Closer Look at the 19" Monitor Features. Part III

We continue our roundups of 19-inch LCD panels . Today we are going to test 13 new models from Acer, NEC, Samsung, LG, Iiyama and Philips. Besides examining each monitor in particular, we will also compare the newly released TN+Film models against the old-timers of this market, i.e. monitors on S-IPS, MVA and PVA matrices.

by Oleg Artamonov
03/30/2005 | 01:45 PM

Some time has passed since my last roundup of LCD monitors with a 19-inch diagonal, and there have appeared a lot of new models since then. Some changes in the market are really very serious. First of all, there have arrived LCD monitor models with TN+Film matrices which feature a very low specified response time, the traditional killer feature of the whole technology.

 

This low response time, however, is actually the only technical advantage of TN+Film as it is inferior to other technologies (S-IPS, MVA and PVA) in the rest of the characteristics, especially in the viewing angles. Even so, TN+Film matrices have almost entirely ousted their competitors in monitors with a shorter diagonal due to 1) their low cost and 2) their low specified response time which many customers have wrongly come to regard as the main characteristic of an LCD monitor.

In the 19” LCD monitor market there is diversity in full bloom. Now that TN+Film technology has come to this market, too, you can easily find a monitor on a matrix of any type you like. Unfortunately, this all is going to end with TN+Film gaining the ultimate victory and pushing other types of the LCD matrix to the market of 20” monitors which have already begun to fall in price.

So, until this market sector hasn’t yet sunk into stagnation with shops occupied with ranks upon ranks of almost identical monitors on identical matrices, it’s the right time to catch at the opportunity and cover as many diverse monitors as possible. Besides examining each monitor in particular, I will also compare them among themselves – it is going to be the most exciting thing to set the newly released TN+Film models against the old-timers of this market, i.e. monitors on S-IPS, MVA and PVA matrices.

Well, let’s get started now.

Acer AL1912

This is an inexpensive model for office use; the white plain-looking case has only one embellishment – I mean its round silvery control buttons.

The monitor’s base allows regulating the tilt of the screen. Like the entire case, the base is all made of plastic, and the device shakes a little even at a slight push (in the majority of monitors, there is a steel plate in the foundation of the base to make it more rigid and stable). You may want to consider this fact if you’ve got little children or home pets and need a monitor which doesn’t readily topple over.

The Acer AL1912 is equipped with an analog input only; the power adapter is built into the case.

The monitor’s menu is designed without any extravaganza, but is easy to use. You can quickly access (with a single press of a button) the auto-adjustment feature only.

By default, the brightness setting is set to 100% in the menu, and the contrast to 80%. For the screen to have a luminance of 100nit (1 nit = 1 candela per 1 square mater) I set the contrast to 63% and the brightness to 60%. The monitor controls its brightness by modulating the power of the backlight lamps at 180Hz frequency.

It seems like there’s nothing very remarkable about the Acer AL1912: an ordinary office monitor with a minimum of functionality and at a small price. Yet it so happened that the AL1912 became the first 19” monitor on a TN+Film matrix we tested in our labs. As you know, TN+Film technology has almost entirely driven all the competing technologies (S-IPS, MVA and PVA) out of the 17” LCD monitor market, but TN+Film monitors with a diagonal of 19 inches were simply nonexistent until recently.

You can refer to my article entitled X-bit’s Guide: Contemporary LCD Monitor Parameters and Characteristics for a detailed description of the characteristics of each type of the LCD matrix. Here’s a short version, for TN+Film technology.

TN+Film matrices have in fact only one serious advantage over matrices of other types. I mean their low manufacturing cost because no other competing technology can compare to TN+Film in this aspect. Then, TN matrices can easily have a low response time in their specifications. Right now it may be as low as 8 milliseconds, but the manufacturer declares a modest speed of 16 milliseconds for the AL1912. Unfortunately, as you saw a number of times in my tests, and as I argued in the above-mentioned article, the specified response time does not always reflect the real speed of the matrix well. If you delve somewhat deeper into the matter, you’ll see that although TN+Film matrices do have a very good responsiveness, they are not unchallenged because S-IPS matrices generally have similar performance.

The contrast ratio of modern TN+Film matrices is usually average. It’s better than that of the majority of S-IPS ones, but can’t match PVA ones, the leaders in this parameter.

As for the biggest problems of TN+Film technology, these include imprecise color reproduction (especially considering that many modern TN+Film matrices use 6 rather than 8 bits to represent each of the basic colors) and narrow viewing angles. Viewing angles with TN+Film are much worse than with S-IPS as well as with MVA and PVA technologies. This has even made many monitor manufacturers to mislead their customers by using other criteria to measure the viewing angles of TN+Film matrices than they use for the rest of the matrix types. This way they can specify the seemingly good viewing angles of 160 degrees. Fortunately, Acer didn’t follow this doubtable trend and specified “honest” viewing angles of 140 degrees for the AL1912. This number seems small in comparison with 170 degrees you usually have with S-IPS, MVA and PVA matrices, but it is closer to reality and doesn’t leave the user perplexed, “How comes it says 160 degrees, but half the screen gets dark as soon as I look at it just a little from below?”

Alas, but I can’t say anything encouraging about the matrix used in the AL1912. While the narrowness of the viewing degrees is felt only along the vertical (the top of the screen becomes dark if you take a look at the screen a little from below; if you’re looking downwards at the screen, its bottom becomes whitish), the irregular distribution of the backlighting with numerous dark spots around the screen, and the dull, unimpressive colors are perfectly visible from any point of view.

The monitor’s color temperature setup isn’t very accurate, either, although this has nothing to do with the type of the matrix. The temperatures of white and gray proved to be 5720K and 8010K, respectively, by default with the User setting. The Cool setting produced 6710K white and 10,890K gray. The Warm setting yielded 5340K white and 6460K gray. The default setting is Cool, so the onscreen image has a typical bluish hue. You should pay attention to this fact if you’re comparing this monitor with others as a majority of monitors come with the color temperature set to about 6500K, which gives you much warmer colors.

As the color curves show, the level of blue is too high at the monitor’s standard settings, while red and green are absolutely normal:

Blue becomes normal when you reduce the contrast setting in the monitor’s menu:

I am not quite pleased with the response time of this monitor: the graph is typical for average-speed TN+Film matrices but no more than that. The monitor is a little slower than the declared 16 milliseconds on black-white-black transitions of the state of a pixel.

The monitor’s contrast ratio proved to be very good: it was about 400 candelas per sq.m irrespective of the settings, so we’ve got a good black color here.

Alas, but I have to admit that the debut of TN+Film matrices in 19” LCD monitors was a failure. The Acer AL1912 doesn’t boast a record-breaking responsiveness, while it does have irregular backlighting, unassuming color reproduction, and viewing angles which are much worse than with matrices of other types. The low price of the Acer AL1912 is probably its only advantage which makes it appropriate for the role of an inexpensive office monitor for processing text. If you need a monitor with a better color reproduction, for example for working with photos, or a universal monitor, you’d better consider other models.

Iiyama ProLite C480T

The ProLite C480T from Iiyama belongs to the opposite market niche if it were compared with the previous model from Acer. This is an expensive multimedia model, equipped with a TV-tuner and a remote control. In fact, it is a hybrid of a regular computer monitor and an LCD TV-set.

The monitor is very wide due to the large speakers on the sides of the screen, but you can remove any or both of them by unfastening the two thumbscrews they are held with. I can’t omit one defect in the design of the speakers: there is no groove in the monitor’s case for the wire that connects the speakers, so this wire becomes squeezed between the speaker and the case, not allowing them to fit tightly to each other.

The base of the monitor only permits to change the tilt of the screen.

The large speakers (they are large in comparison with other monitors’ speakers) ensure an acceptable quality of the sound. Unlike with many multimedia monitors, their sound isn’t downright bad, but of course even inexpensive “discrete” active speakers would sound much better.

By the way, the grid on the speakers seems to be made of aluminum, but it is actually plastic, wrapped around the carcass.

