Review: The Best And Worst Of 5 Widescreen Displays


At one time considered a luxury, widescreen displays are now standard fare for business users and consumers.

For business applications, widescreen displays are useful because they allow two pages to be viewed side-by-side at the same time and make it easier to work on long spreadsheets. And on the entertainment side, widescreen monitors enable media center PC users to watch movies in their original widescreen format.


Slide Show: 5 Widescreen Displays

Pricing for widescreen displays has plummeted, and they now cost no more than standard displays. That gives VARs a nifty hook to sell customers on display upgrades.

To that end, the CRN Test Center took an in-depth look at five widescreen displays from four vendors: AOC, KDS, NEC and Samsung. All have MSRPs of less than $300, and two are generously sized 22-inch models -- a real bargain. But surprisingly, those two products didn't come out on top.

The displays were evaluated for ergonomics, feature set, image quality, fit and finish, bang for the buck and channel program. Ergonomics included the number of position adjustments of the base and the ease of use of the on-screen display (OSD) controls. The feature set included such things as the number and type of inputs, whether a display had built-in speakers or a USB hub and so on.

The displays were tested for image quality using DisplayMate Technologies' DisplayMate for Windows Multimedia Edition Version 2.10, a program containing images and test patterns that push displays to their limits. The fit and finish rating included the quality of materials, ruggedness and attractiveness. Bang for the buck was determined by comparing screen size and feature set to price. All of the products have three-year warranties.

For each testing category, each display was given a rating of 1 to 5 relative to all the other units in the roundup. The five categories were then averaged. Each vendor's channel program also was evaluated and given a score from 1 to 5. The overall score for each display was then determined by adding the average score for the technical categories to the channel score. Displays that had a score of 8 or more received "Test Center recommended" status.

Next: The AOC 212Va-1AOC 212VA-1

The AOC 212Va-1 is a 22-inch widescreen display with a native resolution of 1680 x 1050 pixels and an aspect ratio of 16:10. The display has a slim bezel design, making it ideal for multidisplay usage.

Tech Rating: 4
Channel Rating: 4

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The display features analog VGA and digital DVI-D inputs, so it can connect to any computer, new or old. It even has built-in, 3-watt stereo speakers. You get all that for a price of just $299. Not too long ago, a flat-panel display of this size would cost thousands of dollars.

The AOC 212Va-1 has a fast 5-millisecond (ms) response time, so it lends itself well to viewing fast-moving images and video in general. The display has a 700:1 contrast ratio and wide viewing angles of 170 degrees horizontal and 160 degrees vertical.

Like most new widescreen displays, the AOC 212Va-1 has received the Certified for Microsoft Windows Vista logo. For one, that means the display is equipped with HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection). With its HD 720p/1080i compatibility, the display will work with cable, satellite and other set-top boxes equipped with DVI-HDCP. The Certified for Vista logo also means that its widescreen format can take advantage of Vista features such as the Windows Sidebar. Of course, any widescreen display, certified or not, can do the same.

AOC's on-screen display controls are intuitive enough, and there's a convenient auto-adjust function that automatically tweaks the display settings. The base is tilt-only. When tested for image quality, the monitor displayed text sharply enough, and grayscales showed up well. But white scales disappeared at the extreme bright end of the spectrum. Color scales displayed acceptably well, but reds have a slight orange appearance.

The display measures 20.4 inches wide by 16.9 inches high by 9.4 deep with the base attached. It weighs 13.2 pounds.

AOC's channel program requires that VARs purchase a minimum of 500 units, with special pricing available along with marketing support. Margins range between 6 percent and 10 percent. There are no costs associated with joining the channel program. Demo units are offered at half of the MSRP.

Advertising and marketing co-op or reimbursements are offered on a case-by-case basis. A dedicated Web portal for partners contains information on product announcements and specifications, support and industry news. All of AOC's products are sold through the channel.

Next: The KDS K92mdwb and K22mdwb
KDS K92MDWBK22MDWB

KDS submitted two widescreen flat-panel displays for review, the 19-inch K92mdwb and the 22-inch K22mdwb.

The K92mdwb's list price of just $199 makes it a great combination of large screen size and low price. The 19-inch display has a native resolution of 1440 x 900 pixels and an aspect ratio of 16:10. The display features two analog VGA inputs and one digital DVI-D input.

Housed in a black chassis, the K92mdwb features integrated speakers that fire downward from the bottom edge of the display. It's hard to even notice that the speakers are there, but they will save valuable desk space by eliminating the need for external speakers.

KDS K92mdwb
KDS K92mdwb
Tech Rating: 4
Channel Rating: NA

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The K92mdwb offers an 800:1 contrast ratio with horizontal and vertical viewing angles of 140 degrees. A response time of 5ms means that the monitor is fully capable of handling video without producing display artifacts. The base is tilt-only.

Like most flat-panel displays, an auto adjust function automatically makes the proper display settings. The display measures 17.1 inches wide by 14.6 inches high by 8.3 inches deep. It weighs about 10 pounds.

The KDS K22mdwb, priced at $299, is 22-inch widescreen display that, aside from its metal base, looks almost identical to its smaller sibling. Like AOC 22-inch display, the K22mdwb has a native resolution of 1680 x 1050 pixels. And like the smaller KDS unit, the K22mdwb features integrated speakers that fire downward.

