed with a CRT monitor.


LCDs have become so standard that two years ago we decided to up
the ante and test large-screen LCDs with panel sizes larger than 22
inches, as opposed to the 15- inch models that most people get with
a new PC. The larger monitors are more difficult to manufacture,
and in 2006, problems manifested in some low roundup grades.
However, last year, we started to see major improvements, a trend
that continued this year even as some screens got bigger. We have
several 24-inch and 26-inch displays in this roundup and one 30-
inch LCD.


Each monitor in the review was graded primarily on image
quality, which was tested using GCN Lab benchmarks and the
DisplayMate Technologies Professional benchmark suite. Monitors
were checked for color accuracy and image quality. Each was
connected to a digital signal running through a SmartView Multiport
Digital Visual Interface video splitter, so each LCD was receiving
exactly the same images sent from an ATI Radeon digital video
card.


When possible, each monitor was tested at its native resolution
and each was tuned for optimal results before testing. A portable
LX-101 light reader from Lutron Technologies was used in one test
to map the uniformity of screen brightness from the center of the
screen out to the corners.


To a lesser extent, LCDs also were graded on their features,
which included the placement and ease of use of the controls and
extra ports, such as High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) or
USB hubs.


Value was based on each performance relative to price.




Acer B223Wbdmr


The 22-inch widescreen B223Wbdmr is a good monitor for
anyone still trying to break into the LCD arena and free themselves
from CRTs. It offers mostly above-average quality for a small
price. If you are one of the unlucky few who have not made the
plunge into LCDs for budget reasons, this $269 widescreen display
could be your ticket. It not only performs well overall but also
gives you a widescreen configuration that is perfect for operating
systems such as Microsoft Windows Vista, in which multiple windows
and more screen area could lead to increased efficiency.


A lot of bells and whistles have been stripped from the
B223Wbdmr so that it costs less than $300, but it still has good
features. The monitor stand adjusts vertically and pivots to change
the aspect but, oddly enough, has no left and right adjustments. We
suppose you could simply manhandle it into place if needed.


It has one DVI connection which was used for image quality
testing and a VGA port. The inclusion of an analog port means you
can easily hook up the B223Wbdmr to older systems, further proof
that it's designed for entry-level offices that don't
need cutting-edge monitors. You can replace monitors without
eliminating older computers.


Image quality was surprisingly good, though nowhere near the top
performers in this review. The B223Wbdmr's biggest problem is
that it suffers from backlight bleeding along the top and bottom of
the panel, the only LCD in the roundup to still have this fault
that plagued most early models. Images are washed out along the top
and bottom edges of the screen. You could probably live with it
' in fact, you might not notice it when doing standard tasks
such as e-mail or word processing.


Discounting the backlight problem, its color accuracy is
precise. The B223Wbdmr correctly displays fine differences in
colors, even along a 64-step or greater grid. Text is readable at
9-point size, and there is only a 4-lumen difference between the
brightness levels at the center of the screen and the corners.
However, this increases to 160 ' anything more than 100 is
noticeable by the naked eye ' along the edges where the
backlight bleeds onto the screen. Although the B223Wbdmr displays
darker images well, light ones tend to get washed out a bit.


The B223Wbdmr is designed more for business applications than
multimedia. Although you would not want it as the centerpiece of a
home theater, it would work great on your desk as an inexpensive
LCD that performs well with spreadsheets, PowerPoint slides and
other business applications. And the price you pay will prove your
business savvy.


Acer America, 800-733-2237, www.acer.com/us




AOC 2230Fh


The AOC 2230FH is the second entry-level LCD in this roundup.
Although more expensive than the Acer, it offers more in terms of
image quality and features. It's a good choice for
discriminating buyers who want to add LCDs that have more than
bargain-basement performance.


The AOC 2230Fh is a 22-inch widescreen display that stands out
from the entry-level pack because of a nice crosshatch design
etched around the LCD. It also has a few extra features, such as an
HDMI input in addition to the standard DVI and VGA ports. It was
the only entry-level monitor in the review to have built-in
speakers. The speakers are so well hidden that we did not even know
they were there until we found them listed on the product specs and
went to find them. They sound surprisingly good, providing an easy
way to add sound to your desktop setup without a clumsy set of
external speakers.


