Closer Look at 19" Monitor Features. Part VI.

One more batch of 19-inch LCD panels have been tested in our labs. We would like to introduce to you 8 new widescreen 19” monitors that have an aspect ratio of 16:10 and a native resolution of 1440x900 pixels. Today we will look at solutions from ASUS, BenQ, Proview, Samsung and Viewsonic.

by Aleksey Meyev
05/21/2007 | 07:39 PM

While our previous review of 19” LCD monitors was about models with a screen aspect ratio of 5:4 and a native resolution of 1280x1024 pixels, this review will be concerned with widescreen 19” monitors that have an aspect ratio of 16:10 and a native resolution of 1440x900 pixels. 19” monitors with a larger pixel pitch and a resolution of 1280x768 are not selling anymore – the manufacturers have transitioned to matrixes that provide roughly the same total of pixels as 5:4 models (1.3 million against 1.31 million pixels). Widescreen models prove to be more convenient for users for several reasons.

 

It is easier to organize your workspace on a wide screen. It is more comfortable to watch widescreen video formats most movies are recorded in. When such video is being reproduced on a wide screen, there are only narrow black areas at the top and bottom left (because the aspect ratio of a movie frame is 16:9 as opposed to the screen aspect ratio of 16:10), but on an ordinary screen these black areas are quite large. Or you lose less information on the sides of the frame if you scale it up to fill the whole screen. It is also easier to work in image-editing programs since you’ve got some place at the side of the screen to put various toolsets, palettes, menus, etc into. It is also simpler with multiple documents: you can place two text windows next to each other and the text will still be readable.

Widescreen monitors are also better in terms of ergonomics. You can easily put one on your desk so that the top edge the screen was not higher than your eye level. This reduces your eye strain and prevents your eyes from drying out (if your eyes are cast downwards, they are half-covered by the lids). The eye also finds it easier to move horizontally than vertically.

Regrettably, all 19” widescreen monitors are based on TN matrixes as opposed to models with larger diagonals among which you can see *VA and S-IPS matrixes as well. The wideness of the screen helps conceal the narrow vertical viewing angle typical of TN matrixes, yet it doesn’t solve this problem completely. I won’t mention this parameter in the body of the article considering that all the monitors in this review have almost identical viewing angles (the difference in their specified viewing angles is due to the employed measurement method; as a matter of fact, the real viewing angles of all the tested monitors are far inferior to the angles provided by monitors with PVA and S-IPS matrixes). In fact, all 19” widescreen monitors fall into two groups: fast ones with Response Time Compensation and slow ones without RTC.

I want to remind you our testing methodology in brief. Besides giving you a subjective evaluation of the monitor’s exterior design and usability, we test its color reproduction quality, color gamut, response time (and the RTC error level if the monitor features RTC technology), and brightness and contrast ratio. I want to warn you against comparing monitors basing on the average values of response time or RTC error. A monitor may have a low average RTC error but with a few long transitions that are going to be quite conspicuous in practice.

We now publish gamma curve diagrams in static format, but you can click them to open the diagram in the old animated view. The static image shows a theoretical curve corresponding to gamma 2.2 and the monitor’s own curves (colored red, green and blue) measured with a calibrator.

ASUS PW191A

As usual, you shouldn’t let yourself be misled by the declared viewing angles. This is an ordinary TN matrix that is no different from others in this parameter, but the manufacturer measured its viewing angles using the method with a contrast ratio drop to 5:1 rather than to 10:1 as is used for measuring viewing angles of other matrix types. The declared response time of 5 milliseconds (measured on the black-white-black transition according to the appropriate ISO standard) makes it clear you should expect no response time compensation from this monitor. This technology can only be found in matrixes with a specified response time of 4 milliseconds (GtG) and smaller.

This model is a copy of its predecessor ASUS PW191 externally. It has an imposing case made from black glossy plastic, the speakers on both sides of the screen make this widescreen monitor even wider. The monitor’s matrix has a glossy coating that reflects what’s going on behind your back. Paranoid people will surely appreciate this, but if you’ve got a light source behind you, its reflection is going to be distracting at work.

The monitor stands on a large aluminum “pancake” that is connected to the monitor case by means of a “leg” with two joints. This design allows to push the screen back and down till it is almost parallel to the desk and to adjust the screen height a little by changing the angle of the “leg”. The adjustment range is 70mm to 200mm from the desk to the bottom edge of the matrix. The stand can also be turned around and the screen can work in portrait mode. The portrait mode doesn’t suit TN matrixes, though, because their poor vertical viewing angles become terrible horizontal viewing angles in it.