The connectors are mostly located on the removable TV-tuner module: a high-frequency connector for the ordinary TV antenna, a SCART connector, and a set of connectors for component video signal (including two audio connectors).

At the bottom of the rear panel there’s a connector for attaching audio from the computer (the audio inputs change as you switch between the video ones), a DVI-I connector, and a connector for the external power adapter. There’s no usual D-Sub input because the DVI-I connector can transfer digital as well as analog signal (but the majority of LCD monitors use a DVI-D connector which physically lacks the group of pins that transfer analog signal), and you can attach the monitor to the D-Sub output of your graphics card via the special adapter enclosed with the ProLite C480T. You can only encounter some troubles if you use non-standard cables, for example extension cables or cables to KVM switches.

All the control buttons are found on the monitor’s top edge. I can’t say this is a handy solution as I couldn’t get used to the buttons as much as to press them blindly during the tests. The rather plain-looking menu offers a standard collection of settings.

A remote control is enclosed with the ProLite C480T. Its ergonomic qualities are not perfect – the device doesn’t lie as smugly in your hand as, for example, the remote controls from Samsung’s monitors. But anyway, it’s easier to use this control than the control buttons on the monitor itself. Of course, the ProLite C480T supports the “picture in picture” mode for working at the computer and watching a TV program “with one eye”.

What about the quality of the image? I want to mention first that the monitor’s matrix is covered with protective glass, and the glares on this glass are rather annoying in a brightly lit room. On the other hand, the matrix is really well-protected here.

The ProLite C480T is based on an MVA matrix and thus has excellent viewing angles and satisfactory color reproduction.

By default, the monitor’s brightness is set to 25 grades (which is the maximum) and contrast to 8 grades (16 is the maximum); it’s hard to tell why the developer implemented such a rough scale instead of the ordinary 0-100 range. By choosing 5-grade brightness and 6-grade contrast I made the screen shine with a luminosity of 100nit. Brightness of this monitor is controlled through modulation of the power of the backlight lamps at 240Hz frequency.

My measurements of the color temperature gave out the following results: the “User” mode by default produces 9080K white and 18,090K gray colors; the “6500K” mode (which is selected initially) – 6160K white and 7800K gray; the “7200K” mode – 6970K and 9240K; the “9300K” mode – 8190K and 12,310K.

The color curves aren’t very accurate. Yes, green is almost perfect, but red is too intensive in the area of light tones, while blue is noticeably above the norm almost along the entire range. That’s why the color temperature of gray is so high (i.e. gray has the characteristic bluish shade perceived as “cold”).

We have a typical response time graph of an MVA matrix here. This matrix is acceptably fast on black-white-black transitions of the color of a pixel, even though it is slower than specified (I want to remind you that the graph shows the pixel rise time, while the full response time is listed in the table below). But the response time grows up quickly up to several tens of milliseconds on black-to-dark-gray transitions. This behavior of the matrix isn’t critical for watching films, but the “ghosting” effect around moving objects may become unpleasantly strong in games. This is a subjective thing, though. You just make sure this ghosting doesn’t annoy you before the purchase of the monitor.

The contrast ratio is very good, but the brightness couldn’t make it to the declared 430nit. On the other hand, such a high brightness is hardy ever necessary in practice, as those effective 300 with something candelas per sq. meter should suffice even for playing games and watching movies at normal daylight.

Thus, the Iiyama C480T is a cute cross-breed of TV-set and monitor, although some users may be taken aback at its high price. You can have a 19” monitor and a TV-tuner for less money, if you purchase them separately. Besides that, the C480T isn’t free from such drawbacks as unhandy controls, inaccurate color rendition setup and high response time (this defect is peculiar to all MVA matrices, though), which are the harder to put up with because of the same high price.

Anyway, this monitor will suit well for watching movies and TV programs. If you’re planning to buy it for playing games, but have never before met an MVA or a PVA matrix with their characteristic response time, you’re taking some risks. This model is not the best possible choice for work unless you’re accustomed to work in a well-lit room: the brightness of the screen may be excessive under mild indoor lighting.

LG Flatron L1910S (ALRUR)

That’s what I call unlimited choice: this is the third monitor in this article and it is also a third type of the matrix! The Acer AL1912 is based on a TN+Film matrix, the C480T on an MVA matrix, and the L1920S uses an S-IPS matrix manufactured by LG itself. Unfortunately, this variety of choice only exists on the market of 19” LCD monitors: 17” monitors are almost all manufactured on TN+Film matrices now, while the market of 20” monitors offers only MVA- and S-IPS-based devices.

You should be aware that the L1910 series includes models on matrices of different types. The type of the matrix is indicated by the letters on the label at the monitor’s back panel. The full name of this sample was “L1910SL-ALRUR”, and the letter L in “ALRUR” denotes an S-IPS matrix from LG.Philips LCD. Otherwise, the monitor would have an MVA matrix manufactured by Fujitsu or AU Optronics.

The Flatron L1910S is designed in LG’s traditional “old” style, with a massive and clumsy rectangular base. I call it clumsy not only because it takes so much space on the desk, but also because it lacks adjustability, save for regulating the tilt of the screen. By analogy with Samsung’s Dual Hinge stands, you may expect to find two hinges here, too, but the bottom joint is immobile, so the monitor has no screen height adjustment. It’s especially sad because the monitor is rather high by itself. The portrait mode isn’t available.

Being the junior model in the series, the L1910S comes with an analog input only. The power adapter is built into the case.

The manufacturer didn’t economize on the control buttons, as others often do, and the L1910S comes with as many as seven knobs for an easier setting-up. You can quick-access brightness and contrast settings as well as the auto-adjustment and the LightView modes. The latter modes are six presets of brightness, contrast and color temperature you can browse through with a press of a button. You cannot alter these presets which are written in the monitor’s firmware.

The monitor’s brightness and contrast settings are both set to the maximum, 100%, by default. For the pure white color on the screen to have a luminance of 100nit, I dropped these settings to 70%.

As I said earlier, this monitor uses an S-IPS matrix you can identify by the typical effect: black color acquires a tincture of violet if your line of sight is at a small angle to the screen. This effect isn’t too strong, so I can’t call it a serious defect, but it is visible in twilight.

The traditional advantages of S-IPS technology are excellent viewing angles and good color reproduction. I really have no complaints about the angles – they are truly excellent, but the potentially good color reproduction is spoiled here by the monitor setup.

These are the graphs at the monitor’s default settings. As you see, all the three colors, especially blue and green, are so intensive that all light tones are indistinguishable from pure white. This frustrating defect is usually cured by reducing the brightness and contrast settings, but my doing so led to another defect appearing:

At 70% of both brightness and contrast, lights are reproduced normally, but the monitor doesn’t now distinguish between darks which are the same as pure black, especially dark-blue hues. Moreover, the green channel is bad at reproducing both dark and light tones of green! Thus, the L1910S can only reproduce the entire color range more or less successfully in a rather narrow range of brightness and contrast settings. When these settings are too high, the monitor doesn’t distinguish between lights. When the settings are reduced, it stops to distinguish between darks.

The graph of the pixel rise time looks typical for an S-IPS matrix. Generally speaking, S-IPS monitors are comparable to monitors on the formally faster TN+Film matrices in speed, which is a dangerous fact for the latter since low response time is their only tangible technical advantage. Moreover, the matrix proved to be even a little faster than declared by the manufacturer.

The monitor’s contrast ratio is average in all the test modes. It is good, but cannot match the parameters of the above-described monitors on TN+Film and MVA matrices. The maximum brightness is much higher than specified, but this is not crucial for users who are not planning to play games or watch movies under bright indoor lighting.

All in all, I noticed only two drawbacks in the Flatron L1910S, namely its clumsy design with a bulky and tall base and the bad color reproduction setup. Otherwise, this monitor has satisfactory parameters: the matrix is fast, has excellent viewing angles and a good contrast ratio. This model will do well as an office monitor or as an inexpensive home device for both work and play. You shouldn’t buy this Flatron for processing photographs, for example, basing on the type of its matrix. Alas, but its color reproduction isn’t as good as it might be.

