Viewsonic VX724

My monitor – a Nec Multisync FE750+ – is dying. Its unstable. I don’t know how long it has to live.

I got it… about 5 years ago, which seems to be a standard lifespan for a monitor. It was a pretty good monitor back then.

Nowadays, LCDs seem to be getting all the rave.

But I do pro graphics work and I need good color output and, as far as I know, CRTs still have better color reliability than LCDs.

So I headed out to Microbytes with the idea that I’ll simply by an upgrade to my monitor. They had a nice NEC 19 inc CRT that did all my monitor did and more, based on the same technology… and less expensive than what I paid back then.

Sound plan.

But when I got in the store and saw that the monitor was actually backordered, I slowly got seduced by the idea of an LCD screen.

I had done no real shopping (instead finding articles that mnostly confirmed that – in the price range I’m looking for – CRTs kick LCDs ass color-wise).

But I looked at the LCDs on display, nose glued to the screen, trying to figure out if I’d like the output of such a monitor – cuz their look and footprint is simply divine – Ah to regain 35% of my desk surface does seem like a dream.

I hesitated, looked, questionned, wondered for quite some time. The helpful salesman even plugged an LCD monitor on a computer with Internet access so I can look at pictures I’m familiar with.

But I had no real knowledge of what to look for. Is digital input really any useful? Does color distort? Is 8ms refresh good enough? What about 4ms? No clue.

Eventually, my weak mind, disposed to buying electronic gizmos with no need of strong rationnal support, buckled and I went home with a Viewsonic VX723 under my arm.

It even fit in my car’s trunk (which my old 17inch monitor couldn’t do while inside its box).

Plugged it at home. Loved the footprint. Loved the digital input (LCDs don’t use an analog signal like CRTs do. With digital input there’s no signal conversion and, therefore, no need to adjust screen size like on a typical CRT). Colors seemed ok (nothing to write home about, but sufficient for what I need to do). Video played well with no image ghosting (or motion blur). It could even be set to sRGB color profile and greatly minimized the color calibration process for my graphic apps.

I was on my way to being a happy camper.

Then the turd came visiting.

On a black screen there were four amorphous blobs of gray, clinging to the edges of the screen, gobbling up over 30% of the screen’s surface.

It was not noticable on lighter surfaces. But in the dark surfaces it quickly became apparent that I could not work with it. Dark images would end up with gray borders onscreen. Sometimes the dark colors came out lighter than lighter colors which produced some ugly “inverse video” effect.

I went back to the store to glue my nose on the other LCDs see if this was a behavior of LCDs or if I just got a lemon. No LCD screens on display (VX724 wasn’t there) had such an effect.

“I got a defective screen” was my immediate conclusion.

Next day I came back with the screen. Explained what I saw to the salesman who told me : “this model does that.”

Seems like this model has this defect built in. The salesman told me he tried on a few monitors and they all did this. He them promptly offered to refund the monitor.

I happily accepted, thinking that I would go back home and do some more thorough research before I buy again.

This is what a black screen looked like – the image is blurry because I took it with no flash. Fiddling with brightess changed nothing. Designing artwork for print or for web with this kind of output is ridiculous. Looking at dark movies ain’t too great either.

I still have doubts about whether that was a defect or not. It seems ridiculous that the model would behave this way and that no one on the net would be talking about it.

The research I did on inexpensive 17 inch LCDs was quite interresting.

Favorite article by far is the FiringSquad Budget LCD Roundup from April 2005. Great introduction on how LCDs work and what to look for.

They made me realize that digital input is a must for an LCD monitor. They made me understand properly what the refresh speeds were. 8ms is good and I’d probably be happy even with 12ms (which means 83 refreshes per second).

Their top low-key LCD monitor (NEC LCD1770NX) seems like a good option (though I’ve seen it downed in a ZDNet review for the exact same reasons it was praised in the FireSquad review.

This is rather troubling. I mean the Firesquad guys used a color-reading device to figure out that the NEC LCD monitor’s was actually pretty good, while the guys at ZDNet are saying, right off the bat, that the colors are horrible.

Maybe the guys at ZDNet we comparing it to high-end LCDs (which can easily double, triple (or more) the cost). Maybe the guys at ZDNet didn’t try to caliber the monitor? I have no clue.

The clue I had, though, was that these monitors were on sale at FutureShop. For rougly 200$ under their price at Microbytes. I woudl’ve loved to buy it from Microbytes – especially after they’ve been so great to me. They’ll see me again when I have some more stuff to buy 🙂

The other thing that made me hesitate on the NEC Futureshop deal is that these are refurbished monitors. Eek. Yes. I know. Scary.

But FutureShop are usually quite true to their word with their return policy – return it quickly enough and they’ll take it back, no questions asked.

So I went ahead and ordered one, which I should receive next week.

Extra sleek thing with the NEC monitor : it’s got an integrated USB hub! There’s no end to how neat I find this!!

So there you have it:

  • Viewsonic VX724 is a no-no – though it might be that I just got a defect.
  • NEC LCD1770NX is pending delivery.