20" LCD Monitors Roundup. Part IV

With this article I’m willing to introduce to you a few new models of 20" LCD monitors from different brands. You’ll find here monitors for work and for the home, affordable and not quite, with new widescreen matrixes as well as with the classic aspect ratio of 4:3. We will talk about 13 solutions from Asus, BenQ, Dell, HP, LG, NEC, Philips, Samsung and Viewsonic.

by Oleg Artamonov
09/07/2007 | 10:38 AM

With this article I’m willing to introduce to you a few new models of 20” LCD monitors from different brands. You’ll find here monitors for work and for the home, affordable and not quite, with new widescreen matrixes as well as with the classic aspect ratio of 4:3.

 

Besides our usual tests, this article features two new sections called Preview and Error Correction. The former is meant for presale samples of monitors that have already been received by our labs, but are not yet polished off by the manufacturer. Such presale samples cannot truly reflect the characteristics or quality of the final product that will soon come out to the market, but I guess you may be interested to learn more information about upcoming products than the standard phrases like “the company showcased such-and-such a monitor at such-and-such an expo and that’s all we know about it” you can get from your newswires.

So when we have a chance to put our hands on such presale samples, we will do so to publish a preview focusing on the monitor’s exterior design, new functions and expected characteristics, yet we won’t test it properly until the release of the final version.

The Error Correction section is about monitors we have tested before, but want to return to once again. For example, the manufacturer has released a new revision of the model that may be free from the drawbacks we found in our earlier tests. We won’t publish a full review of the monitor in this case. We will just remind you what problems the monitor had according to our earlier tests and will check out if the manufacturer has done anything about them.

Testing Methodology

Visit the following link for a description of our testing methodology and equipment and an explanation of the specified and measured parameters of LCD monitors. The article is called Xbit Labs Presents: LCD Monitors Testing Methodology Indepth. That article is going to help you if you feel overwhelmed by the numbers and terms used in this roundup.

ASUS MW201u

Not long ago monitors with a large screen used to employ mostly *VA and S-IPS matrixes, but now the MW201u, based on a TN matrix, can be viewed as a typical representative of the 20” segment.

The declared response time of 2 milliseconds GtG means that this monitor is equipped with a Response Time Compensation mechanism. As you can learn from our earlier reviews, a specified response time of 5 milliseconds and higher indicates a lack of RTC for TN matrixes. A faster response indicates the monitor’s support of RTC.

The declared viewing angles are somewhat unusual. The manufacturers declare similar vertical and horizontal angles as a rule (e.g. 160/160 degrees if measured by the reduction of the contrast ratio to 5:1 or 140/130 if measured by the reduction to 10:1). On the other hand, the numbers specified for the MW201u describe what we have with TN matrixes quite precisely. The horizontal viewing angles of a regular TN matrix are quite wide and even comparable to those of *VA matrixes, but its vertical angles are poor irrespective of the measurement methods the manufacturers invent to disguise this problem.

The monitor is designed in a modest yet elegant way. It has a dark-gray case with a lighter strip along the front panel, and a neat stand. The MW201u doesn’t look like a definitely office or home model. It is going to look equally well everywhere.

The functionality of the stand is limited to changing the tilt of the screen.

There is a standard selection of inputs here: analog and digital video inputs and an audio input (the monitor comes with integrated speakers and a headphones output). The power adapter is internal.

The control buttons are placed on the monitor’s front panel, to the right of the center. These are not plastic buttons or touch-sensitive pads but figured “petals” cut out in the plastic. You have to apply some effort to press them – the buttons are rigid.

Quick access is provided to the brightness and sound volume settings as well as to the exclusive Splendid feature (the appropriate button is pointed at by the Try Me sticker in the photo above). The latter feature is a set of factory presets with varying values of brightness, contrast, color saturation, color temperature, etc., you can switch between quickly. The manufacturer suggests that each mode is most optimal for a specific activity like work, watching movies, playing games, etc.

The monitor has 90% brightness and 80% contrast by default (in the Standard mode). To achieve a 100nit brightness of white I reduced the brightness setting to 68% and the contrast setting to 70%. The brightness is controlled by means of backlight modulation at a frequency of 290Hz.

Alas, the implementation of the Splendid technology is accompanied with one defect you can observe in many other monitors from ASUS: the user-defined settings are reset when you switch into a Splendid mode. For example, if you select 50% brightness for everyday work and then switch to the Game mode to play a game, on returning to the Standard mode you’ll find that the brightness setting is set at 90% rather than at 50%.

The monitor displays color gradients with barely visible banding.

The color gamut is quite ordinary for a modern LCD monitor (not counting in the few models that feature backlight lamps with improved phosphors). It is better than the standard sRGB color space in greens but somewhat worse than it in reds and blues.

The gamma curves lie close to each other as well as to the theoretical curve for gamma 2.2. The monitor doesn’t lose any halftones in lights or darks when you reduce its contrast or brightness setting.

The color temperature is set up oddly with the Warm mode being colder than the Normal mode, but this is the only complaint I can express. More importantly, the temperature dispersion for the different levels of gray is small, about 500K in the Normal mode that suits best for home applications. That’s a good result for a monitor of this class.

The MW201u is based on a “fast” TN matrix with response time compensation and the matrix is indeed fast with an average response of only 3.4 milliseconds, according to our measurements. The response time grows up considerably, up to 8-9 milliseconds, on a few transitions between light halftones. This is not a problem at all because your eye is unlikely to see the ghosting effect at such high speeds.

Alas, the RTC error average is 10%. That’s not downright bad as we’ve seen monitors with an RTC error average of over 15% even, but it’s not a good result, either. You are going to occasionally see light shadowing, the characteristic visual artifact of RTC technology.

The monitor offers an average contrast ratio even for a TN matrix. It is higher than 300:1 in one mode only.

Overall, the ASUS MW201u is a good home monitor that offers a neat setup of color reproduction and a low speed of the matrix. Besides the poor viewing angles typical of TN matrixes, it only has ergonomics-related problems: its stand lacks any kind of screen height adjustment; its controls aren’t quite handy; and it resets the user-defined settings as soon as you switch into a Splendid mode. The latter thing is incomprehensible really. I’ve seen no monitor from other manufacturers behave like that (the quick switching between preset modes is available on many models), but ASUS monitors all come with this drawback.

ASUS PW201

The previous model was based on a TN matrix and had poor vertical viewing angles as the natural consequence, but the PW201 features a VA matrix. You shouldn’t be misled by the small difference between the specified numbers. It’s because different measuring methods are employed: the viewing angles of VA and S-IPS matrixes are measured when the contrast ratio drops to 10:1. For TN matrixes, the contrast ratio has to drop to 5:1, which yields bigger numbers.

Otherwise, the PW201 seems to be an ordinary widescreen 20” monitor in its specifications.

The PW201 stands out among other models with its remarkable exterior, however. It has a very wide glossy black case. Besides a wide screen with an aspect ratio of 16:10, the monitor has speakers on the sides of it. The matrix has a glossy coating and you can regard this as an advantage or drawback depending on your personal taste. The round stand is made from aluminum.

The stand features a dual-hinge design. It lacks a vertical pole and its height is changed by means of two hinges, one at the base and another at the spot where the stand is fastened to the monitor. This design is compact and pretty-looking, but you can’t adjust the height of the screen without changing the distance from your eyes to the monitor simultaneously (the higher you set the screen, the farther away it gets from you, and vice versa).

The stand supports pivot technology and can also be replaced with a VESA-compatible one (you’ll find the fastening screws under the round decorative cap where the stand is attached to the monitor).

Unfortunately, the stand is not firm enough and the monitor is wobbling a little even when you touch it but lightly.

The PW201 is equipped with almost every input you can think of: analog and digital inputs for the PC and a selection of video inputs (component, S-Video, and composite). The power adapter is external.

The left panel of the case offers three ports of the integrated USB hub and a headphones output.