LG Flatron L1910P (AFRUQ)

This monitor belongs to the same series as the above-described L1910S, but is its senior representative (the series includes three models in total, the Flatron L1910B being the third, midrange model). The L1910P differs from the L1910S in three aspects: the stand, the use of an MVA matrix (which is denoted by the second letter in “AFRUQ”), and the presence of a digital input.

The monitor’s base looks even bulkier than the L1910S’s in profile, but it has a much more handsome look from the front. What’s more important, it allows not only to change the tilt of the screen, but also its height, and to turn the screen round into the portrait mode. The minimal height is rather high, though. It is 12 centimeters from the surface of the desk to the bottom edge of the screen; the maximum height is 19.5 centimeters.

A two-port USB hub is built into the base, but the only good point about this solution is that the hub is firmly fixed and doesn’t clutter your desk. It is not electrically connected to the monitor, so it has no additional power (in other words, the total consumption of the attached devices cannot exceed 500 microamperes) and doesn’t allow controlling the monitor from Windows. Then, the hub’s connectors are located on the rear panel of the base, so it won’t help if you want an easily accessible USB port (for your USB flash drive or digital camera, for example).

There’s a DVI-D connector now on the monitor’s connections panel. The power adapter is integrated into the case, like with the previous model.

The monitor is controlled like the L1910S, but there’s a button for switching between the inputs instead of the LightView button, while the browsing of the LightView modes is now performed with the Up and Down buttons. Quickly accessible are the brightness and contrast settings – pressing any of the buttons marked as Brightness you actually open up a small brightness/contrast menu.

The monitor’s default brightness is set to 100% and contrast to 70%. Reducing both brightness and contrast settings to 46% (when the monitor was attached via the digital input) or to 49% (analog input) I achieved a screen brightness of 100nit. The monitor controls its brightness through pulse-width modulation of the power of the backlight lamps at a frequency of about 370Hz.

Unfortunately, the quality of the image produced by the L1910P left a very negative impression. Its matrix has an awfully irregular backlighting – it’s even worse than with the above-described AL1912. Non-uniform backlighting is usually visible on a black screen with dim external lighting (this is due to non-linear sensitivity of the human eye), but here you can notice it even on a light background and under bright external light. The left part of the screen, especially its top left corner, is noticeably lighter than the right part.

The monitor can’t boast a good reproduction of colors, either. Color gradients seem to consist of stripes of 5-7 millimeters wide when displayed on this monitor. This needs some clarification. I heard the opinion that the human eye can always see such stripes on the screen of any monitor. Yes, it’s true that the human eye can discern the borderline between the neighboring color tones in a gradient of any of the basic colors (red, green, blue) with the common 8-bit color encoding (8 bits for each of the three color channels, i.e. 256 grades in total). But let’s do some calculation: the width of the screen of a 19” LCD monitor is 380 millimeters. The number of grades is 256, so the width of each grade should be a little less than 1.5 millimeters. These grades should be visible on any high-quality monitor, but only if you do look for them. Moreover, the brightness of these grades is changing monotonously. That is, if the gradient is changing from left to right and from black to red, then the brightness of each N-th grade will be smaller than that of the (N+1)-th one. But when you see stripes with a width of several millimeters and when their brightness is changing irregularly (that is, there are brighter stripes on either side of the given one), then we evidently deal with defects in the electronics or the matrix of the monitor. And that’s exactly what we have with the L1910P.

The color curves, although not as bad as with the L1910S, are still far from perfect. Besides the excessively high coefficient of gamma correction (which you can adjust in the monitor’s menu, if you wish), you can see that the blue channel doesn’t distinguish between dark tones, equaling them to pure black. I constructed the diagram above using the analog connection and the default settings, but everything was almost the same with digital input and/or different settings.

I have enhanced the response time diagram here: it now shows not only the pixel rise time (i.e. the pixel’s color switching from black to a gray), but also the fall time (from a gray to black). The full pixel response time is simply a sum of these two numbers.

Here, the pixel fall time remains more or less constant, but the pixel rise time is typical for an MVA matrix: it is catastrophically high on black-to-dark-gray transitions, which makes MVA matrices less suitable for games in the first head.

This monitor is rather average in both maximum brightness and contrast ratio. You may note only two things: the contrast ratio goes down greatly when the screen brightness is low, and the contrast ratio is better when the monitor is connected via the digital input.

Overall, I have to confess that the Flatron L1910P disappointed me much. I can’t think of an application where this monitor would do well. Its irregular backlighting and bad color rendition are no good for work, while its poor response time is going to spoil the picture in dynamic games. It is possible that we’ve got a defective sample for our tests, and other samples won’t have the problem with the backlighting, but you should be anyway careful when shopping.

LG Flatron L1930SQ

This model belongs to a new LCD monitor series from LG and is based on a TN+Film matrix.

The design has changed since the L1910 series: despite the wide bezel, the monitor looks more elegant, mostly due to the new, smaller base.

This base can only change the tilt of the screen, though.

The device is equipped with an analog input only; the power adapter is integrated into the case. If necessary, you can hide the cables under the removable back panel of the base. The connectors are hidden under the monitor’s decorative rear cover (it’s shifted a few centimeters upwards in the snapshot, to reveal the connectors).

Unlike in the older models, there are only four control buttons here, and quick access is only provided to the LightView modes and to the auto-adjustment. The buttons are located on the bottom edge of the monitor, are easily pressed and provoke no problems whatsoever.

The onscreen menu has become more colorful and easier to use. It allows to change the gamma compensation coefficient (the third slider in the snapshot above), while the other options are quite ordinary.

The appearance and the contents of the LightView menu have changed: the six presets are now accompanied with two more items (marked with numbers 1 and 2 in the snapshot above) which the user can set up to his/her taste.

The backlighting is rather uniform, although not perfect. Yet, the L1930SQ would win a comparison with the Acer AL1912, which is also based on a TN+Film matrix, in this parameter. Of course, the type of the matrix shows up immediately, especially in the viewing angles. If you deflect your head just a little below the center of the screen, you’ll see the top of the screen becoming dark. The narrowness of the horizontal viewing angle is felt, too, especially in comparison with S-IPS and MVA/PVA matrices, although this angle is wider than the vertical one. In fact, the first thing you notice when switch from the L1930SQ to a monitor on some other type of the matrix is the much better (due to the wider viewing angles) uniformity of the image.

The color reproduction setup is good, except the excessive blue in the middle of the range which results in a high color temperature of gray. In other words, if white looks normally, gray will have a cold bluish hue. And if you bring the color temperature of gray to the norm using the menu settings, white becomes too warm as you have reduced its temperature, too.

If you read the previous review of LCD monitors on our site called Closer Look at 17" LCD Monitor Features. Part V, you may remember one of my complaints about LG’s monitors, namely that their real response time was 16 milliseconds, although there was a loud advertisement campaign going, proclaiming new 12ms matrices. Alas, the L1930SQ is just like the junior models: despite the specified response time of 12 milliseconds (not only the monitor’s certificate, but also the beautiful label in the top right corner of the monitor’s case informs you about that) the monitor actually uses a 16ms matrix, with a typical response time graph thereof. Frankly speaking, the speed of this monitor isn’t far slower than that of 12ms models, but I distaste the very fact that the specification and advertising materials claim wrong numbers and actually mislead the users.

The contrast ratio of this monitor is excellent, considering the type of its matrix. What’s good, it complies with the specification – I don’t often see such a compliance in my tests. Even though the contrast ratio went down along with the reduction of the screen brightness, it still remained very good.

Overall, the Flatron L1930SQ proved to be a highly remarkable device with in fact two drawbacks: too high color temperature of gray and rather narrow viewing angles. The latter thing, however, is the common drawback of all TN+Film matrices. I don’t count in the response time – 4 milliseconds worse than specified – among the drawbacks as 12ms and 16ms matrices are very close in real performance. But I do have complaints about LG’s misleading the users in the advertisements.

