19" LCD Monitors Roundup. Part VII.

We continue our roundups of 19" LCD monitors with a native resolution of 1280x1024 pixels and an aspect ratio of 5:4. Although such products have been relegated to the bottom market segment, new models are still being released on a regular basis. Today we will introduce to you 12 new models from Acer, BenQ, LG, NEC, Sony and Samsung.

by Aleksey Meyev
06/11/2007 | 11:37 AM

We continue our roundups of 19" LCD monitors with a native resolution of 1280x1024 pixels and an aspect ratio of 5:4. Although such products have been relegated to the bottom market segment, new models are still being released on a regular basis. Perhaps one of them is just what you’ve been looking for?

 

Most of the newer models, except for cheapest office-oriented ones, feature Response Time Compensation (RTC) technology that improves the matrix’s speed and eliminates the notorious “ghosting” effect. The so-called dynamic contrast technology is becoming ever more widespread as well. When it is enabled, the monitor is automatically adjusting the level of backlight brightness to make the whole image darker or lighter depending on the prevalence of light or dark colors in the current image. The resulting dynamic contrast ratio can be calculated by multiplying the static contrast ratio by the brightness adjustment range available in this mode.

Testing Methodology

Follow this link for a description of our testing methodology.

Acer AL1916Fsd

The specified response time of 2 milliseconds GtG is indicative of an RTC-enabled TN matrix. Acer should be given credit for specifying the viewing angles honestly, as measured by a contrast ratio reduction to 10:1 rather than to 5:1 as many other manufacturer do to make the specified numbers look better in comparison with the specifications of other matrix types.

This monitor resembles many of its kinsmen produced by the same brand: a plain gray case on a simple plastic stand that allows adjusting the tilt of the screen only. The stand isn’t very steady. The monitor is wobbling when you are pressing its buttons and can topple over if you push it too strong accidentally.

The case is thin notwithstanding the integrated power adapter.

The stand can be replaced with a VESA mount if necessary.

You’ve got a standard selection of connectors here: an analog D-Sub, a digital DVI-D, and a power connector.

The control buttons are centered under the screen on a small ledge. Quick access is provided to the auto-adjustment feature and to selecting one of the preset image modes. The latter feature is called Empowering technology and its modes vary in the values of brightness and contrast. Thus, the Standard mode has 77% brightness and 50% contrast and the Text mode has 44% and 50%, respectively. The Graphics mode has 97% and 60%, and the Movie mode has 77% brightness and 56% contrast.

This is a standard onscreen menu of Acer monitors: simple, user-friendly and with a typical selection of setup options.

The monitor’s default brightness and contrast are set at 90% and 61%, respectively. To achieve a 100nit brightness of white I reduced the brightness setting to 60% and the contrast setting to 57%. Brightness is controlled by the matrix. The backlight is uniform, without conspicuous irregularities.

Color gradients are reproduced correctly, without any banding. Dark grays do not merge into black whatever contrast value you select while light grays can be differentiated from white even when the brightness and contrast settings are both at 100%.


Gamma curves with default settings

The gamma curves look bad at the default settings. They go far from the theoretical curves and also differ much from each other. As a result, you won’t be able to make this monitor reproduce colors correctly unless you set it up using a calibrator.


Gamma curves at 100nit

It is much better at the reduced contrast: the curves are now much closer to each other as well as to the theoretical ideal.

There are only three color temperature modes available to you here, just like in most other monitors from this brand. And these are set up rather sloppily – there is a difference of over 1000K between the temperatures of the different levels of gray. Note also that the Cool mode does not feel so very cool, actually. Having a temperature of only 7000K in this mode, white is going to look warm to you if you’re accustomed to cold colors.

The monitor’s got an ordinary color gamut that covers the standard sRGB color space almost entirely. It has a reserve in the area of greens, but its point of red is shifted relative to the sRGB one, although not as much as to cause any problems.

It’s all right with the AL1916Fsd’s speed characteristics. Its average speed is 2.7 milliseconds with a maximum of 6 milliseconds. The special feature of RTC-enabled TN matrixes can be seen here: the black-to-white transition takes the longest time on them whereas RTC-less matrixes have their minimum of response on such transitions.

It’s worse with the RTC errors. The average is 19.5% while some transitions are accompanied with an RTC miss of almost 100%. You are going to see the characteristic trail behind moving objects on this monitor.

The maximum brightness and contrast ratio are quite normal for a TN matrix, although the level of black is rather too high.

The Acer AL1916Fsd is one of the cheapest models on a fast matrix. If you want a fast monitor and don’t really care about other parameters as well as about the exterior design, you may want to buy this model and save some money. The implementation of the RTC mechanism in this model is far from perfect, however. The RTC error is high and will show up as visual artifacts.

Acer AL1951D

The Acer AL1951D’s specification is exactly alike to the previous model’s – this is yet another LCD monitor based on an RTC-enabled TN matrix. But it has a dramatically different exterior design and built-in speakers.

As opposed to the previous model, this has a more inspiring appearance with its combination of a stern black case and a small silvery stand. Unfortunately, the stand is not perfect. It is not very stable, although better than the AL1916’s stand in this respect, and raises associations with such a typical office tool as a hole puncher. The speakers are positioned at the bottom part of the case and directed down and backwards. This worsens the quality and volume of the sound, but the integrated speakers sound poorly anyway, so this worsening doesn’t matter much. Their main purpose is to reproduce system sounds and they do their job quite well.

The monitor’s case is very thin due to the unusual position of the speakers and the power adapter being external. Unfortunately, the monitor’s stand is limited in functionality. You can only adjust the tilt of the screen. The photograph shows a headphones connector on one side of the stand.

The non-detachable stand cannot be substituted for a VESA mount. You won’t be able to hang this monitor on the wall.

