Closer Look at 17" LCD Monitor Features. Part VI

We continue our detailed roundups of 17" flat-panel monitors. Today we will look at 16 solutions from LG, Samsung, Sony, Viewsonic, Mitsubishi, NEC, and a few others. For the first time in our lab we are proud to introduce to you a monitor from ASUS.

by Oleg Artamonov
08/16/2005 | 08:56 AM

Today we are offering you our next review of 17” LCD monitors. Even though the manufacturers have recently shifted their focus to more expensive 19” and 20” models, there are still enough interesting products in this market sector.

 

For example, it is for the first time we’ve got a monitor from ASUS in our test lab. LG’s series of monitors with a built-in TV-tuner and Samsung’s new 720-th series look promising, too.

Our ways of testing LCD monitors have not changed since the last time we did it. The only difference is that we now measure the color temperature of four shades of gray (from a dark 25% gray to pure white) rather than two as before.


ASUS PM17TS

ASUSTeK Computer once used to be known mostly for its mainboards, but the company has been actively diversifying its business in the last years, so now you can find modems, notebooks, system cases, power supplies, PDAs, cellular phones and what not, under the ASUS brand. And here’s an LCD monitor from ASUS to you, too.

The PM17TS looks cute in its elegant silvery case with a smooth and rounded outline without a single sharp angle – even the buttons are round! Luckily, they didn’t dare return to those bulging screens of ten years ago and older and had to put up with the four right angles of the LCD matrix! The quality of manufacture is high – I have no complains whatsoever.

The aluminum-alloy base matches the elegance of the rest of the monitor, but only allows adjusting the tilt of the screen.

The monitor’s connectors are all located in a single block at its rear panel. I think this is virtually the only slip the ASUS engineers made because it is impossible to hide the cables that go from the monitor and it is all going to look ugly on a secretary’s desk, for example, where the monitor’s rear panel would face the visitor. Well, even at home you may find this placement of the connectors inconvenient. Conversely, many manufacturers position the connectors of their monitors vertically, facing downwards. After you connect the cables, the connectors can be then concealed under a decorative cover, and the cables can be hidden inside the monitor’s base or at least fastened to it with a brace.

The PM17TS is equipped with analog and digital outputs and an audio input for the integrated speakers. The monitor comes with both video cables and an adapter cable from the sound card’s 3.5mm audio output to the monitor’s RCA connectors. The power adapter is external.

The Power On button is positioned at the center of the monitor’s front panel and is highlighted with a mild blue LED at work. The control buttons are located on the right side of the case. Not quite conveniently, you have to apply some force to press a button down.

The monitor’s menu isn’t very user-friendly. Only three of the monitor’s six buttons are used in the menu, so you have to make a lot of extra presses. I think it would be logical to choose a menu item with the “Up” and “Down“ buttons, for example, and choose the value of the setting by pressing “+” and “-“. But here you choose the necessary menu item, enter it with the “Menu” button, and then use the “Up” and “Down” buttons to change the setting. The “+” and “-“ buttons are not used at all when in the menu.

The monitor doesn’t have any brightness/contrast presets and doesn’t even offer quick control over these two settings. Quick access is only provided to the volume setting (with those “+” and “-“ buttons) and to the auto-adjustment feature. Again, the “Up” and “Down” buttons might have been used for quick adjustment of the brightness setting when not in the menu, but the PM17TS only reacts to these buttons when you’re in it.

The monitor’s default brightness and contrast are set to 80% both. I dropped them to 25% for both analog and digital connections to achieve 100nit brightness of white (1 nit = 1 candela per square meter).

The monitor reproduces smooth color gradients rather well. Barely visible cross stripes in such gradients can only be discerned at a highly reduced contrast. The viewing angles are quite typical for a TN+Film matrix. That is to say the vertical angle is rather too narrow.

The color curves are acceptable but not ideal at analog connection and at the default settings. Some colors are lighter than they should be, especially for the blue component. The same goes for the reduced brightness/contrast settings.

When the monitor is connected via the digital input, it reproduces some tones darker than they should be at the default settings. When the brightness/contrast settings are reduced, all the three color curves slump down considerably and the monitor stops to distinguish between a fifth of the color tones: darks become the same as pure black.

The ASUS PM17TS offers three color temperature variants, and the result is hardly satisfying with any of them: the temperatures of gray and white differ too much.

The specified response time being 8 milliseconds, the measured responsiveness of this monitor is only 12 milliseconds. This discrepancy is not the main problem, though. What’s really disappointing is that the response time on black-gray transitions easily exceeds 30 milliseconds and goes down suddenly only on transitions from black to lightest colors (the pixel rise time is three times smaller on the last 10% of the graph than at the beginning, and the max and min values on the entire graph differ by a factor of four). Thus, it is no wonder that new monitors still have that “ghosting” effect in games notwithstanding what the manufacturers say to the users. This problem is only really solved in monitors with the so-called overdrive technology but we hadn’t got one in our test lab at the time of preparing this review.

The brightness and contrast ratio parameters of the PM17TS fall far from the specified numbers. It should have been a leader if the specification were true, but in reality these parameters are rather average. Note also that the DVI connection ensures a better contrast ratio and max brightness, so although I don’t generally consider the digital interface a necessity for monitors with a resolution of less than 1600x1200, it is really helpful here (of course, it is not because the information is transferred through a digital channel, but because the monitor has two different profiles for its digital and analog inputs).

So unfortunately the ASUS PM17TS has nothing exceptional about itself save for the cute exterior. An average setup, a not very fast matrix (over 30 milliseconds on some transitions), unhandy controls, and a noticeable difference in brightness/contrast parameters between the analog and digital connections – these things make it nothing more but a typical 17” monitor for undemanding users.

Fujitsu-Siemens ScaleoView T17-1

The exterior of this monitor makes me recall models of four or five years ago: today manufacturers usually pride themselves upon a smallest width of the bezel around the screen while here this bezel is a good three centimeters wide. Frankly speaking, the ScaleoView T17-2 model that came to replace the T17-1 has a more up-to-date design, but we haven’t yet got a sample of it for our tests.

Otherwise the design is simple: silver-colored plastic without any decorations.

Despite the wide screen bezel, you can’t call the T17-1 bulky just because its case is no thicker than cases of other monitors. The base permits to adjust the tilt of the screen. The height can’t be controlled; the portrait mode is unavailable. The monitor supports standard VESA 75mm mounts.

The T17-1 has one analog input only. There is a place for a DVI-D connector on the case – it is even labeled – but the connector is not installed. There is also a line audio input for the integrated speakers and a power connector (the power adapter is external).

The menu is simple but user-friendly and offers the usual settings of an inexpensive monitor: brightness, contrast, three color temperatures, auto-adjustment and the position of the onscreen menu.

The monitor is controlled with four buttons, three of which do double duty when outside the menu: auto-adjustment (this function is invoked by this button only – it is missing in the onscreen menu), brightness adjustment, and muting the integrated speakers (you have to go into the menu to adjust their volume rather than muting them). These functions are all activated after about two seconds of your pressing down on a button. I don’t quite get the point of that since the buttons are not touch-sensitive and cannot be pressed accidentally.

Smooth color gradients are generally reproduced well, but you can see wide cross stripes with some combinations of colors and monitor’s settings. They are not too conspicuous, though. Then, some flicker or noise is visible on dark colors. The viewing angles are wide enough, if we make allowances for the typical “viewing narrowness” of TN-Film matrices.