The round cap at the monitor’s back can be removed by turning it counterclockwise. You’ll find VESA-compatible fasteners under it.

The monitor’s got a typical selection of connectors: analog and digital inputs, an audio input, a connector for its external power adapter, and a headphones output. This position of the headphones connector isn’t appropriate if you are frequently connecting/disconnecting your headphones. It is better to have this connector on a front or side panel of the monitor rather than in a recess at its back.

The monitor’s touch-sensitive controls are practically invisible when the monitor is off, except for the Power button. When you touch it, it begins to glow in blue and labels of four more buttons light up in amber to the left of it. The buttons react readily to a soft touch – you don’t have to press them hard – but aren’t prone to respond to accidental presses.

Quick access is provided to the brightness and contrast settings and to switching between preset modes (the Splendid feature). Besides changing brightness, these modes adjust contrast and saturation, which isn’t good, especially as the monitor resets the user-defined brightness setting to its default every time you choose a Splendid mode. This behavior is hard to explain, yet we’ve observed it in every ASUS monitor tested in our labs.

The monitor has the standard menu of ASUS’ monitors without any additional features. It is user-friendly and free from extravagant design solutions.

By default, the monitor has 90% brightness and 80% contrast. At higher contrast many monitors usually lose some details in lightest tones, but this model doesn't suffer from it. To achieve a 100nit brightness of white I dropped the brightness and contrast settings to 58% and 56%, respectively. The monitor controls its brightness through the matrix.

The monitor correctly reproduces all halftones at any value of contrast (making allowances for the narrow viewing angles of TN matrixes; the image changes dramatically beyond those angles). No banding is visible in color gradients. Backlighting is quite uniform with barely noticeable darker areas in the corners of the screen.

At the factory settings this monitor’s gamma curves have a considerably lower gamma than necessary. This is especially conspicuous with the blue curve that is almost straight line. The onscreen picture looks somewhat whitish as a result. The monitor reproduces all halftones, even though not exactly correctly. The curves retain their shape at lower contrast values.

The color temperature setup is amazing. There is a small difference between the temperatures of different levels of gray in the Warm and sRGB modes, but the temperature of the former mode is going to be too low for most users while the temperature of the latter mode is about 2000K lower than the required 6500K. The difference between the temperatures of white and gray amounts to a few thousand degrees in the other modes, and the calibrator could barely measure the temperature of dark gray in the Cool mode.

The color gamut of this monitor is close to the sRGB space, but offers a richer green at the expense of some red and blue.

The average response time of the PW191A is 16.8 milliseconds with a maximum of 33 milliseconds. This is a normal result for a last-generation TN matrix without RTC. The matrix is slow by today’s standards.

This monitor’s brightness and contrast aren’t record-breaking, both being on an ordinary average level.

Being a rather mediocre product in its parameters (and its color temperature setup is just awful), the ASUS PW191A is remarkable externally. It has an attractive and memorable exterior design, touch-sensitive buttons, and good adjustment options. Its price is not low for its class, by the way. I think it is going to be a good buy for people who care about the monitor’s appearance more than about its image quality.

BenQ FP92Wa

The BenQ FP92Wa is almost a copy of the previous product in its technical parameters. This is a TN matrix without response time compensation and its viewing angles were measured by a contrast ratio reduction to 5:1. Although the specified horizontal angle is as wide as 170 degrees, the traditionally narrow vertical viewing angle of the TN matrix spoils the overall impression.

This monitor looks dull, raising associations with tedious work days at the office. The plain gray plastic case is complemented with a simple plastic stand you can change the tilt of the screen with. If you are fond of minimalistic design, you may even like it, but I guess most people will just regard this product as dull-looking.

One thing that can be viewed as an advantage in this monitor’s design is its rather small depth. Its compact stand will be a perfect match to a small office desk.

You can remove the decorative cover in the middle of the back panel. It conceals fasteners for a standard VESA mount. You can mount the monitor on a wall, having unfastened its native stand first.

The monitor’s got a minimum of input connectors: a connector of the integrated power adapter and an analog D-Sub. The analog interface is quite sufficient for this monitor and I didn’t have any problems with it during my tests, yet the lack of a digital interface is a drawback nowadays and also a clear indication that this product belongs to the bottom sector of the market.