The connectors are placed at the back of the stand: analog and digital inputs, and a connector for the external power adapter. It is good that the cables lie right on the desk – you don’t have to fasten them somehow and they are practically invisible.

The control buttons are placed on the top of the stand. The Power button differs from the others, although is designed alike to them. Quick access is provided to the automatic image adjustment, to selecting the input and to adjusting the sound volume.

The onscreen menu is a copy of the previous monitor’s menu.

By default, the monitor’s got 90% brightness and 61% contrast. To achieve a 100nit brightness of white I reduced the brightness setting to 56% and the contrast setting to 58%. Pulse-width modulation was not spotted, so this monitor’s brightness must be controlled by the matrix. The backlight is generally uniform, without obvious irregularities.

Color gradients are reproduced correctly, without banding. Dark halftones do not merge into black as you are reducing the contrast setting. When the contrast is above 75%, lights merge into white.

The gamma curves look inaccurate at the default settings: their shapes are far from ideal, especially that of the blue curve. The practical consequence ensuing from such gamma curves is that colors will be displayed by the monitor incorrectly.

The reduction of the brightness and contrast settings doesn’t help here. On the contrary, the blue curve deflects from the theoretical one even more.

There are only three color temperature profiles here. The Warm and Cool modes are rather good, having a temperature dispersion of some 1000K, while the User mode calls for you setting it up manually as dark tones tend to have a bluish hue in it. What is strange, the available modes do not differ much from each other – the color temperature fluctuates more within the same mode than between different modes. There is no really warm and no really cold mode here.

This is the typical color gamut of a normal monitor (I mean, a monitor that does not feature an extended color gamut). The point of red is shifted from its desired position and the monitor’s gamut does not full cover the sRGB space as a consequence.

The response time is just what you can expect from a modern RTC-enabled matrix. Its average is 3.1 milliseconds and its maximum is 6 milliseconds, just like that of the previous model in this review.

The AL1951D is better than the other monitor from Acer when it comes to RTC mechanism errors. The RTC error average is 10.2% here with a maximum of 51%. The resulting visual artifacts will be visible on this monitor, too, yet they are going to be less conspicuous and annoying.

The maximum brightness and the contrast ratio aren’t too bad, yet there is nothing this monitor can boast about. Its level of black is high, its max brightness is rather low, and its contrast ratio hardly exceeds 200:1. There are competing models available that have a fast matrix and much better other parameters.

The Acer AL1951D is a monitor based on a fast matrix with a rather accurate implementation of the RTC mechanism, but the rest of its characteristics aren’t impressive. It looks more attractive than the AL1916Fsd, but it’s up to you to decide if this attractiveness is worth the considerable (by a third) increase in price.

BenQ FP93G X+

This is yet another monitor on a fast TN matrix. Notwithstanding the big declared viewing angles, the matrix doesn’t differ from others of its kind in this respect – the angles are just measured by a contrast ratio reduction to 5:1 rather than to 10:1. The FP93G X+ differs from its plus-less namesake with a higher specified contrast ratio. Do they differ in the setup quality? Let’s check it out.

The monitor’s got a discreet, unassuming appearance, although it is not too cheap.

BenQ’s standard stand allows to adjust the tilt of the screen only.

The decorative cap at the back of the case conceals fasteners for a standard VESA mount – you have to remove the monitor’s native stand to use one. There’s a folding piece on the stand to fasten the cables with.

The monitor is equipped with analog and digital inputs and has a connector for the integrated power adapter.

The control buttons are placed in the bottom left of the front panel. They are simple rectangular things painted the color of the case. The Power indicator is placed separately. Quick access is provided to the auto-adjustment feature, to selecting the input and to adjusting the brightness and contrast settings.

The menu is designed in the typical style of BenQ’s new models. It is user-friendly, but you need to make a lot of presses to access some menu items, e.g. color temperature modes, that open up in “new” windows.

By default, the monitor has 90% brightness and 50% contrast. To achieve a 100nit brightness of white I lowered them both to 44%. Brightness is controlled with the backlight lamps using pulse-width modulation of their power at a frequency of 210Hz. There are irregularities – darker vertical bands – in the backlight along the sides of the screen.

Darks are displayed correctly at any brightness/contrast values, but color gradients look striped on this monitor. When the contrast is set higher than 50%, light tones merge into pure white.

The gamma curves look good at the default settings although have different shapes. The characteristic bend of the red curve in the top part of the diagram is indicative of a too high level of contrast while the other curves are free from this defect. It doesn’t cause any serious problems as concerns reproducing halftones. When the contrast is reduced, the curves remain almost as they are at the default settings, improving their shapes but slightly.

As for the color temperature setup, the Normal and Reddish modes are almost ideal, so you may want to use them in the first place. The other modes have a temperature dispersion of 2000K and dark halftones have a noticeable bluish hue.

The monitor’s color gamut is perfectly standard with a minor defect relative to the sRGB space in the red point area.

The term “fast TN matrix” describes exactly what this monitor is. Its average response time is 2.8 milliseconds and its longest transition takes only 6 milliseconds. Such numbers are becoming standard for this type of monitors.

The level of RTC errors is low. The average is 8.1% with a maximum of 25%. It means that RTC artifacts will be virtually invisible for a majority of users. You will only spot a white trail behind a dark object moving on a gray background if you are purposely looking for it. Considering the results of the namesake model without the plus in its name (its maximum RTC miss was as high as 200%), BenQ has done a good job correcting the errors, in a literal sense.

The brightness/contrast parameters are normal: a 0.75nit black and a contrast ratio of 200:1. The maximum brightness doesn’t make it to 200 nits, yet it is still quite enough unless you are going to put the monitor under bright daylight. Funnily enough, the plus-less predecessor of this model had somewhat better results in our brightness/contrast tests (click here to view the chart).