The brightness and contrast settings are 100% and 50% by default. To achieve a white color brightness of 100 nits I dropped them both to 18%. The monitor controls its brightness through modulation of the power of the backlight lamps at 250MHz frequency.

The color curves aren’t very neat at the default settings. About two thirds of lights are down, especially for the green and red colors. When the contrast setting is reduced (the brightness setting doesn’t affect the color rendition since it is regulated with the lamps rather than with the matrix), the color curves come back to normal (as you can see below, at 18% contrast).

So, the monitor shows a big difference between the color temperatures of white and gray at its default settings:

But this difference diminishes when the contrast setting is reduced because the three color curves begin to converge.

The response time didn’t make it to the specified 14 milliseconds. The graph has the same outline as the ones of many modern 16ms TN+Film matrices: the response time is up to 25 milliseconds on black-gray transitions but goes down suddenly at the ends of the graph, i.e. on black to dark-gray and black to white transitions (and as you remember, the declared response time is measured on black-white transitions of a pixel’s state).

The maximum brightness almost reached the specification, exceeding 300 nits, but I don’t think this is important in this particular case. With its looks and functionality the ScaleoView T17-1 is more of an office rather than home multimedia monitor, but you don’t need more than 150 nits in office for your text-processing tasks. Good contrast is mostly necessary for monitors intended for games and movies in the first place.

Thus, it is hard to say anything special about the T17-1. It is in fact just another typical 17” model without any remarkable features. The only thing it differs from other office models is its high maximum brightness, but it is not necessary in office, while users who need a home multimedia monitor will probably prefer a model with an up-to-date design, a digital input and some other things the T17-1 lacks.

LG Flatron L172WT

The L172WT model is the opposite of the above-described T17-1. This is a rather expensive, home user oriented, multimedia monitor. More exactly, it is a mixture of a PC monitor and a TV-set. On one hand, the L172WT can connect to the computer and supports the typical resolution of widescreen monitors, 1280x768. On the other hand, it has an integrated TV-tuner, and the employed matrix is described as a TV matrix on the manufacturer’s website (the LC171W03 matrix comes from LG.Philips LCD).

Besides this formal classification the LC171W03 matrix has other special features. First, it is a widescreen matrix. Second, it is made using the S-IPS technology which is rather rare today on the market of 17” LCD monitors. I should also note that the matrix specification on the LG.Philips website declares a response time of 12 milliseconds on gray-to-gray transitions, but our sample had an older version of the matrix with a black-white response time of 25 milliseconds, typical for S-IPS technology.

The monitor looks large in profile and from the front alike. Other 17” devices seem small in comparison. The stand is a shiny circle (I don’t really like it because if there are light sources behind the monitor, they may reflect on the stand and disturb you). It only permits to change the tilt of the screen. You can attach a VESA mount to the monitor by removing the rear cover above the connectors and exposing the screw-holes.

The rear panel carries one DVI-I connector (it can be used for both analog and digital connections) with a corresponding audio input, a microphone port (which is to be attached to the appropriate input of your sound card), a SCART connector, a high-frequency antenna input of the TV-tuner, and a power connector (the power adapter is built into the case). Two interface cables are included with the monitor: one with two DVI connectors and one with a D-Sub connector on one end and a DVI-I on the other end.

The second group of connectors is located to the right: composite and S-Video inputs with a corresponding audio input, a headphones output, and a microphone connector. A minor problem is that the S-Video socket is sunken deep in the case, so some cables won’t plug in unless you “correct” them a little with a file. If you buy an S-Video cable separately, make sure its connector is round, without angles, in section. Otherwise you’ll have to file off these angles as they will prevent the connector from going into the socket.

The monitor is controlled with a four-position joystick (which is in fact four ordinary buttons under a single concave plastic disc) and four buttons around it. This solution is quite handy but sometimes your finger may accidentally press one of the buttons instead of the edge of the joystick.

Besides that, a handy remote control is included with the monitor. All the setup options can be accessed via this remote control in the TV-set as well as PC monitor mode of operation. This control is sometimes even easier to use than the monitor’s own buttons. For example, you can turn on and off the “picture in picture” mode with a press of a single button. And you can’t do such an operation as editing the list of the TV channels without the remote control at all.

The menu looks nice and works well, though I wish it could memorize the last selected position. When the monitor is connected to a computer, the image-related settings don’t differ from those of other monitors, while the sound-related options include balance adjustment, SRS WOW effects on/off, and even a 5-band equalizer besides the ordinary volume adjustment.

A separate menu section is dedicated to the picture in picture mode. You can choose the source of the image in the second window (SCART, composite or S-Video input, or the TV-tuner), the size of the window (small or large) and its position (in any of the four corners of the screen). You can independently set up brightness, contrast, color reproduction and saturation for the second window as well as choose its aspect ratio (5:4, 4:3, 16:9). You can also indicate if the monitor should reproduce the sound corresponding to the second window (as I wrote above, the monitor has two audio inputs).

A minor inconvenience is that the monitor doesn’t automatically determine which input is receiving the signal from the computer (the monitor’s single DVI-I connector acts as two logical video inputs) and you have to press the Source button and select the necessary input manually.

The monitor’s brightness and contrast settings are set to 64% and 100% by default. By choosing 52% contrast and 36% brightness I achieved a 100nit brightness of white.

Unfortunately, the color reproduction setup is deficient even when examined “by the eye”. The image has a noticeable lilac hue and black becomes violet at high brightness settings (this has nothing to do with the well-known effect of S-IPS matrices when the characteristic violet hue appears if you’re looking at the screen from a side). Moreover, the monitor is more or less good at representing colors only at its default settings. As soon as you change the brightness or contrast setting, either darks become the same as pure black or lights become indistinguishable from white.

The viewing angles, on the contrary, are superb thanks to the S-IPS technology.

I drew the graph above at the default settings. As you can see, the color reproduction is overall good, except for the too intensive blue color.

This graph was drawn at 36% brightness. Alas, about one fourth of darkest red and green tones and one fifth of darkest blue tones are indistinguishable from black. A similar thing happens when you try to increase the brightness above the default. The monitor just stops to distinguish between light tones, the blue color suffering the most in this case.

You can see that the level of blue is too high by the measured color temperatures: gray is considerably colder than white, especially at the 9300K setting. Note also that the User mode defaults to 9300K rather than to 6500K as with many other monitors.

The L172WT has a typical response time of an S-IPS matrix. Unlike with TN+Film matrices, the graph doesn’t have a sudden fall in its right part, on black-white transitions, thanks to which they declare small response times. Thus, although the specified response time of this matrix is 25 milliseconds, it is in fact not much slower than the supposedly fast TN+Film matrices.

The maximum brightness of the monitor is lower than the manufacturer’s enthusiastic 550 nits, but the available 300 nits are quite enough for a majority of applications. The contrast ratio was good (for an S-IPS matrix) at the default settings only. The matrix can’t show its potential because the brightness is changed through the matrix rather than through the backlight lamps and this adds to the inaccurate color reproduction setup. When the brightness setting is high, the level of black goes up (becoming gray or even violet in this particular case). When the brightness is low, the monitor quickly reaches the minimum level of black and only worsens the reproduction of dark tones from that point on, as I wrote above.

The Flatron L172WT was devised as a very interesting product – a widescreen 17” monitor on an S-IPS matrix (both things are rare today) with a built-in TV-tuner. Thanks to its fast matrix (don’t get misled with the specified 25 milliseconds – look at the response time graph above instead!) this monitor will behave well in movies and in games, but the highly inaccurate color reproduction setup negates these advantages (the monitor has a good contrast and a wide dynamic range only in a small range of settings, near the default ones).