The monitor’s controls are all placed on the left panel along with their labels. This solution helps keep the front panel “clean” from any elements that would spoil its uniformity, yet it is questionable from an ergonomics standpoint. You’ll have to turn the monitor around to you or stand up from your chair to read the labels until you learn the position of each button by heart. Quick access is provided to the brightness option, auto-adjustment feature, and to selecting the input. Yes, the monitor indeed offers a button to select a video source out of one available item – the analog input. I’d call this the Zen approach in monitor design.

The FP92Wa has the same menu as most other monitors from BenQ. It is convenient, without anything unusual. The only downside is that switching between the tabs takes an annoyingly long time, up to a second.

By default, the monitor has 90% brightness and 50% contrast. Increasing the contrast setting above the default makes all light halftones merge into the same white color. To achieve a 100nit brightness of white I dropped the brightness setting to 73%. The monitor controls its brightness by means of pulse-width modulation of the backlight lamps at a frequency of 169Hz.

Color gradients are reproduced imperfectly. Banding can be seen in dark tones upon reducing the contrast setting to 35% and lower.

The monitor’s gamma curves go surprisingly close to the theoretical ones and do not change at reduced contrast. Such a high setup quality can rarely be seen in entry-level monitors.

Color temperature is set up acceptably well in this monitor. The difference between the temperatures of white and gray is never bigger than 1000K. Unfortunately, the three preset modes (the user-defined mode is set up just as the Normal mode by default) all have a temperature of 7000K and higher which looks very cold. Choosing one of these modes can hardly be satisfactory and many users will have to manually set up the color balance to remove the bluish hue from white.

Like with the previous monitor, the FP92Wa’s color gamut goes beyond the sRGB color space in the green area. In the same way, it doesn’t reproduce some red tones, either, but it’s all right with blue.

The response time is generally similar to the previous model’s. The average response of 15 milliseconds with a maximum of 32 milliseconds makes this monitor slow in comparison with monitors on RTC-enabled TN matrixes. The FP92Wa won’t be a good choice for people who play dynamic games.

The monitor’s max brightness is rather high, but its contrast ratio is below average level.

So, the BenQ FP92Wa is an office-oriented widescreen monitor: a very unassuming exterior design, a slow TN matrix, rather correct color settings although with a slight “bluish” hue, and a menu you don’t want to use often due to the inconveniently placed buttons. I can easily imagine this monitor standing on the office desk of a person who works with documents most of his/her time. It is not meant for any other application, I guess.

Proview FV926AFW

The specification shows typical numbers of an RTC-less TN matrix. The declared contrast ratio of the Proview FV926AFW is lower than that of the above-described monitors, though.

The Proview FV926AFW is designed in a fully black case made from glossy plastic. In a dim room it looks like a large dark smudge on your desk. There are no extraordinary features in its design, but it will surely be appreciated by people who prefer black, strict shapes in the appearance of PC components.

The monitor’s got a simple black plastic stand. It only allows to adjust the tilt of the screen in a typical range.

The speakers are placed somewhat unusually in the top part of the monitor, behind the matrix, and are backwards oriented. This may not look a proper solution in terms of sound quality, but the orientation doesn’t matter much when we’re dealing with tiny low-quality speakers typical of multimedia monitors. On the other hand, this solution helped build the speakers in without making the monitor wider or taller. The top of the case has just become a little bit thicker. The monitor’s back panel is perfectly flat, except for the grid in the top part near the speakers. It is not compatible with VESA mounts.

The Proview FV926AFW has two analog and one digital input. I can’t tell why the developer equipped the monitor with two analog connectors, but anyway. Added to these are an audio input and a connector for the integrated power adapter. A headphones connector is missing.

The controls are made from plastic that pretends to be metal. They are centered on the front panel under the matrix. This looks good, but the Power button is alike to the others and is right in the center of the group of five buttons. The blue LED under the Power button is rather too bright and shining precisely into your eyes. It is rather distracting. Quick access is provided to the brightness option, to selecting the image source, and to the auto-adjustment feature.

The FV926AFW’s menu returns us to good old times when such menus could often be seen on monitors from obscure brands. This must be the standard firmware of a Chinese monitor electronics OEM and some companies that sell monitors with such electronics do not think it necessary to replace this firmware with something original.

The menu is rather unhandy, particularly due to its too-high adjustment speed when you are keeping a button pressed. You just skip over the necessary value then. You have to press the button with multiple short presses instead. The contrast setting changes with a step of 3% rather than 1% as in most other monitors.

