Closer Look at 17” LCD Monitor Features. Part V

Today we are going to introduce to you another bunch of eleven 17" LCD panels including very interesting and popular solutions from such manufacturers as LG, NEC, Philips, Samsung and Viewsonic. If you are looking for a 17” LCD monitor then check out our latest coverage alongside with the previous articles to make the right choice now!

by Oleg Artamonov
11/12/2004 | 03:54 PM

This is the next installment of our series of reviews dedicated to LCD monitors with a screen diagonal of 17 inches. This time around we’ve got eleven models from several manufacturers. Two brands – Philips and ViewSonic – make their debut in our tests today.

 

The recent changes in the market of 17” LCD monitors can be characterized with two observations. First, LCD monitors are becoming ever cheaper, so their average retail price is closely approaching $400 while junior models from major manufacturers can be had for $370-380. This has led to a sharp distinction between near-$400 device as product categories differ by as little as $15-20. For example, basic models are coming out for $380, but a more serious product can be bought for $400, and monitors with a digital input – not so long ago a DVI connector was a prerogative of monitors with a price of half a thousand bucks – cost from $415-420 and up today.

Second, many manufacturers combined their price cut announcements with an introduction of monitors on 12ms matrixes. And new models with a specified response time of 12 milliseconds are included into this review, too.

LG Flatron L1730S (L1730SSQT)

In its new L1730 series LG successfully crossed the outward solidity of the L1710 line (which looked too clumsy and “sloppy” in comparison to the competing models) with the unusual smooth lines of the L1720B which had been the company’s visiting card in the market of 17” LCD monitors, but not very suitable for people who prefer the classic design. The L1730S has got rid of the main disadvantage of the L1710 series – I mean the bulky and clumsy base that used to take much space and spoil the monitor’s appearance without offering any conveniences instead (no height control, no portrait mode). The case has become nobler, too, as the front panel is now flat, without a recessed bezel around the matrix, while the simple round buttons of the 1710 series have moved to the bottom edge of the case.

Still, this junior model lacks functionality as the base only allows adjusting the tilt of the screen (running a little ahead, I should say that the functionality of the senior models is better).

The monitor is equipped with an analog input only; the power adapter is integrated into the case. The connectors can be hidden under a silvery cover, and the cables – under a silvery decorative bracket at the back of the monitor’s stand.

The Flatron L1730S is controlled with the buttons you find at the bottom edge of the case. The labels on the front panel are easily readable, and the buttons themselves are recognizable by touch and easily pressed, so you shouldn’t have any problems setting this monitor up.

I can’t pass by the fact that the new monitor series from LG has a redesigned menu and an improved version of the exclusive LightView technology. The menu has become brighter (but without any unnecessary flamboyance) and user-friendlier, while LightView has acquired custom settings. In other words, if you need two modes (for working with text and for playing games, for example) but none of the presets satisfies you, you can create your own mode and enable it with a single press of the appropriate button.

The last thing I want to mention is that the Flatron L1730S supports control over the Display Data Channel/Command Interface (DDC/CI), like the famous Samsung 173P that had no control buttons whatsoever. As you remember, no additional cable is required for that (no need to attach a USB cable like you had to do with CRT monitors once), and you only have to install a special control utility (the forteManager utility is used with LG monitors).

By default, the brightness setting of the monitor is set to 100%, the contrast to 70% (this is yet another difference from older LG models which used to have both brightness and contrast settings at their maximums by default), and by setting them both to 40% I achieved a screen brightness of 100 nits (1 nit = 1 candela per square meter). The brightness is controlled by means of modulation of the power of the backlight lamps at a frequency of about 325Hz.

I have no complaints about the monitor’s way of reproducing colors – they are bright and saturated, without any serious artifacts like stripes in smooth color gradients.

The color curves have a most accurate look – the Flatron L1730S fully reproduces the entire range, only the blue component is slightly higher compared to green and, especially, to red. By the way, I want to clarify one thing: as I mentioned in my article X-bit’s Guide: Contemporary LCD Monitor Parameters and Characteristics, the color-reproduction quality is a complex parameter that cannot be described with a single graph. Moreover, this quality is perceived subjectively (I’m speaking about the purely home use, not about the printing and publishing industry where precise colors are a must – some people like bright colors of PVA matrixes, but others prefer softer tones of S-IPS ones). The color curves actually describe two characteristics only: the ability of the monitor to reproduce the full brightness range for each color and the balance of gray, so you shouldn’t rely on them alone as a single criterion of the color-reproduction quality of a monitor.

The monitor’s package and its front panel proudly declare “12 ms Ultra Fast Response Time”. This statement is actually the main attraction in these monitors – until that LG’s monitors have had a response time of 16 milliseconds or higher.

Alas, my measurements proved different – the matrix has a stable response time of 16 milliseconds on “black-white-black” transitions (12ms+4ms) and as high as 28 milliseconds on “black-gray” transitions, which is actually no record. Thus, I must confess that at least some of available Flatron L1730S samples have 16ms matrixes rather than the touted 12ms ones. I don’t think that this difference of 4 milliseconds is crucial, but the fact of the manufacturer’s misleading the users isn’t right at all.

The contrast ratio of the monitor was about 200:1, but dropped to 150:1 at the minimal screen brightness. This is natural since I had to drop the contrast setting (which affects the brightness of white color, leaving black color more or less intact) to achieve a screen brightness of 100 nits.

