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Viewsonic VP930 19 4:3 ratio TFT Monitor Review

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  #1  
Old 21-06-07, 11:01
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Default Viewsonic VP930 19 4:3 ratio TFT Monitor Review

I recently posted a thread asking if I was better off keeping my half-decent CRT monitor or swapping to a good flat panel screen. As expected, opinion was divided, but generally in favour of keeping the CRT, so I decided to keep the CRT. How come I’m doing a review of a fairly cheap flat panel screen then?

Instead of swapping the monitor, I decided to update the base PC. I had originally planned on selling the old PC, but decided to keep it. Having two PCs in the house would allow both Mrs Y and I to be online at the same time and would prevent the scrum often seen when we return home after a photo shoot.

I bought the new machine without a monitor, so a new screen was needed. It’s nigh on impossible to buy a new CRT now, and regardless of that, for space reasons a flat panel was essential for the 2nd machine. As this was to be a secondary PC, I couldn’t justify the £500+ required to buy a really good TFT screen. On the other hand, I knew I’d be disappointed with a cheap screen intended for gaming use. Some online research, together with Tony’s advice on the types of panel technology to look for, suggested that photo editors on a tight budget could do worse than look at the Viewsonic VP930 monitor. This uses an MVA technology type panel and was bought for £200, or about twice the price of an equivalent sized cheap gaming display. Is it worth it?

First off, the build quality is good, the plastics have a good solid feel about them, it doesn’t feel as though it’s going to break it you pick it up the wrong way. The stand is well weighted, provides a reassuring sense of stability and has an excellent range of adjustment. This is a major plus point for this monitor, the ability to move the height, tilt and angle of the screen with light, almost fingertip control, is very well done. The screen can also be rotated between landscape and portrait format, more of which later.

A range of inputs are provided, a single DVI connector together with two analogue VGA inputs if you need to hook the monitor up to multiple base units. There is a button on the front of the screen for switching to the different input ports. The monitor comes complete with both DVI and VGA input leads, together with a standard IEC “kettle” style mains cable. All leads are removable. I used the DVI output from my graphics card and fired it up at its native resolution of 1280x1024. The PC hooked up to the monitor is running Windows XP SP2. If you are using a flat panel screen of any sort in XP, I recommend that you try the ClearType text enhancement. Details here: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/306527. [edit: See posts below, you may not experience the same improvement I did]

A quick visual check showed no obvious dead or stuck pixels. I wasn’t going to start using one of the software applications available designed to find dead/stuck pixels. What you don’t know about doesn’t bother you.

Straight out of the box, the colours are bright and vivid, rather too bright and vivid, but this is quite the norm for the “as shipped” settings from a range of manufacturer’s. The VP930 comes bundled with the usual bunch of drivers, all of which were the latest (unusual, though very welcome), and a monitor calibration application called “Perfect Suite”. I thought I’d give this application a go to see how much difference it made. It installed easily enough, though it does seem to be rather intrusive, adding shortcuts and context menus in an assortment of places that aren’t immediately obvious. I left the monitor switched on for a couple of hours before performing the calibration. With Perfect Suite running, the button on the front of the monitor previously used to access the Brightness/Contrast/Colour controls is disabled; all adjustments are done via the software application.

The calibration routine is simple enough, with a range of test patterns shown and adjustments performed for brightness, contrast and some fairly extensive colour cast correction and gamma adjustment tests. The testing does rely on the Mk1 eyeball to provide feedback and, together with the human brain it is remarkably clever at automatically compensating for different lighting conditions. The adjustment software did produce a much more pleasing end result to that observed in the as shipped condition. If you haven’t got a hardware colourimeter then it’s certainly a worthwhile package to use.

Along with the colour calibration functions, Perfect Suite includes an anti-theft feature which makes the monitor unusable by others if it is stolen unless a correct PIN code is entered. It’s a nice idea in a corporate environment where all employees could be made aware of this feature to prevent IT hardware theft. I can’t see it of being of any use in a domestic environment where by the time a thief has nicked your monitor and the fence has found it to be useless, it’s too late, you’ve still lost your monitor. The final feature of Perfect Suite worth mentioning is the landscape/portrait twist adjustment feature. As mentioned above, the monitor can be rotated to either orientation. With the appropriate box ticked in Perfect Suite, the image on the monitor will auto adjust to be the right way round as the screen is rotated. It is surprisingly more pleasurable to read a text document in portrait format, if you do a lot of this kind of work I can see that this feature would be useful.

Once calibrated using Perfect Suite, and ClearType text enhancement enabled, the screen is easy to use. The colours look accurate, relatively smoothly graduated and there isn’t the excessive sharpness so often seen on gaming style displays. It has to be said though, it cannot match a CRT for the range of tones displayed. Blacks really are black, this is a strength of MVA technology panels, but colours that aren’t quite black (as seen on a CRT) also appear as black. Winding up the brightness can help, and true blacks will still appear black (surprising), but the overall balance of the screen is eye-stingingly bright at this point and is uncomfortable to use. Mid tones are fine. True blacks are fine, true whites are fine. The tones very close to black or white are really not right. If you have everything set up correctly according to the instructions, it is easy to live with, but I couldn’t help feeling that the range of tones that could be accurately displayed was rather limited in comparison to my CRT. I suppose this was to be expected from a mid price TFT but I did wonder if more could be wrung out of the display.

