Review Roundup: Displays from NEC, Samsung and ViewSonic

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LCD manufacturers continue to expand their product portfolios, as the "sweet spot" in the monitor space continues to move from the 17-inch-to-19-inch arena to the 20-to-22-inch part of the spectrum. But as with much of the rest of IT, metrics like energy efficiency and productivity enhancements may have caught up in importance to traditional markers like size and price.

The Test Center recently looked at several LCDs from Tier 1 display manufacturers. This report focuses on four displays that, after testing, can be recommended to VARs who want to deliver higher-end solutions with energy efficiency, as well as a gateway to productivity enhancement.

Samsung SyncMaster 2493HM: Two open Web browsers, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, AOL Instant Messenger, a Reuters news ticker and a couple of Yahoo widgets: that's the inventory of what's comfortably viewable, on screen, on the SyncMaster 2493 all at the same time. And they're all open and active without the screen appearing the least bit crowded. Analysts have done studies that have determined 24 inches of display space increase productivity; they could have saved some time by just taking a look at the SyncMaster 2493HM.

Out of the box, the display needed almost no calibration at all under DisplayMate's software -- save for a slight pixel tracking adjustment. And all that did was provide an opportunity to have a look-see at the display's auto-adjust feature, which zapped the problem in about two seconds.

Of other metrics that came to light during testing: the LCD used 77 watts running the workload described above. That's more than other displays we've looked at recently but the increase in productivity could easily offset the additional cost of running the device. It ran about 100 degrees at its rear vent and felt a little warm -- but not hot -- to the touch.

The monitor is built with audio in-out jacks, DVI, RGB and HDMI ports, heat sensor "touch" buttons for on/off and adjustment, several inches of height adjust, 45 degrees of tilt capability and a full vertical rotation function. Samsung says the SyncMaster 2493HM maintains a 10,000: 1 dynamic contrast ratio and five millisecond response time. Street pricing on the display ranges from about $445 to $485. With Samsung's Power Partner Program, the margin potential for VARs and the ROI argument to be made by delivering additional productivity, the Test Center can recommend this display to resellers and solution providers as the market moves into ever-higher end display solutions for the desktop.

NEC MultiSync LCD225WNXM: This is the coolest display the Test Center has reviewed recently -- after an hour the display console registered only 80.3 degrees at its vent. It also required a relatively light 42 watts as it ran a typical office workload of two word processors, a spread sheet and a video. During out-of-the-box calibration using DisplayMate's testing software, the 225WNXM needed only minor calibration to its grayscale extreme and digital sharpness measurements out of 21 different display quality tests.

NEC builds the 22-inch, 225WNXM with what it calls "space saving speakers" which work OK, but the speakers point down at the desk -- instead of toward your ears. If high-quality audio is a concern, and desktop real estate isn't, opting for external speakers would likely be a better idea.

But the device itself is loaded with five USB ports for peripherals, D-808 and DVI-D connections, audio input port and headphone jack in the back of the monitor. It's built so it can be pivoted to stand fully in vertical mode in addition to traditional horizontal and tilts to a 45-degree angle. NEC lists an estimated street price of $389.99, which is reasonable given the market, and still provides margin potential for VARs. The Test Center can recommend the display because of its quality performance, nice design, energy efficiency and NEC's longstanding channel program.

Samsung SyncMaster T220: There aren't any products, tools or equipment in the Test Center lab that are deep burgundy in color, so during testing here the SyncMaster T220 (which is deep burgundy, with a polished look) stood out. Samsung product executives told us they wanted to make it look like not just another LCD. They succeeded.

But it's never a good idea to judge a book, or a monitor, buy its cover so we did some testing. The SyncMaster T220 ran through all 21 DisplayMate calibration tests without needing any adjustment at all -- a rarity. It needed only 40 watts, when plugged in, to run a series of productivity applications and some video tests, and its 22-inch screen was easy on the eyes. Samsung says the display maintains a 20,000:1 contrast ratio and a 2 millisecond response time. One disappointment is that it ran a little warm after about an hour -- to 103 degrees at its vent. However, its numerous strong points appeared to more than make up for that.

The MSRP for the display is $349, which is on par for other displays of its size group.

The SyncMaster T220 is a sturdy build, though. It tilts 45 degrees from its horizontal position and also pivots to a full vertical view. The Test Center can recommend this display because of the combination of elegant design, display quality and Samsung's channel program.

ViewSonic VP2250wb: ViewSonic's MSRP for the VP2250wb is on the high end of the scale of 22-inch displays we've looked at recently -- $559. But that's counterbalanced by two metrics we saw while testing the display: First, plugged in and running office applications and video, it uses only 39 watts and, second, it only warmed up to about 90 degrees during our testing. So, combined with the additional real estate that a 22-inch display (in this case, it's 21.6-inches viewable) would provide over older 17-inch or 19-inch models, a return-on-investment case could easily be made to justify being at the higher end of the price scale.

As far as other testing: it looked great. The VP2250wb went through our calibration testing needing only some adjustment with its pixel tracking, but otherwise was fine out of the box.

The display can adjust, tilt and swivel to 120-degrees, maintains a 3,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio and 2 milliseconds of response time. ViewSonic is billing the VP2250wb as a good fit for graphics reproduction, film editing and financial applications; there was nothing during its review in the Test Center that would undermine that assertion.

Based on the ROI potential, its performance and ViewSonic's channel program, the Test Center can recommend the VP225wb for VAR customers who are seeking substantial display upgrades over older models.

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