Thus, the Flatron L1730S is going to make a good and inexpensive home monitor, but you shouldn’t expect fast responsiveness (at least until they do begin to install 12ms matrixes into these monitors) or good contrast from it. In spite of the latter fact, the color reproduction of the L1730S is very satisfying for a monitor of its class.

LG Flatron L1730B (L1730BSFH)

The Flatron L1730B resembles its predecessor, but the difference becomes apparent if you take a look at it from the rear. The stand now allows adjusting the tilt of the screen as well as its height – you only have to press a button on the base to do that. On the other hand, the minimal height (as in the snapshot above) is still high enough for me as I place the monitor on the “lying” system case. The case of the Flatron L1730B is the same as of the L1730S – there are even holes to fasten the smaller base of the junior version. The only difference is the additional groove for the new base cut in the decorative cover at the monitor’s back.

Although there’s a detail that looks like a rotation joint, the Flatron L1730B can’t work in the portrait mode as the last letter in the full model name says. By the way, here’s the reading of the whole name (L1730BSFH): L1730B is the name of the model, S is the case color (“Silver”), F indicates the availability of f-Engine (you’ll learn what it is shortly; the letter Q in the full name of the above-described L1730S indicated the new version of the LightView technology that could store custom presets), H means a base that’s capable of adjusting the height of the screen (T would mean adjustment of the screen tilt only, P would mean a full-featured base with the portrait mode and both height and tilt adjustments).

Unlike its predecessor, the L1730B is equipped with both analog and digital inputs; the power adapter is still integrated into the case.

You control this monitor in the same way as you control the L1730S, but with the new f-Engine feature instead of LightView. Strictly speaking, f-Engine isn’t just a new menu function, but the name of a new processor from LG that should provide a higher image quality (particularly, a higher color-reproduction quality), the matrixes remaining the same as in older monitors. Processing the image, the f-Engine processor takes the input RGB single apart into color and brightness constituents and then tries to increase the brightness and contrast of the image without distorting its color tonality. This engine is first of all intended for processing the image in movies, TV programs and games.

The f-Engine menu offers four presets: “Normal”, “Custom”, “Text” and “Movie”. “Normal” means you can set the monitor up as usual with the brightness and contrast controls. “Custom” allows creating your own preset, like with the renewed version of the LightView feature (you can choose the desired brightness and two parameters that determine the influence of the f-Engine processor on the color and brightness constituents of the signal). When you’re switching to the created preset, the screen is divided in two to show you what the picture would look like after you enable your preset.

Otherwise, the monitor’s menu is analogous to the above-described L1730S. By default, the brightness setting stands on 100%, and the contrast on 70%. For the second test mode (100-nit screen brightness) I reduced the brightness control to 50% and the contrast control to 52%. The brightness of this monitor is controlled by power modulation of the backlight lamps at a frequency of about 275Hz.

It seems like the menu allows smoothly adjusting the color temperature, but that’s not exactly so – the slider has only five positions, two of which are marked as “6500K” and “9300K”. At the leftmost position of the slider, the real color temperatures of white and of 50% gray are 5200K and 5450K (this position could be formally labeled as “5400”). At the “6500K” position, the real temperatures are 5900K white and 6440K gray; one position to the right – 6430K and 7000K. One more position to the right – 7500K and 8050K. At the “9300K” position, the temperatures are 8180K white and 8790K gray. As you see, the balance of white and gray colors is set up in this monitor not ideally, but quite accurately – although the temperature of white is somewhat lowered, there are no great deviations in temperatures of different color tones. Visually, the color reproduction is very accurate, without noticeable flaws.

The exponent of gamma compensation can also be adjusted in the menu – in a small range to either side of the standard 2.2 value.

The color curves confirm my color temperature measurements – they look neat and don’t differ much between the colors. Besides, the monitor accurately reproduces the entire brightness range, without “slumping” darks or lights. You don’t lose any of dark colors even if the brightness and contrast settings are reduced to 50%.

Despite the declared response time of 12 milliseconds, the Flatron L1730B also turns to have a 16ms matrix that behaves much alike to the one in the L1730S. The “black-gray” response time is somewhat smaller than with the L1730S, but the difference lies in the measurement error range.

Other parameters of the Flatron L1730B are also similar to the L1730S: the contrast ratio is about 200:1, and the maximum brightness is close to 250 nits.

Thus, the Flatron L1730B is in fact an improved version of the L1730S – with a digital input, the option of screen height adjustment and the new f-Engine processor. This model is going to make a good home monitor for surfing the Web and watching movies.

LG Flatron L1730P (L1730PSUP)

The Flatron L1730P seems be an exact replica of the above-described L1730B, but a closer look reveals one important thing: the base now allows adjusting the height and tilt of the screen as well as turning it into the portrait mode.

Another thing the Flatron L1730P has, but the junior models have not, is the two-port USB hub which is attached to the base behind the stand:

Well, the hub is a simple and independent device, just taking its residence on the monitor. The hub has no external power, receiving its supply from a USB port of your computer. It means you cannot attach USB devices with a total consumption of over 2.5 watts since the computer’s USB ports are not intended for currents over 500 milliamperes (500 milliamperes * 5 volts = 2.5 watts). Of course, you can just lay this hub on your desk, not attaching it to the monitor’s base.


