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NEC MultiSync LCD1990SXi

NEC’s 60th and 70th series of monitors (e.g. LCD1960NXi and LCD1970GX) are officially positioned as monitors for home and office use whereas the 80th and 90th series are touted as serious products for work with color and CAD/CAM applications. These are manufactured exclusively on S-IPS and PVA matrixes, the former having the suffix “i” in the model name (thus, the reviewed LCD1990SXi employs an S-IPS matrix manufactured by LG.Philips LCD whereas the LCD1980SX has a PVA matrix from Samsung).

The monitor has a solemn-looking black case (a light-color version is available, though) without any decorations which are of course unacceptable in a professional model. The overall design resembles NEC’s older models. In the 70th series the designers tried to smooth out the angles of the case to make it more appealing for a home user, but the 90th series has it the old straight-lined way. It’s only the base that has become a little more elegant – it has a rectangular shape in the LCD1980SXi.

The base allows doing just everything you can imagine with the screen: change its tilt, pivot it into the portrait mode, adjust its height, and rotate the screen around its vertical axis.

The LCD1990SXi has three inputs in total: a digital DVI-I, an analog D-Sub, and a universal DVI-I. You can attach both digital and analog (via an adapter) sources to the latter. A DC out connector can be seen on the left of the video connectors. It is a power output for speakers that have to be purchased optionally.

The professional positioning of the 1990SXi model didn’t allow the NEC engineers to use the frivolous joystick (which is also inclined to malfunctioning often), but they obviously didn’t want to introduce any radical changes into the way the monitor is controlled. So, they came up with a curious solution. They removed most of the meaningful labels from the buttons, and the labels now appear next to the buttons right on the screen when you enter the menu.

This solution isn’t blameless in my eyes. Yes, it is innovative, but they should have labeled the button you enter the menu with. And secondly, it’s easier to read text on buttons rather than on the screen, while the functionality of the monitor’s controls isn’t as large as to call for context-sensitive labels. A minor plus of this labeling system is that the text is of course visible in full darkness, but it’s generally not recommended to work without external lighting, and you also have to fumble for the buttons by touch alone. So, I personally prefer the LED-based highlighting like in the ASUS PW191 (not necessarily with touch-sensitive buttons).

The menu hasn’t changed much externally, just a face-lift over the 70-th series, but the selection of options it provides has been greatly extended. First, the monitor is equipped with an external light sensor and you can enable automatic adjustment of contrast and brightness. When the Auto Brightness feature is turned on, the monitor’s brightness is adjusted whenever the lighting in your room changes. This adjustment is performed smoothly rather than in a jump – you can even enter the monitor’s menu at this moment and see the Brightness slider moving slowly. This auto-brightness feature is implemented perfectly and is not at all annoying (I personally dislike electronics that’s deciding something for me – it often fails to do things right, you know). The top and bottom brightness limits are specified by the user: you should turn on all the lights in your room, enter the menu and put the Brightness setting into the necessary position. The minimum limit is set up in the same way. From this point on, the monitor will only be varying its brightness within these two threshold values when in Auto Brightness mode.

What’s more, another mode for automatic brightness adjustment is available. It doesn’t use the light sensor – the monitor adjusts brightness by analyzing the current image. I think this mode is less interesting just because a monitor is supposed to display images as they are, without trying to make them look better.

The automatic contrast adjustment feature works with the analog input only and, quoting the manual, “Adjusts the image displayed for non-standard video inputs”. I didn’t see any visible effect from this feature in my tests – our testbed is obviously equipped with a standard video output :).

This Auto-Brightness feature has one more use, by the way. The monitor can “go to sleep” on its own when it gets dark in the room. The light intensity threshold for the monitor to turn off is specified by the user.

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