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WinLab Reviews
Head to Head: LCD Monitors
Skinny Screens, Fat Price

-- by James E. Powell

If you have limited desk space but still need the viewing area of a full-size display, two new LCD monitors will fit where conventional units may not. The Sceptre FT15G and the ViewSonic VP140 (the first entry in the company's ViewPanel series) support resolutions up to 1024x768. But these monitors' small footprints come with big price tags.

A feature common to both monitors is a tiltable base that allows the screen to move backward and forward, but not side-to-side. You can detach the screen from the base on both units if you want a wall-mounted installation in restricted space conditions. Each flat-screen panel uses an RGB vertical stripe color filter and includes an anti-glare hard coating. Control buttons are just below the screen on both beta models we tested, and an on-screen display lets you adjust brightness, contrast, horizontal and vertical positioning, and color temperature. You can also recall the factory settings. ViewSonic offers its on-screen display in five languages: German, French, English, Italian and Spanish.

We tested the two LCD monitors on an AST Bravo with on-board ATI 3D RAGE II+ video. Both monitors used Windows 95's Plug-and-Play monitor driver. In addition, the ViewSonic includes an Opti-Green disk that installs the DDC (Display Data Channel) drivers and a utility called DDC Test for troubleshooting DDC-related problems in Windows 3.1 or Windows 95.

The most notable problem that occurred when running Sonera Technologies' DisplayMate tests was the significant level of horizontal interference on the Sceptre (though the ViewSonic wasn't entirely free of it)

We were surprised at how big the 14-inch screens look. Perhaps it's because the screen seems so large compared with the rest of the monitor's dimensions. Whatever the reason, we found that, apart from price, there was little compromise we had to make, and virtually no adjustments were required to the settings shipped from the factory for both products.

Sceptre FT15G

The Sceptre FT15G (the G is for gray; a white version, the FT15, is also available) weighs 12.8 pounds and measures 16 by 15.5 by 7 inches (the screen unit is only 2.5 inches deep). It has a 0.28mm dot pitch. In addition to the control buttons, the Sceptre sports two 1-watt-per-channel amplified speakers, a headphone jack and a front-panel volume control. An audio input is in the back. The Sceptre, which is Energy Star-compliant, plugs into a wall outlet via a power pack.

The FT15G offers a 14.5-inch diagonal viewing area at 1024x768 and supports only 262,144 colors vs. the 16 million colors of the ViewPanel. However, at 800x600 the viewing area drops to 11.4 inches, which you can raise to 13 inches by using the Sceptre's Expansion mode, which results in jagged text. We also found it difficult to adjust the Sceptre to a proper viewing angle.

ViewSonic VP140

The 12.1-pound ViewSonic VP140 measures 14 by 14 by 5.9 inches, including base (like the Sceptre, the screen itself is a slim 2.5 inches deep). The display provides a full 14-inch diagonal viewing area at all resolutions with a 0.28mm dot pitch.

The VP140 is Energy Star-compliant and meets VESA DPMS power management standards. It also meets the strict MPR II and TCO '92 emissions standards. Unlike the Sceptre, the ViewSonic plugs directly into a wall outlet. The company says the monitor requires less than one-third of a conventional monitor's power, just 45 watts in typical usage, and will display an image in less than 20 seconds from off or suspend mode. You'll find 16 pre-set video modes available for image size and positioning, as well as 16 user-defined video modes. However, the VP140 works best at 1024x768 at a 75Hz refresh rate, according to the manufacturer and confirmed in our tests.

The screen image at this high resolution was crisp and sharp, the color saturation was good, and color was true. We had no ghosting or other distortion problems, and the unit worked perfectly with a wide range of video cards. The ViewSonic is also blessed with a large, solid base, so there's little chance the unit will tip over.

The skinny

Overall, the quality of both monitors is good, though they are best viewed head on. Consequently, neither unit is suited for boardroom presentations, but they are suitable for any desktop where straight-on viewing is the norm.

Considering the ViewSonic's crisper text and its full-screen display at all resolutions, we find the VP140 a significantly better choice than the Sceptre FT15G. However, you'll still need to decide if the ViewSonic's smaller size and lighter weight is worth the $1,840 difference between it and a conventional 17-inch monitor, the Hansol 700P, which is on our WinList.


Sceptre FT15G

Bottom Line: Performance not worth the price
Price: $2,295
Platforms: 3x, 95, NT
Pros: Space-saving design
Cons: Fuzzy text; noticeable horizontal interference
Strongest Rival: ViewSonic VP140

Sceptre Technologies, 800-788-2878, 626-369-3698. Winfo #792


ViewSonic VP140

Bottom Line: Provides a sharp image where space is tight
Price: $2,499
Platforms: 3x, 95, NT
Pros: Crisp text; great color
Cons: High price
Strongest Rival: Sceptre FT15G

ViewSonic Corp., 800-888-8583, 909-869-7976. Winfo #793

Windows Magazine, October 1997, page 169.

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