USB hub


The hub PCB

The menu of the Flatron L1730P is the same as in the earlier-described L1730B, including the f-Engine submenu. By default, the brightness control is set to 100%, and the contrast to 70%; by selecting 40% brightness and 50% contrast I made the screen shine with a luminosity of 100 nits. The brightness is controlled with power modulation of the backlight lamps at 360Hz frequency.

The menu offers five color temperature values: “6500K” (the measured temperatures of white and gray are 5660K and 5920K, respectively, when this setting is selected), “9300K” (this setting produces 8570K white and 8920K gray colors), one unlabeled position to the left of “6500” (it gives out 4980K white and 5070K gray), and two unlabeled positions between “6500” and “9300” (one corresponds to 6320K white and 6490K gray, and the other to 7640K white and 7900K gray).

After that, of course, I wasn’t surprised at all to see that the viewing angles, color reproduction and adjustment of the analog signal of this monitor were the same as with the previous two models. There were no problems, save for a small lack of the vertical viewing angle, typical for TN+Film matrixes.

The gamma curves indicate just one defect – the monitor cannot reproduce some dark-blue colors. However, this defect doesn’t aggravate as you reduce the brightness or contrast settings (which is natural, since the brightness is controlled with the backlight lamps, rather than with the matrix), causing no serious troubles. Moreover, considering that this monitor is overall the same as the L1730B which doesn’t have such a defect, I suspect that this problem is peculiar to this sample only, rather than to the entire series. Otherwise, I have no complaints about the color-reproduction quality.

The response time didn’t make it to the promised 12 milliseconds. Moreover, it is higher than with the L1730S and L1730B, so I’m quite confused about the loud advertisement campaign of these models where their ultra-fast response time of 12 milliseconds is much touted. The contrast ratio and the maximum brightness of this model are better compared to the junior models, but the difference is actually small.

Thus, the portrait mode and the accompanying two-port USB hub are the only advantages of the L1730P over the L1730B. These two models differ by $20-25 in price, which is more than the price of an externally-powered 4-port USB 2.0 hub, so you should only prefer the L1730P for its portrait mode. If this mode isn’t important for you, there’s no sense in shopping specifically for an L1730P.

NEC AccuSync LCD1703M

The AccuSync LCD1703M is assembled in a compact and fairly elegant case. The front panel is made of silvery plastic, while the rear panel is black. The base allows changing the screen tilt, but in a very narrow range. The rubber legs of the base don’t stand firm on the desk – the monitor easily turns about at a slightest push.

The monitor is equipped with an analog video input; it also features an audio input and a headphones output. The power adapter is integrated into the case. The integrated speakers are no hi-fi, of course. They use tiny diffusers that just can’t provide a high volume or clarity of the sound. They are only any good for ICQ, system messages etc.

The menu with its two rows of large icons is simple and not very handy – it resembles menus of inexpensive monitors from other manufacturers. The sound volume setting and the auto adjustment feature can be accessed with quick buttons. The control buttons are all quite handy, save for the “<” button, which is sunken too deep into the case. The power-on key is highlighted with a mild green light-emitting diode that is no distraction if you’re working in a dark room.

NEC’s using such a menu made me suspect that the LCD1703M was an OEM product. Fortunately, I had an opportunity to have a look inside the monitor – I found that the matrix was the M170EN05 model from the Taiwan-based AU Optronics, a long-time partner of NEC. The electronics bears the Goodwell mark from the Hong-Kong-based Electronic Manufacturing Service, another long-time partner of NEC’s. Thus, I have no reasons to think that the LCD1703M is an OEM product. Yes, it is assembled at the Goodwell facilities, but by a direct order from NEC.

The brightness and contrast settings of the monitor are set to 80% and 50% by default. To achieve a screen brightness of 100 nits I dropped the brightness control to 65%, leaving the contrast intact. The monitor doesn’t offer any presets (like the above-described LightView technology) or quick access to brightness and contrast settings.

The menu offers three color temperature values: “Warm” (when selected, it yields 5960K white and 6560K gray), “Cool” (7430K white and 8920K gray) and “User” (6300K white and 8480K gray). By the way, in the last mode all three RGB sliders are at their maximums, resulting in a too bright screen. I also found a disturbing error in the monitor’s firmware – when switching to another color temperature setting, you automatically reset the brightness and contrast settings to their defaults. The gap between the temperatures of white and gray is acceptable for an inexpensive device marketed as an entry-level office model.

I have no complaints about the auto-adjustment feature; the color reproduction is rather average – you can see cross lines in smooth color gradients, but only if you expect to see them. The distribution of brightness is uneven as the top of the screen is a little bit darker than the bottom, especially in the corners. Of course, we also have the traditional problem of TN+Film matrixes with vertical viewing angles, the lack of which makes the top of the screen seem even darker. The horizontal angles are quite enough for comfortable work.

The gamma curves indicate that the monitor “slumps” dark color tones, especially of the blue tone. This problem only aggravates at 100nit screen brightness:

The total response time of the monitor is a little higher than the specified 16 milliseconds, but it is overall typical for a regular (but not the fastest) 16ms TN+Film matrix – the pixel rise time is 27 milliseconds at the maximum.

The AccuSync LCD1703M features a relatively good contrast ratio, which is above 300:1 in some modes. The maximum brightness is normal, too, although didn’t meet the specs.