I pulled the Pantone Huey Pro colourimeter off my main PC, removed Perfect Suite and stuck the Huey on the 2nd machine. Running the Huey calibration routine did show that it’s the near black tones that are the limiting factor with this monitor. Once fully calibrated, the monitor profile generated by Perfect Suite could be swapped with the profile created by the Huey and the results for mid tones were close. The mid tones for all colours appeared very good after hardware based calibration and in the majority of cases (except greens), almost as good as the CRT. The difference is at the extremes of the tonal range, blacks and whites are compressed, and all tones of greens just don’t seem to cut it, lacking subtlety.

As with all flat panels to some extent, the colours look best when viewed square on to the screen. An MVA panel is much better than the cheap TN panel gaming displays in this respect. The screen is viewable from a wide range of angles, though it has to be said, the colours do begin look a little washed out once you’ve moved off centre.

In conclusion:
Pros
Good screen size, plenty of viewable area for the footprint on the desk
Excellent ergonomics with easy adjustment of height, tilt and spin with very stable base
Good range of inputs available and all necessary cables supplied
Can be rotated landscape/portrait and has option of auto orientation
Bundled calibration software effective and makes significant improvement to display
Easy on the eye in use giving minimal eye strain once calibrated (and ClearType enabled)
Blacks really are black (unusually so for a TFT, but see also Cons)

Cons
Blacks are black, but so are nearly blacks. Reduced tonal resolution compared to CRT
Requires hardware calibration to get the best out of it
Greens in particular are not so subtle as the same shades on a CRT
In common with all but the very best flat panels, colours look washed out when viewed from angles – ease of adjustment helps here

As a second screen it’s very nice. For web browsing, email and office applications it’s easy on the eye and I’m perfectly happy to recommend it for these types of application. I haven’t installed any games on the 2nd PC so I cannot comment on its suitability for this kind of use. For basic photo viewing, or even simple editing, again I’m happy to recommend this unit. For serious photo editing, I’ll stick to the CRT. I haven’t watched a DVD film or other multimedia content on the LCD so cannot comment on that kind of use.

Further details on the Viewsonic VP930 can be found here:
http://www.viewsoniceurope.com/UK/Pr...Prof/VP930.htm
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Old 21-06-07, 12:52
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An excellent review, thankyou.

I'm going to take issue with one item, however, and that's "cleartype", or, as it ought to be called if we had proper truth in advertising laws, "blurrytype". Just to confirm that my earlier tests of this "enhancement" were not mistaken, I followed the advice and switched it on just now. YUK! It's terrible. Here is a pair of screenshots. You shouldn't have any difficulty telling which is which.)

Now, with that out of my system, I'll go back and read the other two thirds of your review with considerable interest!

EDIT: on review, I see that my two PNGs are of quite poor quality, not nearly as good as they ought to be. Not sure why, perhaps I should do them again. This makes the differences less obvious, but they are still perfectly clear ... or .. er .... perfectly blurry, I should say.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Captured001.jpg (36.5 KB, 16 views)
File Type: jpg Captured002.jpg (38.1 KB, 14 views)

Last edited by Tannin; 21-06-07 at 12:55.
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Old 21-06-07, 13:29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tannin View Post
I'm going to take issue with one item, however, and that's "cleartype", or, as it ought to be called if we had proper truth in advertising laws, "blurrytype". Just to confirm that my earlier tests of this "enhancement" were not mistaken, I followed the advice and switched it on just now. YUK! It's terrible. Here is a pair of screenshots. You shouldn't have any difficulty telling which is which.)
Tony,

I suppose it's the classic caveat of "Your mileage may vary" (it took me ages to find out what YMMV meant in forum posts). I was fairly horrified with the appearance of text when using the default XP settings. Text appeared very spidery, with the thickness of the text strokes varying depending on the angle and position of the line. Being pretty apalled by this, I did a bit of digging and found the cleartype trick. Certainly for me, using the VP930 at 1280x1024, it makes a huge improvement. I have to agree, your screenshots do seem to indicate you aren't getting the same benefit.

All I can suggest to others is give it a try. If it works for you, then great. If it doesn't, then switch back.
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Old 21-06-07, 14:02
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I'll try to find a moment to enable/disable it on some other monitors as they pass through my workshop, and post more screenshots if it seems interesting enough.

And as you say, there is nothing like trying stuff out on your own gear, with your own eyes, and then deciding if it's better or not. I could have spent forever reading posts about the 20D/30D image quality vs 400D, and still not had a clear answer. But having tried both for myself, I am now 100% sure which one I like better - and again, you may come to the opposite view. Seeing with your own eyes is the part that counts.
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Old 22-06-07, 08:20
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Having just tried the ClearType setting on my work PC monitor, an HP L1706 ultra cheap TN panel, and seen some pretty awful blurry results, I can confirm that it’s not the solution for everyone. Truly awful blurry results when using the ClearType setting on the grotty HP monitor. Your mileage may indeed vary.
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Old 31-10-07, 18:19
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I just checked amd I now remember changing to Cleartype on my new 22"LG Flatron. I is so sharp and of course the Reolution is widescreen 1680x1050. Cleartype is much better for me. Standard looks pixelated.
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Old 31-10-07, 22:28
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I have just changed to Cleartype as suggested,looks great,had to replace my deskstop pic,do not know why that disappeared,but yes,new typeface really does stand out,very sharp,thanks for the link.
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