Taking an expansive view

It seems that every year we demand more from monitors

Applications need extra screen real estate for their many components and users want to keep more windows open so they can multitask. That, in turn, means larger screens.

Luckily, LCD monitors have come along, for putting a 19-inch CRT on the average office desk would leave little room for anything else.

It should be no surprise that according to Partner Research of Toronto, 17-in. LCDs were the biggest sellers last year, but the fastest growing size was the 19-in. panel, with shipments in the fourth quarter up 361 percent over 2004.

We tested five 19-in. LCDs in two ways: ad-hoc, by evaluating the unit’s performance on a variety of tasks, and more scientifically with DisplayMate (www.displaymate.com), a program for setting up, adjusting, calibrating, tuning up, testing, evaluating and improving image and picture quality on monitors, projectors or HDTVs.

We performed no special setup, aside from installing any necessary drivers (actually, all are plug and play, so Windows handled them just fine) and pushing the auto-adjust button, if there was one. We tested on a PC with an ATI Radeon 9600XT graphics adapter, at the monitors’ native resolution of 1280 x 1024.

Prices are manufacturer’s list in Canadian dollars. Dealers may sell for less. |

Lenovo ThinkVision L192p

  • Price: $569
  • Contrast Ratio: 1000:1
  • Response Time: 20ms
  • Maximum Power Consumption: 40W
  • Warranty: 3 years

The L192p sits on a semi-circular pedestal, and can swivel, tilt, adjust for height and even pivot. It relies on system video drivers to rotate the display.

Lenovo positions it as a business display best suited for word processing, spreadsheets and business graphics, hence its basic black design. Cables for VGA, DVI and power attach on the back, but there’s no cable management. A carrying handle makes it easy to transport without sullying the screen.

The automatic image optimization does a good job of balancing the display for business use. Colours are clear, without leaping out at you, and brightness is sufficient without being overbearing. Video clips displayed adequately, and text looked good. DisplayMate found no significant issues except the ghosting in high-contrast areas which plagued all of our units. On this monitor, it was not significant, but it was there.

HP L1955

  • Price: $599
  • Contrast Ratio: 1000:1
  • Response Time: 16ms
  • Maximum Power Consumption: 60W
  • Warranty: 3 years onsite

HP’s business monitor supports both VGA and DVI inputs, and all necessary cables are in the box. It’s extremely flexible, offering tilt, swivel and height adjustments; it can even rotate to portrait orientation (display rotation software is included).

The unit is all black, with a narrow bezel and sturdy stand with cable management. Controls are clearly labeled in white. A built-in USB hub provides two ports on the left side of the bezel, and two on the back, and a USB cable is provided to connect the hub to your PC. You can also tack on optional components such as a speaker bar.

Image quality was good, although there was some ghosting and streaking in DisplayMate tests and some blurring while viewing video clips. Default settings were easy on the eyes.

NEC MultiSync LCD1970NX

  • Price: $469.99
  • Contrast Ratio: 800:1
  • Response Time: 18ms
  • Maximum Power Consumption: 52W
  • Warranty: 3 years onsite

NEC’s unit sits on a compact round base with two wide tubes that allow easy height adjustment. You have to be careful moving it, though, because the tubes slide freely and can pinch fingers. A panel on the back of the outer tube comes off, revealing a channel for cable management. Tilt control makes it simple to set optimum viewing angle. A built-in USB hub provides two ports on the left side of the screen, and two on the back.

Clearly-marked buttons under the bezel handle image control; there is no auto-adjust button, however. When you plug the display into a PC for the first time, it performs an auto-adjustment, and you can also access the function from the on-screen display. A little joystick allows navigation through the OSD’s options. And if you don’t like twiddling with buttons, you can download NEC’s NaViSet software and adjust the monitor through Windows.

As with all of our units, the NEC supports both analogue and digital inputs, and necessary cables are in the box.

Display quality was good, although the default setting is for maximum brightness, which is a bit painful. Videos played adequately.

Samsung SyncMaster 931BF

  • Price: $409
  • Contrast Ratio: 2000:1
  • Response Time: 2ms
  • Maximum Power Consumption: 38W
  • Warranty: 3 years

The Samsung sits on a small sturdy base. There’s no height adjustment, though, nor does it swivel; the tilt is minimal.

The controls include a single silver button at the bottom right of the all-black bezel, and five buttons under the front edge. One of the buttons performs auto-adjustment, and another toggles preset brightness and contrast settings for Internet, text, gaming, video, or an auto-adjust setting. You can create a custom setting. There’s also colour management and display tuning software on the driver CD.

Both analogue and digital cable are included. To access the connectors, you must first remove a snap-on panel on the back, which keeps the monitor’s silhouette sleek and performs some cable management. Colours are extremely saturated and bright at default settings, with reds almost painfully red.

DisplayMate testing revealed some issues with ghosting.

LG Flatron L1970HR-BF

  • Price: $330
  • Contrast Ratio: 1600:1
  • Response Time: 2ms
  • Maximum Power Consumption: 39W
  • Warranty: 3 years

LG’s unit has a limited adjustment range; you can only change the tilt slightly and make a teeny height adjustment. DVI and VGA cables attach to the back of the base, as does the a/c adapter.

The only visible control is a power tab protruding from the bottom of the bezel. Other controls are tiny buttons on the bottom of the bezel, with descriptions printed on the front. The factory default setting is maximum brightness, which borders on painful. Aside from that, the display overall was pleasing, although video clips were blurred at times, and had some odd colour splotches. DisplayMate revealed some ghosting in high-contrast situations, and there were some issues with pink and greenish tinges in the greyscale tests.

ViewSonic VP930b

  • Price: $439
  • Contrast Ratio: 1000:1
  • Response Time: 8ms
  • Maximum Power Consumption: 38W
  • Warranty: 3 years

ViewSonic’s unit sits on an X-shaped base that holds it steady, but takes up a lot of space. The display slides up and down a track on the stand, swivels and even rotates to portrait mode. Cables connect easily and can be slipped through a pair of loops on the back to keep them tidy. There are two VGA and one DVI connectors available.

Controls are black buttons with black markings on the black bezel. PerfectSuite software includes tools for colour calibration, screen rotation, and asset management , and you can even protect the display and its settings with a personal identification number (PIN). But you can’t view the PDF user’s guide without installing the whole suite, which is a pain.

Compared to the oh-so-bright Samsung, this monitor’s default images are extremely subdued and much easier to look at for long periods. It is capable of strong colour saturation, however, as demonstrated in DisplayMate tests. Those tests also revealed some minor streaking in high-contrast situations.

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Lynn Greiner
Lynn Greiner
Lynn Greiner has been interpreting tech for businesses for over 20 years and has worked in the industry as well as writing about it, giving her a unique perspective into the issues companies face. She has both IT credentials and a business degree

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