So, the BenQ FP93G X+ is a good monitor for people who don’t care much about the external decorations and who don’t need extensive setup options. BenQ has made certain improvements since the precursor model, yet there are still some points in this product you may have gripes about.

LG Flatron L1918S

The response time of 5 milliseconds ISO indicates a monitor that is going to struggle in the low-end sector since this is the value that is usually declared by the manufacturers for modern TN matrixes without Response Time Compensation.

The L1918S has a modest exterior design. It’s got a gray square plastic case and a flat black stand fastened to the screen with a cylindrical plastic tube. It will do well as an office model, but won’t suit people who want to use beautiful things.

Changing the tilt of the screen is the only adjustment option available here.

Fasteners for a VESA mount are available, so you can remove the monitor’s native stand and hang it on the wall, for example.

There is a bare minimum of connectors here: an analog D-Sub input and a connector of the integrated power adapter. A digital interface is missing, but I saw nothing wrong in the image connecting the monitor via its analog interface during my tests.

The position of the control buttons is far from convenient. The designers decided to remove the buttons from the front panel but did not hide them somewhere on a bottom or side edge of the case as usual. You’ll find the controls on the back panel, a few centimeters away from the edge. The buttons are indeed invisible and you can only use them blindly, stretching your hand far behind the monitor. You may even find this convenient if you’ve got extremely long fingers, but I’m not sure about typical Homo sapiens. There are labels pressed out on the buttons – their purpose is obscure since you cannot see them anyway. Perhaps the user is supposed to turn the monitor around to read the buttons, but the stand cannot rotate around the vertical axis.

Quick access is provided to the auto adjustment feature and to selecting a preset mode. The preset modes differ not only in brightness/contrast levels, but also in the value of gamma and in color temperature (in the Day text and Night text modes). Such a wholesale change of settings may prove inconvenient if none of the modes offers settings appropriate for the particular lighting conditions of your workplace.

This is a standard menu from LG, quite handy and without any exceptional features.

By default, the monitor’s brightness and contrast settings are set at 100% and 75%, respectively. To achieve a 100nit brightness of white I reduced them both to 55%. The backlight is regulated by means of pulse-width modulation of the power of the backlight lamps at a frequency of 240Hz. The backlight is uniform, without obvious irregularities.

Color gradients are reproduced correctly, but some noise appears in dark halftones at low values of contrast. It is most likely indicative of an inaccurate implementation of the Frame Rate Control (a means of emulating 24-bit color on an 18-bit matrix). Darks are reproduced normally through all the range of settings while lights merge into white when the contrast setting is set higher than 90%.

The gamma curves are very close to the ideal ones at the default settings. All halftones are reproduced correctly – colors are going to be distorted by the narrow viewing angles of the matrix sooner than by the quality of the setup. The curves retain their shape when the contrast setting is lowered.

The color temperature modes are set up quite correctly. Except for darkest tones whose temperature is obviously too high, the temperature dispersion isn’t bigger than 500K.

The color gamut is normal: a large area of green in comparison with the sRGB space and a minor defect in the point of red area.

Quite typically for an RTC-less matrix, the response time is 13.2 milliseconds on average with a maximum of 23 milliseconds. Yes, this matrix seems very retarded after 2ms ones, although it would be considered very fast just a little while ago when there was no RTC technology.

The maximum brightness and contrast ratio parameters are normal and satisfactory for most applications. The contrast ratio is never lower than 200:1.

The LG Flatron L1918S is going to make a good office monitor if you don’t need a digital interface and don’t care much about its inconvenient controls. Note that its matrix is far inferior in speed to modern gaming monitors.

LG Flatron L1952TR

This is yet another monitor from the same firm, but it has a fast matrix with a response time of 2 milliseconds GtG. The number indicates a TN matrix with Response Time Compensation technology. The specified viewing angles shouldn’t mislead you – they were measured when the contrast ratio dropped to 5:1 and do not differ from those of other TN matrixes. The declared contrast of 1600:1 is the so-called dynamic contrast (see the Introduction). None of the manufacturers has yet achieved a static contrast ratio that high on a TN matrix.

This model resembles the previous one, but you can note small cosmetic improvements on closer inspection. The stand has been rounded off more and the pole of the stand has become wider. I should say these changes haven’t produced a good result because you have to apply serious mental and physical effort to dismantle this monitor. You also need a pair of long screwdrivers with a thin and flat tip to turn back the tabs and detach the plastic pole from the monitor case. This process can take some 10 minutes even from people who are accustomed to assembling monitors whereas the manual describes the stand removal procedure as being simple and quick, accomplished in a matter of three movements. Yes, few people have to dismantle their monitors often, but this is going to be a nuisance when you are moving to another place or checking out the assembled monitor at the shop – you won’t be able to put the monitor back into the box unless you detach the stand.

Your screen adjustment options haven’t got wider. Changing the tilt of the screen is still the only thing you can do.

The rear panel hasn’t changed much, but there are now screws in the holes for a VESA mount.

The monitor’s got a standard selection of connectors: digital and analog inputs, and a connector for the integrated power adapter.

The control buttons are still placed on the rear panel of the case, far from the monitor’s edge. So, every critical thing I’ve written above about the controls of the previous model applies to this model, too.

Quick access (if it can be called such with the buttons positioned like that) is provided to the same features as in the L1918S: switching between the f-engine modes (one mode has been added to enable dynamic contrast), automatic image adjustment for the analog connection, and selecting the input source.

The monitor’s got a standard onscreen menu of LG monitors – exactly the same as described in the previous section.

The default brightness and contrast are set at 100% and 70%, respectively. To achieve a 100nit level of white I reduced both these settings to 55%. Brightness is controlled by means of pulse-width modulation of the power of the backlight lamps at a frequency of 260Hz. The backlight is uniform, without much unevenness.

Color gradients look striped on this monitor – this striping is not very strong, but visible. Dark halftones are displayed properly at any value of contrast whereas lights merge into white at a contrast of 80% and higher.

