Despite weak video controller, monitor delivers room with view

Pros and cons:
+        Supports large range of resolutions
–        Utilities don’t work properly
–        Costlier than other vendors’ cards
with similar specs
Color 50/95
Cornerstone Peripherals Technology Inc. Price: $1,100

Pros
and cons:
+        Excellent value for 21-inch monitor
+     Easy-to-use screen scontrols
–        Suffers in comparison with Professional
line





When I set up the 19-inch Color 45/101sf monitor from Cornerstone Imaging Inc. last
year, many colleagues remarked on its sharp, vibrant images.


After months of use, I decided other monitors would have to go far to impress me as
much as the 45/101sf [GCN, March 31, 1997, Page 31].


Flash forward to the present, when 19-inch monitors are common and many of the
45/101sf’s features, such as high-contrast coatings, are nearly ubiquitous. I decided
to try Cornerstone’s 21-inch Color 50/95 monitor for the PC or Macintosh, and its
accompanying ImageAccel 4 video controller.


My 1997 favorite had been part of Cornerstone’s Professional line of monitors. The
Color 50/95 is in the company’s Corporate line, priced for office workers rather than
document or imaging professionals. This change is part of the spinoff of
Cornerstone’s display division as Cornerstone Peripherals Technology Inc.


As soon as I hooked up the 50/95, I could see it was not in the same class as the
45/101sf.


Any 21-inch monitor is going to suffer in comparison with smaller ones, of course,
because the huge screen area reduces the sharpness and brightness that make 19- and
17-inch monitors so popular. Taking that into account, and comparing it only against other
21-inch monitors, the Color 50/95 was impressive in its own way.


Brightness was uniform and pixel clarity much better than on many 21-inch monitors
I’ve used. The Color 50/95 supported a horizontal scan frequency of 95 KHz and was
optimized for 85-hertz refresh rates and 1,280- by 1,024-pixel resolution.


Cornerstone even met the Swedish TCO 92 standard for the lowest possible
electromagnetic emission, which is no easy task for a 21-inch monitor.


The on-screen controls were up to Cornerstone’s usual standards. Icons showed the
range of configuration options, and the manual helpfully deciphered not only which
controls were which, but what they did.


An antistatic screen reduced dust accumulation, and antireflection and antiglare
coatings made viewing easy on the eyes. But the actual viewing area measured 20 inches,
which didn’t seem much bigger than the 45/101sf’s 19-inch area.


If I had never seen the Color 45/101sf, the 50/95 would have greatly impressed me. I
work with a variety of text and images for at least eight hours a day, and the 45/101sf
was markedly easier on my eyes.


But if you do only word processing for a few hours a day and don’t want to spend
the extra $500 to get the high-end 21-inch Professional Color 50/115sf, the 50/95 is a
great buy.


Cornerstone formerly manufactured its own video controllers. The ImageAccel 4, however,
is based on the 3D Rage Pro Turbo chip from ATI Technologies Inc. of Thornhill, Ontario.
The card has a label from Cornerstone. This raises an interesting issue.


When I compared video controllers direct from ATI that met the same specifications as
those Cornerstone listed for the ImageAccel 4, I found comparable ATI cards selling for
half the ImageAccel’s $249 list price. The ImageAccel 4 currently comes in 4M and 8M
PCI versions. Accelerated Graphics Port versions will be out soon.


I tested the 8M ImageAccel 4 on a Dell Computer Corp. Dimension 300-MHz Pentium II
system with 128M of RAM, running both Microsoft Windows 98 and Windows NT 4.0.


To assess all the card’s capabilities, I tried it at six resolutions and color
depths under the different operating systems.


I also tested its 3-D capabilities. Other GCN Lab video tests showed a sharp difference
in video performance under Win98 and NT, but tests using the OpenGL standard gave nearly
identical performance under both OSes.


The only difference was that 3-D performance at higher resolutions was better under
Win98. 3-D performance was comparable to the performance of similar video controllers that
the lab has tested.


The ImageAccel 4 drivers come with utilities that install automatically and work under
both Win98 and NT. The utilities change resolutions, let users zoom in on images, and
adjust brightness and contrast. A utility called BestView changes font and icon sizes for
legibility, depending on the screen resolution and monitor size.


Another utility, Cornerstone’s ScaleToGray, is supposed to improve the looks of
scanned images on screen. The ScaleToGray algorithms fill in gray tones, increasing the
perceived resolution.


As neat as this sounds, I could not get it to work under either NT or Win98.


The video controller’s documentation stated it could go as high as 1,800-by-1,400
resolution. I could only take it up to 1,600-by-1,200, however.


The ImageAccel 4 may perform better than Cornerstone’s ImageAccel 3, but
high-powered video controllers are cheap these days, and there’s little reason to pay
extra for Cornerstone’s card even if all of its utilities worked.


I also ran the Color 50/95 with a Revolution 3D card from Number Nine Visual Technology
Corp. of Lexington, Mass., and got better performance and higher resolutions than with the
ImageAccel 4.


As a package, the Color 50/95 and the ImageAccel 4 work well. The monitor is certainly
a good deal for office workers, but the ImageAccel card does little that cannot be found
elsewhere for less. 

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