LG Flatron L173ST

The Flatron L173ST is actually a cheaper version of the above-described L172WT, the main technological difference being the use of a standard TN+Film matrix instead of a widescreen S-IPS.

The monitor is different externally, too. It is more compact, and the case is only partially silver. I wouldn’t say this color scheme is ideal because the contrasting details of the case distract your eyes from the image. The mirror coating of the base has the same effect, by the way…

Like with the L172WT, only the tilt of the screen can be adjusted here.

The only difference in terms of connection is that there is a separate D-Sub connector. It means you can attach the monitor to two computers simultaneously, if necessary.

The video and audio connectors on the side panel haven’t changed. The S-Video connector is still as deep in the monitor’s case as to become a problem when you’re attaching the cable.

The monitor is controlled with ordinary buttons rather than with a joystick. The total number of the buttons is the same (the joystick of the L172WT was equivalent to four buttons). The Power On knob is located below the control buttons (the round transparent window above it is an infrared receiver for the remote control) and differs in size and shape as to prevent accidental presses. The circle around this knob is highlighted with a mild blue LED at work.

The screen menu has only been cosmetically updated since the L172WT: some elements have become larger and this may be essential to controlling the monitor remotely. The remote control is the same as you receive with the L172WT.

The default brightness and contrast settings are 100% and 70%. To achieve 100nit brightness of white I set 40% brightness and 52% contrast for analog connection and 40% brightness and 43% contrast for digital connection.

The viewing angles of this monitor are rather wide for this type of the matrix, but cannot compare with the angles of the L172WT.

The color reproduction is good at the default settings and analog connection, except for the traditionally high level of blue.

Alas, as soon as you reduce the brightness, the monitor suffers from the same problem as the L172WT: almost one third of tones become indistinguishable from pure black. It was all the same with the digital connection, so I don’t publish the diagrams – they do not differ much from those taken with the analog connection.

The color temperature setup isn’t perfect. The difference between the real temperatures of white and gray is higher at “6500K” than with the L172WT, but smaller when you select “9300K”. Besides that, the “User” mode at the default settings corresponds to a 6500K temperature.

The response time graph is typical for a TN+Film matrix: over 30 milliseconds at the maximum and a sudden reduction at the rightmost part of the graph which allows the manufacturer to write down a low response time in the specification. As a result, the L173ST will be slower than the L172WT in many cases, although the latter is officially twice slower than the former.

The contrast ratio isn’t good, either. It is lower than that of the L172WT even when the monitor is connected via the digital interface. When the monitor is connected via the analog input, the level of black grows up by a half and the level of white remains almost the same – the combined effect on the contrast ratio is most negative.

Unfortunately, the L173ST has kept the main defects of the above-described L172WT model (I mean the loss of image tones when you choose settings higher or lower than the default ones) and has also acquired additional problems due to the use of a TN+Film matrix (for example, narrower viewing angles). So, if we compare just these two models, the L172WT looks much better, considering they cost almost the same money. But if you do buy an L173ST, I advise you to connect it to the computer via the digital input only. This would ensure a higher contrast ratio of the image. The only advantage of the L173ST over the above-described model is higher resolution (1280x1024 against 1280x768).

LG Flatron L1740B (Premium Artistic Series LX40)

You can’t easily pass by this monitor that lures the customer with its combination of black and glossy-white plastic with shiny metallization. On the other hand, there’s the same problem here as with the L173ST: the high-contrast and shiny case of the monitor may be distracting. The monitor is quite large and not out of real necessity but rather out of the designers’ notions of what stylish exterior should be.

The monitor’s base permits to change the tilt of the screen only. You can attach a standard VESA mount to this monitor. This mount should be fastened to the bottom of the case rather than to the center, as usual, and it covers the connectors.

The monitor is equipped with one analog input (but there is a version with the digital input – Flatron L1740P) and has an integrated power adapter.

The touch-sensitive Power On is located on the front panel. It doesn’t always work right – you have to take several attempts to understand how you should put your finger on it. The wavy rim under the button is highlighted with blue at work.

The control buttons are placed on the right edge of the case and are not very handy in use: they are small and their labels are pressed out in the black plastic and are thus almost illegible. But well, there are only four buttons here, so you can set the monitor up by pressing the buttons blindly.

The monitor’s menu looks nice and works well. It offers you a standard selection of settings (brightness, contrast, color temperature, auto-adjustment, and position of the menu on the screen) plus allows you to control the gamma compensation exponent by choosing one of three available values. The menu remembers the last adjusted position which is good if you are setting up a parameter in several steps, every time closing the menu and appreciating the resulting image.

Besides the main menu, there is an f-Engine menu invoked with the “+” and “-” buttons. This means two things: 1) the signal processing system f-Engine is supposed to improve color reproduction and image contrast and 2) you can quickly browse through several presets.

The menu has four options: two f-Engine presets (“Text” and “Movie”), one user-defined preset and f-Engine off. The user-defined preset includes three parameters: brightness, ACE (this parameter determines sharpness and contrast of the image and can take one of the three available values), and RCM (determines saturation – four values).

I wouldn’t say peremptorily that f-Engine improves the image, it just makes it different. To my taste, for example, the “Movie” mode makes the colors too bright and many scenes in movies begin to look less natural than without the enhancement technology.

The monitor’s brightness and contrast settings are set to 100% and 70% by default. By choosing 30% brightness and 50% contrast I achieved 100nit brightness for white. Brightness is controlled with the backlight lamps modulated at a 300Hz frequency.

I have no complaints about the auto-adjustment feature – the sharpness of the image is superb. The monitor also had no problems displaying smooth color gradients, and its viewing angles are especially good for a TN+Film matrix.

The color curves look good at the default settings, save for the slightly too intensive blue color. The same is true for the reduced contrast levels (the brightness setting is adjusted with the lamps rather than with the matrix and cannot affect the color reproduction of the monitor).

The monitor allows choosing between five color temperature settings, but only two settings have names in the menu (6500K and 9300K). The remaining settings are marked with an asterisk in the table above and the order of the columns is the order of those settings in the menu.

As you can see, the color temperatures of the grays are rather too high than they should be.

The response time graph is quite typical for a TN+Film matrix. Although the specified response time is small (it is measured in the rightmost point of the graph), I wouldn’t call this matrix fast since its response time is almost 30 milliseconds at the maximum.

It’s worse with the contrast ratio: the level of black is so high that the monitor can’t even offer a contrast ratio of 200:1 at any settings. This is of course a poor result.

So, the L1740B is an average model from the technical point of view. Its low contrast ratio, relatively high response time, not very accurate color reproduction and lack of a digital input reduce its appeal for those people for whom functionality is the main priority. Yes, the monitor stands out with its unusual exterior, but while the ASUS PM17TS, for example, featured an elegant and smooth outline, the Flatron L1740B plays upon highly contrasting colors (matte black, glossy white, shiny metallic). As a result, this monitor will surely catch your eyes in the shop but may prove unhandy at everyday use, being distracting with its decorative details. I think that this model will suit people who rarely use their computer and pay more attention to the appearance of the computer rather than to its technical parameters or usability.

LG Flatron L1750S

Externally this model is the opposite of the above-described L1740B. The plain-looking case is painted mild silver and dark gray. Any decorations are missing altogether. Of course, this monitor won’t look very effective when put on a display, but this mild color scheme suits for work much better than an abundance of shiny decorative details.

You can only change the tilt of the screen.

Like the above-described model, the L1750S has one analog input only. The power adapter is built into the case.