The fourth port of the hub is used for the monitor’s own purpose: it is connected to the built-in web-camera located in the middle top of the front panel. The camera can be turned up and down for better focusing on the user’s face. The image quality is no better than most other web-cameras with tiny plastic lenses provide.

The monitor’s got touch-sensitive buttons whose labels become visible only after you turn the monitor on. If you don’t touch the buttons for a while, the highlighting gets extinguished, but it lights up immediately at your next touch.

The buttons work right but you should touch them softly, with the pad of your finger. That’s not a great problem and is easily made up for by the beautiful appearance.

Quick access is provided to the volume setting, to the preset Splendid modes, and to switching between the inputs.

The menu isn’t very user-friendly. It does not remember the last changed option. The PW201 is not free from the common problem of ASUS monitors: if you have chosen a brightness value other than the default one, it will be reset to the default when you switch into a Splendid mode.

I want to note that the monitor is not capable of forcing a 4:3 image format – the picture is always stretched out to 16:10. This is the common behavior of inexpensive monitors with TN matrixes but I had expected something more from the PW201.

The monitor offers Picture-in-Picture mode but the only thing you can do with the secondary window is to change its size. You can’t change its position which is always in the top right corner. Moreover, you can only enable/disable PiP mode from the menu – there is no special button for this.

And finally, the monitor cannot identify which of its inputs have signal sources connected to them, so you have to browse through each input when you are selecting the desired one with the appropriate button. This is an inconvenience if you have to switch between two sources frequently (e.g. between a PC with a DVI interface and a CTV decoder with S-Video).

The monitor’s got 90% brightness and 80% contrast by default (in the Standard Mode). To achieve a 100nit brightness of white I reduced the brightness and contrast settings to 50% and 53%, respectively. The brightness is regulated by means of backlight modulation at a frequency of 220Hz.

Color gradients are reproduced without problems in the Standard Mode but become striped as soon as you switch into any other mode or change the contrast setting.

The gamma curves are not ideal, but acceptable. They don’t deflect much from the theoretical curve. The monitor doesn’t lose dark halftones if you reduce the contrast setting.

The color temperature is set up rather sloppily. There is a 2000K difference between the different levels of gray in the Normal mode. The image shows an overall tendency towards bluish hues even in the Warm mode.

The response time average is 9.5 milliseconds. This value is only exceeded greatly on two transitions between black and darkest grays (which is typical of VA matrixes). It means that although the PW201 cannot really match the speed of monitors on fast TN matrixes, its response is quick enough for games and more than enough for movies.

The Response Time Compensation mechanism is implemented with errors, as usual. The error average is 2.7%. The maximum error is 13.6%. VA matrixes can do better, yet these are acceptable numbers. You can also compare the PW201 with the above-described MW201u, for example, to see that the latter has a four times higher error average. You can notice the characteristic light shadows behind moving objects on the screen of the PW201 under certain conditions, yet most users won’t perceive them unless they are deliberately looking for RTC artifacts.

The contrast ratio is low, not reaching 300:1 even. I had expected better numbers from the monitor’s VA matrix.

Thus, the single distinctive feature of the ASUS PW201 is its appearance – if you prefer matrixes with a glossy exterior coating. As for its other parameters, the high speed of the matrix is the single good thing about them. The rest of the parameters are no good. The menu is not easy to use, and the user-defined settings are reset to their defaults when you choose a Splendid mode. The monitor’s color reproduction setup is poor (I mean the large dispersion of color temperature as well as striped gradients) and its contrast ratio is low.

BenQ FP202W V2

We reviewed the BenQ FP202W in an earlier article, but it didn’t have the characters “V2” in its name then. The monitors’ declared parameters coincide, so what new has the second version brought to us?

The monitor is based on a TN matrix with a specified response time of 8 milliseconds. It means it has no Response Time Compensation and is going to be rather slow in practice. Among other parameters I can single out the viewing angles, which are rather small because measured by the contrast ratio reduction to 10:1 (i.e. the same measurement method as is used for *VA and S-IPS matrixes). You should be aware that the FP202W V2 is no different in this parameter from TN-based monitors with specified viewing angles of 160/160 degrees – the difference in numbers comes from the different measurement methods employed.

The monitor’s got an unassuming exterior: a plain rectangular case made from near-black matte plastic, and a square stand.

The functionality of the stand is limited to changing the tilt of the screen. It can be removed and replaced with a VESA-compatible mount – you’ll find the appropriate fasteners under the decorative cap.

The FP202W V2 offers analog and digital inputs. Its power adapter is built into the case.

The monitor’s controls are located on its right side, which is not handy as you have to find them by touch. Their labels are located there, too, and you have to turn the monitor around towards you unless you have learned the positions of the buttons by heart.

Quick access is provided to switching between the preset modes, to the brightness and contrast settings, to choosing an input, and to the auto-adjustment feature (with the “i” button).

The onscreen menu is convenient except for the position of the buttons you have to navigate it with. The menu structure is good by itself, though.

The monitor’s got 90% brightness and 50% contrast by default. Choosing 60% brightness and 42% contrast results in a 100nit brightness of white.

Alas, I found some problems with the monitor’s image quality even when evaluating it with my own eyes. First, the Sharpness option works incorrectly even for the monitor’s DVI connection. You may be surprised at the very existence of an option to adjust sharpness for a digital signal, so here’s the explanation: this setting is in fact equivalent to your image editor’s Unsharp Mask and Blur filters when you increase and decrease it, respectively. Alas, the difference between these two modes is vague on the FP202W V2. The monitor produces a somewhat fuzzy image at one position of the Sharpness slider (when connected via DVI!) but when you increase it by one step, there appear light contours around black lines – this artifact should be familiar to every photographer who has overdone it with the Unsharp Mask filter when processing his photos. In other words, I could not make this monitor produce just a sharp picture without any artifacts.


Gray color on FP202W V2 screen

The next problem is about the color temperature modes. Besides the user-defined mode, the monitor offers Bluish, Normal and Reddish variants. The first two are more or less acceptable but the latter mode doesn’t make the image warm. It makes the image… pink! I can illustrate it with the photograph of different levels of gray on the screen of the monitor you can see above (the photo was captured in RAW format and I converted it into JPEG basing the white balance on the rightmost square that had corresponded to white on the monitor’s screen).

And now let’s proceed to objective measurements.

The gamma curves aren’t that bad, yet the gamma value is obviously too high (the curves go lower than they should), resulting in a darker and higher-contrast image than necessary. This is the only problem here, though. The monitor reproduces both lights and darks normally.

After the demonstration of a beautiful, yet absolutely unnatural, pink instead of gray, you can’t expect the color temperature measurements to produce good results. Indeed, white is 1500K colder than gray in the Reddish mode and, on the contrary, about 1000K warmer than it in the Normal mode (I want to remind you that higher color temperatures are perceived by the eye as colder colors and vice versa).

The monitor’s response time average is 13.1 milliseconds with a maximum of 28.3 milliseconds. From a practical point of view the FP202W V2 with its specified response of 8 milliseconds isn’t much different from TN-based monitors with a specified response of 5 milliseconds (whose response average falls within 13-15 milliseconds, too) and is many times slower than monitors with a specified response time of 2 or 4 milliseconds.

The contrast ratio is rather low, even for a TN matrix, hardly above 250:1 in one of the test modes.

I guess the only thing that may be attractive in the BenQ FP202W V2 is its low price. Otherwise the monitor’s characteristics range from mediocre to bad. It’s got an unassuming exterior design, inconvenient controls, average image quality, and a slow matrix with narrow viewing angles. It can only be used for working with text documents. You should look elsewhere if you want a more universal monitor.

Dell 2007FP

The spread of widescreen monitors often provokes the question what is more convenient, 16:10 or 4:3?

