NEC Bets On LCDs For Commercial Use

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They're in most doctor and dentist waiting rooms. They're in restaurants, retail stores, delis and diners. Sports bars buy them by the dozen. Large-screen display panels are turning up everywhere people look, sit, stand or hang out for longer than thirty seconds, it seems.

NEC Display Solutions of America is betting that the trend will only continue.

The company is offering five discreet lines of displays designed specifically for commercial applications as varied as a 23-inch monitor that turns itself off when the user goes to lunch, to a gargantuan LED stadium display that could light up a small town.

Somewhere in between is the V421, the middle unit in NEC's V-series of value-priced monitors and digital signs that also includes 32- and 46-inch models. NEC sent the CRN Test Center the 42-inch V421 along with an optional two-piece table stand, which slides into existing slots and attaches quickly with thumbscrews. The V421 appears identical to its S-series counterpart we tested last summer (that one was a 46-inch job). And in many ways the two are functionally equivalent.

The V421 and S-series monitors both employ S-IPS LCD technology (other V-series models use SPVA panels) and both share a native maximum resolution of 1920 x 1080. They also both include VGA, DVI, HDMI, S-Video, RGB (BNC), DVD-HD component and composite inputs for video (the S-series adds DisplayPort). Both also can handle three stereo audio inputs (two RCA and one stereo mini). Both offer picture-in-picture, to which any of the audio inputs can be assigned.

Testers were happy to find that these settings remain persistent after a power-down, and can be changed via OSD or the included full-function remote control. PiP modes include three-size window and side-by-side modes with scaled and unscaled images. The remote also can swap between two sources. Audio can follow the larger screen or a particular program, and a text-ticker feature dedicates a portion of the screen for news, emergency warnings or other message feeds.

Next: S-series Vs. V-series MonitorsLike their S-series brethren, V-series monitors can be tiled, but only in grids up to five by five (S-series can create grids up to 10 x 10). One or many of these monitors can be controlled via Ethernet or RS-232 ports (both included). When part of an array, a single monitor can be configured as the controller, which will propagate its settings to all others.

Major differences between S- and V-series monitors include intended usage time and expandability. S-series units are designed for airports and other 24/7 locations, and can host a variety of expansion cards, including a single-board computer. V-series have no room for expansion and are intended for use, in essence, during business hours.

Utility-friendly, V-series monitors consume one watt or less in power-save mode. The V-421 is rated at 160 watts, but drew slightly less than that in tests. Contrast ratio is 3000:1 with a maximum brightness of 500 candelas. Several preset brightness levels can be selected via remote and adjusted manually through the OSD, as can border color.

These monitors typically run warm. The V421 put out about 96 degrees at its hottest point (at the top vent) after a few hours of operation. Internal fans help dissipate some of that heat, and are indifferent as to the monitor's orientation. By default, fans are set to activate when internal temperatures reach 40 degrees C (104F), a setting that also can be controlled manually through the OSD. Measuring 40 inches by 24 inches, the V421 lists for $949 and is warranted for three years on all parts, including the back-light. The table stand lists for $99.

The CRN Test Center recommends NEC's V421 for conference and board rooms, building lobbies and any corporate environment that closes its doors at night. These units also are protected-glass-ready and touch-panel-ready, affording solution providers a fertile platform for deployment of interactive applications. NEC also offers Vukunet, a free content management solution for digital signage networks.

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