With its austere appearance, the AccuSync LCD1703M will look best in an office, but it can also make a good home monitor – only if you’re not intimidated by the problem with the bad reproduction of darks. I can’t say this monitor has any exceptional qualities, but it’s good for its price category anyway.

NEC MultiSync LCD1760NX

This model participated in one of my first reviews of LCD monitors on our site – it was the first monitor with a specified full response time of 16 milliseconds. Unfortunately, this was its only advantage then – the matrix from AU Optronics was no good at reproducing colors and didn’t provide acceptable viewing angles. However, the currently selling samples of the LCD1760NX have visually better parameters, so I decided to give it another chance. And really, the monitor now uses a 16ms matrix (LM170E01 model) from LG.Philips LCD instead of an AUO matrix.

The monitor is made in an angular and somewhat bulky case, typical for NEC. The case is functional as you can adjust the height (almost from zero) and tilt of the screen and rotate it around the vertical axis, but some users are repelled by the unassuming looks of the device. The portrait mode is not available.

The LCD1760NX is equipped with an analog and digital input; the power adapter is integrated into the case.

The buttons are made of white plastic in this sample, so the pressed-out labels are readable, although with some effort. In models with a black case it is practically impossible to read the labels when you’re setting the monitor up.

The menu follows NEC’s standard style, which can be characterized like the monitor itself as “not very beautiful but usable”. Quick buttons give you quick access to the brightness and contrast settings as well as to the auto-adjustment feature, but there are still no presets in the LightView or MagicBright style.

By default, the brightness setting is set to 100%, the contrast – to 50%. By choosing 33 percent of brightness and 37 percent of contrast I reached 100nit screen brightness. The signal from the photo-sensor clearly shows modulation of the backlight lamps at 190Hz frequency in this case.

The menu offers six color temperature variants, and four of them (save for “sRGB” and “Native”) permit a manual adjustment – you can control the RGB sliders independently, and even this option can be of some help if you often switch between color temperatures, but none of the presets satisfies you. At the default settings, as my measurements showed, the color temperatures of white and gray were:

So, the real color temperatures are lower than the ones reported by the monitor, but the difference between the temperatures of white and gray is rather small.

The color-reproduction qualities of this monitor are very good. Unlike with the earlier-tested sample with the older matrix from AUO, I could find no visual artifacts. The viewing angles are quite typical as modern TN matrixes go (and much better than those of the LCD1760NX with the older matrix). The horizontal angles provoke no discomfort at all, but as for the vertical, you can always see that the top of the screen is slightly darker than the bottom. By the way, the manufacturer specifies viewing angles of 160 degrees, but mentions that they are measured by the contrast ratio drop to 5:1, rather than to 10:1, as usual. In other words, we have 140-degree angles, but measured in a different way.

The gamma curves have a neat shape, save for a noticeably low blue color (that’s why the real color temperatures are lower than reported). Moreover, the monitor cannot differentiate between a few dark-blue tones, but their amounts doesn’t grow up at low brightness levels, like it was with the LCD1703M, since the brightness is controlled with the backlight lamps. In fact, the gamma curves have the same shape at 100nit screen brightness as in the above graph (i.e. at the default settings of the monitor).

The response time measurements were a pleasant surprise: the repose time turned to be 12ms (9+3ms) instead of the specified 16 milliseconds! Thus, it looks even more confusing with the monitors from LG: although the company has a 12ms matrix at its disposal, it is currently supplying monitors with 16ms matrixes. On the other hand, the graph indicates that the new matrix from LG in the NEC monitor is faster than the older one, but not too much – the pixel rise time is over 25 milliseconds at the maximum.

The contrast ratio of this monitor reached 400:1. That’s a very good result for a TN+Film matrix. What’s important, the screen brightness was small at that – and good contrast is most needed at low brightness levels.

Thus, the LCD1760NX has got rid of the image quality related problems the first generation of “fast” matrixes was guilty of. Having a matrix from LG, this model surpassed the “native” monitors of the LG brand in the characteristics. The downside is the exterior and functionality – the LCD1760N can’t boast a portrait screen mode, brightness/contrast presets or elegance and compactness of the case.

Philips Brilliance 170T4

This widescreen monitor (the native resolution of the screen is 1280x768) from Philips is evidently made for home use with a nice-looking silvery case, a pretty base (allows controlling the screen tilt in a rather wide range, to a perfectly horizontal position), an integrated TV-tuner, and the very aspect ratio of the screen (16:10) that’s first of all necessary for watching movies. If necessary, the monitor can be wall-mounted with its standard base, but you can also replace it with a standard VESA-compatible base.

There’s only an analog input present, accompanied with an audio input and a headphones output. The power adapter is external and rather large. In the snapshot you see the monitor with the interface cable attached, but the cable is detachable – there’s a standard D-Sub connector under the lid.

The TV-tuner is supplied as an independent unit fastened at the back panel of the monitor (if there’s no tuner, the bay is concealed under a plastic cover). The tuner adds an antenna input, S-Video and composite inputs and another audio input to the monitor’s connectors.

It’s easy to control the monitor as it offers as many as eight buttons for that purpose. For example, it has two buttons for switching between the inputs (they switch into two different directions). The monitor can also be controlled with a remote control, but that’s not quite handy – the control is very slow, so you have to hold a button for half a second and make pauses between presses on different buttons. As for disadvantages, there’s no quick access to the auto adjustment function (the monitor doesn’t always launch it automatically somehow) as well as to the brightness and contrast settings.