The gamma curves look good at the default settings. They lie close to the theoretical ones, but have a slightly lower value of gamma than necessary. At the reduced contrast the curves retain their shape and position, so the monitor won’t have any problems displaying darkest halftones.

The color temperature modes are set up poorly in the L1952TR. The difference of temperatures is over 1000K in almost each of the available modes, darker tones being colder than lighter ones.

The color gamut is standard: a wider area of green than in the sRGB space and a slightly displaced position of the red point.

Typically for a modern fast RTC-enabled matrix, this monitor’s got an average response time of 3.1 milliseconds with a maximum of 7 milliseconds.

The level of RTC errors is low at 9.2% on average, which is a good result for a TN matrix. The maximum error is 32%, meaning that RTC artifacts won’t be noticeable on this monitor unless you are specifically looking for them.

The monitor’s max brightness and contrast ratio are acceptable and will satisfy most users. The level of black is rather high, though.

So, the LG 1952TR is a good gaming monitor for those who are ready to put up with its anti-ergonomic controls, difficult-to-detach stand and rather high color temperature dispersion. Added to this list of drawbacks are the traditionally narrow viewing angles of TN matrixes, but this thing is common among most of the monitors reviewed in this article.

LG Flatron L1953S

This model from LG is in fact a mix of the two previous monitors. It is based on a TN matrix without response time compensation, but features the dynamic contrast technology.

Its appearance is still that of a dull-gray, office-oriented product. It’s got the same difficult-to-detach stand as the L1952TR.

The functionality of the stand hasn’t improved: possible adjustments are still limited to changing the tilt of the screen.

The rear panel is the same as in the L1952TR, with screws in the holes for a VESA mount.

The set of connectors indicates the product’s belonging to the low-end market segment. There is an analog input and a connector for the integrated power adapter here, but no digital input.

The position of the control buttons hasn’t changed. They are still as hard to access as in the above-described model. Quick access is provided to the f-engine modes and to the automatic image adjustment.

The menu is no different from those of the above-described models from LG.

By default, the monitor’s got 100% brightness and 70% contrast. Reducing them both to 49% yields a 100nit brightness of white. Brightness is controlled by means of modulation of the power of the backlight lamps at a frequency of 260Hz. The backlight is uniform – you can’t see darker or lighter areas in it.

Color gradients look striped on this monitor. Darks never merge into black at any value of contrast. Lights are always distinguishable from white as well.

Although the L1953S uses a low-end TN matrix, its gamma curves are impressive. They are almost perfect at the default as well as the reduced-contrast settings.

The color temperature modes are set up worse. The difference between the temperatures of light and gray tones amounts to 2000K in each mode. Our calibrator couldn’t even cope with measuring the 9300 mode – the temperature was too high.

The color gamut is standard, exactly the same as the previous models have.

The response time average is 13.9 milliseconds with a maximum of 23 milliseconds. This is a normal result for an RTC-less matrix, not a failure as you might think comparing these numbers to those of a matrix with RTC.

The monitor’s brightness is within a normal range while its contrast ratio is over 300:1, which is very good for this matrix type.

The LG Flatron L1953S is a peculiar monitor. On one hand, it’s got a slow matrix, a simple exterior design, and a poor color temperature setup, but on the other hand, it boasts superb gamma curves and offers the dynamic contrast mode at a price just a little higher than that of the L1918S. You should be aware, however, that dynamic contrast is insignificant if you’re choosing a monitor for work since it is only needed for watching movies.

LG Flatron L1953TR

Comparing the specs, this model differs from the L1952TR with its different specified value of dynamic contrast. I will compare their real parameters, now that I’ve got the opportunity. By the way, the L1952TR can be found less often in shops than the more widespread L1953TR.

The two models are practically indistinguishable except for the text on the front panel. They’ve got the same shapes, equally inconvenient controls, and stands that are hard to detach. And they’ve got the same set of connectors as well: analog and digital inputs, and a connector of the integrated power adapter. Each monitor provides quick access to the f-engine modes, to the auto-adjustment feature and to selecting the input. Their onscreen menus are identical, too.

The specific settings are going to be different in the two models, so I will describe them in more detail.

By default, the L1953TR has 100% brightness and 70% contrast. To achieve a 100nit brightness of white I selected 43% brightness and 41% contrast. Brightness is controlled by means of pulse-width modulation of the power of the backlight lamps at a frequency of 260Hz. The backlight is uniform overall.

Color gradients look striped on this monitor. Darks are distinguishable from black at any value of contrast. Lights merge into white at a contrast of 90% and higher.

The gamma curves look good at the default settings, but have a somewhat lower gamma value than necessary, which results in a whitish image. At the reduced contrast the gamma value is lowered even more, yet this can only be seen in the diagrams. The onscreen image remains practically the same to the eye.

I also want to show you what the f-engine feature does with colors:

Above are the gamma curves as recorded in the Movie mode. Someone may like to watch movies with such a peculiar color reproduction (with a pulled-up red curve and an oddly shaped blue curve), yet I’d prefer to watch movies in the natural color gamut.

The quality of the color temperature setup is average. The temperature dispersion is within 1000K in each mode. Like in many other monitors, dark tones are colder than lights and have a bluish hue.

The color gamut is traditional: a larger area of greens and a displaced point of red in comparison with the standard sRGB space.

From the point of view of speed, this is a fast last-generation TN matrix with Response Time Compensation. Its average speed is 3.2 milliseconds with a maximum of 7 milliseconds.

The RTC error level is low. The average of errors is 8.5% with a maximum of 27%. The resulting visual artifacts are rather hard to see unless you are looking for them intentionally. I doubt this monitor’s RTC errors are going to be really annoying for anyone.

The monitor’s brightness and contrast parameters are on a solid average level that should be enough for normal use.