The L1930SQ is going to make a good and inexpensive home or office monitor. It suits for everything – games, movies (thanks to its excellent contrast ratio and high speed) and work. Of course, monitors on S-IPS and PVA matrices can be a better choice in many cases (the former technology features better color reproduction and viewing angles at a comparable speed, while the latter has better contrast and excellent viewing angles, too), but the L1930SQ will do for undemanding users, especially considering its low price. At the time of my writing this review it cost less than $500.

NEC MultiSync LCD1960NXi

Using NEC’s traditional “rectangular” design, this monitor is based on the same S-IPS matrix (the LG.Philips LM190E01 model) as the previously described LG L1910S. So, it’s going to be the more interesting to compare the real characteristics of these two products.

There’s not a single rounded corner here (except the four corners of the case, but their radius is just a few millimeters), not a single non-90-degrees angle even! The whole arrangement looks rather austere and clumsy, repelling some home users who care about the exterior of the monitor they are working with.

The monitor’s base can control the height and tilt of the screen and turn it around the vertical axis. The portrait mode is unavailable, though. The minimal height of the screen is only 65 millimeters (suits well to people who have a high desk); the maximal height is 180 millimeters (I want to remind you that I measure this distance from the surface of the desk to the bottom edge of the screen, the screen being strictly vertical). When you lift the monitor off the desk, the base suddenly unfolds to its entire height, which is not convenient if you’re periodically moving the monitor about; there’s no lock or holder to keep the base in place.

The MultiSync LCD1960NXi comes with analog and digital inputs as well as with an integrated power adapter. In the monitor’s package you find enclosed an analog cable only – the DVI-D cable must be purchased separately. By the way, don’t confuse DVD-D and DVD-I cables! These connectors are incompatible even for their having a different number of pins. So, you need a cable with a DVD-D connector on one end for this LCD monitor.

You can use as many as seven buttons to control this monitor (I don’t count in the Power-On button), but it doesn’t offer you any presets like LG’s LightView or Samsung’s MagicBright. The seventh button – Reset – is used in one case only, to reset the menu settings to the factory ones. Quick access is provided to the brightness and contrast settings as well as to switching between the inputs and to the audio-adjustment. I had a monitor in a white case for my tests, but NEC also supplies a black model where you suddenly have the problem of unreadability of the pressed-out labels on the black buttons.

The menu is typical for many monitors from NEC. Having little beauty or user-friendliness, it contains the necessary setup options all the same. In fact, the only thing missing here is brightness/contrast presets to be browsed through with a press of a single button, like the competing monitors have; but I’ve already said that above.

The default brightness and contrast are set to 100% and 50%, respectively. 80% brightness plus 40% contrast equals the desired screen brightness of 100nit. The monitor controls its brightness through modulating the power of the backlight lamps at 160Hz frequency.

Quite expectedly for an S-IPS matrix, the MultiSync LCD1960NXi has excellent viewing angles and reproduces colors very well, with mild, eye-pleasing hues. The backlight in the sample I tested was quite evenly distributed along the screen, but I heard some users complaining at a non-uniform distribution of the backlighting in this model. So, you should pay special attention to this characteristic when purchasing a MultiSync LCD1960NXi. By the way, it’s better to evaluate the regularity of the backlighting on black and gray colors under mild external lighting: in such conditions the human eye is the most sensitive to color deviations in the onscreen image.

At the default settings the color curves don’t betray a slightly excessive color temperature (in other words, too much of blue), while the bend of the curves in the top right part of the graph is indicative of excessively high contrast (I mean the contrast setting in the monitor’s menu, not the contrast ratio of the matrix which is the ratio of white to black). In practice this shows up as faded-out light tones, so I don’t recommend you to set the contrast setting of the 1960NXi above 45% (it’s 50% by default, as you remember) lest the color curves deviate out of the norm. The brightness setting cannot affect the reproduction of colors as it is regulated with the backlight lamps here.

The responsiveness of the MultiSync LCD1960NXi is the typical responsiveness of an S-IPS matrix. We can compare it to the response time graph of the above-described LG L1930SQ on the TN+Film matrix. Although the specified speeds of these two matrices differ by more than a half, their practical speeds are much closer to each other. The high full response time of the S-IPS matrix comes from the pixel fall time being higher than that of the TN+Film one. As for the pixel rise time, these two matrices are quite comparable. Of course, in real situations (in games and in movies) the visually perceived blurring of the image may be determined by the rise as well as fall time, so it’s hard to make a general judgment basing on the numbers. Yet I do say that S-IPS matrices have a good effective speed and are very close to TN+Film technology in this respect, although S-IPS is still slower than TN+Film in some cases.

The MultiSync LCD1960NXi boasts a very good contrast ratio for an S-IPS matrix (S-IPS matrices don’t generally have good contrast due to the specifics of this technology) – it’s about 400:1 and didn’t change much at different settings. Well, the above-described Flatron L1910S also had a good, although lower, contrast ratio.

The brightness of the monitor proved to be low, much lower than specified. By the way, the fluctuations typical for pulse-width modulation of the backlighting were perfectly visible in response time oscillograms even at the maximum brightness. It means the monitor doesn’t give you a higher brightness not because of the insufficient power of the backlight lamps, but because of the limitations in the firmware that don’t allow the lamps to work at their full capacity.

In a sum of its qualities, the MultiSync LCD1960NXi is a proper monitor for both work and entertainment. Its only disadvantages are the angular design, the lack of brightness/contrast presets, and the reported irregular backlighting problem (but again, the sample I tested was free from it). This monitor offers excellent viewing angles, good color reproduction (on a condition that you reduce the contrast setting a little below the default value), and good contrast ratio and response time. All this makes it a universal model, suitable for almost any task. In spite of the high specified response time, S-IPS matrices can challenge the formally twice-faster TN+Film matrices in this parameter, too, not mentioning the rest of the parameters. Thus, the only real disadvantage of S-IPS technology is the considerably higher price.

NEC MultiSync LCD1970NX

This model is almost fully identical to the MultiSync LCD1960NXi (see above), as it is based on the same matrix from LG.Philips LCD (there also exists the LCD1960NX model on a PVA matrix from Samsung, but the LCD1970NX always comes on an S-IPS matrix, despite the lack of the “i” index in its name). What distinguishes this model from the previous one is the new design of the case and of the onscreen menu.

Yet I can’t say they have changed the design “dramatically”: the angles are all just meticulously rounded and smoothed, and the appearance of the base has become somewhat less official. I’m sure some users who were previously repelled by the angular exterior of the 1960NXi will find the new design more interesting.

The functionality has remained the same: the base still allows adjusting the height and tilt of the screen; the portrait mode is still unavailable.

Like the previous model, the 1970NX comes with an analog and a digital input; its power adapter is integrated into the case. There’s also a connector marked as “DC OUT” here (you can see it in the top left corner in the snapshot) whose purpose is unclear – it is not mentioned in the manual.

The control buttons now form a separate block under the screen. The most notable innovation is of course the four-positional joystick instead of the four traditional navigation buttons. Unfortunately, the joystick began to stick in the right and bottom positions after about half an hour of my using it, so the onscreen menu became practically unusable – it would take me three or four attempts to get into a desired submenu or set the value of a particular parameter. If it were not for this defect, I would have no complaints about the controls whatsoever (on a condition that you take some time to get used to the joystick). But unable to use the sticky joystick, I had to resort to the NaviSet utility which is supplied on the disc with the monitor and controls the device from Windows using the DDC/CI interface.

The monitor’s menu has undergone dramatic changes, too. Its thoroughly redesigned interface now looks much cuter than before, and I’d call it very handy, if not for the faulty joystick, again.

Unfortunately, the 1970NX still doesn’t have any brightness/contrast presets, and this makes me think that the 1970NX is nothing more but a cosmetic improvement on the 1960NXi – the exterior has changed, but the functionality and characteristics have not.

The monitor’s default brightness and contrast are set to 100% and 50%, respectively. Choosing 47% brightness and 35% contrast – both with analog and digital inputs – I achieved the desired 100nit screen brightness. Brightness is controlled through modulating the power of the backlight lamps at 200Hz frequency.