By default, the monitor has 80% brightness and 50% contrast. To achieve a 100nit brightness of white these parameters have to be lowered to 17%. You can see all details in lights until the contrast is set higher than 85%. Brightness is controlled with the matrix.

Color gradients are reproduced without banding at any settings, but darks begin to merge into a single color at a 15% or lower brightness.

The gamma curves are generally acceptable, lying close to the theoretical ones. They retain their shape not only at low contrast, but, unlike with a majority of existing monitors, at 100% contrast and brightness as well. The gamma value gets just a bit lower then.

The color temperature setup is worse. Gray halftones are much colder than white in every mode. The difference of temperatures amounts to 6000K! Most users are going to prefer the Warm mode for everyday use. The other two modes yield too cold colors.

The monitor’s color gamut almost coincides with the BenQ FP92Wa’s. It is quite normal.

The response time is normal, too. It is 15.1 milliseconds on average with a maximum of 30 milliseconds. The specified speed of 5 milliseconds is only achieved on certain transitions into pure white or pure black.

The contrast ratio is average. The max brightness is below average, not reaching 200 nits even. Well, this should be quite enough unless you have a habit of putting your monitor under bright sunlight.

Summing it up, the Proview FV926AFW is not an exceptional product. It is an inexpensive widescreen monitor with a slow TN matrix, a shabby color temperature setup, and rather low maximum brightness. Its capabilities are, however, quite enough to satisfy an undemanding user who prefers black stylistic solutions.

Samsung SyncMaster 931BW

This is quite a different story: the declared response time of 2 milliseconds GtG means that we’re dealing with an “accelerated” TN matrix that features Response Time Compensation technology.

This monitor’s design follows the appearance of Samsung’s non-widescreen 931 series models but applied to a widescreen matrix. The widening hasn’t spoiled the monitor’s face. The combination of the restrained black gloss of the case with the matte silver band along the bottom and the metal-like Power button looks winning still. The SyncMaster 931BW just cannot be called an office monitor. It should stand on a gamer’s desk rather.

The tilt of the screen can be adjusted and the whole case can be turned around on the rotating circle in the base of the stand.

The back panel allows using a VESA mount, so you can remove the monitor’s native stand and hang it on a wall or some other support.

The monitor’s got a sufficient minimum of connectors hidden under a decorative panel at its back: analog and digital inputs and a connector for the integrated power adapter.

The control buttons are hidden in the bottom left of the front panel, except for the Power knob, which is located on the front and is highlighted with a surrounding mild blue light. This placement doesn’t provoke any problems because the buttons are labeled on the front panel. Quick access is provided to the brightness setting, to selecting the input source, to the auto-adjustment and the MagicBright features, and to switching between the preset modes. The preset modes change the monitor’s brightness and contrast settings but do not affect color saturation or color temperature.

This is Samsung’s standard menu. It is user-friendly enough. Once again I want to specifically note such a trifling but nice feature as the remembering of the last used menu item. Among extra options there is a selection of three gamma compensation values and the traditional MagicColor feature whose modes increase color saturation.

By default, the monitor has 100% brightness and 75% contrast. When the contrast setting is increased above its default, details get lost in lightest color tones. To achieve a 100nit brightness of white I reduced the brightness and contrast settings to 31% and 33%, respectively. The monitor controls its brightness by modulating the backlight lamps at a frequency of 316Hz.

Color gradients look perfect at any brightness/contrast settings. There are also no problems with dark halftones at low values of contrast.

The gamma curves look good at the default settings, although the value of gamma is somewhat too high than necessary (the curves go lower than they should). The resulting image has excessive contrast. The characteristic bend in the top part of the diagram means that the monitor’s default contrast value is set too high and should be reduced by 5-10%.

When the brightness and contrast settings are reduced to yield a 100nit white, the gamma curves become normal, almost ideal.

The predefined color temperature modes offer a wide choice, although some people may think the Normal mode a bit too cold and the warmest Warm mode insufficiently warm. The setup quality is satisfactory. The difference between the temperatures of white and grays is about 1000K and smaller.

The color gamut doesn’t differ much from those of the above-described monitors except that the SyncMaster 931BW renders the sRGB space more accurately, without any problems with the most saturated blues and reds.

