Flat-panel monitor use

Feds slow to buy into space-saving edge

Flat-panel monitors, such as the FlexScan L66 from EIZO Nanao Technologies Inc. of Cypress, Calif., are seeing increased use in agencies.

By Richard W. Walker

GCN Staff

Flat-panel monitors have yet to make a dent in the federal marketplace, but there is clearly some movement toward wider use.

Although only 5.5 percent of feds canvassed in a GCN poll have flat-panel monitors, nearly 12 percent of those who don't said they plan to buy one in the next year.

Some government offices are migrating to flat-panel monitors as part of a trend toward mobile and space-saving computing. The Federal Technology Service's new Willow Woods facility in Vienna, Va., for instance, has outfitted workers with notebooks, docking stations and flat-panel monitors.

At the Army's Operational Test and Evaluation Command in Alexandria, Va., some 30 staff members in an organization of about 360 people are using flat-panel monitors from IBM Corp. and NEC Technologies Inc. of Itasca, Ill., chief information officer Gary Miller said.

'We love 'em,' Miller said. 'Everyone who's used one is loath to go back to a CRT monitor. They like the clarity and the graphics, they like the desk space the monitor doesn't eat up and that it runs cooler.'

Feds interviewed were somewhat divided about the image quality of the panels' LCD screens.

User views
'The portability was what initially sold me, but since then the image quality has been great.''

'Rex Saunders, physical scientist, Geological Survey, Menlo Park, Calif., on an Apple Studio Display flat-panel monitor

'It doesn't make any sense for us to have [flat-panel monitors]. We deploy a lot and we wouldn't be able to afford one for everybody. Now they're talking about everyone here going to [notebook PCs]. Everyone will have a notebook on their desk, so when we have to deploy, you just unplug and go.''

'Westley Bullock, computer support coordinator, U.S. Central Command, MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, Fla.

Miller said he finds the image quality of his 17-inch IBM flat-panel to be first rate, as long as the settings are properly adjusted.

'Unless you've got your resolution, your dithering and all that other good stuff set right, text can be a little jagged,' he said. 'But if you go in and change a few things, it cleans up nicely.'

At the Pentagon, Air Force resource manager Diane Arnold likes the image quality of her 18-inch VG180 from ViewSonic Corp. of Walnut, Calif.''Once I got the right driver, it was fine,' she said.

Image is everything

Rex Saunders, a physical scientist at the Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif., said the image quality of his 15-inch Studio Display flat-panel from Apple Computer Inc., which he's been using for about a year, is plenty sharp.

'It has a really crisp screen,' he said. 'There's this funny little feature on the Apple monitor called focus. When I first set it up, I thought, 'I'll crank it all the way up to maximum sharpness.' But my eyes were tearing in 10 minutes, so I fuzzed it down a little bit, and it's really nice.'

But Frank Nagy, an applied scientist at the Energy Department's Fermi National Accelerator Lab in Batavia, Ill., who recently tried a flat-panel monitor from Hitachi NSA of Westwood, Mass., had a different experience.

'I had it on my desk for about a day,' Nagy said. 'Then I went back to my [CRT] monitor because I found that the [screen] appeared grainy. I decided that sitting there staring at it all day was going to be too hard.

'I think the next generation of screens will be much better,' he added. 'I just got a new [IBM] ThinkPad with an LCD screen'1,280 by 1,024 resolution'and it's very crisp and sharp and did not show that graininess.'

What feds liked best about flat-panel monitors is the small footprint. That was the biggest plus for Nagy when he tried one.

'It doesn't take up a lot of space on the desktop,' he said. 'I can only push the [CRT] monitor back away from me so far before it runs into the wall.'

Saunders said his flat-panel is compact enough to take on the road.''I had a need for something that not only could I use in the office but occasionally use for demonstrations off-site, so hauling one of these along instead of a CRT was a lot easier,' he said.

The biggest gripe about flat-panels was their lofty prices, which begin at about $1,000 apiece.

'The more people see them, the more they want them,' Miller said. 'I just can't afford to give one to everybody until the prices come down.'

James Jennings, a Navy mechanical engineer in Philadelphia, said he's been looking at flat-panel monitors because he wants flicker-free viewing. But he's suffering from sticker shock. 'I'm waiting for them to come down in price,' he said.

Some others said they did not see a particular need for flat-panels.

'Our facilities are always top rate,' said John Flores, supervisory computer specialist at Kelly Air Force Base in Texas. 'We always have plenty of space. There's not really that much of a need.'

Government Computer News survey: flat-panel monitor use
Do you have a flat-panel monitor?Do you plan to buy one in the next 12 months?
' Yes 5.5%' No 94.5%' Yes 11.7%' No 88.3%

''The Government Computer News Product Preference Survey is designed to give federal buyers detailed quantitative data on specific computer and communications products, as rated by federal users. This poll on flat-panel monitors was part of a questionnaire mailed to 4,000 federal readers of GCN who on their subscription application forms identified themselves as buyers and users of PC monitors. We received 366 responses to this part of the questionnaire.


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