Sony LCD is a wide screen for your PC

Box Score

LCDs are easier on the eyes than previous monitor technologies, and Sony's SDM-P234 takes it to a new level.

Rick Steele

The trend toward stretching liquid crystal displays into letterbox-style rectangles started with televisions and presentation monitors, quickly spreading to the screens in notebook PCs. Now, with the Sony PremierPro SDM-P234, it seems the trend has moved onto the desktop.

This sleek, 23-inch flat-panel LCD is surprisingly light and portable, weighing just 16.5 pounds and measuring 13.9 by 21 by 4.4 inches without the stand. I was able to unpack and set up the monitor unassisted, a 180-degree turn from the last time I reviewed a 23-inch monitor'a 65-pound, CRT behemoth. It took three of us 10 minutes to take the CRT out of the box, clear a space and stretch cables to the back of the monitor.

By far the best feature of the SDM-P234 is its picture clarity. Colors never seem to fade, and such screen artifacts as ghosting are minimal. Likewise, the Sony produces a clean, consistent and accurate gray, which helps users see details many LCDs obscure, especially in black-and-white pictures or images with strong shading.

Using our DisplayMate benchmarks, the SDM-P234 outperformed many of the LCD monitors in our last roundup, not only in picture clarity but also in overall color performance. It also excelled in displaying text, which can be particularly challenging for LCDs. In general, the larger the monitor, the harder it is to create crisp text. Here again, the SDM-P234 exceeded expectations, re-creating the DisplayMate benchmark text without distortion.

As for design features, the SDM-P234 lets users dim the LCD at the touch of a button, which helps when you're typing or surfing for a long time. In addition, the SDM-P234's power button is separated from the rest of the controls, a good accessibility feature for users with disabilities. Several disabled users of Samsung's old SynchMaster LCDs, for example, have complained to us that those monitors are difficult for them to turn on and off because the power button is surrounded by other buttons.

The only disagreeable thing about the SDM-P234 is its $1,920 price tag, higher than that of comparable LCDs in part because of the innovative form factor. But for agency work requiring lots of time in front of a monitor, it could be money well spent.


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