SAN FRANCISCO (08/28/2000) - You can get a lot of office pizzazz and power in one purchase with a sleek flat-panel monitor. Take a trio of 15-inchers just out from Philips Electronics NV, Eizo Nanao Technologies, and Sony Corp.. In my tests, these handsome LCD monitors delivered terrifically crisp text in Web pages, word processing documents, and spreadsheets.
The $999 Philips 150P LCD--which measures a mere 6.5 inches deep (including the base)--occupies a fraction of the space that comparable CRT monitors require, and it weighs just 11.9 pounds. The 150P accepts DVI-D digital or analog input.
You can also hook two PCs to it and easily switch between the two via an on-screen menu. In addition, this LCD sports built-in stereo speakers and a microphone that can be used for videoconferencing.
Overall, the 150P performed well in image tests, but color graphics appeared somewhat dark and splotchy--it performs better with text-based documents and Web pages. Characters in word processing documents and spreadsheets looked crisp, and Web pages bright and highly legible. Images--particularly spreadsheets--did appear slightly bowed at the center when viewed straight on.
I was very impressed by the $949 Eizo FlexScan L330. This unit proves that you don't have to spend a fortune for a high-quality flat-panel monitor. Letters and icons in word processing documents were clear and easy to read, and its colors in my graphics tests looked deep, rich, and uniformly bright. Housed in a chic black or beige case that measures 6.7 inches deep, the FlexScan L330 would dress up any office.
This analog-only LCD has two knocks against it. At 12.3 pounds, it's relatively heavy, and its viewing angle isn't as wide as that of the Philips 150P. If you look at its images at an angle rather than straight on, they're not as sharp.
If price is no object and space-saving style is of the essence, look no further than the Sony SDM-N50PS. At $1500, this 15-inch LCD panel is the most expensive of the three, but it takes the honors for svelte design. Only 0.5 inch thick and weighing just 3.8 pounds including its tiny base, this flat panel resembles a large notebook screen. The SDM-N50PS is wall-mountable and sits like a picture frame on its "photostand"--a base that can tilt through a range from 20 degrees to 40 degrees. As a result, the panel is removable and can be easily rotated from landscape (horizontal) to portrait (vertical) orientation. Though the photostand adds flair, the screen can be knocked over all too easily.
The SDM-N50PS connects to your computer via an included hardware device that houses all of the monitor's circuitry. For multitaskers, this 7-by-7-inch box connects two computer systems at once. To switch between the two, simply push a side control button.
In my tests, the Sony SDM-N50PS produced crisp, sharp letters in word processing documents and spreadsheets, but its color display was disappointing.
Detail showed well in test graphics, but their colors appeared dull, even after I adjusted the monitor's on-screen brightness, contrast, and RGB controls.
Consequently, this is not a monitor for a graphics professional.
Whether they grace your home, office, or reception area, these attractive LCD monitors will save space and provide a touch of design flair, as well as a clear look at work on display. For general business use, consider either the Philips or the Eizo Nanao unit. But for pure style, I think Sony beats them both.
Eizo FlexScan L330
PRO: Good all-around LCD; affordable price; uniformly bright colors.
CON: Analog-only capability; relatively heavy for a flat panel.
VALUE: First-rate graphics and text display for all-purpose office use.
Street price: $949
Eizo Nanao Technologies
PRO: Crisp text display, good viewing angles; only 6.5 inches deep.
CON: Images appear slightly bowed at center when viewed straight on.
VALUE: Excellent text display for reasonable flat-panel cost.
Street price: $999
Philips Consumer Electronics
PRO: Thin design saves desk space; sharp text; multitasking functions.
CON: Some obvious shadowing in corners, colors look washed out.
VALUE: Fabulous style; good text display; flexible positioning capability.
Street price: $1500