Of course, there is no definite answer. Or rather, the answer depends on the specific applications the monitor is intended for. Other factors being comparable (for example, the resolution must be appropriate; early widescreen 19” monitors with a small native resolution of 1280x768 and a huge pixel pitch didn’t meet this condition), a wide screen is more agreeable to the human eye than a tall screen. It’s natural for the eye to move horizontally, and the monitor can be easily installed in such a way that your eyes are cast downwards. The wide image intensifies the presence effect in games and movies. The wide screen is also handy for work. It can easily display two documents at once, and you can place various toolsets, palettes and other such auxiliary windows at the side of the screen.

However, there are a couple of tasks for which the classic 4:3 screen is going to suit better. I mean various CAD/CAM software suites in which viewing a large and complex design drawing proves to be easier on a monitor with a resolution of 1600x1200 rather than 1680x1050 pixels. Moreover, monitors with a screen aspect ratio of 4:3 are better suited to work in pair. With two widescreen monitors you either have to turn them into portrait orientation (and they become too tall) or need a wide desk and a rotating chair.

Unfortunately, 20” monitors with an aspect ratio of 4:3 are generally rather expensive due to objective reasons (the diagonal being the same, widescreen matrixes have a smaller total area and thus are less expensive to make) as well as to the manufacturers’ marketing policy (monitors targeted at a small audience of professionals rather than at the mass user can be sold at a higher price).

The Dell 2007FP that I’m going to review now is a nice exception to the rule. Despite its resolution of 1600x1200 pixels, its retail price is comparable to that of widescreen 20-21” models based on VA and S-IPS matrixes.

Although Dell’s website specifies only one set of parameter values, this model may come with both S-IPS and S-PVA matrixes. Ours is an S-PVA based sample. Despite the specification of the response time according to the ISO 13406-2 standard this monitor features Response Time Compensation technology.

The monitor has a graceful appearance with a lot of silver but the sides of the case and the narrow screen bezel are black.

Seemingly fragile, this stand is actually very strong and reliable. It is made from a thick steel plate painted the color of silver plastic on the outside. The stand offers screen height adjustment (the edge of the screen is only 5cm above the desk in the bottommost position), tilt adjustment, the rotation around the vertical axis (the pole is rotating while the base of the stand remains motionless), and portrait mode.

There is a button on the back of the stand to unblock the height adjustment. When you push the screen down to the lowest position, it gets locked with this button for easier transportation. To lift the screen up again, you have to press this button and pull it up.

You can detach the stand if necessary by pressing the round black button under the spot where the stand is attached to the case and replace it with a standard VESA mount.

This monitor has analog and digital inputs and two video inputs (Composite and S-Video). It doesn’t have an audio input, though. You can buy optional speakers and hang them under the bottom of the case (they are connected to the monitor’s power supply). The power adapter is integrated into the case.

There is a 4-port USB hub next to the video inputs. Two of its ports are placed nearby for permanently attached devices (keyboard, mouse) and two more can be found on the monitor’s side for quick connection.

The control buttons are located in the bottom right of the front panel. They are large round concave buttons with white icons that are perfectly visible even under dim lighting. I think some manufacturers who try to free the front panel from any “redundant” elements, making you fumble for the control buttons somewhere at the back, should instead use this monitor as an example.

When the monitor is turned on, a green LED highlights the number corresponding to the selected input. The Power button is highlighted in green as well. The LEDs are of moderate intensity.


Click to enlarge

The onscreen menu is beautiful, but not quite user-friendly. The monitor has too few buttons for quick navigation, so you have to do a lot of actions mainly due to the lack of a button that would quit the current menu item. I also think that the selected menu item is not emphasized enough. You don’t see it at a glance in sections overcrowded with setup options.

A gross ergonomic drawback – for those who are going to use the video inputs – is that the Picture-in-Picture mode is enabled/disabled in the main menu only. There is no dedicated button for that. Switching between the inputs is implemented well, however. When you press a button, the name of the input is displayed and, if the press is not repeated, the monitor switches to this input in a couple of seconds (most other monitors switch to the next input right away, and you can’t press the button a few times quickly – you have to wait for the switching process to complete; besides Dell monitors, Samsung’s ones are an exception as they can detect which inputs have signal sources attached to them and switch only between these inputs).

For the Picture-in-Picture mode you can configure such parameters of the secondary window as size (4 variants), position (4 variants), brightness, contrast, hue, and saturation.

I want to note specifically that the monitor offers an option of interpolation. You can enable the 1:1 mode so that a picture in a non-native resolution (i.e. in a resolution other than 1600x1200 pixels) is displayed normally, without being stretched to the entire screen. Today, this mode is almost exclusive to Dell’s monitors (other manufacturers have abandoned this option), but you can achieve the same effect for DVI connection using your graphics card settings.

The monitor’s brightness is set at 50% by default. When connected via its digital interface, the monitor doesn’t offer a contrast setting. You have to use your graphics card settings if the brightness adjustment range is insufficient for you. I selected 13% brightness to achieve a 100nit white. The brightness is regulated by means of pulse-width modulation of the power of the backlight lamps at a frequency of 180Hz.

Color gradients are reproduced without banding.

The gamma curves look very good. They go close to each other and to the ideal curve for gamma 2.2. The monitor has no problems reproducing dark or light halftones.

The color temperature setup is good. There’s little difference between the temperatures of different grays – less than 200-300K. Most users won’t even notice this.

The monitor’s response time average is 10.0 milliseconds. The longest transition takes 21.8 milliseconds. Despite the use of a VA matrix there is no growth of the response time on darkest halftones, which is characteristic of many VA-based monitors.

The response time mechanism is not without errors: 2.4% on average with a maximum of 24.4%. The average value is low in comparison with other monitors, and most transitions are performed without any error at all. So, RTC-provoked artifacts won’t be conspicuous on this monitor. You’ll have to specifically look for them in order to see them.

The contrast ratio is good at about 400:1. This is higher than most monitors with TN and S-IPS matrixes provide.

The Dell 2007FP is a good monitor overall. Its classic aspect ratio makes it appealing to people who work in CAD programs or with multi-monitor configurations. The 2007FP comes with an S-PVA matrix (and is also available with an S-IPS matrix) that ensures very good viewing angles. It is ergonomic and has an accurate setup. This monitor is not limited to work only as its matrix speed is high enough for games, let alone movies. But if you are looking for a monitor that is best for watching movies, you may want to consider the next model instead.

Dell 2007WFP

As I have written in the previous section, the choice between LCD monitors with screen aspect ratios of 16:10 and 4:3 is largely determined by the intended applications. However, different models are usually different not only in the screen aspect ratio but in other parameters as well, so you may find that the monitor that suits you fine in all its parameters has the wrong aspect ratio for you and there is no similar monitor with the aspect ratio you need.

Dell took care of this, however, releasing a pair of 20” monitors: the above-described 2007FP with an aspect ratio of 4:3 and the 2007WFP with an aspect ratio of 16:10. Otherwise, the two models are as similar as possible, so you can choose the aspect ratio you like without losing anything in other parameters.

The specs of the two models are identical except for the native resolution. The 2007WFP can come with both S-IPA or S-PVA matrixes too, but we’ve got an S-IPS version of it.

I want to remind you that these two matrix manufacturing technologies are somewhat different from the end-user’s point of view. S-IPS matrixes have somewhat larger real viewing angles and a somewhat higher speed, but S-PVA technology ensures a higher contrast ratio and is usually cheaper. These differences are insignificant for a majority of users, however, save for a few professionals. They are especially negligible in comparison with the numerous monitors with TN matrixes that are inferior to both S-PVA and S-IPS in terms of image quality (particularly, in the viewing angles).

You can find out the matrix type in the monitor’s service menu. To do so, shut the monitor down with the Power button, then turn it on again keeping the Menu and “+” buttons pressed. When the monitor wakes up you should release those buttons and, after a second, press the “-“ button. The result is shown above: the RT803 code denotes an S-IPS matrix whereas an S-PVA matrix would be indicated with the UW473 code (these codes may change in later revisions of the monitor; I tested the A04 revision).