This monitor is controlled with four buttons, too, but they are now located on the front panel and are given easily readable labels. The Power button is highlighted with a green LED at work.

The monitor’s menu is the same as in the L1740B, having an identical interface and offering the same options. The Flatron L1750S lacks the f-Engine menu, however, and only offers you the LightView technology (brightness/contrast presets you can browse through with a press of a single button).

The default brightness and contrast of this monitor are set to 100% and 70%, respectively. By choosing 40% brightness and 50% contrast I achieved 100nit brightness of white. The monitor controls its brightness by modulating the power of the backlight lamps at 360Hz frequency.

The color reproduction is set up quite well. The blue component is somewhat less intensive than the red and green ones here.

Of course, the latter fact couldn’t but affect the color temperature measurements: the color temperatures of various shades of gray are very similar, diverging by no more than a few hundred degrees, while with the L1740B the difference was up to 2000 degrees.

The response time graph is almost the same as the L1740B drew, except that there is a less dramatic slump on black-white transitions. It means the L1750S is formally rather far from the declared 12 milliseconds. On the other hand, it would be very difficult to see the speed difference between these two models in practice, without special measurement tools.

The measured contrast ratio of the L1750S is as poor as with the L1740B. There’s nothing wrong in that: the monitors use identical matrices, so the L1750S only features a better color reproduction setup which does not depend on the matrix.

So, the L1750S is an average monitor without any special traits. With its standard design, humble functionality and mediocre parameters, it is only interesting as an inexpensive office model. And that’s also why this section of the review turns to be so short.

Mitsubishi DiamondPoint NX76LCD

This monitor is one of the most widespread and popular 17” models from NEC-Mitsubishi (we have already reviewed its analog – NEC’s LCD1760NX – on our site). This model looks bulky and clumsy due to its large case and angular outline. It seems to be constructed of parallelepipeds with only the four corners rounded up a little.

Mitsubishi isn’t into bright colors. Its monitors come out either white or black and we’ve got the former variant. The silvery front panel is not smooth but rough to the touch. The rest of the monitor is white (not the glossy white of the LG L1740B, but a lusterless white which doesn’t hurt your eyes).

When viewed from aside, the base seems as large and angular as the monitor’s case. It permits to change the height and tilt of the screen, but doesn’t offer the portrait mode.

The monitor is equipped with an analog and a digital input. The power adapter is integrated into the case.

The control buttons are placed at the bottom right of the front panel. The buttons are small but easy to work with. The number of the buttons is rather astonishing. You usually have four, five or six buttons while there are seven of them here! Well, the Reset button is not of much use in the menu.

The monitor’s menu is the typical menu of the previous generation of LCD monitors from NEC-Mitsubishi (it looks different in the new generation, like in the LCD1770NX or the NX77LCD). It is user-friendly and functional; it offers the typical selection of settings, save for the color temperature settings (the user can usually select from two or three factory settings plus one user-defined setting, but here you have six variants to choose from, four of which are adjustable).

The monitor’s default brightness and contrast are set at 100% and 50%, respectively. By choosing 35% of both brightness and contrast I achieved 100nit brightness of white. Brightness is controlled by means of modulation of the power of the backlight lamps at 180Hz frequency.

The color curves have a neat shape, but the default contrast setting is too high. If you reduce it to 45%, the minor bend in the top right part of the graph vanishes, and the measured curves almost ideally coincide with the theoretical one.

The results of my measurements for the digital and analog inputs do not differ much.

I wouldn’t say the color temperature is set up ideally, but this setup is good in comparison with many other monitors. The measurements were made at the default settings, while it is possible to adjust manually four of the six temperatures (except “sRGB” and “Native”).

Here’s a typical response time graph of a TN+Film matrix from LG.Philips LCD – you can compare it with the graphs of LG’s own monitors described earlier. The fact that the end section of the graph with the minimal response time of 14 milliseconds is rather long does not mean that this matrix is fast on transitions other than black-to-white. The fact is the measurements of the response time are performed at the maximum brightness and contrast and the matrix of the NX76LCD just becomes saturated at such settings and stops to distinguish between lightest color tones. In other words, 200 and lighter grays were reproduced as pure white and transitions like 0-to-255 and 0-to-200 were in fact the same. If the contrast is reduced so that the monitor would reproduce all colors, the graph will stretch horizontally and become just like the graphs of the earlier-described LG monitors.

The brightness measurements suggest that the low contrast ratio is not a consequence of some problems with the setup or electronics of the new LG monitors, but is rather a fault of the matrices these monitors are based on. I make this conclusion because the NX76LCD could not yield a contrast ratio of at least 200:1 at any settings, either.

NEC AccuSync LCD72VM

While the NX76LCD (and its analog NEC LCD1760NX) belongs to upper-mainstream models, the AccuSync LCD72VM is a typical representative of the category of inexpensive LCD monitors. Its closest rival among the above-described models is LG’s Flatron L1750S.

The plain-looking silvery case of the monitor (the base and the rear panel are black) is free from any decorative details. The base permits to change the tilt of the screen only. Speakers are integrated into the case and that’s a reasonable idea for an office model. These speakers are too bad for home use (for music, games and movies), but are quite enough for creating the audio environment of a workplace.

The AccuSync LCD72VM has one analog input and an integrated power adapter. It also carries a line audio input for the integrated speakers and a headphones output (on the front panel).

The control buttons are located in the center of the front panel. They are stiff and do not sink down easily. The Power On button is highlighted with a mild green LED at work.

The menu resembles typical menus of NEC-Mitsubishi monitors (for example, the menu of the above-described NX76LCD), but here all the icons are grouped in one menu page: if an icon refers to one setting only, the corresponding parameter is displayed at the bottom of the menu (brightness, contrast and the like – as the picture above shows). If an icon refers to a group of settings, then it just opens a new menu page. This menu structure isn’t as handy as the classic menu of NEC monitors, especially because the menu does not remember the last adjusted parameter and you have to browse each time to the Exit item to leave a submenu.

Quick access is provided to the auto-adjustment feature and to the volume setting of the integrated speakers.

The monitor’s brightness and contrast are set to 100% and 50%, respectively, by default. To achieve 100nit brightness of white I reduced the brightness setting to 55%, keeping the contrast intact. Brightness of this monitor is controlled through modulation of the power of the backlight lamps at 230Hz frequency.

Subjectively, the image the LCD72VM produces doesn’t look too well, mostly because of the faded colors and small viewing angles.

The curves suggest that the gamma is set too higher than necessary. That’s why the colors from the middle of the range are reproduced much darker than they should be. The graph above was drawn at the default settings and at 6500K color temperature, but the situation doesn’t improve at the reduced brightness/contrast and even becomes worse when you choose “User” as the color temperature setting.

The menu offers four color temperature variants, but they are all far from ideal. The temperatures of white and gray differ by 1500-2000 degrees and the temperature of white is much lower than the name of the corresponding option.

The response time is, on the contrary, good. It is only 25 milliseconds at the maximum (with 22ms pixel rise time), while the above-described monitors were as slow as 30 milliseconds and more at the maximum.

Well, speed is the only advantage of the LCD72VM. Its contrast ratio reached 200:1 at the maximum settings, but couldn’t get any higher.

So, the AccuSync LCD72VM is a typical inexpensive monitor for office use. It can’t boast outstanding characteristics, a remarkable exterior or extended functionality. Yes, it is rather fast, but speed is not a priority for such monitors. Comparing it with the LG L1750S, I hesitate to say which is better since both monitors are equally low-end. The LCD72VM may be just a tiny bit better only because it has a higher contrast ratio.