Visually, this monitor produces almost the same picture as the above-described 1960NXi, to the minutest detail. The 1970NX has excellent viewing angles, uniform backlighting (but I should warn you again that I heard many users reporting about samples of the 1970NX with irregular backlighting; this means you should pay the foremost attention to this parameter when shopping), eye-pleasing mild colors and good response time. And of course, you can notice the characteristic violet hue at an exactly the same angle of view. My measurements also show the small defect I mentioned when describing the 1960NXi – the default contrast is too high, leading to a poor reproduction of light colors.

This defect can be eliminated by reducing the contrast setting to 45%. I advise you to do this the first thing when you get to setting this monitor up.

Another drawback is poor reproduction of dark blues – you can see it in the graph. Yet the color reproduction is overall normal. The curves of different colors coincide with each other almost ideally, which is an indication of an accurate color reproduction setup.

The response time graph is overall similar to the one of the LCD1960NXi, with a single difference: the monitor takes much more time to switch a pixel from black to the darkest gray (32) than its predecessor did. It would take more accurate and careful measurements to fully explain this effect. The monitors may use different subversions of the matrix, or maybe the monitors were calibrated differently, so the 1960NXi and 1970NX had a different real brightness of one and the same tone of gray, as set up by the software, and thus had different response times on this gray.

Due to some technical reasons I tested the 1960NXi with its analog input only, but here I attached the 1970NX via both analog and digital inputs. You can see that the digital connection ensures a noticeable gain in terms of the contrast ratio due to the slight reduction of the level of black.

On the whole, the MultiSync LCD1970NX is a 1960NXi model after a face-lifting operation. The newer model looks different, but I can’t find any serious differences in the characteristics or functionality of the two. Thus, the 1970NX can also be regarded as an interesting product, suitable for many applications, both at home and in office. Alas, this model isn’t free from some problems. Besides some users complaining about irregular backlighting, like it was the case with the 1960NXi (but again, both samples of these two monitors I actually tested had normal backlighting), the 1970NX may have the sticky joystick trouble. Unfortunately, you can’t even see this trouble through when shopping – the joystick of the tested sample got sticky after some time of my using it. I also have some gripes about the functionality: I’d want to see brightness/contrast presets and a portrait-mode-supporting base here, like in the competitor models. Otherwise, the NEC 1970NX certainly deserves your attention. It features a good contrast ratio, a rather low response time, excellent viewing angles and a very good – although not perfect – reproduction of colors.

Philips Brilliance 190P5

A curious design feature of this monitor is that the front panel of the case is not flat as with the absolute majority of LCD monitors, but is slightly arched, as it was in many CRT monitors (more exactly, in older models on non-flat cathode-ray tubes; when “flat” tubes like FD Trinitron, NaturalFlat and DynaFlat appeared, the manufacturers strove to emphasize their absolute flatness using a flat design of the case).

The Brilliance 190P5 is based on an MVA matrix.

The monitor’s stand is large, is made of black plastic and allows to change the tilt of the screen (in a small range), to control its height, to turn it around the vertical axis, and to rotate it into the portrait mode.

The Brilliance 190P5 comes equipped with analog and digital inputs, and both cables are enclosed with it. The DVI cable is initially attached to the monitor. Since this is a multimedia model, it has an audio input, but the quality of the integrated speakers is very low. Just take a look at the first snapshot – you can discern two tiny dark circles of the speakers through the decorative grid. The size of the circles is self-explanatory – you will hardly want to use them for playing music even as a musical background of your workplace. But if you need sound of a higher quality, you can use the headphones socket, also available on the monitor.

The monitor’s menu is quite convenient. With white text on a blue background, it resembles the menu of the Philips Brilliance 170T4 I reviewed in my earlier article called (Closer Look at 17” LCD Monitor Features. Part V). I found some faults with it, though. For example, there’s an Exit menu item for leaving the menu and this item is active when you leave any of the submenus. On the one hand, you don’t have to move the cursor to the Exit item, if you’ve wanted to change just one setting, but on the other hand, the monitor doesn’t remember which menu item you last stopped at. It would be handier to have a separate Exit button, especially as the Auto button isn’t used in the menu at all – it could be double-duty.

Quick access is provided to the auto-adjustment feature and to the brightness and volume settings. To adjust the contrast setting you have to enter the main menu where this setting is not even first, but a third item.

The LightFrame feature is a different story. At first sight it seems to be an analog of LG’s LightView or Samsung’s MagicBright, i.e. a button on the front panel allows switching between presets which consist of several settings. LightFrame, however, is inferior to the competitors merely because of the number of the available presets: LG offers six modes, while the Philips offers only one. If you press the LightFrame button, the monitor’s brightness and contrast are lifted up almost to their maximums, and the color temperature is reduced considerably (although the image has already been warm enough). A second press on the same button returns everything back. Some users may be misguided by the fact that the monitor’s brightness, contrast and color temperature settings are not blocked in the LightFrame mode, and you can adjust them without leaving this mode, but your adjustments do not affect the image until you disable LightFrame manually.

Somewhat more interesting is the namesake program you receive with the monitor. After its installation there appears a small window with three buttons on the Windows Desktop (you can see two states of this window above). Clicking the first button, you can select a picture (a rectangular picture, rather than a random object) and enable the extra-bright LightFrame mode only for this picture. This resembles the MagicBright feature in Samsung’s CRT monitors which allows “selecting with brightness” a certain part of the onscreen image, but the third version of LightFrame employed in the Brilliance 190P5 can select several such parts at the same time. Unfortunately, this function doesn’t work ideally yet. For example, LightFrame would agree to highlight only one of the several pictures opened in the image-processing program GIMP 1.2.5, while the auto-highlight mode in Internet Explorer 5.0 didn’t work at all (all pictures in IE should be automatically highlighted in this mode). When I tried to select the pictures in Internet Explorer manually, then not only the pictures, but also the entire contents of the IE window, including ordinary text, were highlighted. Thus, I have to confess that the quite interesting LightFrame feature is rather useless in its current version. The LightFrame button on the monitor’s panel has a much more limited functionality than the analogous buttons on the competitor monitors, while the LightFrame 3 software doesn’t work ideally, although it can do things the competitors cannot.

You also receive a simple FPAdjust utility with the monitor which helps the beginner users to set the monitor up correctly. In fact, this program contains a number of tips about setting up the resolution and brightness setup and about the adjustment to analog signal. The tips are accompanied with appropriate patterns that facilitate these operations.

Alas, but the quality of the color reproduction setup couldn’t please me: the red and green channels are too intensive, even though the blue channel is almost normal. This leads to incorrect color temperature values, and you can also see the characteristic bend of the green and red channels in the area of light tones which means that these colors are not practically reproduced at all. This situation can be somewhat improved by reducing the monitor’s contrast setting, but not cured completely. Of course, the monitor also exhibits the typical defect of MVA technology: darks become noticeably lighter when you deflect your head 10-20 degrees to a side from the center of the screen. On the other hand, I have no complaints about the reproduction of smooth color gradients.

By default, the monitor’s brightness and contrast settings are set to 100% and 50%, respectively. By choosing 60% brightness and 45% contrast I achieved 100nit screen brightness. The monitor controls its brightness by modulating the power of the backlight lamps at a frequency of about 120Hz.

The pixel rise time is typical for MVA technology and exceeds 80 milliseconds at the maximum, which makes this monitor not very suitable for playing games. What’s more, the monitor cannot make it to the optimistically specified 16 milliseconds even on black-white-black transitions, but has almost twice that time on them.

The contrast ratio is more than three times lower than specified, which is a very unassuming performance in comparison with the other models reviewed in this article.

On the whole, the Philips Brilliance 190P5 has more lows than highs and its handsome appearance is almost its only advantage. The monitor employs a slow and low-contrast matrix and the color rendition setup doesn’t satisfy me at all. The exclusive feature – the LightFrame mode – doesn’t always work correctly, either.