The 2007WFP is indistinguishable from its predecessor externally except for the different aspect ratio. It’s got the same elegant silver-and-black case with a slim, but very robust and stiff, stand.

The stand allows to rotate the screen around the vertical axis (the base of the stand remains motionless at that), to adjust the tilt and height (within 50 to 140mm) of the screen, and to turn it into portrait mode. The height adjustment is blocked when the screen is lowered to the bottommost position. To unblock it, you should pull the screen up while pressing the button on the back of the stand.

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

The monitor’s got the same connectors as the 2007FP, but placed in a different order: analog and digital inputs, two video inputs (composite and S-Video), power for optional speakers, a mains connector, and an integrated USB hub.

The hub has four ports, two of which is located on the monitor’s back panel next to the other connectors and the other two are on a side panel for USB flash drives and other “temporary” USB peripherals. The USB connectors are placed at a distance from each other, allowing to use them both simultaneously.

The control buttons are located in the bottom right of the front panel. These are large, concave, handy buttons with clear white icons.

The Power button is highlighted with a green LED at work. The indicator of the selected input is shining to the right of the controls. When two inputs are in use at once in the Picture-in-Picture mode, two appropriate indicators are alight. Switching between the inputs is implemented just as conveniently as in the previous model.


Click to enlarge

Like with the 2007FP, the ergonomics suffer somewhat due to the lack of control buttons – in fact, only three of them are used in the menu.

There is a significant difference, though. The previous model allowed to enable the Picture-in-Picture mode from the menu only while the 2007WFP has a dedicated button for that. This is good news for people who are going to use the monitor’s video inputs often.

The 2007WFP offers a full set of interpolation options, including for images in 4:3 format – you can stretch them to the entire screen, leave them as they are (i.e. display them on a per-pixel basis) or stretch them while keeping their aspect ratio intact (which will leave two black bands at the sides of the screen).

You can also choose one of the three modes with different gamma settings, selectable from the menu (there’s no dedicated button for that). They are called Desktop, Gaming and Multimedia. Unfortunately, you only get a good image quality in the Desktop mode whereas the other two distort the reproduction of colors greatly. Particularly, gradients appear striped in them. In the Desktop mode color gradients look perfect.

The monitor’s got 50% brightness by default. Contrast is again not regulated when the monitor is connected via DVI. That’s why I didn’t perform my tests at our three traditional reference points (100 nits, default settings, maximum settings) but limited myself to the minimum and maximum levels of brightness.

The brightness is regulated by means of pulse-width modulation of the backlight lamps at a frequency of 158Hz.


Default settings

The gamma curves look perfect at the default brightness setting (50%). There are no problems with the reproduction of darks or lights.


Minimal brightness

But when the brightness is reduced to zero, the monitor loses details in darks. The diagram above shows that the red and green curves lie on the X-axis for about 10-15% of dark halftones. This means that these halftones are all displayed by the monitor as pure black. It also means that the monitor actually uses a mixed regulation of the brightness, with the lamps and the matrix both. So, if you care about having all the range of halftones displayed properly, you should reduce the monitor’s brightness setting cautiously and use your graphics card settings for more regulation.

Strangely enough, the color temperature modes did not work on our sample of the monitor. This must have something to do with the firmware, but I want to make it clear that I tested an off-the-shelf product, not an engineering sample. The color temperature settings were available for DVI connection, but my choosing them had no effect, except for the manual setup in the Custom mode.

The single mode the monitor could produce was set up quite well, though. The difference between the temperatures of different grays wasn’t higher than 500K. It is a good result.

The monitor’s color gamut is standard. It is somewhat larger than the sRGB space in the area of greens but smaller than it in reds. This is in fact the typical color gamut of most modern LCD monitors except for a few models that have backlight lamps with improved phosphors and boast a color space that is considerably larger than sRGB.

This monitor is based on an S-IPS matrix with Response Time Compensation although its specs declare a response time of 16 milliseconds as measured according to the ISO 13406-2 standard. The response time average is 6.0 milliseconds and there are few transitions that differ much from this value. Thus, the 2007WFP has a very fast matrix that is going to suit well for both movies and games.

Alas, the RTC mechanism has its errors: 9.2% on average and 42.9% at the maximum. Almost each transition is performed with an error, particularly the transitions from black into grays which are the most conspicuous. RTC-provoked artifacts won’t be too annoying at work or in games (I consider an RTC error level of 10% as the acceptable maximum and the 2007WFP meets this requirement), yet are going to be visible for the user.

The monitor’s contrast ratio is over 300:1 at the maximum, which is an average result by today’s standards. Well, S-IPS matrixes have never had record-breaking contrast ratios, being inferior to S-PVA matrixes in this respect as we can see now comparing the 2007WFP and the 2007FP.

So, Dell has done a good job on this product. The 2007WFP is a good choice not only for those who are not satisfied with the small viewing angles of TN matrixes, but also for people who need an accurate reproduction of colors, yet can’t afford a NEC 2090UXi, for example. Besides color reproduction and viewing angles, I want to mention the fast matrix, good ergonomics, and appealing appearance. On the downside is the noticeably high level of RTC errors, malfunctioning option of the color temperature selection (this seems to be a problem of the particular firmware, but make sure at the shop that the sample you are going to buy is free from it), and the loss of darks at low values of brightness.

It’s hard to tell which matrix type is better, S-IPS or S-PVA. The former offers somewhat larger viewing angles (and, consequently, a somewhat better reproduction of colors) and a better response time, but the latter features a higher contrast ratio and a smaller RTC error. On the other hand, these differences are going to be insignificant for a majority of users.

HP L2045w

This one is yet another monitor with a TN matrix. It’s not surprising as this technology is conquering the market thanks to its low manufacturing cost even despite the inherent drawback of small vertical viewing angles.

As you can see, the L2045w is a model without response time compensation. Its specified speed is 5 milliseconds (measured according to the ISO 13406-2 standard, i.e. on the transition between black and white). The declared viewing angles reflect the real situation quite accurately: TN technology indeed provides a poor vertical view.

The monitor is designed in a rather simple manner. With its gray-black square appearance it only differs from other office-oriented models with the unusually shaped stand. There is a depression in the center of the stand you can put post-it notes into. This reminds me of the Sony SDM-E96D model whose stand was optimized for storing pencils and sticking such paper notes to. I think it’s a good idea. If the monitor’s stand occupies so much space on your office desk, it should do so with maximum benefit to you.

As for the functionality of the stand, it is as broad as you can wish offering portrait mode, the rotation around the vertical axis (only the top part of the stand rotates at that as is shown in the picture above), and screen tilt and height (from 100 to 200mm) adjustments. The stand can be replaced with a VESA-compatible mount.

The height adjustment is locked automatically when you push the screen down to a click. To unblock it, you push the monitor down a little and press the inconspicuous button at the bottom of the stand. Holding the button pressed, you then pull the screen up. This lock is meant for transportation in the first place.

The monitor’s got analog and digital inputs as well as a 2-port USB hub. The power adapter is integrated into the case.

The USB ports can be found on the right side of the monitor at a big enough distance from each other so that you could easily plug in two devices simultaneously. It’s not quite convenient to plug something in casually – the connectors are almost on the rear panel and you have to look behind the monitor to find them.

The control buttons are centered below the screen. The Power button is placed on the left. That’s good as you are unlikely to hit it by mistake instead of another button. Quick access is provided to the auto-adjustment feature, to switching the inputs and, not quite comprehensibly, to resetting the settings to the factory defaults. The buttons go down smoothly under your finger. Their icons and labels are easily readable.

Without much visual extravaganza, the monitor’s onscreen menu is very user-friendly. The developer didn’t try to save screen space or draw pretty-looking icons. There is just comprehensible text here. I have only two complaints about this menu. It does not remember the last changed item. And the cursor automatically moves to the Exit item after you adjust any parameter, which is somewhat inconvenient if you want to set up a few parameters at once (for example, both contrast and brightness). The latter is obviously due to the lack of an Exit button on the L2045w.