AG Neovo M-17

While LG tries to attract customers to its L1740B with bright colors and shiny surfaces, AG Neovo sticks to traditional color schemes but applies them to curiously designed cases. The M-17 model, a home multimedia monitor (the manufacturer refers to it as such), has no base proper. Its case is framed in a transparent acryl plate that stands on the desk, while a folding “leg” prevents the monitor from falling backwards. The case is not strictly rectangular because the control buttons are very large and go beyond the outline of the case.

This snapshot shows well the transparent plate as well as the monitor’s back support. By the way, the support doesn’t have a spring that would pull it to the monitor’s case as with other such monitors (this spring allows you to position the screen vertically by simply pulling the screen towards yourself – without the weight of the monitor the support itself finds the necessary position). Here, the support turns about with noticeable friction, so you have to set it at a desired angle with your own hand.

Of course, this design of the case does not permit to adjust the height of the screen or to portrait-orient it.

The M-17 has one analog and one digital input, an audio input for the integrated speakers, a headphones output, and a two-port USB hub (its input is on the front panel next to the other connectors, and its output is on the front panel). The power adapter is external.

The main control buttons are grouped around the huge Power On button which also opens up the menu (a single press on this button opens the menu and holding it for a few seconds turns the monitor off – you’ll see the countdown on the screen).

Two more buttons can be found on the right edge of the case: for auto-adjustment and for switching between the avMode modes. These buttons are highlighted with a single blue LED as you press them.

The monitor’s menu is kind of two-dimensional: the icons strip is scrolled vertically as you go from one setting to another, and when you are changing a certain setting its possible values are scrolled horizontally. The menu does not memorize the last adjusted setting and works rather slowly because of the animation that accompanies each press of the buttons (not because the monitor’s processor is too slow to perform the animation, but just because the animation itself takes some time). That said, I should confess this is the most curious and one of the most inconvenient implementations of an onscreen menu I’ve ever seen.

Using the above-mentioned avMode button you can select from six presets: “Text”, “Movie” and “Game” in “day” and “night” versions each. But I found that each preset only adjusted the contrast setting and nothing else. The “day” Text mode is selected by default (it corresponds to 42% contrast) and I tested the monitor in it. The darkest preset corresponds to 34% contrast and the lightest to 48% contrast.

Besides that, you can open a menu of the Luminance setting by pressing the “Left” and “Right” buttons when outside the main menu. This setting is adjusted from 1 to 10 stepping 1. You may be surprised, but this option too does nothing else but controls the contrast setting (from 24% to 48% - you can see the contrast setting in the main menu changing accordingly). So, the M-17 offers you a widest variety of ways to change the contrast.

The monitor’s default brightness is set at 65%, and contrast at 42%. You may not want to increase the contrast setting because light colors vanish at 45% and higher contrast and become the same as pure white. To achieve 100nit brightness of white I chose 40% brightness and 36% contrast for digital connection and 40% of both brightness and contrast for analog connection.

The reproduction of colors depends strongly on the contrast setting and is overall average. Color gradients look well only at 48% contrast, but shades of gray from 97% and lighter become undistinguishable from white at that. When the contrast is set lower, the gradients have cross stripes that vary from narrow and regular stripes to wide stripes with non-uniform brightness (that is, there may be a lighter stripe between two darker ones, despite the gradient being absolutely monotonous). The shape of the stripes depends on the selected value of contrast.

The viewing angles of the monitor are good, but the vertical angles betray a TN+Film matrix immediately.

The color reproduction setup isn’t accurate: the color curves deflect noticeably from the ideal into both sides (lights are reproduced lighter and darks darker than they should be).

At the reduced brightness the monitor stops to distinguish between some darks. You can see this, although not as clearly as on the above-described model from LG.

The color reproduction setup is the same irrespective of the connection type (analog or digital).

The color temperature is set up better in the “Warm” mode. The “Normal” mode, preferable for a majority of users, has a big difference between the temperatures of white and gray, up to 1500K, mostly due to the too warm white.

The speed of the matrix was the main disappointment to me. It proved to be 40 milliseconds, the specification claiming an optimistic 12 milliseconds. Even if we take the pixel rise time alone, the matrix remains the slowest among the monitors tested in this review: 24 milliseconds on black-white transitions and 35 milliseconds at the maximum.

The contrast ratio was a disappointment, too. It was close to 200:1 only at one variant of setup. Besides that, the monitor’s parameters vary depending on the connection type (the maximum brightness is lower with digital than with analog connection).

Summing all these things up, I should blame the developers of the Neovo M-17 for their paying more attention to the monitor’s exterior and the initial impression on the customer rather than to the monitor’s internals. The curiously-looking (but not quite handy) case envelops an inconvenient menu, a slow matrix, mediocre technical parameters, and a not very accurate setup. Like the LG L1740B, this monitor is more likely to interest people who use their computer but rarely and are more concerned with the appearance rather than with the operational qualities of a product.

Samsung SyncMaster 720B

After a small break Samsung decided to release another series of rather inexpensive monitors with the DualHinge base. The 172 series, long out of production, was the last to use this base, while the succeeding 710 series employed an ordinary base with a vertical pole and a single hinge. Of course, there is also the SyncMaster 173P model but it is based on a rather slow PVA matrix and belongs to expensive models. The 720B, on the contrary, uses a TN+Film matrix.

The unpretentiously-looking silvery case of the 720B model isn’t as eye-catching as the above-described LG L1740B or the Neovo M-17, but it is head above them in functionality. The monitor’s screen can be turned in any direction. You can push it backwards, turning it upside down. You can turn it around into the portrait mode. Or you can fold it up together with the base and mount on a wall. I think the DualHinge design has only one small drawback: the screen height can be adjusted in a rather small range. This is the only point where the 720B is inferior to classic monitor’s bases with a vertical pole (to those of them that allow changing the height, of course).

The wide-spreading base is very steady. You just cannot topple your 720B over by accidentally touching it. That said, the 720B does not look clumsy thanks to its thin case (on the other hand, it’s hard to call it small, too).

The monitor is equipped with an analog input only. The connector is hidden inside the base’s pole (the decorative cover was removed to make the snapshot above). The power adapter is external and connects to the connector at the rear of the base.

The control buttons are placed on the bottom edge of the monitor. They are thin, but sink down easily, so it is easy to control the monitor. Besides, you can use the MagicTune utility to control the monitor from inside Windows.

The onscreen menu looks like the one in the 710 series monitors. It looks nice and works well. A new feature since the previous models is the MagicColor option that corresponds to the above-described LG L1740B’s f-Engine. That is, it should improve the color reproduction and image contrast. Four presets are available: “MagicColor 1”, “MagicColor 2”, “demo mode” (the MagicColor feature works only on one half of the screen for the user to compare the new and older image), and “MagicColor off”. The results of the MagicColor feature leave a good impression. I would prefer it to f-Engine, for example, but it is largely a matter of taste, of course.

Also, there are now more color temperature settings: ten plus manual RGB adjustment. Besides the color temperature, you can now change the tonality of the image colors with the Color Tone setting. And lastly, you can adjust the gamma compensation exponent in a rather wide range.

The monitor also offers the MagicBright feature: you can browse between five brightness/contrast presets with a press of a single button. Unfortunately, these are factory settings and you cannot alter them.

The monitor’s default brightness and contrast settings are set at 100% and 80%, respectively. 100nit brightness of white results from choosing 38% brightness and 40% contrast. Color gradients are reproduced well. As for drawbacks, there’s barely visible noise on dark colors.