So, the LG Flatron L1953TR hasn’t gone far from the L1952TR in its effective parameters. It’s got a somewhat smaller response time, somewhat worse gamma curves, a little lower contrast and brightness parameters, and a better setup of the color temperature modes. It is going to suit people who want a gaming monitor with a fast matrix and don’t care about this model’s poor ergonomics like inconvenient controls, few setup options, and a rather poor stand. If you don’t want to put up with such drawbacks, you should better consider other models.

NEC MultiSync LCD195VXM+

Judging by the modest specified speed (8 milliseconds) this monitor is based on a rather old and slow TN matrix without Response Time Compensation. NEC should be given credit for specifying the monitor’s viewing angles as measured according to the more honest method (with a contrast ratio reduction to 10:1), which is used for monitors on other matrix types.

The NEC MultiSync LCD195VXM+ looks like the above-described models from LG. It’s got a plain gray case on a black stand and has the appearance of a typical office monitor. The stand uses two hinges, however:

This means that you can adjust not only the tilt but also the height of the screen (by changing the angle of the connection between the joints). The height adjustment range is within 70 to 120 millimeters from the desk surface to the bottom edge of the matrix.

There are VESA mount fasteners at the back panel. The photograph shows two protrusions at the bottom of the back panel the speakers are hidden in. Their sound quality is poor, as usual, but their main purpose is to reproduce system sounds rather than music and they perform their main duty quite well.

On the monitor’s back panel there are analog and digital input connectors, a connector for the integrated power adapter, an audio input, and a headphones connector.

The monitor’s controls are centered under the bottom of the front panel and designed in NEC’s traditional style, although without the customary joystick. The Power button is highlighted with a LED. Quick access is provided to the sound volume adjustment, to the brightness setting, and to selecting the input video source.

The menu is logically structured, but I think it would be better for the menu to have text instead of icons. The lack of a menu exit button is a nuisance – you have to use the arrows to reach the Exit icon every time.

By default, the monitor’s got 100% brightness and 50% contrast. To achieve a 100nit brightness of white I selected 44% brightness and 43% contrast. Brightness is controlled by means of pulse-width modulation of the power of the backlight lamps at a frequency of 400Hz. The backlight is uniform, without conspicuous irregularities.

Color gradients are displayed with wide banding. Darks merge into black at a contrast of 15% and lower while lights merge into white at a contrast of 60% and higher.

The gamma curves look good at the default settings, but the gamma value is somewhat too high and the image looks a little whitish. The initial 10% stretch of the blue curve coincides with the X-axis which means that blue tones are displayed the same as black. This is not a big problem for typical applications, though. Without special instruments you will only spot it if you know what and where to look for.

The curves retain their shapes at the reduced contrast, but their leftmost sections become horizontal at very low values of contrast, making dark halftones indistinguishable from black.

The color temperature modes are set up sufficiently well. The color temperature dispersion is within 500K in most of the modes. This makes up for the fact that the temperatures of white in the cold modes are somewhat lower than they should be.

We’ve got a standard color gamut here: a triangle with an extended green area and a displaced red point as compared with the sRGB space.

The response time diagram reminds you that this monitor lacks RTC technology: an average speed of 12.4 milliseconds and a maximum of 22 milliseconds. These are normal numbers for a RTC-less TN matrix, but RTC monitors are much, much faster, so the LCD195VXM+ cannot be regarded as a fast monitor.

The monitor’s max brightness is normal for its matrix type while the contras ratio is good, never dropping below 250:1.

I’d call the NEC MultiSync LCD195VXM+ a good monitor for office work if it were not for its price, comparable to monitors based on RTC-enabled TN matrixes. Having a high response time and typically narrow viewing angles of a TN matrix, this monitor offers an accurate setup of the color temperature modes and gamma curves. Perhaps its pros outweigh its cons in your eyes?

Sony SDM-E96D

Judging by the declared characteristics, this is yet another TN-based model without Response Time Compensation and with viewing angles measured by a contrast ratio drop to 5:1.

The exterior design of the SDM-E96D emphasizes its office work orientation. Particularly, the front part of the stand, occupying the entire width of the case, invites you to post stickers about your current job tasks. The top of the stand is designed like a ledge you can put pencils or something like that upon. This makes the monitor rather massive, though, and it takes quite a lot of space on the desk.

For the thing to keep steady on the desk, the rear part of the stand is designed like a folding leg. Unfortunately, this limits your screen adjustment options to changing the tilt only. Moreover, this monitor should better be placed far from the edge of the desk. It can easily topple over if you push it accidentally.

You can fold the leg and hang the monitor on the wall as it is compatible with VESA mounts.

There are digital and analog connectors at the back and a connector for the integrated power adapter.

The monitor’s controls are located in a groove in the front part of the stand. The Power button is placed separately on the right while the others are barely visible at the top of the groove. They are labeled on the front panel, though. Note also that Sony warns you against holding the monitor by its stand when you carry it.

The monitor does not offer buttons for quick access to menu settings.

The onscreen menu isn’t very user-friendly, but is free from obvious blunders, too.

It is a characteristic feature of Sony that the monitor’s brightness is controlled in two ways, with the matrix (“Brightness”) and with pulse-width modulation of the backlight lamps (“Backlight”) at a frequency of 435Hz. By default, the matrix brightness is set at 50%, the backlight brightness at 100%, and the contrast setting at 90%. To achieve a 100nit brightness of white I selected 54% backlight brightness, 56% contrast, and 50% matrix brightness.

Color gradients are reproduced correctly, without banding. There is no loss of darks or lights at any values of contrast. Unfortunately, the matrix-based adjustment of brightness doesn’t work quite right. The image becomes faded and colorless when you increase this setting, so I would advise you to use the backlight-based adjustment instead.

The gamma curves lie close to the theoretical one at the default settings and retain their shape at the reduced contrast.