Response Time Compensation puts this monitor apart from the models I’ve described above. Its average response is as low as 4.4 milliseconds. The maximum is lower than 20 milliseconds and is achieved on one transition only. Most transitions take less than 8 milliseconds.

The compensation technology is accompanied with errors, of course. There is a low level of RTC errors in this monitor, yet I can’t say they are absolutely unnoticeable. Most transitions are performed flawlessly, but some have an error of 45%, yielding an average of 7.9%. Comparing the SyncMaster 931BW to other monitors on TN matrixes, its results are good. Generally speaking, an average RTC error of 10% is normal for TN technology.

Samsung’s monitors have traditionally featured a high contrast ratio, and this model is no exception. Its contrast ratio is higher than 400:1, degenerating to 200:1 at low brightness of white only.

All in all, the SyncMaster 931BW is a very good choice for people who are seeking a fast widescreen 19” monitor. Its appealing design, relatively low level of RTC errors, high contrast ratio, and acceptable quality of color settings make it appropriate for every user who doesn’t care about its inability to adjust the screen height and enable the portrait mode.

Samsung SyncMaster 940BW

This is yet another Samsung monitor with an RTC-enabled matrix, although it is slower than the matrix in the SyncMaster 931BW, judging by the declared response time.

The exterior design of the 940BW is not very remarkable. It’s got an unobtrusive gray plastic case with gray buttons on the front panel that securely stands on a round black-and-gray support. On the other hand, it is going to look equally well both in an office and at home because it does not have the look of an entry-level solution. If you prefer a calm and restrained exterior design without bright colors, you are going to like the SyncMaster 940BW.

The stand looks massive and is not foldable. That’s why the monitor’s package is about two times the thickness of the other monitors’ boxes. This stand is reliable and functional, however. You can adjust the tilt of the screen, turn the whole case around the vertical axis, change the screen height from 60 to 130mm and turn it into the portrait mode.

The native stand can be replaced with a VESA-compatible mount if necessary:

The monitor offers analog and digital inputs on one side and a connector for the integrated power adapter on the other. There is an additional power switch next to the power connector – don’t forget to turn it on when you install the monitor.

There is a row of round neat buttons in the bottom right of the front panel. They have easily readable icons instead of text labels. The buttons depress under a soft touch with a quiet but distinct click. The Power button at the end of the row is highlighted with a mild blue light at work. Quick access is provided to the brightness setting, to the MagicBright feature, to switching between the inputs, and to the auto-adjustment feature.

The menu is standard and identical to the menu of the previous Samsung monitor (see above).

By default, the monitor has 100% brightness and 75% contrast. Increasing the contrast setting above the default results in a loss of detail in lightest halftones. To achieve a 100nit brightness of white, the brightness and contrast settings can be reduced to 20%. Brightness is controlled by pulse-width modulation of the power of the backlight lamps at a frequency of 326Hz.

The backlight is uniform. You don’t lose dark halftones on reducing the contrast setting, but a slight banding appears in color gradients then.

At the default settings the SyncMaster 940BW’s gamma curves go closely to the theoretical ones, but the bend in the top part of the diagram is indicative of too much of contrast. If you reduce the contrast setting by 10%, the curves become almost perfect.

The color temperature dispersion is small, within 500K, in the Normal and Warm modes, but you may be somewhat disappointed if you prefer colder colors: the dispersion amounts to 2000K and more in the Cool mode.

The monitor’s color gamut doesn’t differ much from the gamuts of the other monitors. Note that it covers the sRGB space almost fully.

The specification doesn’t lie: the SyncMaster 940BW is indeed two times slower than the SyncMaster 931BW. Still, its speed is good enough for you not to have any problems due to high response time: an average of 7.7 milliseconds with a maximum of 24.1 milliseconds. Most transitions take less than 10 milliseconds to perform. However, if you want to have as fast a monitor as possible, you should pay attention to the numbers. For example, older 8ms and 12ms models without RTC could be perfectly the same in their real speed, but there is a noticeable difference between RTC-enabled models with a declared response of 2ms and 4ms.

It’s all right with the RTC error level. Although not without errors, the matrix is good as TN matrixes go. The average error is a mere 3.8% and the maximum isn’t higher than 20%. Half of all transitions are performed without errors. Samsung has done a good job on the RTC mechanism if you recall the colossal error level of their early RTC implementations (in such models as SyncMaster 960BF, for example).

The monitor’s contrast ratio and brightness are on an average level as today’s TN-based monitors go.