The color curves at the default settings show that the contrast setting is too high: there’s a characteristic bend of the curves at the top right area of the graph. Besides, the curves all go higher than they should.

At the reduced brightness/contrast the red color curve is still a little too high at the right part of the graph. The green curve almost coincides with the theoretical one, but the blue color is too intensive in the entire range.

The color temperature setup isn’t very good: the difference between the temperatures of gray and white is acceptable in the “Warm” modes, but becomes bigger in the “Cool” ones. On the other hand, this defect is compensated with the abundance of available color temperature variants. Many monitors offer just three or four.

The SyncMaster 720B has a fast matrix: no slower than 27 milliseconds at the maximum with 25ms pixel rise time. On black-white transitions the response time is 19ms, which is high above the specification. On the other hand, it is the average response time that’s important in practice. And this monitor has a good average response time due to the relatively fast switching between black and shades of gray.

The contrast ratio is good, too. The 720B easily beats the above-described monitors, stopping short of the 300:1 mark. The only negative thing is that the contrast ratio goes down a little at the reduced screen brightness.

So, the SyncMaster 720B is an excellent monitor in a handy case, with enhanced setup options (if compared with monitors of the same price category), good image quality and a fast and high-contrast matrix. The single downside is its not very accurate color reproduction setup, but otherwise this model is highly appealing.

Samsung SyncMaster 721S

The SyncMaster 721S is in fact a successor to the above-described 720B and features a faster matrix with a specified response time of 8 milliseconds. Externally, it is the same silvery case of the DualHinge design that gives you almost unlimited freedom in positioning the screen relative to your desk.

The functionality of the 712S is the same, too. It is equipped with an analog input and an external power adapter and has the same menu with identical options: MagicColor and MagicBright modes, color tone correction, ten color temperature settings, and ten gamma compensation settings. The only difference is that the color temperature settings of the 720B were named just “Warm” and “Cool” in the menu, while the 721S uses specific numeric values. But this is not very important considering the traditionally slipshod color temperature setup in consumer monitors.

The monitor’s default brightness and contrast are 100% and 80%, respectively. By setting 50% brightness and 53% contrast you get 100nit brightness of white.

The color curves look good at the default settings, with two reservations: the blue component is too intensive and the gamma exponent is higher than it should be (that’s why the curves go below the theoretical one). The last thing can be corrected in the monitor’s menu since you can adjust the gamma compensation in a wide range.

Everything remains the same at the reduced brightness/contrast settings. I want to emphasize the fact that despite controlling brightness with the matrix rather than with the backlight lamps, the monitor reproduces all the colors both at the default and at the reduced brightness.

The color temperature is set up rather inaccurately, just like with the 720B. The difference between the temperatures of different shades of gray is big, exceeding 2000K.

The response time graph looks just like the one of the 720B, save for a more abrupt slump on white-black transitions. That’s why the monitor has a full response time of 10 milliseconds.

The contrast ratio is around 300:1, and it goes down less at the reduced brightness than with the 720B.

Thus, the SyncMaster 721S is nothing else but a version of the 720B with a slightly faster matrix. Other parameters of these two models are near identical. The difference in speed won’t be very conspicuous in practice, either, since it is only registered on black-white transitions. So, the pros and cons of the 712S are the same as those of the 720B.

Samsung SyncMaster 720T

Looking exactly like the above-described SyncMaster 720B, this model uses a PVA matrix that should ensure wider viewing angles, good reproduction of colors and an excellent contrast ratio, but accompanied with a high response time.

The SyncMaster 720T uses the DualHinge design, too. You can put the screen almost in any position imaginable, including the portrait mode as well as the horizontal and upside-down positions (the latter position may be really necessary sometimes – if you wall-mount the monitor, you’ll have to turn its screen by 180 degrees for the connectors to look downwards).

The 720T has a digital input besides the analog one. The connector is placed in the pole of the base and is hidden under a decorative cover. The power adapter is external and connects to the connector at the rear panel of the base. An audio connector is also located there if the monitor has integrated speakers (all 720 series models come in two versions – with and without speakers. You can tell this by the letter index: the 720T SQSQ doesn’t have speakers, and the 720T SUSQ has speakers integrated into its base).

This monitor is controlled with five buttons located on the right of the bottom edge of the screen, next to the Power On button. The menu doesn’t differ from the menus of the two Samsung monitors described above: besides the typical settings it offers two MagicColor modes (besides turning it off altogether), image tonality adjustment, ten color temperature modes and gamma adjustment (from 1.7 to 3.1; as you know, the standard gamma for today’s monitors is 2.2). These settings are all available with both analog and digital connections.

Like the above-described monitors from Samsung, the 720T offers the MagicBright feature with five brightness/contrast presets. You can also use the Windows-based MagicTune utility to control the monitor via a DDC/CI channel. Besides other things, this utility allows creating, storing and switching between your own custom profiles with different monitor settings.

By default, the monitor has 100% brightness and 80% contrast. 100nit brightness of white is achieved by choosing 50% brightness and 60% contrast.

Subjectively, the monitor reproduces colors very well. Smooth color gradients are displayed without artifacts; the colors are bright and lush. Black is especially pleasing. It is a really deep black rather than dark gray as with monitors on TN+Film and S-IPS matrices. The viewing angles are excellent, too. I must confess the PVA matrix of the 720T leaves a highly satisfactory impression after you’ve tested a dozen of TN+Film models.

If it were not for the too low level of blue, I would say the color reproduction of the 720T is nearly ideal. At least, the red and green curves almost coincide with the theoretical curve. The lack of blue can be corrected in the color temperature setup menu, though. Otherwise, the 720T is blameless as concerns color reproduction at the default as well as reduced brightness/contrast settings.

Speed is the traditional downside of PVA technology. This problem is theoretically solved only in monitors with the so-called overdrive technology but they are beyond the scope of this review. It’s all typical with the 720T: the response time grows up catastrophically on black to dark gray transitions, exceeding 100 milliseconds and making this monitor unsuitable for a majority of games. Of course, the responsiveness of a monitor is a subjective thing and some people may find a 16ms S-IPS a slow matrix, while others are quite satisfied with a 25ms PVA like the one in the SyncMaster 720T. Well, the “ghosting” effect is quite visible here I should confess.

The main advantage of PVA technology shows up in the contrast measurements: even the smallest of the three measurements is bigger than the maximum one with any of the above-tested monitors.

Thanks to the employed matrix, the SyncMaster 720T turns to be an excellent monitor for working with text and graphics as well as for watching movies (it is fast enough for that, while the high contrast ratio will come in most handy). So, if you want a 17” LCD monitor and do not care much about the response time parameter, you should certainly consider the 720T, one of the few 17” monitors not on a TN+Film matrix. But if you’re into dynamic computer games, the 720T will most probably disappoint you.

Sony SDM-HS75

Sony’s HS series is yet another case when design triumphs over functionality. Like the Neovo M-17, this monitor doesn’t have a classic base with a central vertical pole. It stands on a frame that protrudes out of the case (which plays the same role as the acryl plate in the Neovo monitor) and on a folding support behind. I personally think the Sony model looks somewhat more elegant that the Neovo.

Of course, this design of the case only allows you to adjust the tilt of the screen. The rear support has a spring, so if you want to tilt the screen more, you can just push the top of the case. And if you want to bring the screen nearer, you should pull the top of the screen toward yourself. In both cases the support will adjust itself accordingly.