Three out of the four color temperature modes available in the monitor’s menu give out almost the same real temperature. These three modes are set up quite well, the difference between the temperatures of the different tones being within 800K. The fourth mode, which is the coldest one, has a temperature dispersion of over 2000K.

The monitor’s color gamut is quite standard. Its red point is where it should be, allowing the monitor to fully cover the sRGB color space.

The Sony SDM-E96D is an outsider of this review in terms of speed. Its response time is 15 milliseconds on average with a maximum of 30 milliseconds. This is a very, very modest result even as RTC-less TN matrixes go.

The maximum brightness is on an average level. The contrast ratio of 300:1 is good for a TN matrix.

The Sony SDM-E96D features an original exterior design, good color setup, and good contrast. On the downside, it’s got a very slow matrix, narrow viewing angles of a TN matrix, and a rather high price. In other words, the SDM-E96D is a perfectly ordinary product in its technical characteristics and differs from the rest of its kind with the exterior design mostly. Thus, it may appeal to those people who want to pay extra for its design and, perhaps, for the famous brand.

Samsung SyncMaster 932BF

This model is an updated version of the Samsung SyncMaster 932B, differing from its predecessor with a faster, RTC-enabled matrix. It is a rather ordinary monitor otherwise, although with a remarkable design:

With its deliberately rounded-off outline, the SyncMaster 932BF looks like a TV-set rather than a PC monitor. Tastes differ and some people may not like this design, but I guess the manufacturer’s attempt at being original should be appreciated. There will certainly be users who’ll love this sleek and smooth exterior. As a certain drawback, the glossy plastic of the monitor case gets soiled just too easily.

The stand is original, too. It is fastened to the case without any locks or screws – the top part of the stand is just inserted into the rubberized groove in the bottom of the case. This seems unusual at first, but the stand keeps the case steady and provokes no problems when you assemble/dismantle the monitor.

Easy to guess, this stand limits your adjustment options to changing the tilt of the screen only.

Unfortunately, this sleek and curvy exterior design is not compatible with VESA mounts.

The connectors are hidden in an oval recess in the back panel: analog and digital inputs, and a connector for the integrated power adapter.

The monitor’s controls are hidden on the bottom edge of the case. Their labels are pressed on the plastic of the front panel. They are barely visible on the black-colored case, but are readable on the white version of the monitor. Quick access is provided to the MagicBright feature, to the brightness setting, to the auto-adjustment feature, and to selecting the video source.

This is a standard menu of Samsung’s monitors. It is user-friendly and problems-free. You can use the MagicTune program as an alternative to the monitor’s own menu.

By default, the monitor has 100% brightness and 75% contrast. To achieve a 100nit brightness of white, I lowered them both to 55%. The monitor controls its brightness by means of pulse-width modulation of the power of the backlight lamps at a frequency of 330Hz. The backlight is generally uniform, but has darker bands along the left and right sides of the matrix.

The monitor copes with color gradients perfectly. Darks do not merge into black at any values of contrast. When the contrast setting is set at 90% and higher, lights merge into white.

The gamma curves differ from the theoretical ones at the default settings. The red curve has too much of contrast, the blue curve has a bad shape and coincides with the X-axis in its first 10% stretch. It means that darkest blue tones are displayed the same as black (this effect is not very strong in practice, however, and won’t be a big problem for most users).

As is often the case, the gamma curves become almost ideal when the contrast setting is reduced.

The color temperature setup is a nice surprise: the dark grays differ from white by no more than 600K in any of the modes. This is a very good result, especially for this product class.

The color gamut is standard with a larger green zone and nearly full coverage of the sRGB space.

The average response time is 4.5 milliseconds and the maximum is 20 milliseconds. Those few slow transitions spoil the average, preventing the monitor from entering the ranks of the fastest available models, although the difference can hardly be caught by the eye alone without measuring instruments.

There is no RTC error on most transitions, but it amounts to almost 50% on the few remaining ones. The average is only 8.2% which is good for a TN matrix. The errors are not annoying, but you can see a white trail behind a dark object moving on a gray background if you are attentive enough.

The max brightness is normal for a TN matrix while the contrast ratio is high, being well over 300:1.

Having added Response Time Compensation to an already good model, Samsung made the SyncMaster 932BF a very good choice as a home monitor. It features a good contrast ratio, low response time, correct color temperature setup, and an interesting appearance.

Samsung SyncMaster 961BF

This is a very fresh model, introduced at this year’s CeBIT. Continuing the 960 series, it differs from its predecessor 960BF with a lower response time (2 instead of 4 milliseconds GtG) and with support for dynamic contrast mode. The viewing angles are measured by a contrast drop to 5:1, so you shouldn’t foster any hopes here – there have been no breakthroughs in TN technology from this point of view.

This monitor looks stern and elegant with its black glossy case the metallized Power button stands out on and with the sleek outline of the stand that smoothly transitions into the case fastening. A certain drawback, the glossy plastic gets dirty too easily.

The case is fastened to the stand like in the above-described NEC LCD195VXM+. 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 (using a circle in the sole of the stand), and portrait mode – are all available, too, as you might expect from an expensive series model.

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.

The monitor’s got a standard menu, like the one of the above-described model, except that it offers a new MagicBright mode called Dynamic Contrast.

By default, the monitor’s brightness and contrast are set at 100% and 75%, respectively. To achieve a 100nit brightness of white I reduced both brightness and contrast down to 28%. The monitor controls its brightness through pulse-width modulation of the backlight lamps at a frequency of 340Hz.

The backlight is generally uniform with small darker areas in the corners visible on a solid-color fill. This is not conspicuous in ordinary applications, though.

Color gradients are reproduced without banding. Darks do not merge into black whatever contrast value you choose, but lights become the same as pure white when you increase the contrast to 80% and above.

