Flat-panel monitor dips under $1,000 price barrier

Box Score  B

Sceptre FT15
Sceptre Technologies Inc.,
City of Industry, Calif.;
tel. 626-369-3698
Price: $950

Pros and cons:
+ Breaks price and footprint barriers
+ Good enough for most office tasks
– Image distorted when not viewed straight-on

Shopping for a flat-panel monitor is like buying a car. Even though you would enjoy a
Cadillac or a Porsche, a reliable Chevy might be all you need and can afford.

Sceptre Technologies Inc.’s FT15 monitor breaks the $1,000 price barrier for
flat-panel, active-matrix LCD monitors. It performs adequately for most office tasks and
even has a few extras.

The main reason users buy LCD monitors is to conserve space. The FT15’s small,
7-inch-square base does so nicely. Wall-mounted, the monitor extends out only 21'2

Another reason people buy flat panels is to get a softer glow that is easier on the
eyes than standard CRTs, if display precision is not paramount. In this area, the FT15
both shines and falls short.

It displays text images at 1,024- by 768-pixel resolution, more than enough for
standard word processing. But the FT15 is limited by the same factors as other
LCDs—it can’t blend pixels to form new colors. That makes it inadequate for
photographic and other applications that require true on-screen colors.

The FT15 also has serious problems in angular viewing. LCDs work by shining light
through a film, as opposed to CRTs, which blend light. The FT15 looks pretty good when you
view it straight on. Glance a few degrees to the left or right, or up and down, and images
distort and take on a metallic quality.

From a distance, the distortion is less drastic. To make presentations with the
monitor, however, you would have to control exactly where members of the audience sat.

Brightness is good at 200 nits, or 200 times the power of one burning wax candle per
square meter. LCDs necessarily are brighter than CRTs, which top out at about 160 nits,
because LCDs have to push their images through a film. About 200 nits is the lowest power
level for a readable LCD. The FT15 looks good in either bright or dark rooms.

The display area is 141'2 inches, which is actually larger than that of a 15-inch CRT.
The 0.28-mm pixel pitch makes images, especially text, readable at the highest resolution.
In fact, the FT15 is fixed at its highest resolution; selecting a lower level only changes
image size, not quality.

The desktop stand, though attractive, lacks features found on more expensive flat
displays. You can tilt the monitor forward and backward, and even make it point downward,
but there are no side-to-side controls other than moving the whole stand. That is no
chore, as the unit weighs only 12 pounds.

You cannot control how high the monitor sits on the stand. Sceptre could easily have
made this possible. When you push a release button, the monitor slides upward along the
stand until it is free of an internal pole running up its base. The addition of a simple
rubber stopper or notches along the pole would make vertical positioning possible.

An extra I did not expect to find was a pair of one-inch stereo speakers at the bottom
corners of the screen. Audio CD-ROMs come through a bit tinny, but Web sounds and
nonstereo music sound good. The speakers perform at an acceptable level.

The Sceptre FT15 is not on a General Services Administration Information Technology
Schedule contract, but most Web direct sellers price it at $950. Direct from the company,
it is $1,199. The FT15 performs well enough for most desktop applications. It’s a
good choice for agencies that need LCDs but cannot afford to pay $2,000 or more per

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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