Samsung SyncMaster 913N (SKSB)

This time I tested five models from Samsung, three of which were based on a PVA matrix and one model on a TN+Film one. The latter is going to be the first reviewed.

The SyncMaster 913N follows the traditional design of Samsung’s recent LCD monitors, if there is such thing at all: there are so many versions of the case and of the stand in monitors from Samsung that you can see at the same time on the shelves of any shop. After the review of the SyncMaster 710T in our roundup called Closer Look at 17" LCD Monitor Features. Part V, for example, some readers asked me where they could purchase a monitor with that very base as described in the review, since monitors with another, round base were prevalent in the market. You see, it’s really hard to say that some design is conventional or traditional in such conditions :). Anyway, such a case and stand as we have here were used in Samsung’s 710-th and 910-th series.

This is a low-end model, so its base only allows controlling the tilt of the screen. The type of the base (both its design and functionality) is indicated by the second letter in the additional letter index of the monitor – here, it is “SKSB”.

The SyncMaster 913N comes with an analog input and an integrated power adapter.

You can control the monitor using the five button in the bottom left of the case. The buttons sink down easily, so there’re no problems with the controls. The monitor offers quick access to the brightness and contrast settings as well as to the auto-adjustment and MagicBright features.

All monitors from Samsung’s 9xx and 7xx series use a new onscreen menu now. It looks much better than the older version and is easy to use, but the settings have remained the same: brightness, contrast, and four color temperature variants. Somewhat unusual is the option of controlling the gamma correction coefficient (this setting can take three values, from “Mode 1” to “Mode 3”).

Pressing the appropriate button, you invoke the MagicBright menu that offers three brightness/contrast presets (the fourth variant, Custom, denotes the ordinary settings of the main menu). You cannot change these presets, but you can use the MagicTune utility, available also with any other modern monitor from Samsung, to control the monitor from Windows. This utility allows you to create your own presets and to invoke them with a few clicks of the mouse.

By default, the monitor’s brightness and contrast settings are both set to 80%. By setting them both to 50% I achieved 100nit screen brightness. The monitor controls its brightness using pulse-width modulation of the backlight lamps at a frequency of about 370Hz.

The quality of the image as produced by the SyncMaster 913N left me rather indifferent. The viewing angles visually seem a little narrower than with the above-described LG L1930SQ (of course, there’s no sense in comparing the SyncMaster 913N to monitors on matrices other than TN+Film). The colors are rather pale, and wide stripes are discernible in smooth color gradients. On a closer look you can also notice a light edge to the right of vertical black lines on a gray background – I drew your attention to this problem in my earlier reviews of other new monitors from Samsung. It’s impossible to get rid of that light edging by manual setup of the phase – the image sharpness degenerates considerably at the settings at which there’s no edging.

The color reproduction setup is normal. The color curves are not very smooth, but they don’t betray any serious defects.

The response time is good, 12 milliseconds minimum, but don’t comply with the specification which promises 8 milliseconds. In comparison with the main competitor, I mean the L1930SQ from LG, Samsung’s monitor is a little faster on both black-white-black transitions (on which the specified response time is in fact measured) and intermediate transitions.

The contrast ratio is acceptable, but not very high. The max brightness is average, too, despite the specified 300nit.

Thus, the SyncMaster 913N looks like an average monitor on the whole. It is definitely better than the mediocre Acer AL1912, but somewhat worse than the LG L1930SQ, even though the LG monitor has a slightly higher response time. The main disadvantages of the SyncMaster 913N are narrow viewing angles and low color reproduction quality.

Samsung SyncMaster 910N

Unlike the previous model, the SyncMaster 910N is based on a PVA matrix. The snapshot above depicts the senior version of this monitor, with the “SAS” index and a stand that controls the screen height and supports the portrait mode. There also exist SKS (the base like the one of the above-described 913N), SSS (the base can only adjust the tilt of the screen) and STS versions (its round base resembles the one of the SKS model, but allows to change the height of the screen and to pivot the screen into the portrait mode).

The monitor’s pedestal is a fundamental thing – its large dimensions are eye-catching, even though the case is itself thick enough.

The monitor comes with an analog input only; the power adapter is built-in.

The position of the control buttons and the onscreen menu are fully identical to the above-described SyncMaster 913N. The buttons sink down easily; it’s very easy to set up the monitor using the well-designed menu. Like the 913N, the SyncMaster 910N has three MagicBright presets you can switch between with a single button.

By default the brightness and contrast settings of the monitor are set to 80%; by choosing 48% brightness and 60% contrast I made the screen shine with a luminosity of 100nit.

This monitor has the same defect as the above-described 913N: there’s a light edging to the right of vertical lines. This edging is more noticeable on the SyncMaster 910N, but this effect isn’t too strong anyway to hinder your work. Otherwise I have no complaints about the quality of the image: the monitor has excellent viewing angles (that’s natural for a PVA matrix), good uniformity of the backlighting, and lush colors with an accurate reproduction of smooth gradients.

The color reproduction isn’t however free from the common defect of all PVA and MVA matrices: dark colors become like pure black if your line of sight is perpendicular to the screen. Sometimes this defect may become annoying, but it is not very strong as a rule.

There are two defects in the gamma curves: 1) the level of blue and, to a lesser extent, of green is too high, and this leads to excessively high color temperature 2) the lightest colors are not reproduced correctly as the characteristic bend of the color curves in the top right corner of the graph suggests. The latter defect can be eliminated by a slight reduction of the contrast setting – I advise you to do that if you care about accurate reproduction of colors.

The response time is regrettably quite typical for matrices of this type. Why regrettably? Because the pixel rise time grows up catastrophically on black-to-gray transitions, to more than 100 milliseconds at the maximum. Here I’d like to say it once again that our objective measurements of the response time cannot give an answer to the question if the given monitor suits you because the reaction to the “ghosting” effect is purely subjective. Some people consider 12ms TN-Film matrices as slow, while others can be quite satisfied with PVA and MVA ones. Generally, PVA suits normally for watching movies and for work, but the ghosting effect becomes too strong in some games (in some, but not in all games!). So, if you’re going to buy such a monitor, but have never before worked with PVA/MVA monitors, you should certainly try your favorite games on such a monitor first to make sure your purchase won’t disappoint you.

The contrast ratio of this monitor is simply excellent – it’s even above 1000:1! I should confess, though, that the Pantone ColorVision Spyder colorimeter I use for measuring the contrast ratio isn’t very confident at such low levels of black. Its readings jump suddenly from one measurement to another. Sometimes it yields a zero result altogether. Judging by these jumps, they are due to the specifics of the data-processing algorithms built into this measurement tool, but as I have no access to these algorithms, I cannot tell anything more. This situation made me think of my own system of measuring brightness in a wider range. Most probably you’ll see its results in my upcoming reviews.

Thus, the contrast ratio values in the table above shouldn’t be regarded as exact numbers. But I do say that the contrast ratio of the SyncMaster 910N is much better than that of a number of other monitors. This fact is confirmed visually – you can put a SyncMaster 910N beside any other monitor participating in this review to see its much deeper black color (it is this deep black that in fact contributes to the excellent contrast ratio).

Overall, the SyncMaster 910N is a typical member of Samsung’s series of monitors on PVA matrices. It has an excellent contrast ratio and viewing angles and a good color reproduction, so it’s going to be a good choice for work and for home, with a single reservation – if you are not into playing dynamic games. I can name only one minor defect of this monitor – white edging to the right of vertical lines, but this effect isn’t conspicuous at all.

Samsung SyncMaster 910T

The SyncMaster 910T strongly resembles the previous model, but features a digital DVI-D input. The case has absolutely the same shape, but it is totally black here. Two variants of the base are available; they both allow adjusting the height of the screen and turning it into the portrait mode, but differ in the shape of their foundation. Samsung must have thought it improper to offer the senior model of the series with an inexpensive stand without the portrait-mode capability.

I don’t want to dwell long on the appearance and the ergonomic qualities of this monitor. In comparison with the SyncMaster 910N, there have appeared a digital input and a 220V power switch (there is a plastic gag instead of this switch in the 910N). The Select button has acquired the additional function of switching between the inputs.