At the default settings the gamma curves are acceptable, but not without flaws. They differ much between each other. The blue curve sags at the middle, and the characteristic bend in the top part of the red curve is indicative of a too high contrast.

Reducing the contrast setting helps again. The curves are now much closer to the theoretical one. You can improve them further by slightly reducing the value of gamma in the menu.

This color temperature setup is among the best I’ve ever seen on a 19” monitor except for models specifically meant for image-processing applications (e.g. NEC’s LCD1990SXi). The temperature dispersion in the Warm and Normal mode is within 200K. The Cool mode is somewhat worse, yet the temperature dispersion is within 700K in it, too. This is indeed a superb setup you can rarely have from a TN matrix.

The color gamut is standard, but the red point is not displaced from its theoretical position as it is in many other monitors. It means this monitor covers the sRGB space to the full, without any omissions.

The response time diagram resembles the SyncMaster 932BF: most transitions are very fast, but there are a few that take much more time to be performed. The resulting average is 4.7 milliseconds but the maximum is as high as 17 milliseconds. On the other hand, most users are unlikely to tell this monitor from its fast-matrix classmates – they all seem equally fast when viewed with the naked eye.

It’s like with the previous model again: most transitions have no error at all, but some are accompanied with an RTC miss as high as 65%! The average is 9.1% which is quite a good result for the RTC mechanism on a TN matrix. In practice, you can indeed see a light trail behind a gray image moving on a lighter background, but I guess this won’t be a big problem for a majority of users.

The contrast ratio is an impressive 400:1 and higher – just excellent for a TN-based monitor.

The Samsung SyncMaster 961BF is a good monitor for your home PC. With its stylish exterior, good color reproduction, abundance of setup options, fast matrix and impressively high contrast ratio, this monitor proves that 19” TN-based LCD monitors are not yet limited to office use. The downside is the high RTC error on certain transitions, narrow viewing angles (typical of TN technology, but you feel them more acutely when you’re dealing with such a good monitor!), and a very high price. Anyway, the SyncMaster 961BF is an excellent choice for a home PC, including a gaming PC.

Samsung SyncMaster 971P

19” LCD monitors have stepped down into the low-end market segment and are currently dominated by TN matrixes, yet there are still some models that offer matrixes of other types. I don’t have anything personal against TN technology, but viewing angles of 178 degrees measured by the honest method (i.e. by a reduction of the contrast ratio to 10:1) are instantly recognizable. This monitor’s contrast ratio is as high as 1500:1 without your enabling dynamic contrast mode while the declared response time is only 6 rather than tens of milliseconds thanks to Response Time Technology.

We’ve actually got two versions of the Samsung SyncMaster 971P. The old version is widely available in shops and the new one has been offered by Samsung for us to test. So, we’ve got an opportunity to compare the two. The newer monitor looks exactly alike to the older one, but features a dynamic contrast mode and has slightly different settings. Anyway, the two versions of the 971P model are very much alike to each other, so I’ll discuss them and their test results all together.

The monitors are indistinguishable externally except for the color of the case (we’ve got one black sample and one white sample). The 971P looks good, especially in the milk-white coloring. It’s got a sleek glossy case that is connected to a U-shaped stand by means of a complex “leg”. The older Samsung 970P model used to have this kind of design, but it would come with a simpler and somewhat awkward square stand. Besides that, the hinges in the 970P stand would slacken after half a year of use and the screen would sag down to the bottommost position of the stand. Samsung assures us that the 971P is free from this problem.

The SyncMaster 971P’s stand permits to change the tilt as well as height of the screen (from 50 to 105 millimeters). Portrait mode is available, too, and the good viewing angles of the PVA matrix make this mode much more pleasant to work in as compared with TN matrixes. So, Samsung’s engineers have once again managed to combine an eye-catching appearance and beautiful exterior with excellent functionality and ergonomics.

They’ve done good job on the connectors, too. There are only two small connectors at the back of the stand: a connector of the external power adapter and an input for the built-in USB hub. The video connector is hidden inside the stand and is only visible from below. There is a groove made in the bottom of the stand for the video cable. This groove begins between the two connectors at the back and ends in a universal DVI-I plug. The monitor can be connected to your graphics card’s DVI output via an ordinary DVI-D cable or you can use an analog connection using the included adaptor cable. Besides all this, there are two USB ports on one side of the stand.

This solution leaves the monitor’s case absolutely free from any elements while all the cables attached to the monitor are hidden out of sight as much as possible. This emphasizes the overall elegance of the 917P even more.

The control buttons are designed in a curious way, too. There are only two of them here (the monitor is set up from the PC using the MagicTune program) and you can find them in easily accessed locations. On the other hand, they don’t interfere with the monitor’s overall design. The Power button is in the right butt-end of the stand and is highlighted with a blue LED at work. With the button positioned like this, the light from the LED does not shine into your eyes. It is just visible. That’s a very lucky solution of the matter that often becomes a problem for manufacturers and users.

Opposite this button, on the left butt-end, there is a second button whose function is defined in the MagicTune program. By default, it is set to switch between the MagicBright modes. This is the button we had long wanted to see on “button-less” monitors from Samsung because it is logical to have quick access to switching between the preset modes on a monitor that offers them. But again, you can use MagicTune to redefine that button.

The monitor lacks an onscreen menu. It is controlled only via the MagicTune program that is available for Windows (including Vista) and for MacOS. It has a user-friendly interface and offers easy access to all the typical settings like brightness, contrast and color-related options.

By default, each version has 100% brightness and 75% contrast. To achieve a 100nit brightness of white I reduced the brightness setting to 42% in the newer version (to 34% in the older version) and the contrast setting to 40% (to 32% in the older version). The older version of the monitor controlled its brightness by means of the matrix. The newer version uses pulse-width modulation of the power of the backlight lamps at a frequency of 205Hz for that purpose. This is a considerable difference, by the way, although it is not mentioned in the official specifications. The backlight is uniform in both monitors.