So, Samsung has come up with a very good monitor that features a fast matrix with low level of RTC errors. Its color setup is good, its contrast ratio is sufficient, its setup options are wide. You may only gripe about its rather too plain exterior design and narrow viewing angles typical of TN matrixes (but as I wrote at the beginning of the article, there is no choice of the matrix type among widescreen 19” monitors), but perfects things are rare in this imperfect world, after all.

Samsung SyncMaster 940NW

This is an entry-level model in a 940 series case. The price being lower, the matrix is cheaper here, without Response Time Compensation. Although the number differs by only 1 millisecond, the practical difference is much bigger due to the measurement method. The response time of the previous model was the average of all possible pixel state transitions. Here, the black-white-black transition is measured, which takes the shortest time to complete.

When viewed from the front, the monitor is almost an exact copy of the SyncMaster 940BW: a neat silver-gray case on a black-and-white stand.

The side view shows, however, that the stand has changed and does not allow to adjust the height of the screen or turn it into the portrait mode. The turning of the screen around the vertical axis is not available in this model, either.

You can replace the monitor’s native stand with a VESA mount.

The digital connector has disappeared and the monitor offers an analog interface only. The power adapter is integrated into the case. The connectors are hidden under a removable decorative panel.

The monitor’s controls are the same as on the SyncMaster 940BW and are located likewise.

By default, the monitor’s got 100% brightness and 80% contrast. You can pull the latter setting up by 10% or something without losing details in lights. To achieve a 100nit brightness of white I selected 52% brightness and 50% contrast. The monitor controls its brightness by modulating the power of the backlight lamps at a frequency of 340Hz.

The backlight is not exactly uniform, but acceptable. Color gradients are reproduced without banding at any contrast.

The gamma curves look much worse than on the previous monitor. The gamma value is too high, so the curves sag too much, yielding a picture with too much contrast.  

At the reduced contrast the curves change their shape. They do not sag anymore, yet are still far from the ideal. You can also see that the blue curve lies on the X axis in the left part of the diagram. This means that darkest-blue tones are all displayed as one color. Well, this defect can only be noticed in real life if you know what to look for. It won’t be disturbing at everyday work.

The color temperature setup isn’t accurate in any of the preset modes: the difference of temperatures amounts to 2000K. And the darker the color tone is, the higher its temperature and the colder it looks (to remind you, colors with high color temperature are perceived by the eye as colder and vice versa).

The SyncMaster 940NW’s color gamut is in fact the same as the more expensive model’s.

This is by far not a single millisecond of difference! The average response time is 13.3 milliseconds (two times slower than the 940BW and three times slower than the 931BW) with a maximum of 23 milliseconds! This is a normal result for an RTC-less matrix, but it looks pathetic in comparison with the previous two models that feature RTC.

The monitor even surpasses its brother, offering a contrast ratio of over 300:1 – a good result for a TN matrix.

So, the SyncMaster 940NW is an entry-level model indeed. If you are willing to put up with its not very accurate setup and the lack of a digital interface and RTC, to save some money, why not consider this model as a possible buy?

Samsung SyncMaster 961BW

An update to the 960 series, this very fresh model was first showcased to the public at CeBIT 2007. The contrast ratio of 3000:1 looks impressive in the specs, but it is the so-called dynamic contrast. You can’t achieve a static contrast like that on a TN matrix. The point of dynamic contrast is in adjusting the backlight brightness making the whole image darker or lighter depending on the prevalence of light or dark colors in the image. The resulting dynamic contrast ratio is calculated by multiplying the static contrast ratio by the brightness adjustment range available in this mode. This technology is suitable for watching movies, but is absolutely useless for work and in games.

This monitor looks stern and elegant with its black glossy case the metallized Power button stands out on and with the smooth outline of the stand that transitions into the case fastening. One may even want to hang a “Don’t Touch” tab on it – your fingerprints will be just too visible on the glossy plastic.

The case is fastened to the stand like in the above-described ASUS PW191A (I must acknowledge Samsung’s precedence over ASUS in introducing “folding” stands, though). There are two joints where the “leg” is fastened to the base and to the case. This leg allows adjusting the screen height from 25mm to 110mm above the desk. The rest of adjustment options – tilt, rotation around the vertical axis, and portrait mode – are all available, too.

The set of connectors located in a recess under the point where the stand is fastened to the case includes analog and digital inputs, and a connector of the integrated power adapter.