Text display with the AOC 2230Fh was also good, readable at 7.5
points, among the best in the review.


The 2 ms response time makes the AOC 2230Fh suitable for video
and other applications in which screen changes need to happen
quickly. It also produces good reds and blues, which is good for
multimedia. Given that it did quite well on our registration
testing, which looks at response time and accuracy of quick-moving
graphical plotting, we can say that the AOC 2230Fh would be good
for video.


A $299 monitor won't have a lot of extra features, and
this is evident in the stand design. It does not move in any
direction on pivot, though this is better than skimping on image
quality.


The AOC 2230Fh offers good performance in all areas and even has
a couple nice extras. Of the entry-level LCDs, it's the
king.


AOC/Envision Peripherals, 510-770-9988 ext. 253,
www.aoc.com




ViewSonic VA2626wm


If you told us before this review that it was possible to get a
high-quality 26-inch LCD for $529 ' a list price, not even a
government one ' we would have laughed. If you said the
monitor would be far above average in quality, we would have
thought you're crazy. Then we met the VA2626wm.


The VA2626wm has a lot of high-end features, such as a 5 ms
video response time and a 1,920x200 native resolution. It also did
well in most of our image testing.


For example, the VA2626wm had the best color transitions in the
review, in which we put a large matrix of one color with multiple
hues on the screen. Even when the difference in hue was less than
half a percent, the VA2626wm displayed them accurately.


For text display, the VA2626wm was accurate at 6.8 points with a
variety of fonts, again one of the best in the review.


And the VA2626wm produces a nearly perfect black, with no
backlight bleeding, which is impressive for a 26- inch panel.


Its inputs include one DVI, one VGA for older systems and one
HDMI for modern setups. Its stand is fairly plain, allowing the LCD
to tilt but nothing else.


It had a little trouble with dark images on dark backgrounds,
though this would not come up often in an office environment. It
also was slightly off in registration tests, although not by much.
It would be fine, but not optimal, for watching movies.


We are still in shock that a 26-inch screen that tests so well
only costs $529. You won't find a better value for a large
LCD than the VA2626wm.


ViewSonic, 909-444-8888, www.viewsonic.com




Dell UltraSharp 2408WFP


The Dell Ultrasharp 2408WFP is a high-quality LCD with a ton of
extras. Although not as perfect as the two specialized high-end
image LCDs in this review, its quality is excellent. In addition to
a ton of extra inputs, the 2408WFP comes with one really nice
feature: a moderate $679 price tag. Plus federal and state
government agencies can get as much as a 30 percent discount off
that price.


The 2408WFP offers a lot, starting with the design of its stand,
which slides horizontally, tilts vertically and also pivots.
It's bristling with inputs, including a media card reader, a
CF slot, four USB ports, component video, S-video, one USBin, an
HDMI port, two DVIs and one VGA port. The 2408WFP could be the
centerpiece of almost any setup.


One of the most important items for business users is text
display, and the 2408WFP shined, with readable text and no errors
in a variety of fonts down to a 6.8-point size.


The 2408WFP also had one of the best dark screens in the review.
When you need something to display as black, that's what you
get. However, this did call our attention to one minor flaw '
the 2408WFP was the only LCD in the review with a stuck pixel that
constantly illuminated bright green on the screen. In the days of
yore, LCD quality control methods for most companies allowed as
many as four stuck pixels on the screen. Today, these have been
mostly eliminated. It could just be a fluke that this monitor had a
stuck pixel, and it did not affect the grading much, but we thought
it should be mentioned.


When an LCD is able to display a great dark image, it typically
means it's going to suffer on the other end. But that is not
the case here. The 2408WFP was able to display light images on
white backgrounds, even when there was only a 2 percent difference
between the image and the background.


Excellent performance, a moderate price and a ton of extras help
the 2408WFP earn a Reviewer's Choice.