The menu can’t boast any special attractions, but it’s quite easy to use. The letters are larger than you usually see in a monitor’s menu, but not large enough for a comfortable control of the monitor from your sofa (when watching a movie). I guess the developers of multimedia monitors should follow Samsung’s example: the menus of Samsung’s 510MP and 710MP models have a size and contrast so well selected that you have no problem with the remote control – the screen is easily readable at a distance of two or three meters.

If the image outputted on the screen has an aspect ratio of 4:3, you can choose to stretch it to 16:10 or leave as 4:3 with black margins on the sides. Thus, you can make the 170T4 work at its native resolution of 1280x768 as well as at 1024x768 and the image will be absolutely sharp and clear in the latter case.

By default, the brightness and contrast settings both stand on 50%. To achieve a screen brightness of 100 nits I chose 25% brightness and 42% contrast.

The menu offers five color temperature values:

These measurements indicate that the 170T4 has a less accurately set-up balance of gray compared to the above-described monitors from LG and NEC, and gray will have a bluish hue when white looks normal.

This monitor uses an MVA matrix, so there are no problems with the viewing angles, but on the other hand, the sluggishness of the matrix is quite noticeable – the 170T4 definitely isn’t for playing games. I have no complaints about the color reproduction as the monitor shows bright and saturated colors of photographs and has no defects on smooth color gradients. The auto adjustment works fine, but sometimes you have to start it manually from the menu.

The gamma curves look nice, too, giving no apprehensions about the color reproduction.

That’s typical for an MVA matrix: the pixel response time is growing rapidly up to 100 milliseconds and higher as there’s a smaller difference between the pixel’s initial and final states. On black-to-white transitions the full response time is 25 milliseconds, like the specification says, and the pixel rise time almost equals the pixel fall time. That’s why the MVA matrix will visually be better than a 25ms TN+Film one on such transitions. Problems will occur in dynamic games with a low-contrast image where the responsiveness of this monitor is going to be a few tens of milliseconds.

The maximum brightness didn’t reach to the specified 450 nits, but was about 370 nits, which is quite good for a monitor targeted at watching movies (for example, if you’re using it in a well-lit room) – but such a high brightness isn’t necessary for other applications. The contrast ratio is a disappointment – alas, MVA matrixes are still lagging behind their close relatives, PVA matrixes, in this respect.

So, the Philips Brilliance 170T4 is going to do well as a monitor for watching movies or – considering its TV tuner and remote control – as a standalone LCD TV-set. If you’re selecting a monitor for work, you’d better consider classic models with a bigger resolution (1280x1024 against the 170T4’s 1280x768) and a higher contrast ratio. It’s also usually more convenient to have the TV-tuner in the system case rather than in the monitor. And if you’re going to play games on this monitor, you must make sure before the purchase that the specific behavior of MVA matrixes in games suits you. You can check this out with any monitor with a PVA or MVA matrix as they all have a similar response time graph.

Samsung SyncMaster 710V

Samsung seems to follow NVIDIA and ATI Technologies who have long been using a half-year product rotation cycle. For example, NEC didn’t even change the name of the LCD1760NX after changing its matrix, while Samsung is constantly announcing new LCD monitor series.

The SyncMaster 710V is the junior model of the new 710 series, so it has just the basic set of capabilities. The compact base permits to change the tilt of the screen; the ring at the back of the base is for laying the monitor cables neatly. The SyncMaster 710V is equipped with an analog input only; its power adapter is integrated into the case, making the case rather bulky (compare to the elegant SyncMaster 172X, for example, see our article called New LCD Monitors from Samsung. Part II for details).

The monitor is controlled with the buttons found at the bottom edge of the case. Probably due to the common delusion among some designers – beauty and symmetry are considered synonyms – the power-off button is right in the center and your finger often finds it incidentally as it doesn’t differ from the other buttons by touch.

The menu is made in a new style, in several colors and with icons placed in a column along the left edge of the screen. Like before, it is quite handy – you shouldn’t look up in the user manual the meanings of each of the menu items. Like with the menu of the LG 1730 series, the developers found a good combination of convenience and pretty looks.

You can quick-access the brightness control and the MagicBright presets (Text, Internet and Entertain – all three are written into the monitor’s firmware and unchangeable).

The menu offers you a menu item that’s not often found in inexpensive monitors: you can choose the value of gamma correction. The default “Mode 1” gives you gamma 2.2; “Mode 2” yields gamma 1.8; and “Mode 3” produces gamma 2.6. You should be aware, though, that this setting doesn’t always work accurately. Particularly, the monitor stops differentiating between light colors at 1.8. At gamma 2.6, the middle of the range goes down, but light colors correspond to gamma 2.2 rather.

You can also choose among four color temperature settings: “Cool” (the real temperatures of white and gray at this setting are 6650K and 13,600K, respectively), “Normal” (5950K and 7500K), “Warm” (5650K and 6490K) and “Custom” (by default, it gives you 5960K white and 7520K gray).

The brightness and contrast settings are both set to 80% by default. To reach 100nit screen brightness, I reduced the brightness setting to 43%, and the contrast setting to 50%.

The monitor is good at reproducing colors; it has no problems displaying smooth color gradients; the backlight is even distributed along the entire screen. The auto-adjustment feature works fine.