The monitor offers a submenu with its behavior settings. You can disable DDC/CI (the interface for setting the monitor up from the PC), change its behavior on turning on and in sleep mode, turn off the Power LED, etc.

By default, the monitor’s brightness and contrast are set at 90% and 80%. To achieve a 100nit brightness of white I reduced the brightness setting to 50% and the contrast setting to 60%. The brightness is regulated by means of backlight power modulation at a frequency of 180Hz.

Color gradients are reproduced correctly, without banding, at any brightness/contrast values.

The gamma curves look good, going close to the theoretical curve for gamma 2.2. There are no problems with the display of darks or lights. The monitor reproduces all of the halftones.

The real temperatures don’t quite match the names of the menu items (for example, the sRGB mode should yield a temperature of 6500K), but there is a small difference between the temperatures of different grays. This difference is no bigger than 300K in the 6500K mode which is an excellent result for an office-class monitor. Many other monitors do not fit into 1000K even.

This is the normal color gamut of an LCD monitor with typical backlight lamps.

The response time average is 11.2 milliseconds with a maximum of 23.6 milliseconds. The L2045w may look good against other monitors that have TN matrixes without response time compensation, but cannot stand a comparison with modern gaming models that have a response of 3-4 milliseconds.

The contrast ratio is average, barely above 300:1 at the maximum.

Thus, the HP L2045w is a good office monitor. It can also be used at home by people who don’t care about its not-fast matrix with small viewing angles. This model stands out from among the crowd of TN-based monitors with similar characteristics thanks to its very neat color reproduction setup and good ergonomics but you have to pay for both in the literal sense of the word. The price of the L2045w is right in between typical TN-based models and more advanced products like the above-described Dell 2007WFP.

LG Flatron L204WT

It’s impossible not to notice the similarity between the name of this model and the name of the monitor from HP described in the previous section. Moreover, their specifications coincide in many points. But will their real characteristics be alike? Let’s see.

The declared contrast ratio is high (too high even for a PVA matrix, let along the TN matrix installed in the L204WT). The horizontal and vertical viewing angles are identical. The former thing is explained easily: the manufacturer specifies a dynamic contrast ratio that is measured for the appropriate function that automatically adjusts the backlight brightness depending on the onscreen picture. The ordinary, static contrast ratio is going to be much smaller, but LG doesn’t declare it at all.

It’s somewhat harder to explain the viewing angles. It is possible that the manufacturer indeed got these numbers when measuring them using the traditional method (the viewing angle is the angle at which the contrast ratio in the center of the screen degenerates to 5:1; note that neither halftone distortions nor the reduction of the contrast ratio at the edges of the screen are taken into account). However, the difference between a normal horizontal and a narrow vertical viewing angle, which is typical of TN technology, can be easily perceived by the eye in this monitor.

The L204WT has a dark-gray plastic case that looks neat and even elegant, yet it doesn’t look so good when viewed from a side or from behind due to the large square knob in the center of the rear panel of the case under which the monitor’s electronics is located.

The functionality of the stand is limited to changing the tilt of the screen only, but you can replace it with a standard VESA-compatible mount using the fasteners on the rear panel (sealed with decorative screws by default).

The monitor’s got analog and digital inputs and an integrated power adapter.

After the conveniently placed buttons of the Dell and HP monitors the controls of the Flatron L204WT are a nightmare. They are not even on a side panel. They are at the back and you can only press them blindly unless you put a mirror behind the monitor. Funnily enough, the buttons are accompanied with labels, which are, fortunately, duplicated on the front panel. Perhaps the developer does mean you should use a mirror?

The grooves on the Up and Down buttons and the small notch on the Power button help a little, but it would be much easier if these controls were just visible. Moreover, these buttons are simply inaccessible if your system case stands close to the monitor’s right.


Click to enlarge

Well, you can give up the control buttons altogether and use the Windows-based forteManager program instead. However, forteManager took about 50 seconds to launch on my PC (not a weak configuration running Windows XP SP2) and its interface isn’t quite user-friendly. About two thirds of the program window is occupied by a help text while the settings sliders take a modest place on the right.

This is a traditional LG menu, handy and logical. It’s got all the necessary setup options, including the option of disabling the Power indicator, and remembers the last changed setting, which is very convenient if you are setting your monitor up using a step-by-step approximation method (change your settings – evaluate the image – adjust the settings a little more – until you are fully satisfied with the result). So, I wouldn’t have any complaints about the way this monitor is controlled if it were not for the strange – from a human physiology standpoint – position of the control buttons.

Quick access is provided to switching between the inputs (the Up button) and between the f-Engine modes (the Down button), and to the automatic adjustment feature. There are four preset f-Engine modes: Normal (regular settings without any additional processing of the signal), User (here you can change the degree of the additional processing), Text and Movie. These modes do not just change the values of brightness and contrast. They process the signal, correcting the color reproduction and color saturation. It depends on your particular taste if you are going to like the result of such processing.

The monitor’s got 100% brightness and 70% contrast by default. To achieve a 100nit brightness of white I selected 50% brightness and 49% contrast. The brightness is regulated by means of pulse-width modulation of the power of the backlight lamps at a frequency of 200Hz.

Color gradients are reproduced correctly at the default settings but get striped when the contrast setting is reduced.

The gamma curves look good. They go close to each other, save for the slightly sagging blue curve. The monitor has no problems reproducing dark or light halftones.

Alas, the color temperature setup is not so good. Yes, it can be so despite the neat look of the gamma curves in the diagram because the curves are normalized to go out of the point (0, 0) and come to the point (255, 255) and some information may get lost in the process. That’s why we measure color temperature specially.

So, you can see that the monitor yields too cold colors. The average temperature is over 8000K even in the 6500K mode, which is the warmest available. There is also a 1500K difference between the temperatures of white and gray. The former problem can be solved by adjusting the temperature manually, but the latter issue can only be corrected with a calibrator. And it doesn’t seem right to buy a calibrator for setting up an inexpensive monitor with a TN matrix.

The response time average is 13.6 milliseconds. The longest transition takes as long as 26.3 milliseconds. This is just what you can expect from a matrix without Response Time Compensation. The specified response time of 5 milliseconds is only achieved on the transition from pure black to pure white.

The monitor has a contrast ratio of 300:1, which is normal for a TN matrix. I measure the static contrast ratio, not the dynamic one, which is specified by the manufacturer for the L204WT. The dynamic contrast mode is only useful for movies. It doesn’t do for work or even for games.

Summing it up, the L204WT is superior in its characteristics to the above-described BenQ FP202W V2 but inferior to the HP L2045w in both color reproduction setup and ergonomics. Thanks to its low price it may be interesting for people who process text in various office applications, but if you want a fast matrix or good reproduction of colors, you should look for them elsewhere.

NEC MultiSync 20WGX2 Pro

We reviewed the 20WGX2 model from NEC in an earlier article and found it to be a good home monitor based on an S-IPS matrix with Response Time Compensation. But it was soon replaced by the Pro-suffixed model, the one I will be talking about right now.

The new and old models coincide in their specs. You can see a high specified contrast ratio, but it is the so-called dynamic contrast. In other words, the 20WGX2 Pro is based on a matrix with a contrast ratio of 800:1 (LG.Philips LCD LM201WE2) but the monitor’s electronics can automatically adjust the backlight brightness twofold depending on the displayed image, thus providing a resulting dynamic contrast of 2*800:1 = 1600:1.

The exterior design hasn’t changed. The monitor doesn’t look compact. It is thick and the rounded-off screen bezel makes it “fatter” visually. Anyway, the company has made a step away from its traditional and rather outdated square-shaped design that doesn’t fit well into a living-room environment.

The simple black stand allows to change the tilt of the screen only. No height adjustment and no portrait mode here.

The monitor has analog and digital inputs and a 4-port USB hub. Two of the hub ports are located at the back next to the other connectors. The remaining two ports are on the left side of the case. The power adapter is integrated into the monitor.