Dell, 800-999-3355, www.dell.com/monitors




NEC MultiSync LCD2470WNX-BK


THE LCD2470WNX-BK is a good LCD that seems to emphasize the user
experience, something lost in the design of most displays.


You can control every aspect of the monitor using a small
joystick at the bottom of the display instead of having to push a
bunch of flat buttons. There are even five preset brightness and
contrast settings, good for standard, photo display, gaming,
watching a movie or text display.


We ran most of the tests for this LCD in standard mode. Even
then, it got good scores, though they could have been higher if we
shifted into the mode that matched the testing, such as testing
text in text mode.


The LCD2470WNX-BK had the third-most accurate color display in
the roundup, coupled with a nearly perfect registration test that
showed that this LCD could display a movie, too. And text was
readable at 7.5 points and looked good, though much better in text
mode.


It has four USB ports, one DVI, one VGA and a USB-in, in
addition to an impressive stand that pivots, tilts and rotates
along a Lazy Susan.


Although it did well in most testing, we did find the $738
government price to be high for a 24-inch display. However, this
monitor would still be a good buy for users that perform a variety
of tasks with their monitors and need to change modes quickly and
efficiently.


NEC Display Solutions, 800-632-4636,
www.necdisplay.com




Eizo FlexScan SX3031W


THE 30-inch widescreen SX3031W was the largest LCD in the
roundup and pushes the definition of a personal display. It has
several inputs, including two DVI, two USB and a USB-in port.
However, given its size, a few more inputs would make it more
versatile. There is room for component video and an HDMI port, or
at least S-video.


The slight disappointment with the lack of ports was the last
negative feeling we had when testing the SX3031W. In display
testing, it aced every test we threw at it, which is even more
impressive given the size of the panel.


There is no light bleed at all, even when displaying a uniformly
black screen. It also can display a perfect gray field. When asked
to display a single pixel, it does so with pinpoint accuracy and
accurately displays colors even when the hues are extremely
similar, such as along a 64-step grid. And it has no problem
showing light images either, even when the image is only 2 percent
darker than the background.


Text was easily readable at 6.8 points, equal to the best in the
review.


One reason for the amazing accuracy is the screen uniformity,
something unexpected in such a large screen. There is only a 40-
lumen difference in brightness between the center of the screen and
any corner. The only test in which the SX3031W wavered slightly was
registration tracking, which tests monitors to see how well they
would play video. This is notable only because the SX3031W was not
quite perfect, though still quite good.


At $3,499, the SX3031W is expensive, but if you need a huge
display with pinpoint accuracy, it's worth the money. Its
laser-precise accuracy earns it a Reviewer's Choice
designation even with the high price.


Eizo Nanoa Technologies, 800-800-5202, www.eizo.com




NEC MultiSync LCD2690WUXi-BK


The LCD2690WUXI-BK is designed for specific uses common in
government, but not for everyday use.


The main feature of the LCD2690WUXi- BK is that it enhances
colors so that medical scans and satellite imaging maps are easy to
read. However, this means that colors are not really accurate. You
will easily be able to tell the difference between two shades of
blue, but neither one will likely be close to the color of the
actual image. As such, the unit did not score high for image
quality, although with a lot of work, you can tune the 26-inch
monitor to display more realistic colors.


The LCD2690WUXi-BK gets one of the highest grades in the review
for features, and it had nothing to do with the two DVI and one VGA
port. Innovative features include color compensation and backlight
aging control. Color compensation works because every LCD has
differences in light distortion. NEC maps the distortions for every
LCD and allows the user to activate the compensation to level
things out.


Backlight aging control works the same way, setting the monitor
darker initially and then brightening things as the backlight
slowly dies.


As an example of how well these features work, the difference
between the center of the screen and the corners is 79 lumens by
default. When color compensation is activated, this difference
drops to a mere 11 lumens.


If you work in fields where tiny differences in color can mean
the difference between a missile defense system and monkey bars, or
healthy and diseased tissue, the LCD2690WUXi-BK could become a
lifesaving tool. For others, it's simply too specialized to
consider.


NEC Display Solutions, 800-632-4636,
www.necdisplay.com

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