The SyncMaster 910T comes in two color schemes: black (as shown in the snapshot) and silvery-black, similar to the above-described 910N. The black scheme has one drawback – the labels on the control buttons are pressed out, i.e. they are of the same black color and are difficult to read. I mentioned the same drawback with respect to the NEC LCD1960NXi monitor, which has the same black case and similar black buttons. Here, however, you can use the MagicBright utility to control the monitor from Windows.

By default the brightness and contrast settings of this monitor are set to 80%; when they are set to about 55%, the screen brightness becomes 100nit. Like with the two previous monitors, the menu offers three gamma correction variants, “Mode 1” being default. The second variant gives you a slightly lower gamma, and the third – a slightly higher gamma. And it turned out that “Mode 3” ensured the most accurate monitor setup, closest to the sRGB standard in which gamma equals 2.2. That’s why I tested the monitor using this third mode.

I have no complaints about the image quality. It has all the advantages of the SyncMaster 910N, but doesn’t have those light edges I described above.

As you can see in this graph, even “Gamma Mode 3” doesn’t provide an ideal setup. The gamma compensation coefficient is slightly higher than necessary, that’s why the gamma curves bottom out in the middle of the range. But as I said above, this setting is the closest to the ideal.

Anyway, there are practically no problems with the monitor’s color reproduction here, save for the slightly over-intensive green. A minor problem occurs when the brightness and contrast settings are reduced – the monitor ceases to distinguish between dark tones:

This problem concerns “Gamma Mode 3” alone, but other modes produce even worse gamma curves – they are evidently too high, so I have to admit that Mode 3 is the most optimal here.

The response time graph differs from the graph of the SyncMaster 910N as it doesn’t have that sudden growth of the pixel rise time in the left part. But this is most probably due to different calibration curves of these two monitors, as even a slightest change in the brightness of the matrix may seriously affect the response time here.

The SyncMaster 910T also has an excellent contrast ratio due to the low level of black, but the maximum level of white is much lower than with the previous model, and lower than specified. On the other hand, you seldom need a brightness of above 200nit in practice, so you should not worry about this parameter much.

Thus, the SyncMaster 910T, just like the junior SyncMaster 910N model, is a good, work-oriented monitor. It boasts an excellent contrast ratio and wide viewing angles. As for its disadvantages, its response time is rather high (but that’s a common drawback of all PVA matrices), and a not-very-precise color reproduction setup which only comes close to what is desired at one gamma compensation setting out of the three possible.

Samsung SyncMaster 920T

This model has just recently appeared in shops; it is in fact a successor to the above-described SyncMaster 910T. While the 910-th series returned to the classic cases after the unusual dual-hinge stands of the 192-th series, the 920T trumpets a return to the Dual Hinge design.

The Dual Hinge base has two articulate joints rather than one as the majority of other bases have. The joints are on both ends of the vertical pole – where it joins the monitor and where it joins the foundation of the base. As a result, it is possible to regulate the height of the monitor from 3.5 centimeters to 10 centimeters above the desk as well as to change the tilt of the screen from vertical to horizontal position. You can even fold the monitor up into a very compact flat thing which can be then hung on the wall without and additional fasteners or whatever. At their times, such bases in the 192-th series of SyncMasters were much popular among the users, but they had one drawback – they didn’t support the pivot technology. This problem is solved in the 920T – the screen of this monitor can be easily rotated into the portrait position.

Another advantage of the base of the 920T is its excellent steadiness. Thanks to the large foundation, the monitor can hardly be knocked back at all – if you push it strong enough, the base is more likely to fold up rather than to topple over. At the same time, despite the dimensions, this base looks very elegant and doesn’t leave an impression of bulkiness. Of course, it’s a purely subjective thing, but I think that the SyncMaster 920T is highly impressive from both aesthetics and functionality points of view.

The video connectors are also implemented originally here. They are hidden into the central pole of the base and concealed under a decorative cover. The cables from these connectors go out through the rear of the base. So, only the power connector, on the base’s rear panel, is left exposed. The power adapter is external in this model.

I should note that although there’s a decorative grid on the “legs” of the base, this monitor is not equipped with speakers. Samsung has just unified the base for several models of its monitors.

The control buttons have been moved to the bottom edge of the screen. Although this solution seems right from the aesthetics standpoint, the buttons have become less handy in use. They are rather narrow and sink down under a considerable effort. The positions and the functions of the buttons have remained the same.

The overall interface of the onscreen menu hasn’t changed since the models of the 910 series, but its contents are quite different. First, the number of color temperature variants has been extended to nine (!) for a much more accurate setup of the monitor. The temperature changes from 5400K to 9300K with an average step of about 400K. Second, a new mode has appeared, which is called MagicColor. It regulates the saturation of the image. Unfortunately, there are only three variants of this mode (except the “Demo” variant where two halves of the screen have a different saturation each): “Off” (very pale, faded-out colors – it seems that the developers have deliberately reduced the saturation in this variant for a more vivid demonstration of the MagicColor effect), “MagicColor1” and “MagicColor2”. The latter two give out lush colors, but don’t differ between each other much. The MagicColor2 variant is selected by default, and the saturation is somewhat lower in it than with MagicColor1, but it really gives out a picture closest to the ideal. The colors in the MagicColor1 mode are somewhat gaudy to my taste. Third, the gamma correction coefficient is selected not from three values, as in the SyncMaster 910T, but is changing from 1.7 to 3.1 stepping 0.1. Fourth, the MagicBright menu has been changed. It now offers two presets more!

The last paragraph can be boiled down to just a few words. The developers of the SyncMaster 920T did a good job on its firmware, providing much wider setup opportunities than the majority of monitors of this class do (of course, such monitors as the NEC MultiSync 1980SX, for example, offer an even higher setup flexibility, but they belong to quite another category, even if we consider their price alone).

By default, the monitor’s brightness and contrast settings are set to 100% and 80%, respectively. To achieve a screen brightness of 100nit, I selected 43% brightness and 50% contrast with the digital connection and 46% brightness and 50% contrast with the analog connection.

The quality of the image as reproduced by this monitor gives no cause for complaints. The viewing angles are wide, and the backlighting is uniform (which was a nice diversion after the above-described LG Flatron L1910P which had been tested right before the SyncMaster 920T). Add also the excellent sharpness of the image and the reproduction of smooth gradients without a hint of visible stripes. I also saw no traces of the white edging I have complained about discussing the SyncMaster 910N.

But the quality of the color reproduction setup with analog input leaves room for improvement as the diagram shows. The levels of all the three colors are too high, and this problem cannot be solved by reducing the brightness and contrast settings. But as soon as I switched the monitor to the digital input, a miracle happened:

As you see, only blue is too intensive here, and only in the beginning of the range. Otherwise, the color reproduction is close to ideal. And I didn’t adjust any settings – I just switched from the analog input to the digital one! Well, my further tests showed that the DVI-D connection isn’t without blame, either. When the brightness and contrast settings were reduced, the color curves got distorted:

But these distortions aren’t as great as with the analog connection and can be corrected by a slight increase of gamma in the monitor’s settings menu.

I guess the response time graph requires no comments – we have the typical response time of a PVA matrix here, which is in fact the main defect of this technology.

The monitor doesn’t have the excellent contrast ratio of the two previous models, but its result is good, too – better than the other participating models reviewed in this article have. The measurements are confirmed visually – the SyncMaster 920T does yield a very good black color. Curiously enough, the brightness and contrast ratio remain almost the same irrespective of the connection (digital or analog), while the color reproduction is different depending on the connection.

