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Whether you’re a longtime power user or a nimble Mac newbie, you can never have too much screen space. A bigger screen saves you from pulling your hair out as you try to move through your open windows—Leopard’s Spaces can help corral a bunch of windows, but it’s only a partial solution. And what about all those pictures you shot with your camera, the videos you made in iMovie, and the movie you bought from the iTunes Store? They’re all meant to shine on a big screen. It’s time to run free, friend.
We’ll be up front with you. If you’re still working on a standard 15-inch display, it’s time to upgrade. Sure you can go to 17 inches, but to really watch movies as they were intended, go widescreen, where the display is more like a movie-screen orientation than a square, TV-shaped one.
But 17-inch widescreen displays can feel small too. To feel like you’re truly upgrading your screen size, a 19-inch widescreen display floats our boats. Even better, you can easily find a 19-inch widescreen for under $300. To help you choose, we look at six of them here—three with glossy screens and three with matte screens. We put them through the paces in our lab to find out which offers the best performance for your dollar. And if you already have a big display or an iMac, don’t feel left out. Read on, and you might convince yourself to finally set up two displays on your Mac so you can have more room to work
Like matte? You’ll like the VX1940w.
Of the three matte displays in our roundup, the ViewSonic VX1940w came out on top. It had the best image quality of the matte group, though it fell a tad short of being the overall image quality winner out of the six displays. The VX1940w’s color reproduction is smooth and accurate, although when we looked at photos, the skin tones were a little on the red side—but not enough to make our friends and family look like they forgot to put on sunscreen. When it came to gradients in black-and-white photos, it was smooth sailing. We found a little bit of blurring when reading large and small text, but it didn’t fool us into thinking we needed new glasses. We noticed that the brightness was a little uneven around the edges of the display, but this doesn’t hinder the overall performance.
The VX1940w only has tilt adjustments so you can move the screen backward and forward, and unfortunately, adjusting the height means stacking the display on an old encyclopedia you found in the attic (we’re partial to volume M—it seems to be just the right thickness). It’s about 4.5 inches from a desktop to the bottom of the display. The onscreen controls are easy to use, though the seemingly helpful Auto Image Adjust option in the control panel isn’t available when you’re using a DVI connection, because ViewSonic says the display self-adjusts when in digital mode. And if cable mess drives you crazy, then you’ll absolutely love the cable clips on the display’s neck.
We didn’t see any streaking while watching our test DVDs of Transformers and Lawrence of Arabia. We had very infrequent screen stutter while playing first-person shooter games. According to ViewSonic, the VX1940w has a 2-millisecond response time. It’s also the only display in our roundup that had a native 1,680-by-1,050-pixel resolution (the other five are 1,440 by 900 pixels).
Great overall image quality. Easy-to-use onscreen controls. 1,680-by-1,050-pixel native resolution.
Some blurring on small text. Some uneven brightness along
Works fine as a secondary display
Company logos don’t usually influence our ratings (unless the logo plays a major role in the design of a product), and Westinghouse’s outdated logo doesn’t affect this display’s rating. But in one of our testing setups, we connected the L1975NW to an iMac, and Westinghouse’s bubble-serif W logo looked outdated next to the iMac’s black, glossy Apple logo.
The matte L1975NW’s mediocre image quality means we wouldn’t use it as a primary display, but it’s good enough as a second display on an Mac Pro or iMac where you can place palettes for Photoshop or other apps, or even email and iChat windows. Skin tones in the photos we looked at on the display lacked the smoothness and consistency we saw in the VX1940w. Gradients in black-and-white photos had some obvious banding, but business charts and graphs looked nice. Text wasn’t as sharp as we would have liked, but it wasn’t bad to look at, either.
The L1975NW only has tilt adjustments, and the bottom of the screen is about 4 inches from the desktop. Six hidden buttons at the bottom of the display are the controls. One button lets you quickly switch between Picture, Text, and Economy modes, which adjust the brightness and contrast for the appropriate type of screen images.
We were a bit surprised when we watched Lawrence of Arabia and Transformers on the L1975NW. Both movies looked nice in general, and shadow detail was quite good. That darn problem with skin tones appeared again, though. When we played games, we didn’t have any stuttering—a good thing. The L1975NW has a 5-millisecond response time and a 1,440-by-900-pixel native resolution.
The LCD has built-in downward-firing speakers at the bottom. You won’t get good bass response and warmth, but the sound is powerful enough if you’re sitting in front of the display. Unfortunately, there’s no instant access to the display’s volume controls.
Handles movies well. Quick switching of picture modes.
Unimpressive image quality. Text lacks crispness.
If price is all that matters to you, then you’ll be happy with the DYLM1986.
We really, really wanted to like the Soyo DYLM1986, because you can pick it up for well below its list price—we found it online for under $200. But in the end, you’ll make some significant sacrifices to save some money.
The DYLM1986’s image quality finished at the bottom of all the displays. The matte screen looked washed out, colors lacked punch, and the splotchy skin tones in photos disappointed. Black-and-white photos actually looked fine, and we didn’t notice much banding. Text quality also finished last, and DVD playback looked too light. We didn’t notice any screen stutter in our games.
The display has tilt adjustment (forward/backward) only, and the bottom of the screen is about 3.5 inches from the desk. We found the button layout for the controls awkward—we frustratingly kept pushing the power button by mistake, which would shut off the display and reset the controls, forcing us to start all over again.
The side-firing speakers built into the DYLM1986 sound like a cheap AM transistor radio. Turn the volume up to full blast and you’ll get an earful of distortion.
Awkward button placement for controls. Ho-hum image quality.