The viewing angles are quite standard, as modern TN matrixes go: the horizontal angle is all right, but the vertical angle isn’t wide enough, and you can see that the top of the screen is slightly darker than its bottom.

The image is sharp, but black letters on a dark-gray background have a barely visible shadow on their right, especially if you look at the screen a little from below. This effect isn’t too strong, though.

At gamma 2.2, the color reproduction of the monitor isn’t very accurately set up, but there are no serious defects either. The graph above is for the default settings, however. At my “100 nits” settings, the monitor reproduces darks brighter than they should be.

The matrix’s speed, in spite of the pessimistic specification (25 milliseconds), proved to be 16 milliseconds, and the black-gray transition graph is quite typical for a 16ms matrix:

The contras ratio of the SyncMaster 710V is rather low: it is above 200:1 at the maximum settings that you don’t often use at real work. At the reduced brightness and contrast settings the contrast ratio degenerates greatly.

Due to its low contrast ratio and inaccurate color reproduction setup, the SyncMaster 710V can only be of some interest as a cheap office monitor for processing text. Well, it is currently among the cheapest 17” monitors. Talking about a home monitor, or a monitor that must have an acceptable color reproduction and good contrast, you should consider other models, of course. For example, consider the SyncMaster 710T, later in this review.

Samsung SyncMaster 710N (SAS)

The more expensive model, the SyncMaster 710N, has a different case and much more attractive looks. The base allows controlling the tilt and height of the screen; the portrait mode is also available in my 710 SAS sample, but not in all 710N monitors. The portrait mode is designated by the second letter of the full model name: “A” means availability of this model, while the “S” models (SSS and SSN where the last letter indicates black-silver or a white color scheme of the case) use the base like the one in the above-described 710V. There are also ASKS and ASKN models which use a base that looks different than in SSS and SSN models. It is prettier, but has no additional functionality (i.e. it allows only to change the tilt of the screen). You can read the meanings of the letter indexes of Samsung’s monitors at the manufacturer’s website.

The big base makes the monitor rather bulky. Like the 710V, it has one analog input and an integrated power adapter.

The control buttons are located in the bottom left corner of the front panel; the power-on button is placed aside and doesn’t hinder you during the setup process. The menu is the same as with the 710V. The Gamma Mode 1 setting is the closest to gamma 2.2.

By choosing the “Cool” color temperature setting, you get 8140K white and 11,890K gray colors. “Normal” produces 5400K white and 7880K gray colors. “Warm” yields 5180K white and 6950K gray (light-gray tones have a distinct pinkish hue at this setting). The “Custom” setting by default gives you the same temperatures as “Cool”. As you see, this monitor isn’t free from the problem with a big difference between the temperatures of white and gray.

The auto adjustment of the analog signal works fine; the color-reproduction quality is good as TN+Film matrixes go, without any serious visual artifacts. The main defect of the monitor is the white shadow to the right of vertical black lines on a gray background. This defect was less visible and strong with the SyncMaster 710V. This shadow doesn’t bother you if you’re working with black text on a white background, but it’s more noticeable in menus that have a gray background. The higher the monitor’s brightness, the stronger this effect is.

By default, the brightness and contrast settings are set to 80%; to achieve a screen brightness of 50% I dropped these settings to 50% each.

Alas, the color curves look depressing even at gamma compensation settings closest to gamma 2.2: the middle of the range is down, while the lights are up and are poorly reproduced.

The response time measurements don’t add any advantages to this monitor. Despite its 12ms specification, it has a full response time of 15 milliseconds (but its 10ms pixel rise time is the same as with regular 12ms matrixes). The black-gray transition is made in 29 milliseconds at the maximum, which is too high even for a good 16ms matrix.

The contrast ratio is good for a TN+Film matrix, though. It is 250:1 at the low brightness settings, and 400:1 at the maximum settings.

The Samsung SyncMaster 710N is in fact an improved version of the SyncMaster 710V – with a better contrast ratio and a more functional base (height adjustment and, in some models, portrait mode). Otherwise, the two are equals, and I can recommend the SyncMaster 710N as an office monitor. If you’re looking for a home monitor, you may want to consider other offers first. The most serious problem of the 710N is the above-described light shadows – you should pay attention to it when shopping.

Samsung SyncMaster 710T

The SyncMaster 710T is the senior model of the 710 series, and it looks exactly like the above-presented 710N, save for the availability of a digital input. So, there’s no need to dwell upon the exterior, menu structure or other such things – it’s all like with the 710N, but the 710T comes with a base that allows for a height control and a portrait mode. I only want to say that this monitor is a well-thought device, poising no problems before the user.

To set this monitor up you may use the MagicTune utility, like with any other new model from Samsung. Sometimes users complain of MagicTune’s refusing to work via a DVI connection, but I had no problems whatsoever – the utility worked correctly in pair with a GeForce Ti4800SE graphics card. So, it’s probably the graphics card or its driver that don’t support DDC/CI that’s to blame for the problem. Of course, this only refers to the 710T model – we didn’t carry out any investigation in our labs as to the compatibility of the MagicTune utility with different LCD monitors.