Thus, the SyncMaster 920T is not just a cosmetic improvement on the SyncMaster 910T, as it was the case with the NEC 1960NXi and 1970NX. The functionality of the newer SyncMaster has been enhanced, too. The SyncMaster 920T comes in a convenient and nice-looking case, and its menu offers so many settings that other monitors from this price category seldom have: several color temperature settings, gamma adjustment, three color saturation settings and so on. The real characteristics of the monitor are top-notch. The excellent viewing angles, excellent contrast ratio, uniform backlighting and good color reproduction make it an excellent choice for work or home, except that it doesn’t suit much for dynamic games like many other PVA and MVA matrices. If you are not interested in such games or if you’re quite content with the speed of PVA, the SyncMaster 920T is going to be a good choice for you.

Samsung SyncMaster 193P

The SyncMaster 193P is the elder brother of the already tested SyncMaster 173P (for details see our article called New LCD Monitors from Samsung. Part II). Like the 173P, this monitor has an excellent silvery-white case which is both functional and beautiful. The back panel of the case and the stand are made of smooth white plastic without a single vent hole (this solution became feasible because the power adapter is external); the front panel is made of aluminum.

Like the above-described SyncMaster 920T, the 193P uses a Dual Hinge base which allows to change the tilt and the height of the screen (at the min height the screen actually lies on the desk – I guess owners of high desks or of “lying” system cases with the monitor on top are going to appreciate this). The tilt can be regulated in a wide range – you can even fold the monitor up into a single entity with the base. Thanks to that, it’s easy to wall-mount the 193P – the fasteners are enclosed. The portrait mode is available, too.

The connectors are all on the rear of the base, but are not hidden as in the SyncMaster 920T. This monitor is equipped with an analog and a digital (DVI-D) input.

The distinguishing feature of the SyncMaster 193P is the total absence of any buttons on the case, save for the Power button (it also switches between the inputs – you have to press and hold it for several seconds to do that). The button is sensory – you can just touch it with your finger and it is highlighted with a mild blue LED. As for controlling the device, you have to do it using the Windows-based MagicTune utility. Unfortunately, there is yet no such utility for other operating systems (I mentioned the ddccontrol project in my previous review – it’s dedicated to development of such a program – but alas, there’s not much progress done yet).

As for the Windows users, they are unlikely to regret the loss of the control buttons. Practice shows that MagicTune is not just a dull copy of the onscreen menu, but an independent and handy tool for setting your monitor up. Beginner users should be among the first to appreciate it: MagicTune offers various tips and even a Setup Wizard, which an ordinary onscreen menu just cannot do. But I already described this program in my reviews of Samsung’s monitors, so let’s get right to the tests.

By default, the monitor has 80% brightness and 50% contrast. To make the screen shine with a luminance of 100nit I dropped these settings to 39% brightness and 40% contrast. The menu – or, rather, the MagicTune utility – offers three color temperature settings: “Normal” proved to give out 6640K white and 7780K gray; “Cool” produced 7630K white and 10,440K gray; “Warm” yielded 6120K white and 6380K gray. The color temperature setup isn’t perfect, but quite acceptable: the difference between the temperatures of white and gray is noticeable, but is not as huge as with many other LCD monitors. Of course, you can also set up the color temperature manually, using three R-G-B sliders. The color reproduction is subjectively good: the colors are bright and saturated on the screen. Stripes in smooth color gradients are hardly discernable.

This monitor comes with the older menu which has only three color temperature variants rather than a dozen, as in the SyncMaster 920T. This is natural since the 193P, although belongs to a higher class than the 920T, was released much earlier.

When the monitor is connected via an analog connection, the auto-adjustment feature works automatically when the display mode changes. I didn’t have to invoke it manually in my tests. The auto-adjustment works well, without noise, shadows or any other artifacts.

The gamma curves suggest that all the three basic colors are too intensive. The characteristic bend in the area of light tones means that the monitor doesn’t reproduce the lightest colors very well. Yet, the deviation is small and will hardly be perceived by the eye. Moreover, this problem vanishes completely if you reduce the monitor’s contrast setting, but the gamma correction coefficient is still somewhat lower than it should be (the lower this coefficient, the higher the middle part of the gamma curves lies).

The manufacturer declares a response time of 20 milliseconds for this monitor. This is the first PVA matrix we’ve ever tested to have such a good responsiveness (25 milliseconds is the typical response time for PVA monitors).

My measurements entirely agree with the specification: the monitor does perform black-white-black transitions in exactly 20 milliseconds. But like with all other PVA and MVA matrices, the response time grows up on black-to-gray transitions, up to several tens of milliseconds. On the other hand, I often register a max response time of above 100 milliseconds with matrices of these two types in my tests, while the SyncMaster 193P always stays within 85 milliseconds. Well, it’s hard to tell if this is the consequence of the use of a different matrix or of a different setup and calibration of the monitors.

I heard the opinion that smaller response times can be achieved in monitors without vent holes, i.e. due to the higher temperature of the matrix. This is not true. The statistical data on different monitors with 25ms PVA matrices suggest that devices with non-ventilated case (starting from the relatively old models like SyncMaster 172T, SyncMaster 192T and so on) have in average no better speeds than their analogs with an integrated power adapter and ventilation – and actually they have almost the same temperature of the case!

Unfortunately, the contrast ratio didn’t reach the same heights as we saw with the previous three models, but it’s anyway quite good.

So, the SyncMaster 193P can be regarded as an image-making model. Its excellent design is going to appeal to the potential buyer, but it is already inferior to the newer SyncMaster 920T in its parameters, especially in the number of various settings. The only parameter the 193P is better than the other monitors from Samsung in is response time, but the advantage of 5 milliseconds is of little value for a PVA matrix since it’s a small achievement considering the absolute response speed of tens of milliseconds.

Conclusion

My personal interest about this test session was concerned with the arrival of 19” LCD monitors on TN+Film matrices. In all probability they are going to conquer this market in this year as they have done with the market of 17” devices.

The Acer AL1912 is not just the first monitor reviewed in this article, but also the first 19” TN+Film monitor ever tested in our labs. And it left me utterly disappointed. But my experience with the LG Flatron L1930SQ made me optimistic again: although this model exhibited the inborn defects of TN+Film technology such as small viewing angles, it can still make a good inexpensive home or office monitor. Alas, TN+Film monitors can’t yet aspire for anything more – without their appealing price, they wouldn’t have a chance against the competing technologies. The third monitor on a matrix of this type, the Samsung SyncMaster 913N, has good characteristics, too. But overall it is certainly inferior to the L1930SQ and takes a position in-between the L1930SQ and the AL1912.

The other models from LG – the Flatron L1910S and especially the Flatron L1910P – were, on the contrary, a disappointment. These monitors both have problems with the image quality. The problems of the former lie in the setup, while the latter has a defective LCD module.

The Philips Brilliance 190P5 is rather a mediocre product with average characteristics, while the exclusive LightFrame technology falls short of the expectations.

Samsung’s monitors of MVA matrices, on the contrary, leave a highly positive impression, especially the SyncMaster 920T of course. This is an excellent monitor for any task, except working with color (S-IPS matrices are still better at that) and playing some dynamic games. It is a mixture of excellent design, rich settings, excellent contrast ratio and viewing angles and good color reproduction. The design of the case and of the onscreen menu has improved a lot since the previous 910 series – in terms of nice looks as well as of functionality.

In spite of a number of small defects, the two monitors from NEC leave a nice impression. Thanks to their S-IPS matrices, these models are multi-purpose devices, with excellent viewing angles, small response time, and good color reproduction. They are only inferior to PVA matrices in the contrast ratio parameter. So, if response time is important for you, the NEC 1960NXi and 1970NX may suit you well. Alas, the 1970NX is just a cosmetic improvement on the 1960NXi, unlike with the SyncMaster 920T and the 910T. The new model from NEC has a different case and onscreen menu, while the characteristics and functionality have remained the same. This, as well as the number of small, but annoying problems, makes the 1970NX a kind of unfinished product, especially after the above-mentioned 920T. Anyway, this monitor is an interesting option, so you may want to consider it when shopping.

Lastly, we’ve got the monitor/TV-set hybrid from Iiyama. It’s hard to compare it to regular computer monitors, but it’s good for its purpose, which is in fact one – reproducing movies. Its brightness may be excessive at work, while its response time may be too slow for games.