Thursday, July 06, 2006

Review: My Dell LCD UltraSharp Monitor

Until today, I used a CRT. What can I say? I'm cheap. Problem is the desk it sat on was small, and the display was too close for my inelastic lenses. I had trouble focusing, even though I use a similar CRT at work. The vision problem, a desire for more desk space, a $100 discount (usual periodic Dell sale) and free shipping (Dell small business account) pushed me over the edge. I also knew that I'd want an external monitor for my MacBook, so I might as well get a good one now. (I'm waiting for either my iBook to die or for MacBook rev 2 to come out.)

I bought the UltraSharp 2007FPW 20.1-inch Widescreen Flat Panel LCD Monitor with Height Adjustable Stand and 3-Year Warranty

I carefully removed my Samsung 17" CRT and lovingly laid it on a comfortable chair. As I turned away it gracefully leaned forward. I almost caught it. The thunderous crash did not obscure my oath. The Samsung had chosen an honorable death over exile to the attic. There was no going back.

A few comments:
  • I come from the days of nonstandard interfaces, of scan rates and Mhz mismatch. I never expected that my 4 year old Intel integrated video would drive this at its full 1680x1050 resolution -- but it did. It even supports rotating for a large portrait view.
  • I plugged it directly into my running PC -- it couldn't manage the input. I restarted, all was well. I easily adjusted to full resolution. Moral -- turn off the PC first. Again, better than expected. Progress, I must ruefully admit, has occurred.
  • It has 4 powered USB 2.0 ports and it comes with a 2.0 cable. Nice.
  • It comes with a VGA and DVI cable. Nice.
  • It has S-Video and Composite video inputs -- so you can use it as a display for your home theater if you'd like.
  • It's has a 1.6 aspect radio (16:10), which is DVD/Movie (16:9) like. Compared to a traditional TV like 12:9 aspect ratio it feels a bit squashed for its width. Note that lower end digital cameras are 12:9 ratio and fit perfectly on an older monitor. On the other hand my dSLR outputs 15:10 and does well on this display. It's the same aspect ratio and size as my 20" iMac display.
  • The default brightness is very, very bright. I turned it down to about 20%.
  • You can buy a speaker system, the Dell soundbar, that fits below the monitor. The monitor has a power out for the speakers.
  • The stand seems quite excellent.
  • Unlike a CRT, which would flicker terribly at 60 Hz vertical frequency, this display does fine.
  • The display is sold at 3 price points for a 3 year warranty, a 4 year warranty and a 5 year warranty. Will Dell still be around in 5 years? Probably, but 3 years plus the 1 year extended AMEX gives me is pretty long.
  • The documentation is HTML based and it's a bit of pain to copy to one's hard drive -- where I keep such things. No problem for a geek, but it would defeat many others.
  • I hesitate to say this, but so far I've really no complaints. That's rather odd for me. I'm sure I'll think of something.
Update 7/6/06: That didn't take long. I noticed the monitor had no color profile associated with it. I dug through the documentation and tried Dell's support site, but there was nothing there. I then browsed the CD and found a readme.txt file in the root. It said:
This 2007WFP.INF file is a digitally signed driver that supports the
following Dell monitor in Microsoft(R) Windows(R) XP and x64 operating systems ...
So I followed the readme directions and ... nothing happened. XP was ignoring the INF file. I did see 2007WFP.icm in the same directory; ICM is Microsoft's extension for color profile specification files. I manually assigned this color profile to the display. Dell gets a few dings for lousy documentation, lousy web site support files, and a .INF file that doesn't do anything. Ahh. I feel better now ... A Google search on 2007WFP.icm turned up nothing. Well, it's online now ...

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