The control buttons, except for the Power one, are placed in the bottom right of the case. It’s easy to use them thanks to the distinct labels above. Like other monitors from Samsung, this one provides quick access to the brightness setting, to the MagicBright feature, to switching between the inputs, and to the automatic adjustment.

By default, the monitor’s brightness and contrast are set at 100% and 75%, respectively. This is the highest value of contrast when light halftones don’t yet merge into pure white. To achieve a 100nit brightness of white I reduced both brightness and contrast to 33%. The monitor controls its brightness through pulse-width modulation of the backlight lamps at a frequency of 336Hz.

The backlight is uniform with small darker areas in the corners. All of the halftones are displayed correctly at any brightness/contrast settings. Color gradients are reproduced without banding.

We’ve seen similar gamma curves on the SyncMaster 940BW – the contrast is obviously too high.

If you reduce the contrast setting by 10% or more, the curves improve and get closer to the theoretical ones.

The color temperature setup is not ideal, but acceptable. The difference between the temperatures is within 1000K in every mode. The temperatures of the modes are selected so as to satisfy most users.

All the Samsung monitors tested in this review have the same color gamut which almost fully covers the sRGB space and exceeds it in the green area. This is expectable, however. The color gamut depends on the employed backlight lamps and RGB filters. It would be strange if same-type monitors from the same brand differed greatly in this parameter.

Not a record-breaker, the monitor has an average response time of 4.3 milliseconds with a maximum of 17.5 milliseconds.

This monitor is not free from RTC errors, but they are mostly concentrated on transitions into light tones where they are barely visible to the eye. The average error is 9.2% with a maximum of 42%. This is acceptable.

The monitor offers an excellent contrast ratio of over 400:1 (I mean static rather than dynamic contrast). A superb result for this matrix type.

The SyncMaster 961BW is a nice product. With a pretty exterior design, a variety of available setup options, a fast matrix, a good color setup, and a high contrast ratio, this monitor is currently one of the best widescreen 19” models on the market.

ViewSonic VX1945WM

The specification doesn’t put the VX1945WM apart from the rest of the monitors, but take a look at the photographs to see this is not just yet another typical model on a slow matrix.

This monitor’s key feature is not its black glossy case, but the stand that accommodates a subwoofer and a docking station for iPod players. Strange as it may seem, those players are so tremendously popular as to make ViewSonic develop a special monitor for them. The mixture of black and silver with a bit of red looks very attractive, but the monitor looks bigger than its “classmates” due to the massive stand and the elevated position of the case.

The iPod docking station is in the center of the stand. It is large enough to take in almost any existing model. A set of adapters is included with the monitor so that junior, smaller, player models could be plugged in securely. Unfortunately, I couldn’t install any of the adapters since their juts did not fit into the holes in the connector. Hopefully, this problem is corrected in other samples of the product. To the left of the connector there is a subwoofer. Three USB ports, a subwoofer volume control, headphones and microphone connectors, and a Power button for the stand are located on the front edge. This Power button is indeed for the stand because the monitor’s controls, including its own Power button, are centered on its front panel below the matrix.

This elaborate stand only allows to adjust the tilt of the screen.

On the right side of the stand there is a multi-format card-reader with four slots for different memory card types.

At the back of the stand there are two plastic brackets to fasten cables going up to the monitor’s case. The caps conceal standard VESA-compatible fasteners, but I doubt anyone will use this monitor without its main feature.

The monitor offers a rather confusing abundance of connectors. In the niche at the back of the case there are the monitor’s analog and digital inputs, an audio input for speakers (the other end of this cable is going to plug into the monitor’s stand rather than into your system case), and a connector for the integrated power adapter.

The second set of connectors is located on the back of the stand. It includes the connector of an external power adapter for the stand-integrated devices (thus, this monitor needs not one, but two wall outlets), an input USB connector to connect the card-reader, iPod docking station and the USB ports in the stand to the computer, input and output (for the monitor’s speakers) audio connectors, and one more USB port.

As mentioned above, the monitor’s controls are located on the monitor’s own case and are practically inconspicuous against the gorgeous stand, being painted the same color as the monitor case. Not quite conveniently, the buttons lack labels while the tiny icons pressed out on them are barely readable. The Power button is highlighted with a very bright blue LED from above, which may become distracting at work. Quick access is provided to the brightness and contrast settings while the sound can only be controlled from the menu.

The menu looks just like many other menus. It is quite user-friendly.