The case leaves a nice impression overall, if you don’t bother much about its minimal functionality. The quality of manufacture is very high.

The monitor has only one, analog input; the power adapter is built into the case. When the cables are all attached, you close the rear panel and the connectors with a decorative cover.

The monitor’s control buttons are located on the right of the bottom edge of the case. The buttons are small and rather stiff and are almost flush with the case, so they are not quite easy to use. The Power On button protrudes from the case and you cannot mistake it for any of the control buttons even if you press it blindly.

The monitor’s menu is the typical menu of Sony’s LCD monitors. Its interface is not very user-friendly, mostly because it does not memorize the last adjusted setting and is also divided into two distinct parts. On the other hand, it is not downright inconvenient, either. A special feature of Sony’s monitors is that they offer you two ways to control their brightness – with the backlight lamps or with the matrix. I already discussed the pros and cons of this feature in my previous reports, so I will give you just the summary. The best way of action is to choose a certain brightness with the matrix (choose a level of brightness at which black doesn’t look too light) and never touch this setting ever after. To adjust the brightness for a particular environment later you should use the backlight lamps (the Backlight item in the monitor’s onscreen menu).

The rest of the settings are quite standard: three color temperature modes, three gamma values, auto-adjustment, and settings pertaining to the menu itself.

The monitor features a technology similar to MagicBright, LightView and avMode. Here, it is called ECO. By pressing the ECO button you can browse through three backlight-brightness settings (other parameters remain intact): “High”, “Middle” and “Low”.

The default settings of the monitor are: 100% backlight brightness, 50% matrix brightness, and 100% contrast brightness. I achieved 100nit brightness of white by choosing 0% matrix brightness and 85% backlight brightness. This is of course only one of the possible combinations since having three adjustable parameters you can achieve it in many different ways.

I could find no faults with the image, at least subjectively. Gradients are reproduced neatly; the image is sharp; the monitor adjusts for the signal without problems. The viewing angles are typical for a TN+Film matrix: the horizontal angle is wide for comfortable work, but the narrowness of the vertical angle may be felt sometimes.

The color curves have a neat shape, save for the minor “hump” at the left of the graph. When the matrix brightness is reduced to zero (the backlight brightness does not affect the color reproduction), we have the same situation: that is, the monitor carefully reproduces the entire range of colors.

The temperature of gray is too high, like with many other LCD monitors. People who buy this monitor should be aware that the color temperature of the SDM-HS75 is set to 9300K by default, and the image looks colder in comparison with other monitors. Note also that when you choose the sRGB mode, the monitor’s brightness and contrast settings become locked.

The full response time is rather big, but the HS75 won’t feel slow in practice: as you can see on the diagram, the pixel rise time is no more than 25 milliseconds at the maximum, and this is a normal speed for a modern TN+Film matrix.

The contrast ratio, unfortunately, is poor. It is not higher than 150:1. Thus, if you want to get the deepest black possible on the HS75, you should set the matrix brightness (the Brightness setting in the monitor’s menu) at zero. But even in this case you won’t get a really good black color. But when the matrix brightness is set to 50% and higher, black becomes gray altogether.

So, with a curious and beautiful exterior, the Sony SDM-HS75 is quite an ordinary monitor inside. Its main problem is the low contrast ratio. Otherwise, it doesn’t differ from the rest of 17” models on TN+Film matrices. If you value functionality more than a cure appearance, you may want to consider the above-described models from Samsung first or the ViewSonics I’m going to discuss later on. The SDM-HS75 will suit people who enjoy beautiful things even if they are not the best in terms of technical characteristics.

Sony SDM-S74E

Unlike the previous model, this one has a classic case designed in the Sony style with a thin bezel, a wide round base and a cylindrical vertical pole.

The base permits to change the tilt and height of the screen (the latter can be adjusted from 115 to 175mm counting from the desk to the bottom edge of the matrix).

The SDM-S74E has one analog and one digital input and an integrated power adapter. After the cables are attached, the connectors and the entire rear panel are covered with a slide-down decorative panel (it is lifted a little up in the snapshot above). To hang the monitor on a wall with the help of a VESA mount you have to remove the panel and the monitor’s standard base altogether.

The control buttons are located on the right of the monitor’s bezel. This is quite handy – you can press the buttons with your thumb, holding the monitor’s case with your other fingers. Against the common custom, there is no separate button for switching between the monitor’s inputs – the “Up” and “Down” buttons do this job when you are not in the menu.

The menu is the same as the one of the above-described SDM-HS75. The available options are identical, too.

To get 100nit brightness of white I chose 0% matrix brightness, 70% contrast and 50% backlight brightness at digital connection and 67% backlight brightness at analog connection. By default, you have 50% brightness, 70% contrast and 100% backlight brightness.

Like the SDM-HS75, this model offers the ECO feature: you can switch between three backlight brightness presets with a press of a single button.

The monitor reproduces colors carefully. There are no artifacts on smooth color gradients. The backlighting is uniform, but not ideally so – you can discern on a light background that the corners of the screen (especially the top ones) are a little darker than the center.

The color curves are similar to the SDM-HS75’s – they are overall neat but with a minor rise at the left part of the graph and with a slightly too intensive blue.

When you select “6500K” from the monitor’s menu, you get a good color temperature setup: gray is colder than white, but not too much. It’s worse with the “9300K” setting where the difference amounts to 2000K and more.

Again we have a typical response time graph of a TN+Film matrix. The pixel rise time is 29 milliseconds at the maximum, so I can’t call the S74E a fast monitor. On the other hand, it is not slow, but is rather somewhere in between.

The contrast ratio of the S74E is better than that of its predecessor. No, it can’t challenge the models from Samsung or ViewSonic, but it did get above 200:1. What’s interesting, the level of white is higher and the level of black is lower at digital connection, and this affects the contrast ratio most positively.

Summarizing the results of the SDM-S74E, it is again difficult for me to note any special traits about this monitor. It is just an average 17” model on a TN+Film matrix with quite typical characteristics. It has a better contrast ratio and a slightly better color reproduction setup than the SDM-HS75, but its parameters are not anything exceptional against monitors from other manufacturers.

ViewSonic VP171s

At one time the ViewSonic VP171 (the letter at the end of the name – S or B – denotes the color of the case) was among the first monitors on a 16ms TN+Film matrix. The quality of the image was lacking then: the monitor had small viewing angles, a low contrast ratio, and bad color rendition. But many things have changed since then and now the monitor comes with a modern 8ms matrix (ViewSonic, just like NEC, doesn’t like to change the names of its monitors too often).

The case of the monitor proper looks small against the massive column of the base. This base, however, provides the necessary functionality. You can change the tilt and height of the screen (from 45mm to 160mm – the screen is at its lowest position in the snapshot above) and even turn it into the portrait mode.

The monitor is equipped with three connectors: two analog D-Sub inputs and one digital DVI-D input. Thus, you can easily connect it to two computers with analog video outputs (for example, mainboards with integrated graphics still usually have analog rather than digital outputs). The power adapter is integrated in the case.

The control buttons are placed in the center of the front panel. Following the traditional ViewSonic style they are plain-looking and do not have intelligible labels (they prefer to say “1” instead of “Menu” and “2” instead of “Select”). The buttons are easily pressed, and that’s actually all you can demand of them: legibility and understandability of the labels begin to play any role only when there are six or seven buttons. Here, you have to cope with four buttons only.

The menu is ViewSonic’s traditional, too. It looks nice, but is of average handiness. Sometimes the lack of the numeric values on the sliders is inconvenient, for example:

The menu options are quite standard: brightness, contrast, color temperature, and the parameters pertaining to the onscreen menu itself. Quick access is provided to the brightness and contrast settings and to switching between the monitor’s inputs.