Traditionally for latest models of home monitors from NEC, the MultiSync 20WGX2 Pro is controlled with a 4-position mini-joystick and a few buttons. The joystick doesn’t work too well. On some samples of the monitor it doesn’t react normally at your pressing it rightwards or downwards. If you don’t like it, you may want to control the monitor by means of the Windows-based NaviSet program.

Quick access is provided to the brightness and contrast settings (by moving the joystick), to switching the inputs and to the DV Modes (factory-defined modes you can switch between with a press of a button).

The monitor has 100% brightness and 50% contrast by default. Reducing them both to 21% results in a 100nit white. The brightness is regulated by means of backlight power modulation at a frequency of 200Hz.

Banding can be seen in color gradients. It gets stronger at lower values of contrast.

The gamma curves are almost perfect, slightly deflecting from the theoretical curve in the second fourth of the diagram. They retain their shape at the reduced contrast but when the contrast is set lower than 15%, dark halftones get lost. When the contrast is higher than 50%, the monitor loses light halftones.

I would like to dwell upon the DV Mode feature, too. Unfortunately, not only brightness and contrast, but also deeper color reproduction related settings are changed in DV Modes, which leads to a considerable distortion of colors. Here are the gamma curves in the Photo mode for example:

That’s a depressing sight. The red and green curves keep their shape more or less well in the middle of the diagram, but lie on the X-axis at the beginning (which means that dark halftones of these colors are displayed as black). The blue curve has a weird shape. Of course, there’s no talking about natural colors here and I wouldn’t advise you to use this mode, which is called Photo, for viewing photographs.

Traditionally for NEC’s products, the 20WGX2 Pro offers a wide range of color temperature modes, six in total. The setup quality is very high: the temperature average corresponds to the names of the menu items (i.e. you do get a temperature of about 7500K if you choose the “7500K” option) and there is a very small difference between the temperatures of different levels of gray. This difference grows up in the two coldest modes, but only on dark halftones.

The color gamut is quite normal for a monitor with ordinary backlight lamps. It surpasses the sRGB standard in the area of greens but is somewhat narrower than it in the area of reds. The resulting color gamut is larger than the sRGB color space but the difference is small, especially in comparison with monitors that feature backlight lamps with improved phosphors.

The monitor uses an S-IPS matrix with Response Time Compensation. The response average is 6.7 milliseconds; the longest transition takes 9.6 milliseconds. In other words, the 20WGX2 Pro is no competitor to fastest monitors on TN matrixes, but is close to them and is far faster than models on *VA matrixes.

Low response time often comes with gross RTC errors. Monitors with VA matrixes are in the lead here. The RTC error average of the 20WGX2 Pro is 8.8%. The maximum error is as high as 74.5%. According to our criteria, this means that there are visual artifacts. They are not really annoying, yet visible. By the way, the Dell 2007WFP has very similar results in terms of speed and RTC error level because it has the same matrix as the NEC 20WGX2 Pro.

The contrast ratio isn’t high at about 250:1, but the maximum brightness (almost 400 nits) distinguishes it from its opponents that usually have a max brightness of 250 nits or less. On the other hand, most users don’t need such high numbers. You need a brightness of 70-100 nits for work (depending on the ambient lighting) and may want to increase it to 150-200 nits for games and movies. A higher brightness may only be necessary when you are going to watch a movie in a brightly lit room, like on a sunny day with the blinds open.

The owners of the older version of the monitor don’t miss much because the NEC 20WGX2 Pro hasn’t showed any significant difference from its predecessor. If you are choosing a new monitor, the 20WGX2 Pro is a good home model with wide viewing angles and a very good speed. On the downside is the simple stand that doesn’t allow to adjust the height of the screen, the somewhat pointless DV Mode feature, the considerably high level of RTC errors and the banding in color gradients. Although neither of these drawbacks is indeed serious, I should confess that the above-described Dell 2007WFP is free from them while coming at a lower retail price.

Philips Brilliance 200P7ES

Notwithstanding the current profusion of widescreen monitors, the classic screen ratio of 4:3 hasn’t been completely defeated. It proves to be most expedient for such applications as CAD/CAM programs and multi-monitor configurations.

The Philips Brilliance 200P7ES belongs to this category. It is a 20” monitor with a native resolution of 1600x1200. Similar to Dell, Philips is producing a twin widescreen model 200WP7ES, but we haven’t got it.

This monitor is based on an S-IPS matrix with Response Time Compensation. The manufacturer specifies two numbers as measured according to the ISO (the time it takes to perform a black-white-black transition) and GtG (the arithmetic mean of all possible transitions between halftones of gray) methods.

The monitor features a neat light-gray case without any embellishments except for the name of the brand emblazoned under the screen.

Despite its rather large dimensions and thickness of the case, the 200P7ES doesn’t look bulky thanks to the lucky combination of shape and color.

The stand allows to adjust the height of the screen, turn it around the vertical axis (only the top part of the pole rotates then) and into portrait mode, and change the tilt of the screen. If you are not satisfied with all that, you can replace the stand with a standard VESA-compatible one.

The monitor has analog and digital inputs, an integrated power adapter and a USB hub.

The hub is situated in the corner of the case and offers four ports: two on the rear and two on the side panel. The latter two are so close to each other that it is hard, if possible at all, to use them simultaneously.

The monitor offers a generous seven control buttons plus a Power button and provides quick access to the automatic adjustment feature, to selecting SmartImage modes, and to the brightness setting. There is no dedicated button on the front panel for switching the inputs. So you can’t change the input without entering the menu.

The SmartImage feature is a set of predefined modes for different applications such as text, movies, etc. Note that not only brightness and contrast, but also color saturation is varied between the modes, which may result in a distorted reproduction of colors. It depends on your personal taste whether you’ll like it or not.

The monitor’s menu is good, yet the developer should still work to improve its ergonomics. The abundance of controls feels like an inconvenience at times.

The brightness and contrast settings are set at 100% and 50% by default. To achieve a 100nit brightness of white I reduce them both to 40%. No trace of backlight power modulation could be observed when regulating the brightness. Moreover, when you select a 40% or lower brightness, a small portion of darks is lost (up to a 5% gray, approximately).

Color gradients are reproduced correctly, without banding.

The gamma curves look good, going just a little higher than the theoretical one. This drawback is fully corrected by reducing the contrast setting by 2-3% (the excess contrast is betrayed by the small but characteristic bend of the curves in the top right part of the diagram).

The color temperature is set up superbly as concerns both the temperature dispersion between the different levels of gray and the closeness of the average value to the number written in the monitor’s menu. As a small drawback, there is no preset mode with warm colors, i.e. with a color temperature of about 5400K.

The color gamut is close to the standard sRGB. It is somewhat better in greens, but worse in blues. The point of blue is shifted towards lighter blues. The monitor uses ordinary backlight lamps.

The response time average is 6.3 milliseconds, which is even somewhat smaller than promised by the manufacturer and comparable to other RTC-enabled monitors with S-IPS matrixes. The longest transition takes 8.0 milliseconds.

The RTC error average is 8.2% with a maximum of 38.6%. In other words, RTC artifacts looking like white trails behind moving objects are visible, but not very annoying.

The contrast ratio is far from breaking any records. 250:1 is just acceptable. The max brightness of 200 nits isn’t high, but sufficient for work.

Thus, the Philips Brilliance 200P7ES is yet another monitor with a classic aspect ratio of 4:3 and a rival to the above-described Dell 2007FP. It is based on an S-IPS matrix and boasts excellent viewing angles, a rather accurate reproduction of colors, good ergonomics, and a low response time. You should certainly consider the 200P7ES if you need a high-quality monitor with a resolution of 1600x1200 pixels for work. Choosing between it and the model from Dell isn’t easy. Both are very good products, free from serious defects. The matrix type cannot even be the decisive factor for making your shopping decision because there is but a small difference between S-IPS and S-PVA.