Talking about the MagicBright feature, here’s a piece of good news for the Linux community: the ddcontrol project has been recently announced which is developing a monitor control utility for this OS. The project originated from the merger of two independent projects: Linux DDC/CI control by Nicolas Boichat and Linux DDC/CI Tool by Oleg Vdovikin. Although there’s no release at SourceForge as of time of writing this, you can already download console versions of the utilities from these sites. The utilities are distributed under the GPL license, so the project is open for all people who are willing and capable of developing new or testing the available versions.

But let’s get back to the monitor. Black vertical lines on a gray background cast a subtle white shadow to the right, but it’s less visible than on the SyncMaster 710N. In fact, you can only see it when you want to see it. This shadowing persists when the monitor is attached via the DVI interface, so it’s not a problem of the analog connector or cable. But again, in this case the shadow is so subtle that I can’t call it a serious drawback.

Selecting the “Cool” color temperature setting in the appropriate submenu, you get 6770K white and 8060K gray. The “Normal” setting produces 5630K and 7590K temperatures, and the “Warm” setting – 5060K white and 5920K gray. So, the difference between the temperatures of white and gray is big enough in this model, too.

The brightness and contrast settings are both at 80% by default. To achieve a screen brightness of 100 nits, I adjusted the controls to 42% brightness and 50% contrast.

The gamma curves look much better than on the SyncMaster 710N, but not without sin – the light tones are too intensive. But this defect vanishes at the 100nit screen brightness.

The response time graph looks impressive, though. This monitor confirms that it has a 12ms matrix inside (the full response time is 9+3ms), but also shows the absolutely best black-gray time among all monitors we’ve ever tested in our labs! Until today we thought a pixel rise time of 25 milliseconds was an excellent result. The 710T has a pixel rise time of 17ms at most! I must confess this is the first time in my practice that an introduction of a faster matrix noticeably affects not only the black-white transition (which is the specified matrix speed), but also black-gray transitions.

The contrast ratio is good, too. It is about 300:1 – that’s no record, of course, but better than many competing models have.

Looking similar to the 710N, the SyncMaster 710T is overall better! It has a better color reproduction and is almost free from the problem with the white shadows from vertical lines. And what’s the most thrilling thing, this monitor has the absolutely best black-gray pixel transition time! Like the previous models, this will suit for office work, too, but if you’re choosing a display device for games and movies, you should certainly consider this one. There’s only one downside – the current price of the 710T ($470 and higher) looks a bit of an overstatement.

ViewSonic VE710s

The ViewSonic VE710s, one of the junior 17” LCD monitor models from ViewSonic, has a nice-looking silver-black case of a medium size. It takes somewhat more place on the desk because the base is stretched backwards. On the other hand, this ensures an excellent steadiness against overturns.

The base with a curious chrome-plated joint only allows adjusting the tilt of the screen. The monitor has an integrated power adapter (the power connector is partially covered with the monitor’s case, so it’s rather difficult to plug the cable in) and an analog video input with a fixed cable.

The ViewSonic VE710s is controlled with four buttons (plus a power-on button) located on the base just below the monitor’s case. The pressed-out labels on the metallic shiny buttons are hard to read, but it’s not very inconvenient due to the small number of the buttons. You use two buttons to move up and down in the menu, and the other two to enter and leave the menu.

The menu itself isn’t beautiful, but functional. Well, I personally prefer the menus of the new monitors from Samsung and LG, described earlier. The ViewSonic VE710s doesn’t have any presets like LightView or MagicBright, but the up and down buttons give you a quick access to brightness and contrast settings.

There’re five color temperature settings in the menu: “6500K” (the real temperatures are 6710K white and 8540K gray at this setting), “sRGB” (5610K white and 7660K gray), “9300” (9570K and 12,750K), “5400” (5810K and 6790K), and “User” (by default, the temperature of white is 6100K and of gray is 7470K at this setting). For some mysterious reason, the brightness and contrast settings are blocked if you choose “sRGB”, which makes this mode rather unusable (it suits for games and movies, but not for work).

The auto adjustment function worked without any problems. Smooth color gradients were displayed well, too.

To achieve a screen brightness of 100 nits, I selected about 50% brightness and 55% contrast (“about” because the monitor’s menu doesn’t tell the exact number). By default, the brightness is set to 100%, the contrast to about 75%. The brightness is controlled with power modulation of the backlight lamps at 220Hz frequency.

The gamma curves do not impress. All three colors live their own lives: red is down (it’s like gamma 2.6 compensation is used for it, rather than 2.2), green is closer to the theoretical ideal, and blue is so intensive that the monitor doesn’t distinguish between some light-blue tones, outputting them all as pure white.

The response time is better – the ViewSonic VE710s proved its having a 16ms matrix inside. Moreover, it is the second best (after the above-described SyncMaster 710T) in the black-gray response time (22ms at the maximum).

The contrast ratio was typical for TN matrixes at the high brightness (200..250:1), but grew to 500:1 at the reduced settings.

The ViewSonic VE710s looks very appealing for its price category (about $380 in retail): original exterior, good matrix speed, acceptable (or even excellent at some settings) contrast ratio. This monitor will look well as an office device or as an all-purpose home display.

ViewSonic VX750

The previous monitor belongs to the bottom price category, but the VX750 is a mainstream product with an appropriate exterior as well as parameters. It is a silvery elegant case with deliberately smoothed corners standing on a low round base of the same silver color. A curious thing about this monitor is the handle to carry it about. You seldom see such a handle, and use it even more rarely.

