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Sony Multiscan SDM-S81

The S81 model is junior in the 18” LCD display series from Sony. However, its cost is a little below $700, which is rather average. On the one hand, models from Iiyama are much more expensive, but on the other hand, 18” displays from Samsung and LG cost considerably less. The display has elegant black casing (you can also buy a model with gray casing), although the framing is somewhat wider than usual.

The base is an example of elegance, but only allows changing the tilt of the screen. There is also only one analog D-Sub input.

The menu is easy to use; it follows the standard for Sony’s LCD displays. Quick buttons are assigned to brightness and contrast settings. By default, they are at 70% and 50%, respectively. Besides the Brightness setting, you can change the screen brightness with the backlight lamp: by default it is set to the maximum brightness. 100nit screen brightness is achieved by setting 35% brightness and 62% contrast and in this case the backlight lamp brightness should be set to zero. The last thing is a requirement, because the level of black largely depends on the brightness of the backlight lamp, and it was not too low even at minimal brightness settings. When the brightness is over 60%, the level of black jumps up, converting black into gray.

The menu offers three color temperatures: 9300K, 6500K and 5000K. However, my measurements showed that these three menu items correspond in reality to 5570/6370K, 5430K/5820K and 5270/5190K (the first number is for measurements on white and the second – for 50% gray). The error in the temperature setting is too gross – about 3 thousand degrees…

Moreover, the color temperature changes depending on the brightness. When I dropped the screen brightness to 100nit, the 6500K menu item actually produced 5850K temperature for white and 6600K for gray and the reddish tone of white was perfectly seen.

You can see it in the graphs that the green color is rendered correctly, red is slightly higher than necessary, while blue is too high.

With the reduced brightness, the situation changes for the better, although blue is still rendered inadequately.

At the maximum brightness, the display response time was slightly above the specified value. When I reduced the brightness to 100nit, it degenerated into 43ms.

Pixel rise time

Pixel fall time

The display had no problems about brightness – it was notably higher than specified, but the contrast ratio…alas. With the backlight lamp brightness set to the minimum, the contrast ratio didn’t notch even 150:1. At the maximum screen brightness, it dropped to 10:1. Only Iiyama AS4611UT showed a poorer result among all tested displays. Moreover, when the brightness of the backlight lamp was set to the maximum, the level of black grew twice as high even with the minimal brightness setting.

Alas, this model was a complete disappointment with its poor color temperature setting, inadequate color rendition, very low contrast ratio, relatively high response time and rather high price. It makes me think that you’d be better off choosing a cheaper 18” model from LG or the slightly more expensive Samsung 191N instead. However, we have a newer model from Sony…

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