Samsung SyncMaster 206BW

We have already studied Samsung’s 20” monitor series based on TN matrixes. It consisted of SyncMaster 203B, 204 and 205BW models then, none of which had Response Time Compensation and thus could not be considered fast by today’s standards. The new SyncMaster 206BW is meant to fill in the niche.

Besides the response time of 2 milliseconds GtG, the monitor features a dynamic contrast mode. Samsung specifies two contrast ratios, static and dynamic. The specified viewing angles, measured by the contrast ratio reduction to 5:1, are identical vertically and horizontally, but the vertical angles are narrower than the horizontal ones in practice as is always the case with TN matrixes.

The monitor has a black glossy plastic case (your fingerprints are going to be just too visible on it) but the matrix has a traditional matte glare-free coating. A decorative silvery strip goes along the bottom edge of the case. The monitor is quite attractive overall.

As opposed to the SyncMaster 205BW, this model uses a most simple stand that only permits to change the tilt of the screen. You can replace it with a standard VESA mount if necessary.

The monitor is equipped with analog and digital inputs, and an integrated power adapter. As opposed to most of the models described above, it lacks a USB hub.

The control buttons are located on the bottom edge of the case but are accompanied with icons and labels on the silvery strip of the front panel, so there’s no problem with finding the button you need. Still, I’d prefer that the icons were painted some color because it’s hard to discern the labels in semidarkness even though they are pressed in light-gray plastic.

The Power button is placed apart from the others and is itself a conspicuous decorative element. The Power indicator – designed like a blue ring around the button – is not too bright or irritating at work, but begins to blink in sleep mode, which may be annoying. You can’t disable the indicator – this feature is only available in Samsung’s next monitor series (one model from it is discussed at the end of this review).

Quick access is provided to switching between the MagicBright modes (with predefined values of brightness, contrast and color temperature), to the brightness setting, to switching the inputs, and to the automatic adjustment of signal when the monitor’s analog connection is in use.

The onscreen menu is standard for Samsung’s monitors with this diagonal size. It is neat, logical and easy to use, offering an ordinary selection of setup options.

The Dynamic Contrast mode, available among the MagicBright modes, enables the appropriate technology (the manual adjustment of brightness is locked in the menu after that). Dynamic contrast is turned off in the other modes, including Movie, although I guess this name would be most appropriate for that technology because there’s no use for it other than watching movies.

The monitor’s got 100% brightness and 75% contrast by default. I selected 50% brightness and 55% contrast to achieve a 100nit brightness of white. The brightness is regulated by means of pulse-width modulation of the power of the backlight lamps at a frequency of 200Hz.

Color gradients are reproduced perfectly at any settings. The backlight is quite uniform, but you can see two narrow lighter bands along the top and bottom of the screen on a dark background.

The gamma curves look good. They lie in a dense group hardly deflecting from the theoretical curve for gamma 2.2. The monitor reproduces the entire color range without losing details in lights or darks.

This color temperature setup is good. There is less than 1000K of difference between the levels of gray, which is acceptable in monitors of this class. As a minor drawback, the Warm mode yields not warm, but normal colors, its average color temperature being about 6500K. Anyway, I guess most users are going to prefer this mode (or the slightly colder Normal, depending on the ambient lighting).

The response time average is 4.7 milliseconds. This is fast, yet not as fast as promised by the manufacturer. This result comes from the surprisingly long transitions from, for example, grays into white (the farthest line of columns in the picture above). This is rather strange for a TN matrix for which transitions into white are usually among the fastest.

The RTC error average is 15.7%. This is quite a lot and the resulting artifacts are going to be not just visible, but disturbing. The maximum error is as gross as 92.7%.

The SyncMaster 206BW sports an astonishingly high contrast ratio of almost 500:1! It’s even hard to believe this is a TN matrix because such numbers are typical of VA ones whereas regular TN matrixes have a contrast ratio of 300:1.

Strictly speaking, the SyncMaster 206BW is not an improved SyncMaster 205BW because it has got a different case, RTC mechanism, and dynamic contrast mode. Alas, its pros such as an appealing exterior, good response time and accurate color reproduction are accompanied with cons like a too high level of RTC errors and a simple stand without screen height adjustment. The response time doesn’t make it to the declared 2 milliseconds too, by the way. If the mentioned problems do not frighten you, the SyncMaster 206BW can make a good home monitor capable of handling games and movies as well as office applications (you shouldn’t forget about the narrow viewing angles but it’s a common defect of all TN matrixes rather than of the 206BW only).

ViewSonic VP2030b

This monitor has a classic aspect ratio of 4:3 and an MVA matrix. The monitors from Dell and Philips discussed above are based on S-PVA and S-IPS matrixes, respectively. So, we seem to have all matrix manufacturing technologies here except for TN. But as I wrote above, monitors with an aspect ratio of 4:3 suit better for work and TN is not the best choice for that.

So, the VP2030b employs an MVA matrix with Response Time Compensation. The manufacturer specifies the response time as measured according to both ISO and GtG methods. The viewing angles are somewhat smaller than the 178 degrees modern VA-based monitors are usually declared to provide, but this shouldn’t worry you. They are anyway much wider than those of TN matrixes just because they are measured by the reduction of the contrast ratio to 10:1.

This monitor has a stern neat case made from dark gray plastic. Its stand is very large and long-legged.

The stand permits to adjust the height (within 85 to 215mm from the desk to the bottom edge of the matrix) and tilt of the screen and to turn it into portrait mode or around the vertical axis. In the latter case the vertical pole of the stand is the only rotating thing; the base remains motionless.

The stand can be replaced with a standard VESA mount.

The monitor’s got analog and digital inputs, an integrated power adapter and a 4-port USB hub. The latter’s ports are all on the back panel too, so they are only good for permanently attached devices like keyboard, mouse or web-camera, but not for USB flash drives. It’s just difficult to plug a drive blindly into the port.

The control buttons – small squares painted the color of the case – are centered under the screen. There are two problems with them. The icons pressed out in the plastic are too small and barely visible. You can’t read them at all in semidarkness. And second, ViewSonic prefers the rather perplexing numerical designations of “1” and “2” to text labels like ‘Menu” and “Exit”. You only learn what those “1” and “2” mean when you enter the onscreen menu.

By default, the monitor’s got 70% contrast and 100% brightness. To achieve a 100nit white I set the brightness at 45% and the contrast at 49%. The brightness is regulated by means of modulation of the power of the backlight lamps at a frequency of about 270Hz.

Color gradients are reproduced perfectly. Dark halftones are distinguishable from each other at any values of contrast.

The gamma curves differ from each other, especially the blue curve. However, the monitor has no serious problems with them. The entire range of halftones is reproduced normally.

The VP2030b offers six color temperature modes excepting the user-defined one. The setup quality is rather poor. The difference between the different levels of gray is over 2000K even in the 6500K mode and white is everywhere warmer than it should be.

The color gamut is just what you can expect from a modern LCD monitor. It is somewhat larger than the sRGB color space.

The response time average is 8.0 milliseconds, just as promised by the manufacturer. It’s a good result for a VA matrix. Such monitors usually deliver a response time of 9-10 milliseconds.

The RTC error average is 3.2%, which is good, too. Most users won’t notice any visual artifacts. For comparison, S-IPS matrixes with Response Time Compensation have three times that percent and some TN matrixes have as much as five times the percent of RTC errors shown by the VP2030b.

The monitor’s contrast ratio is above 300:1 in every test mode except for the first one. This is a good result for a VA matrix, although nothing exceptional.

In fact, the single serious drawback of the VP2030b is the sloppy setup of its color temperature modes – the difference between the temperatures of different grays is too big. Otherwise, it is an interesting product if you are choosing from among models with an aspect ratio of 4:3. It’s got a good response time with low level of RTC errors, wide viewing angles, and good ergonomics (considering the functionality of the stand). However, if you need an accurate reproduction of colors, you have to use a hardware calibrator, like a ColorVision Spyder or GretagMacbeth Eye-One Display, to achieve it.