KDS K22mdwb
KDS K22mdwb
Tech Rating: 4
Channel Rating: NA

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Also like the smaller KDS unit, the 22-inch model features two VGA inputs and one DVI input, a 700:1 contrast ratio and a 5ms response time. Viewing angles for the larger display are wider. The K22mdwb's horizontal viewing angle is 170 degrees, and its vertical viewing angle is 160 degrees. The larger display measures 20.59 inches wide by 15.91 inches high by 8.27 inches deep, and it weighs just over 12 pounds.

Both of the KDS displays offered similar image quality. In general, both exhibit a bluish tint on whites and light grays. Text could have been sharper, but the monitor displayed good grayscales and acceptable white scales and color scales. Reds looked somewhat orange, as is the case with many other flat-panel displays.

KDS apparently doesn't have much of a channel program in place, even though all of its sales are through the channel. Demo units are provided on a case-by-case basis. Because of KDS' poor response on the Test Center's channel survey, the vendor cannot be given recommended status. KDS has given ASI exclusive rights to distribution for any solution providers that want to carry the brand.

Next: The NEC MultiSync LCD195WVXM
NEC MULTISYNC LCD195WVXM

NEC's MultiSync LCD195WVXM is a 19-inch widescreen flat-panel display. Like other widescreen displays of this size, the LCD195WVXM has a native resolution of 1440 x 900 pixels and an aspect ratio of 16:10. The display also offers a 700:1 contrast ratio, a fast response time of 5ms, and viewing angles of 160 degrees vertical and 170 degrees horizontal.

NEC MULTISYNC LCD195WVXM
Tech Rating: 4.5
Channel Rating: 4

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The MultiSync LCD195WVXM offers universal connectivity with its analog VGA and digital DVI inputs. Because flat-panel displays are commonly used in multi-panel configurations, it's important to keep the bezel as thin as possible. For that reason, the NEC display, like a few others in this roundup, has its speakers built into the bottom edge of the cabinet.

Like the other displays in this roundup, NEC's auto adjust function automatically makes the proper display settings. Priced at $245, the MultiSync LCD195WVXM measures 17.3 inches wide by 14.2 inches high by 8.1 inches deep with the base attached. It weighs about 10 pounds.

The NEC monitor displayed text a bit sharper than the other monitors, save for the AOC unit, which offered similarly sharp text. The NEC's grayscales and color scales were also good, but white scales appeared washed out at the extreme bright end of the spectrum.

NEC's channel program, called ChanneLink+, is an umbrella program with five vertical market sub-programs. There are no costs or requirements for joining the main program. Benefits include a demo program, exclusive promotions, leads and sales tools, awards and incentives, and more. Technical support free to all partners. Leads are distributed to ChanneLink+ partners based on territory. Advertising and marketing co-op funds and reimbursements are also available.

Next: The Samsung SyncMaster 941BW
SAMSUNG SYNCMASTER 941BW

Samsung's 19-inch widescreen SyncMaster 941BW is an attractive display that boasts an impressive 4ms gray-to-gray response time. It also offers viewing angles of 160 degrees for both vertical and horizontal. Its native resolution is 1440 x 900 pixels, which translates to an aspect ratio of 16:10. The display's contrast ratio is 500:1.

SAMSUNG SYNCMASTER 941BW
Tech Rating: 4
Channel Rating: 4

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The SyncMaster 941BW has both analog VGA and digital DVI inputs. Most new flat-panel displays, including all the products in this roundup, feature both types of inputs. The Samsung display, however, was the only display in this roundup not to have built-in speakers.

The SyncMaster 941BW showed a more proper red than the other displays in the roundup. But text could have been sharper, and grays exhibited a greenish tint. Grayscales looked good, as did color scales, but white scales became almost invisible at the extreme bright end of the spectrum. The SyncMaster 941BW lists for $270 and measures 17.3 inches wide by 14.2 inches high by 7.9 inches deep. It weighs 9.3 pounds.

Samsung's channel program consists of four levels; Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze. While the Bronze level carries no annual revenue commitment levels, the Platinum level requires sales of $500,000, Gold requires $150,000 and Silver calls for $50,000.

Benefits include dedicated field and inside sales support for the top three tiers, with access to inside sales support for the Bronze level. Market development funds are available for the top two tiers, and loyalty rewards are granted for all four. Partners in the top three tiers can purchase demo units at 50 percent off the MSRP. Margins average about 15 percent. There are no costs associated with joining the channel program, and training is free. Approximately half of Samsung's products are sold through the channel, the company said.

Next: The Bottom LineTHE BOTTOM LINE

Any one of these displays is adequate for day-to-day use and is probably much better than the display that many business workers have been using for years. Still, a clear choice emerged for the Test Center.

NEC's 19-inch MultiSync LCD195WVXM led the pack with top-notch performance, built-in speakers and a nice price -- and it cost less than Samsung's 19-inch unit. Better still for VARs, NEC offers an attractive channel program.

Next in preference were the 22-inch AOC 212Va-1 and the 19-inch Samsung SyncMaster 941BW. Both get kudos on the technical and channel fronts, yet the AOC's bigger screen and price make it a tremendous value.

The KDS displays didn't earn "recommended" status from the Test Center because of unanswered questions about the company's channel program. It's unfortunate that KDS didn't provide much channel information, because its displays offer a lot of value. But for VARs, that information is a critical factor in the product selection equation.