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Head To Head: Monitors
Get the Big Picture
-- by Deborah K. Wong
Is bigger truly better? In the case of high-performance 21-inch monitors from Cornerstone and Mitsubishi, as well as a 20-inch monitor from Samsung, the answer is ... maybe. Although I was impressed by the picture quality from these big, bold displays, the actual picture size, in some cases, was a surprising disappointment.
Samsung's 20-inch 20GLsi ($1,389) produces glorious images. Cornerstone's 21-inch monitors, the Color 21/81fp and Color 50/115, deliver maximum resolution rates of 1600x1200 (but they cost $2,070 and $2,265, respectively). But the topnotch performance, digital chassis design and affordable price ($1,699) of Mitsubishi's Diamond Pro 91TXM make it the champion of this foursome.
The Samsung and Mitsubishi models offer a 0.28mm dot pitch with active viewing areas of 18.75 and 19.7 inches, respectively. The Cornerstones, with a 0.27mm dot pitch, provide only 19.9-inch diagonal display areas, disappointingly small for 21-inch monitors with price tags over $2,000.
If you're a control freak, these units are for you. In addition to three thumbwheels for brightness, contrast and variable adjustment control, the Samsung has eight front-panel push buttons for on-screen adjustments, three for single functions (recall, BNC toggle and degauss) and five for dual functions (if you press them twice). Press once to adjust horizontal and vertical position and size along with pincushioning; press twice to control color selection, basic color, hue, help and trapezoid adjustment. Noticeably absent was a control to compensate for moirč distortion.
The Cornerstone units possess similar front-panel push buttons (no thumbwheels), plus moirč and degaussing adjustments. But the Mitsubishi won me over again with its on-screen display (OSD) and rollout front panel that, when opened, reveals 19 functions for precision control in Normal mode and nine additional functions in Enhanced mode. In Normal mode, the Mitsubishi adds geometric fine-tuning, moirč, and horizontal alignment of the red, green and blue beams. In Enhanced mode it includes in-depth pincushioning adjustments, microprocessor selections, purity, top-balance and clamp pulse position, which eliminates excessive green or white background that may occur when both Sync-On-Green and external sync signals are applied to the monitor.
Each unit tested comes with a three-year warranty. For maximum viewing comfort, the tilt-swivel bases vary from the square-bottomed Cornerstones to the cylindrical Mitsubishi and D-shaped Samsung platforms. The Mitsubishi monitor, measuring 19.3 by 19.7 by 19.2 inches and weighing 77 pounds, saved the most space. The 63.9-pound Samsung followed with dimensions of 19.3 by 19.9 by 20.2 inches; the Cornerstones, tipping the scales at 72.6 pounds, boasted 18.7 by 19.2 by 21 inches.
All monitors met EPA Energy Star standards and adhere to MPRII restrictions. The Mitsubishi adds compliance with the Swedish TCO'92 guideline for environmentally safe emissions.
The Samsung and Cornerstone CRTs each provide an Invar shadow mask. Mitsubishi touts its new Diamondtron CRT, a combination vertically flat aperture grille design (for sharper, brighter images and text) and its P-NX DBF (dynamic beam forming) gun. The three-lens design eliminates the need for high voltage convergence plates, which require adjustment and can cause poor convergence from drift over time.
The P-NX DBF gun permits a greater portion of the electron beams to pass through the structure, for screen focus uniformity and improved corner focus. Unfortunately, the corners of the 91TXM were still blurry.
In addition, Mitsubishi added a tubular steel pipeframe that holds the tension mask in place. The pipeframe can improve beam landing and purity and white uniformity performance, allowing for more effective internal degaussing.
All have antiglare and an antistatic coating, which eliminates static electric shock and helps keep your screen dirt-free.
Value-added software with the Mitsubishi includes Diamond Control for computer-controlled adjustment of all display set-up parameters and self-sufficient power management, and the DiamondMatch Color Calibrator Kit for more accurate on-screen and printer color matching. Samsung features True Internet Color Colorific and PowerMaster for reduced power consumption. The Cornerstones did not include additional software.
Superhigh screen resolutions make these monitors the choice of CAD, CAM and CAE users. The Cornerstone 50/115 leads the way with a resolution of 1600x1200 at 92Hz and 31kHz to 115kHz horizontal scanning frequency. The 21/81fp produces 1600x1200 at 81Hz and 31kHz to 101kHz. While the Samsung maxes out at 1600x1200 at 66Hz, its recommended use is 1280x1024 at 75Hz. Its horizontal scanning frequency is 30kHz to 82kHz. Mitsubishi offers 1600x1200 at 75Hz with a 30kHz to 95kHz horizontal scanning range.
Both the Mitsubishi and Samsung include a BNC/D-Sub switch, allowing you to hook up two systems and toggle between them-handy for double-duty in video production. Five BNC connectors can be found on the rear of the monitor and can accept red, green and blue video. Composite sync can be applied separately, or combined with the green video signal (commonly referred to as composite sync on green). If composite sync on green is used, then only three of the five BNC connectors are needed.
These monitors were tested using Sonera Technologies' DisplayMate suite and Number Nine's Imagine Series 2e graphics card. For uniformity, three of the monitors were set at 1600x1200 and 256 colors, with a 75Hz refresh rate. For the Samsung, I used 1280x1024 at 75Hz. The Cornerstones produced moirč distortion at lower resolutions (less so on the 50/115), but were almost seamless at peak performance. Focus and color intensity remained consistent during testing, with stunningly sharp images. Minor flaws occurred when testing the diagonal matrix and video bandwidth.
The Samsung showed some flicker, bad pincushioning and color in the corners, which affected geometric distortion. In the defocusing test, reduced contrast and clarity indicated insufficient video bandwidth and transient response. Although there was slight moirč distortion at the top and bottom of the screen during testing, this monitor scored above average in screen regulation, producing robust colors across the board.
The Mitsubishi registered the best overall results in each test category. It excelled in pincushioning, video bandwidth, color convergence and intensity, and had only minor imperfections in moirč distortion-a good choice if you're a graphics designer needing precision and detail.
Comparatively, the Samsung and Cornerstone units aren't quite up to the Panasonic PanaSync E21 on our Recommended List. The Panasonic has the edge in resolution, price and weight. However, don't overlook the Mitsubishi; it gave our recommended Panasonic a real run for its money in the performance tests.