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Head To Head: 21-Inch Monitors
Three Diverse Units Offer Big, Bold Values

-- by Hailey Lynne McKeefry

One 21-inch monitor is pretty much like another, right? Wrong. After considering the features of the latest units from Nokia, ViewSonic and Panasonic, I found that each addresses different needs.

The Nokia Multigraph 445Xi's sleek, sophisticated design gives you a glimpse of the future, and also makes this monitor comfortable to use. While the ViewSonic P815 has a more conventional design, artists will be panting after its high-resolution capabilities. If you're on a budget but unwilling to sacrifice performance, the Panasonic PanaSync E21 will likely be your first choice.

Surface Similarity

The ViewSonic and Panasonic units, both with a 0.25-millimeter dot pitch, provide 20 inches of diagonal viewing area, while the Nokia gives you 19.7 inches with a 0.22mm dot pitch.

The front-panel designs on the Panasonic and the ViewSonic are nearly identical, with the select buttons flanking the adjustment keys (marked with + or -). The Nokia differentiates itself by locating the select buttons on one side of the on/off switch and the arrow keys on the other. I prefer the Nokia's design because it's more difficult to press a wrong button and unintentionally exit from the on-screen menus.

All three come with an Invar shadow mask, and antiglare and antistatic coatings for improved viewing, as well as tilt-and-swivel bases, on-screen displays and three-year limited warranties.

The Difference Is in the Specs

The differences among these monitors become evident when you check the specs. Take screen resolution: The Nokia offers a range from 640x480 at a 150Hz refresh rate to 1600x1200 at 80Hz. The Panasonic has the same resolutions at slightly different refresh rates (160Hz to 67Hz). The ViewSonic, however, stands out with maximum resolutions of 1800x1440 at 76Hz and 1600x1200 at 91Hz.

The resolution range almost directly reflects the monitor's cost. At $1,995, the ViewSonic P815 is more expensive than the Panasonic ($1,499) and the Nokia ($1,899). You might also have to upgrade your system's display adapter to take advantage of the P815's superhigh resolutions.

The Panasonic and ViewSonic units' on-screen display controls were fairly typical and generally easy to use, with settings represented by different symbols on an on-screen control panel. Parameter values are shown with bar graphs and numbers, and a reset option returns you to the factory presets. You can control contrast, brightness, degaussing, horizontal and vertical size and position, pincushioning, geometry, rotation, color temperature, language, display frequency and video level.Here again, Nokia took a slightly different-and preferable-approach. Menu choices are broken down into language, basic adjustments, geometry and image. Rather than pictures, menus consist of descriptions that you select with the arrow keys.

Taking On the Tests

All the units performed well when evaluated with Sonera Technologies' DisplayMate testing suite.

The ViewSonic showed some flicker and moire patterning, as well as slight blurring during the video bandwidth and transient response tests. The focus remained clear to the edges of the screen, however, and color registration was superb.

The PanaSync E21 performed uniformly well in all areas, with minimal pincushioning and good geometric linearity, screen uniformity and color registration. This monitor also showed some flicker.

The Nokia 445Xi held its own, with no moire patterns and fine performance on most tests. Of the three monitors, this one provided the least efficient color registration.

The Bottom Line

Despite good design, the Nokia 445Xi doesn't merit the additional $400 expense when compared with the Panasonic PanaSync E21. The PanaSync supports multiple platforms (including Windows, Macintosh and UNIX), making it useful for a multiplatform environment. For power users requiring the highest resolutions, the ViewSonic is a worthy choice.

The Panasonic PanaSync E21 is a remarkable value, while the ViewSonic P815 offers outstanding state-of-the-art capabilities. Both monitors warrant a place on our WINDOWS Magazine Recommended List.

W Info File

Panasonic PanaSync E21
Price: $1,499
Pros: Price; quality
Cons: Average resolutions
Panasonic Communications & Systems Co.
800-742-8086, 201-348-7000
WinMag Box Score: 4.0

W Info File

ViewSonic P815
Price: $1,995
Pros: Highest resolutions of all three monitors
Cons: Price
ViewSonic Corp.
800-888-8583, 909-869-7976
WinMag Box Score: 4.0

W Info File

Nokia Multigraph 445Xi
Price: $1,899
Pros: Easy-to-use and comprehensive controls; design
Cons: Price
Nokia Display Products
800-BY-NOKIA, 415-331-4244
WinMag Box Score: 3.5

Copyright 1997 CMP Media


(From Windows Magazine, January 1997, page 136.)