Color gradients are reproduced with minor banding on the older version. The newer version of the monitor is free from this drawback.

The problem of the loss of dark tones on *VA matrixes is actively discussed on Web forums, so I’d want to mention it here. Yes, dark halftones (within a brightness range of 0-4%) are indistinguishable on the SyncMaster 971P, but only if you are looking at the screen at an exactly right angle. This may be a problem if you are working in professional image-editing applications, but most users won’t ever notice it.

Darks merge into black at a contrast of 25% and lower on the older model. The newer version is free from this drawback: it displays darks correctly throughout the entire range of the contrast setting. On both models lights merge into white at a contrast of higher than 75%.


SyncMaster 971P, old modification


SyncMaster 971P, new modification

The older version’s gamma curves don’t look well. Their gamma value is too high and the image looks whitish as a consequence. Moreover, the blue curve has a different shape than the other two.

The newer model has more correct settings. The red curve has a slightly higher contrast than necessary and the three curves go rather far from each other, yet this setup is overall quite acceptable.


SyncMaster 971P, old modification


SyncMaster 971P, new modification

At the reduced contrast the blue curve gets closer to the other curves on the older model, and all of them have bad shapes in the diagram. On the newer model the difference between the three curves gets smaller.

The color temperature setup is good in both versions of the monitor. The difference between the temperatures of white and grays is about 300K (except for the darkest gray that differs by 1000K from white in the newer model and even more in the older model). This setup isn’t perfect for processing colorful images, yet it’s close to that.

The color gamut of both monitors is standard with an extended green zone and a slightly displaced point of red as compared with the sRGB color space.


SyncMaster 971P, old modification


SyncMaster 971P, new modification

As is usual with PVA matrixes, transitions between darkest tones are problematic. On matrixes without RTC such transitions would take as long as 100 milliseconds and more, making *VA matrixes unsuitable for dynamic games and even for watching movies. RTC technology solved that problem and the two versions of the 971P are quite suitable for games/movies as well as for work. The average response time of the older model is 13 milliseconds. The newer model has a response average of 14.6 milliseconds. This is a good result for a PVA matrix, but the fastest of PVA matrixes have already got as fast as 10 milliseconds and faster! The maximums are still very high: 92 and 71 milliseconds on the older and newer versions of the monitor, respectively. These occur on just a few transitions in the area of darkest halftones. As a matter of fact, *VA matrixes have profited the most from RTC technology as it has transformed such monitors from purely office/work products into home/gaming monitors as well.


SyncMaster 971P, old modification


SyncMaster 971P, new modification

The level of RTC errors is low. The average is only 4.4% for the older model and 4.8% for the newer model. The maximums of errors are 29.6% and 26.6%, respectively. These are good results. Most users won’t notice any RTC artifacts on these monitors.

The max brightness is sufficient while the contrast ratio is far beyond the reach of TN matrixes, especially in the newer model. The level of black is very low, which is the reason why the resulting contrast ratio is so high. The calibrator could hardly measure it, giving out zero brightness of black instead.

The SyncMaster 971P is a stylish monitor in both its versions. Moreover, it is one of the few 19” monitors with a matrix other than TN, which means excellent viewing angles and a high contrast ratio. This model is going to look appropriately on a chief’s desk at an office, or at your home as a universal monitor for movies, games and work. The monitor is expensive, but I guess it is worth the money.

Considering the obvious superiority of the new version of the 971P in terms of setup quality, you may ask me how to tell the two versions apart. First, they have different full names. The older version is called SyncMaster 971P PXHV while the newer version is called SyncMaster 971P XXHV (full product names are sometimes written into price lists). And second, the newer version has a dynamic contrast mode which is missing in the older one. So, if the monitor description lists a contrast ratio of 3000:1 instead of 1500:1, this is an indication of the newer version of the monitor, too.

Conclusion

It’s good the manufacturers have not completely forgotten the 19” monitor segment and are still offering a few interesting models, besides low-end ones. The quality of gamma curves setup has generally increased. Striped gradients and the loss of dark halftones at low contrast have become less widespread problems as they used to be. The quality of the RTC mechanism setup has improved, too. RTC errors of 50% and higher are rare whereas earlier implementations of RTC technology would be accompanied with errors of up to 200%!

Now I’d want to run through the models described in this review. The Samsung SyncMaster 971P is unique among them as it is one of the few available 19” models based on a PVA matrix. It also features an outstanding exterior design which, fortunately, doesn’t tell negatively on its functionality. The only downside is the high price of this monitor, but if you can spend so much money for a deserving monitor – you should definitely take a look at it.

Next, I’d want to single the recently released Samsung SyncMaster 961BF out of monitors on fast RTC-enabled TN matrixes. Besides a fast matrix, it features an interesting exterior design and a wide selection of setup options. It is free from obvious defects. The BenQ FP93G X+ and Acer 1916Fsd are interesting, too, as inexpensive, yet well-made products with fast matrixes and minor setup flaws. The more expensive Samsung SyncMaster 932BF stands out among its classmates due to its uncommon exterior design.

The twin models L1952TR and L1953TR from LG aren’t any worse than the above-mentioned monitors in their characteristics, but their stand is less functional and their controls are less easy to use.

The Sony SDM-E96D is an appealing product from among models on slow TN matrixes without Response Time Compensation. It is designed specifically for office use, but its price is rather too high in comparison with other models and may repel the potential customer. LG’s L1918S and L1953S are cheap and robust products, traditionally for the brand. They offer good characteristics, but have certain design-related drawbacks. The NEC LCD195VXM+ features a correct reproduction of colors for this class of monitors, but its price seems too high. And of course, none of the monitors with a specified response time of over 4 milliseconds can be recommended as a gaming monitor. They prove many times slower than RTC-enabled models in real applications.