The default brightness and contrast are 100% and 50%, respectively. By choosing 20% brightness and 25% contrast I got 100nit brightness of white.

I found no faults with the quality of the image as perceived by the eye: the automatic adjustment feature worked fine, smooth color gradients were reproduced very neatly, and the viewing angles were quite good for a TN+Film matrix.

The color curves are good enough at the default settings, but are not ideal. You can see the curves deflect from the theoretical ones and in a non-monotonous way (that is, the real curve goes above the theoretical one at some spot, but below it in some other place).

A strange thing happened at the reduced brightness and contrast settings: the three curves all went up, producing a faded-out image.

The color temperature setup of the VP171s is average.

Here’s a typical graph of a fast TN+Film matrix: the maximum of the pixel rise time is about 26 milliseconds, but it goes down towards the black-white transition which allows the manufacturer to claim a very small specified response time.

The VP171s has average contrast ratio and brightness parameters. Its contrast ratio exceeds 200:1, especially with the digital connection. Of course, it cannot challenge Samsung’s monitors, but this result is anyway good against the rest of the reviewed models.

So, the VP171s (or its black version VP171b) is a good monitor on a TN+Film matrix. It is equipped with a rather fast matrix, is easy to use, and is set up well enough. On the other hand, it is inferior to Samsung’s models in functionality as well as in the results of the tests.

ViewSonic VX715

This monitor looks rather queer because of its very tall stand. The distance from the surface of the desk to the bottom edge of the screen is nearly 15 centimeters and cannot be adjusted. The base only allows you to change the tilt of the screen.

This design is going to be improper if you’ve got a tall desk – it is just uncomfortable to look at the screen up from below. On the other hand, this model would look better than the VP171s in a shop window. But I have already said it in this article that beauty and comfort are often opposite things when it comes to LCD monitors.

Unlike the VP171s, the VX715 is equipped with two inputs only (analog and digital); it’s impossible to connect two computers with analog inputs to it simultaneously. The power adapter is built into the case.

The control buttons look cuter than the predecessor’s, but the overall principle has remained the same. The monitor is still controlled with four buttons, and the labels under the buttons are as laconic as before. Well I can understand that they have to write “2” instead of “Select” on the VP171s just to fit the label on the button, but here the labels are painted below the buttons and the reasons for that brevity is unclear.

The screen menu is, on the contrary, more modest than with the VP171s. It now has a two-color and less convenient interface (for example, the VP171s had the brightness and contrast sliders on one menu page, while the VX715 has them in two different pages you should switch between with the “2” button). The sliders still don’t have numeric values, and the rest of the settings have remained the same. Quick access is provided to the brightness/contrast settings and to switching between the inputs.

100nit brightness of white is achieved by choosing about 30% brightness and 60% contrast. By default the brightness and contrast settings are set at 100% and 75%, respectively.

I think I should tell you about the problems I had with the auto-adjustment feature. When the monitor was connected via the analog interface, I had to launch this feature two or three times in a row to get rid of noise in the image completely. Of course, you can use the manual adjustment if you want.

The color curves look superb at the default settings (maybe the red component is somewhat lower than necessary). And they even become better at the reduced brightness and contrast – the level of red goes up to become closer to the theoretical curve and the monitor reproduces the entire dynamic range, from darkest to lightest color tones.

The monitor proved to be rather slow. Well, it has a specified response time of 25 milliseconds, i.e. the employed matrix is rather old. The maximum pixel rise time is about 10 milliseconds higher than the average result of more advanced “fast” matrices. On the other hand, the difference of 10 milliseconds is less than 1.5 times while the specifications differ by a factor of 2 or 3 (25 milliseconds against 12 or 8 milliseconds of modern matrices).

At last I see a monitor challenge the TN+Film models from Samsung in the contrast ratio parameter. It is 300:1 at the maximum and never goes below 200:1 with this monitor.

So, the ViewSonic VX715 has only two noticeable drawbacks: its tall prop may be inconvenient if the monitor stands on a high desk, and its matrix is rather slow (but still, it will suit nicely for watching movies and even playing a majority of games, so the VX715 may make a good home monitor). The advantages of this model are a good contrast ratio and an accurate reproduction of colors.

Conclusion

So you have just seen another batch of 17” LCD monitors and may have got the same idea as I. The market of 17” LCD monitors is approaching the state the market of 15” ones has long been in. Of all possible types of the matrix only TN+Film is in fact widely employed. Yes, you have seen monitors on PVA and S-IPS matrices above, but the PVA models are currently manufactured by Samsung alone, while the S-IPS one is a special and expensive model with an integrated TV-tuner. Otherwise, the parameters and capabilities of many monitors don’t differ much from model to model. A lot of new models can be now reviewed in a “simplified” way like “just another 17” one on TN+Film” with a photo added for the user to appreciate the exterior.

This market doesn’t draw in big money anymore. The prices are too low and new technologies take long to cover the cost of implementation. So, everything really interesting is first implemented in larger monitors and only then transferred to 17” models, if transferred at all.

The specified response time of the matrix has reduced in double in the last two years: from 16 milliseconds to 12 and 8 milliseconds. But while it was possible to note the difference between 25ms and 16ms matrices, it is hard even for measuring instruments to tell between 12ms and 8ms. An ordinary user won’t see anything different between two such monitors even if they were placed near each other. This situation may only change with the arrival of monitors that use the overdrive technology (we haven’t covered them yet in our reviews, but are going to do so in an upcoming article).

So, many manufacturers of 17” monitors focus on the exterior rather than on the stuffing of their products, so we have the pretentious Artistic Series from LG and the animated menus from AG Neovo. We have monitors that look superb when put on a display but are not very comfortable at everyday use. And again, their real parameters do not differ from those of many other 17” monitors.

I think that only Samsung stands out amongst the others with its two models on PVA matrices (SyncMaster 173P and 720T). The above-described 720T is an excellent monitor for work whose main drawback is high response time which makes it inadequate for many games. Instead, this model offers you an excellent contrast ratio (times above the rest of 17” monitors), widest viewing angles, rich setup options – all in a convenient casing.

Samsung’s 17” TN+Film models are also remarkable, though. They combine fast matrices with good contrast, handy cases (even though they don’t strike you in the eye with shiny chrome details), and excellent setup opportunities that exceed what a majority of modern 17” monitors can offer.

In my last review of 17” LCD monitors I was inclined to prefer LG’s L1730 series that was competing with Samsung’s 710-th line, but now the situation has changed to the contrary. Neither the L1740B nor the L1750S could impress me as much as Samsung’s 720-th series did.

The rest of the monitors are so alike to each other that it’s hard to say some brand is superior over another. Yes, some person may think the fanciful design of the L1740B or the animated menu of the M-17 as a big advantage over their competitors, but these designing things are too subjective and depend on your personal tastes (for example, I have to look at the computer’s monitor daily and I would prefer the low-key exterior of the monitors from Mitsubishi, ASUS or Samsung since it doesn’t distract one from the onscreen image). From the objective point of view, these models are all very similar. Yes, one model may reproduce colors a little better, and another may have a better contrast ratio, but if you do care about color reproduction or contrast, you should consider quite different monitors (for example, the reviewed PVA-matrix 720T model from Samsung or even 19” models). Again, 17” LCD monitors on TN+Film matrices are too similar to each other, and if you don’t like their characteristics, you should consider monitors on other types of the matrix.