It Bends, It Flips: It’s a Monitor

LCD monitors are fast becoming a commodity item, and as prices drop, 17-inch flat panels becomes the new 15 inch, and 19 inches the new 17. However, you can still find products that differentiate themselves with innovative features and superior performance.

LG Electronics claims its 19-inch Flatron L1980Q fits in this category. The L1980Q is an elegant-looking monitor with interesting new features &#151 notably a stand that lets you tip the screen back so someone sitting in front of you can view it more easily &#151 and generally good performance. The performance is remarkable in only one area, though, and you’ll pay a significant premium for the monitor’s innovations.

Their strongest claim to the L1980Q’s performance superiority is its eight-millisecond response time &#151 the time it takes for a pixel to change colors. The faster pixels can change, the less ghosting or streaking you’ll see in moving or changing images. This is important for gaming &#151 not a very compelling advantage for business users &#151 but also for viewing video and animation, which could be crucial if you’re using the monitor for customer presentations.

We tested the monitor by watching part of a DVD movie. Unlike some LCDs we’ve tried, there was no ghosting or streaking.

Technically Speaking
Not all the technical specifications are best of breed, however. Dot pitch &#151 the distance between one red, green or blue pixel and the next nearest of the same color &#151 is a mediocre 0.294 millimeters (mm). On LCD monitors, dot pitch typically ranges between .16 and .29mm &#151 the smaller the dot pitch, the crisper the image.

Other specs that contribute to overall picture quality include contrast ratio and brightness rating, but the 1980Q’s middle-of-the-road numbers (500:1 and 250 cd/m2 respectively, fail to impress.

The monitor supports a maximum resolution of 1280 x 1024 at a refresh rate of 75Hz. The recommended resolution is 1280 x 1024 at a lesser 60Hz. To our eye, despite the dot pitch, the higher refresh rate help deliver a crisp and rock solid image. It’s a fairly standard spec for current 17- and 19-inch LCDs, though.

LG claims that its proprietary f-ENGINE chip enhances brightness and color independently of each other. We thought the image looked pretty good, but the image didn’t look that much better than the 19-inch Dell 1905FP LCD we had on hand.

An LCD Contortionist
The monitor’s main distinguishing characteristic is the way it bends over backwards to make itself easy to view &#151 literally. Where most LCD monitors tilt a few degrees on their bases to make it easy for you to get an optimum viewing angle, this monitor tilts back over 150 degrees, making it possible to flip the monitor over so somebody sitting on the opposite side of your desk can see the screen.

Now, not every small business owner needs this kind of feature, but if you have customers on the other side of the desk and want to show them a Web-based demonstration, simply tip the screen over so they can see. Ditto if you need to show a customer their account information, or you want to save your boss the trouble of getting up and walking around the desk to show him work in progress.

This feature wouldn’t be terribly useful if the image remained upside down, but the monitor ships with ForteManager software that includes an automatic screen reconfiguration feature. With the feature turned on, the software automatically flips the image so that it’s right side up when you tilt the screen back for the person on the other side of the desk.

The LG Flatron 1980Q

Flipped Out &#151 The flexible LG Flatron 1980Q can bend over backwards, so you can share the view with customers.

The tilt feature could be useful in one other way. You can pivot the screen back so it’s more or less parallel to the table surface. If you’re in a meeting and have a few people around a table, they could all view a presentation, engineering drawing or spreadsheet by standing and looking look down on the monitor.

The monitor can also swivel on its base from standard landscape to portrait mode, and the ForteManager’s automatic pivot features work here as well, changing the orientation of the image automatically when you swivel. Switching to portrait mode is handy when you’re editing a word processing document, for example, or surfing the Web. You won’t have to scroll up and down as much because more of the page will be visible on the screen.

Most of the best features and characteristics of the Q series monitors, in fact, relate to their physical form. They are also about 0.8 inches at the edge &#151 the thinnest in the world according to LG. Most of the back is flat, except for a circular protuberance in the middle.

By way of comparison the Dell 1905FP is well over two-inches thick, except at the very edge where it’s slightly less than 1.5 inches. The L1980Q’s slender figure isn’t terribly important on its own, but it contributes to a svelte and elegant appearance, which could be important if you’re going to use the monitor for customer presentations.

The one thing we don’t like about the L1980Q’s physical form is the vertical arm on which the monitor sits. It tilts, providing much of the monitor’s flexibility, but it’s too short. We’re referring to the integrated desktop stand &#151 the unit also comes with a wall-mounting bracket.

With the vertical arm at its highest angle, the bottom edge of the monitor is only about two inches off the table surface. To get anything close to an optimal ergonomic configuration, you need to tilt the screen well back, and you’re still left bending your neck to look down at the screen.

The Dell 1905FP monitor has a vertical post that telescopes so that the bottom edge of the screen can be anywhere from a just under three inches to 8.5 inches above the table surface. You can extend it high enough so that you can hold your head erect when looking square at the screen &#151 which will save a lot of neck aches.

The monitor is fairly easy to set up and use. The ForteManager software includes a Windows interface that lets you adjust monitor settings such as brightness, contrast, color temperature, etc. This is a good thing because the hardware controls &#151 touch sensitive nubbins on the bottom rear surface of the monitor &#151 are neither very convenient nor user friendly. You have to reach under in an awkward way to get at them.

The documentation, in poorly translated English, is barely acceptable. One online PDF document with instructions on how to install the hardware drivers for the monitor has duplicate pages and requires you to hit the Previous button to get to the Next page, which caused some confusion at first. Some instructions at the end were missing entirely.

Bottom Line
We were impressed with this monitor, but more for its configuration flexibility than its performance. It’s ideal if you’re looking for a monitor to use for customer presentations. That said, you’d pay a hefty premium for its features. The 19-incher sells for $708, the 17-inch model for $535. compare that to the 19-inch Dell 1905FP, an excellent monitor with 0.294 mm dot pitch and a contrast ratio of 800:1, sells for just $425.

Based in London, Canada, Gerry Blackwell has been writing about information technology and telecommunications for a variety of print and online publications since the 1980s. Just for fun, he also authors features and columns on digital photography for Here’s How, a spiffy new Canadian consumer technology magazine.

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