So, what is the purpose of that docking station? Upon installing the driver and additional software, you can access the player as if it was connected to the computer via an ordinary USB cord. It is visible in the system as an external USB drive. Just don’t forget to turn the stand’s power on before doing all that.

You should also do the same to enable the subwoofer unless you want to hear only the standard sound of two tiny speakers. It’s somewhat strange that the external control adjust the subwoofer volume only rather than the volume of the whole sound system. Even if you set it at the maximum, you get some coloring of low frequencies that remotely sounds like true, yet is still far from full-featured bass. I don’t think anyone will lower the subwoofer volume.

These are just extra features, though. Let’s get closer to the monitor’s main job which is to display information. By default, the monitor has 100% brightness and 70% contrast. Setting a higher contrast you will lose details in lights. To achieve a 100nit brightness of white, you have to reduce the brightness and contrast settings to 53%. The monitor controls its brightness by modulating the power of the backlight lamps at a frequency of 240Hz.

The backlight is acceptably uniform. Color gradients and dark halftones are displayed properly whatever settings you select.

The gamma curves are set up rather shabbily. The curves differ from each other, so the colors won’t display correctly. The gamma value is obviously too high and the curves sag heavily, resulting in excessively high contrast. Reducing the contrast setting helps correct the issue somewhat, yet the curves remain sagging still.

The VX1945WM obviously has problems with the color temperature setup. While the temperature of white is quite close to the name of the corresponding mode, the dark tones are much colder than necessary. The difference between the light and dark tones amounts to 5000K in almost each of the modes, which is not acceptable. As a result, dark colors will have a noticeable bluish hue whatever color temperature mode you choose.

The color gamut is rather standard, but some red tones from the sRGB space are unavailable on this monitor.

The response time diagram is normal, just what you can expect from an RTC-less matrix. An average response time of 13.9 milliseconds with a maximum of 26.3 milliseconds. As always, most transitions take longer than the black-white-black transition the specified response time is measured by.

The contrast ratio is good, reaching 300:1. The max brightness is quite sufficient for a majority of users.

The ViewSonic VX1945WM is a special monitor. There is nothing extraordinary about it as a display device. It is rather inaccurately set up, offers few setup options, and has a slow matrix, but a high price. However, it may make a good monitor for lovers of the iPod as well as for those users who want their monitor to have as wide functionality as possible. You should choose it if the extra features offered by the VX1945WM outweigh its mediocre image quality in your eyes.

Conclusion

The market of widescreen 19” monitors has taken its final shape in the last year. Unfortunately, it has no place for matrix types other than TN. If you want a monitor with wide viewing angles based on an MVA/PVA or S-IPS matrix, you have to consider larger-diagonal models, 20” at least. Still, there is some choice on the market yet. Widescreen 19-inchers come in a variety of shapes and colors, with a lot of setup options or just a basic selection of them, with and without Response Time Compensation technology.

Samsung’s three RTC-enabled models are a success. All three of them boast high setup quality and correct RTC implementation without serious errors and are free from obvious blunders in the exterior design. Of course, it’s up to you to decide what design and what setup options you need, but I’m personally in favor of the Samsung SyncMaster 940BW for its combination of a mild, eye-soothing design and a full selection of settings. The others are not inferior, but just for people with a different taste than mine. The SyncMaster 931BW and the recently released SyncMaster 961BW are both going to find supporters among gamers as well as among users who just want to have a pretty-looking and stylish “glossy black monitor” at home.

Among the RTC-less models I’d single out the ASUS PW191A and ViewSonic VX1945WM whose exterior designs put them apart from the others. Unfortunately, their appeal is somewhat marred by their slow RTC-less matrixes and mediocre setup quality, especially considering their rather high price. The ASUS PW191A may be recommended for the admirers of the brand and for people who just happen to like its particular design. The ViewSonic VX1945WM is a special model for devoted owners of iPod players. Such special devices often fail to perform their main duty – here, to display information – properly.

The low-end BenQ FP92Wa, Proview FV926AFW and Samsung SyncMaster 940NW differ but slightly from each other. The first one has more correct color settings, but has a plain exterior design and unhandy controls. The second features a remarkable design and an additional D-Sub connector, but has worse dark tones at low contrast and a less accurate color temperature setup. The third is a sturdy mainstream product, but costs 10% more. All in all, these three models are all similar to each other, and you should choose one basing on your personal preferences and on what technical characteristics you are ready to forfeit in your monitor to save some money.