The base only allows adjusting the screen tilt – the screen height cannot be controlled at all. This is a typical thing for multimedia monitors, and this monitor is one – it has speakers on the sides of the screen and a stylish design, suitable for home, rather than office.

The VX750 is equipped with analog and digital inputs, audio input and two audio outputs (headphones and line-out), so you can attach active speakers to it, if you prefer controlling the sound from the monitor, but are not satisfied with the low quality of its integrated speakers. The power adapter is external. When attached, the cables are hidden under a decorative cover you don’t see in the snapshot above.

The control buttons are located on the top edge of the case – the central group looks like a joystick you find in many mobile phones. Of course, these are five independent buttons, but four of them are simply covered under a decorative ring. There are three new buttons compared to the VE710s. Two buttons control the sound volume (by adding these buttons, the manufacturer could keep buttons that control the brightness and contrast settings) and one button switches between the monitor’s inputs.

The power-on button is centered at the front panel and has blue highlighting. The rather big circle around the button is highlighted, and this can be distracting at work. Blue LEDs and large indicators are only good when the monitor is in a storefront, but are not really necessary at everyday work – this indicator doesn’t convey much info.

The monitor’s menu is almost the same as in the VE710s, with new submenus for choosing the input and controlling the integrated speakers.

The menu offers five color temperature settings: “sRGB” (provides 4890K white and 5970K gray temperatures), “9300K” (6890K and 13,600K), “6500K” (5450K and 7140K), “5400” (4760K and 5670K), and “User” (5670K and 7160K). Like with the VE710s, the brightness and contrast settings are locked if you choose “sRGB”.

The viewing angles are typical for a TN+Film matrix: no serious problems along the horizontal (but the image becomes yellowish if you deflect too far to a side), but the top of the screen is darker than its bottom (you can see that, even if your line of sight of perpendicular to the screen). The auto adjustment of the analog input works normally; there are no defects in color gradients.

The gamma curves look well enough, but the gamma value is somewhat higher than the necessary 2.2, and the level of blue is too high, which could have been inferred from the color temperature measurements. When the brightness and contrast settings are reduced in the monitor’s menu, the gamma value decreases and all the three color curves almost ideally lie on the theoretical gamma 2.2 curve. I could find no artifacts at the default settings or at the reduced screen brightness – the monitor honestly reproduced the entire range of colors.

The VX750 has a 16ms matrix, like the previous model, and this matrix is only inferior to the SyncMaster 710T in the black-gray response time. So, we have one of the fastest LCD monitors here.

The contrast ratio couldn’t follow suit – it dropped to 160:1 at the minimal screen brightness, contrary to what we saw with the VE710s.

So, the ViewSonic VX750 proves to be a good and rather inexpensive monitor targeted at home use in the first head. It has a better color reproduction setup compared to the VE710s, but retained the latter’s very good responsiveness. From the point of view of technical parameters, its single drawback is the low contrast ratio. With respect to functionality, the VX750 has no screen height adjustment and no brightness/contrast presets that you could select with a press of a button.

Conclusion

Two companies debuted in this review as they have never taken part in my tests. The monitor from Philips, considering its narrow targeting at watching movies and TV programs, performed quite well, having a well-made design and a good setup quality.

Both models from ViewSonic have an excellent response time – they only lose to the Samsung SyncMaster 710T in this parameter. They both have advantages and shortcomings – the VE710s had a very inaccurate color reproduction, but the VX750 couldn’t reach its junior in the contrast ratio parameter. Anyway, both models look well enough for their price categories.

The two monitors from NEC fit into two quite different categories: the LCD1703M looks well as an inexpensive office monitor, but the LCD1760NX only aspires to be a middle-range office device. As home monitors, they both lose to their competitors primarily in the design, although have very worthy parameters. The LCD1760NX is also interesting for its new 12-millisecond matrix from LG.Philips LCD – it helped to correct the defects of the last-year version of the same monitor.

LG surprised me somewhat – although they stress the fact that their new LCD monitor models use 12ms matrixes, my tests suggest that they actually use 16ms ones. Well, I can’t say that this is the first time I see such a difference between the real parameters and the specification, but they even put those “12ms” stickers on the monitors themselves! At the same time, the monitors are good in appearance, functionality and their real parameters, so I can honestly recommend them to your consideration.

Two out of the three monitors from Samsung couldn’t show anything interesting – they are actually regular office models with some color reproduction problems and unassuming looks, other parameters being average. Besides that, the SyncMaster 710N has a serious problem with white shadows from vertical lines that you should certainly pay attention to when shopping.

The third monitor, the SyncMaster 710T, suddenly stood out of the ranks, boasting the lowest black-gray response time among all monitors I’ve ever tested in our labs. The other parameters of the 710T are at a good level for its class, so you may want to consider it if you like to play dynamic games. Unfortunately, the 710T differs from its competitors not only with its low response time but also with its rather high price.

Talking about the technological advances, I want to stress the fact that the declared response time does not necessarily determine the quality of the monitor. Comparing the results of the 12ms matrix of the NEC LCD1760NX to the results of the 16ms matrix of both models from ViewSonic, it is rather hard to name the better of them: the NEC has a better black-white response time, but the ViewSonic wins on black-gray transitions. Evidently, the user may want one thing or another depending on the situation, so it’s too early yet to say that the 12ms matrixes rule this market.

Appendix: Color Coordinates of RGB filters (CIE x, y)