Samsung SyncMaster 2032BW: First Look

As I said at the beginning of the review, our labs sometimes receive presale samples of monitors. There’s usually no sense in running our full cycle of tests for them because they may come with non-native firmware, with inaccurate setup, etc. So when such a model presents some interest, we will include it into our articles with the Preview mark just to show you what we are all up to in the near future.

The 2032BW doesn’t differ from the above-described 206BW in its basic characteristics. It has a widescreen TN matrix with Response Time Compensation, a specified response of 2 milliseconds, and a dynamic contrast mode (the static contrast ratio is not specified, but it must be equal to the 206BW’s 800:1).

The exterior has changed dramatically, however. Recently we reviewed the new 19” Samsung SyncMaster 932B and Samsung SyncMaster 932BF models designed in sleek cases made from glossy plastic. They looked unusual, quite beautiful in a special way, and showing some retro stylization.

The SyncMaster 2032BW has the same rounded-off shiny case (but the matrix is matte). With different proportions and size of the screen it even looks more elegant than the 19” models. The case doesn’t look large despite its being not small actually. I like this design. It is going to look equally well in a shop window and on a home desk.

The rear panel is rounded off as well. It has a slit of the vent grid in the top part you can hold on to when carrying this monitor. The connectors are placed in a semicircular niche. It’s somewhat strange it is not covered with a decorative panel.

The stand is designed in a peculiar way. The monitor is just put on it from above with an effort. The cylindrical piece of the stand goes stiffly into a rubberized groove in the case. Of course, this design leaves no other functionality save for adjusting the tilt. You can’t replace the stand with a VESA mount – the monitor doesn’t have the required mounting holes.

The monitor is equipped with analog and digital inputs, and an integrated power adapter.

The control buttons are placed at the bottom of the case. Their labels are engraved and painted light on the front panel, on the slightly protruding rim in its bottom part, to be exact.

The monitor’s onscreen menu is standard for Samsung but it’s got the long-anticipated item – the option of regulating the intensity of the Power indicator.

The indicator is designed like a ring around the Power button and has five degrees of brightness, from barely visible to full brightness as in today’s Samsung monitors. The LED brightness setting works in sleep mode as well. The LED is going to blink in this mode, but will have the brightness level you have chosen for it. Although you can’t turn it off completely, the minimum brightness is very comfortable even for a totally dark room.

The only test I performed, I measured the color gamut of the monitor since it depends on the employed backlight lamps, not on the monitor’s settings. As you see, it is a standard color gamut, slightly larger than sRGB.

Thus, the SyncMaster 2032BW is largely a redesigned SyncMaster 206BW: a new case with the same technical characteristics. It brings about only one significant improvement – the option of regulating the brightness of the Power indicator. You don’t have to tolerate the bright blue flashlight of your home monitor in the evenings anymore.

Samsung SyncMaster XL20: Error Correction

The Error Correction section is about monitors we have already reviewed, yet we’ve got more tell about it. For example, if the manufacturer has released a new revision.

In my first review of the SyncMaster XL20 I noted its indisputable advantages such as LED-based backlighting and a huge color gamut that came at a price three times lower than that of its opponents. I also noted a number of drawbacks. Particularly, the XL20 was set up less accurately than you might expect from a monitor of its class.

Recently I had a chance to deal with a newer revision of the XL20, the latest available at the moment. I won’t repeat the full review of the monitor – you can follow the link in the previous paragraph for that. I will just run over the drawbacks I noticed before to see if Samsung has done anything about them.

Instead of a “consumer” calibrator Pantone Huey the monitor is now equipped with a more advanced X-Rite Eye-One Display (also known as GretagMacbeth Eye-One Display because X-Rite purchased GretagMacbeth some time ago). It is a special version for Samsung that is guaranteed to support monitors with an extended color gamut. Using the included software the resulting profiles can be written into the monitor’s rather than the graphics card’s LUT, which is equivalent to full-featured hardware calibration.

The XL20 did not emulate sRGB and AdobeRGB color spaces accurately. It delivered a superb color gamut in its standard mode (“Custom”) but its color gamut in sRGB or AdobeRGB mode would be much smaller that desired.

Alas, this problem persists still. The native mode is indeed superb but in the sRGB mode the monitor loses all its colors and proves to be worse even than models with ordinary backlight lamps. None of the vertexes of the color gamut triangle matches the corresponding vertex of the sRGB triangle. There are just minor improvements for the better here.

A third problem of the XL20 was a sloppy color temperature setup. The difference between the temperatures of white and gray was indecently high. The developer has solved this problem. Without any additional calibration the temperature dispersion is within tens of degrees. This is not a record-breaking result (NEC’s UXi series monitors have an even smaller dispersion), but acceptable for a monitor of this class.

As a drawback, the color temperature is fixed at 5500K in the sRGB and AdobeRGB emulation modes. You can’t change it since the appropriate menu item gets locked.

Also in the color temperature menu there are still unclear labels like Warm4 and Cool3 instead of specific numbers. 

Another problem our readers have pointed out is the non-uniformity of color temperature on the screen surface. It is due to the fact that monitors with LED-based backlighting employ triads of red, green and blue LEDs instead of white LEDs. If there’s no independent regulation of the brightness of each LED in the triads, the resulting color temperature of different triads is going to differ a little due to the variations in the parameters of LEDs. Since each triad highlights its specific part of the screen, the color temperature of the image proves to depend on what point of the screen we measure it at.

I measured the temperature of white in six points of the screen to check this out. And the difference proved to be considerable indeed, up to 360K.

So, the SyncMaster XL20 has become somewhat better than it used to be before. Its color temperature setup has improved. Its color space emulation modes have become more accurate. It comes with a more advanced hardware calibrator. But on the other hand, it still has a number of problems. The emulation might be even more accurate while the non-uniformity of color temperature on the screen might be compensated at least with software means (i.e. with the same calibrator).

Anyway, although the XL20 is still a monitor that is mostly meant for people whose main priority is the enhanced color gamut, the new revision of the monitor (which is currently coming to retail shops) is a more appealing buy overall. Hopefully, Samsung will be improving this very exciting product further.

Conclusion

The monitors described in this review fall into four groups that almost do not overlap in terms of intended applications and price. There are leaders and losers in each group.

The junior segment includes models based on TN matrixes without Response Time Compensation. These monitors are intended for office applications. They can’t boast wide viewing angles or a fast response, but some of them can excel in other parameters. As a result, the HP L2045w takes first place among them, and the LG Flatron L204WT is second.  The BenQ FP202W V2 is the worst one in this group, having a fantastically poor setup of color temperature modes and unable to produce a really sharp image.

The next level is occupied by models with TN matrixes that have Response Time Compensation. There are two such models in this review: ASUS MW201u and Samsung 206BW. These are home monitors capable of handling any games or movies. It’s hard to single out a leader between them. The ASUS has a more accurate setup but also problems with ergonomics while the Samsung is much easier to use but has a sloppy setup of the RTC mechanism.

Next go models with widescreen *VA and S-IPS matrixes that are dramatically different from the two previous groups with their superb viewing angles. If you need a monitor with good color reproduction, on which the colors of your favorite photo won’t distort if you move your head about, this group is the minimum you should care to consider. The Dell 2007WFP is a definite leader. The NEC 20WGX2 costs more but has a number of minor drawbacks. The ASUS PW201 is distinguishable for its looks rather than for good technical characteristics.

Finally, there are monitors with S-IPS, S-PVA and MVA matrixes with a screen aspect ratio of 4:3. These monitors suit better than widescreen models for CAD/CAM programs, for multi-monitor configurations, etc. There is an obvious loser among the three reviewed models of this category. It is the ViewSonic VP2030b that failed the test of color temperature setup but had quite acceptable results in the other tests. It’s hard to choose between the Philips 200P7ES and Dell 2007FP because both deliver good characteristics and are free from serious drawbacks. You can buy any of them – and you won’t be disappointed.