23-Inch LCDs

If you use a small display, you know that switching between multiple applications and documents can turn into a sport that combines juggling with hide-and-seek. You bring your browser window to the front, search for a spreadsheet beneath three layers of Word documents, and keep other windows minimized in the Dock. Panther’s Exposé utility is helpful in sifting through your many windows, but there’s nothing like a little more room to help you get things done.

Luckily, the prices of large LCDs have come down considerably since Apple introduced its first 23-inch Cinema Display, at a whopping $3,500, back in March 2002. We put five new large digital LCDs to the test—the Apple 23-inch Cinema HD Display, the BenQ FP231W, the Hewlett-Packard L2335, the Samsung SyncMaster 243T, and the Sony PremierPro 23-inch.

We found that the HP L2335 had the best mix of features, performance, and price. And in some displays, we found color problems that could prompt picky professionals to inquire about their resellers’ return policies.

A Big Display

All but the 24-inch Samsung display have a diagonal measurement of 23 inches, and each of the displays has a native resolution of 1,920 by 1,200 pixels—that’s enough to watch wide-screen, high-definition video at full size.

The HP and Samsung displays have the ability to pivot from a standard landscape mode into portrait mode, but you’ll need a compatible ATI graphics card, such as the Radeon 9200 or 9800 Pro, if you want to use this feature in OS X. The only displays that let you adjust their height are the HP and the BenQ. It’s too bad that more of the displays don’t have this feature. It’s a shame to place a stylish monitor on top of an ugly riser to have it positioned at a comfortable level.

All the displays use standard digital (DVI) connectors, and all but the Apple also offer an analog (VGA) connector, which lets you easily share the display between two computers and makes the display compatible with older computers. Like Apple’s monitors that have the discontinued, proprietary display connector (ADC), the company’s latest displays have just one cable coming out of their backs. However, this cable now branches off into several different cables that connect to the DVI, USB, and FireWire 400 ports on a Mac, as well as to an external power brick. The Apple display itself has two USB 2.0 and two FireWire 400 ports on its back, for connecting drives, cameras, keyboards, and other peripherals. The only other monitor that features a way to connect peripheral devices is the BenQ, which has four USB 2.0 ports, including one on top of the display for connecting a Web cam. Only the BenQ and HP displays include S-Video and composite video ports for connecting DV camcorders, still cameras, DVD players, or video-game consoles directly to the monitors—a nice feature for displays of this size.

Specifications

Size* Resolution^ Connections
Apple 23-inch Cinema HD Display 23 inches 1,920-by-1,200 DVI
BenQ FP231W 23 inches 1,920-by-1,200 DVI, VGA, composite, S-Video
Hewlett-Packard L2335 23 inches 1,920-by-1,200 DVI, VGA, composite, S-Video
Samsung SyncMaster 243T 24 inchs 1,920-by-1,200 DVI, VGA
Sony PremierPro 23-inch 23 inches 1,920-by-1,200 DVI, 2 VGA connections

Editors’ Choice in bold. *Size of screen, measured diagonally. ^Display resolution measured in pixels.

Performance

To test these displays, we connected each one to a Power Mac equipped with an ATI Radeon graphics card. First, we used a GretagMacbeth Eye-One to color-calibrate each monitor to a medium-range color temperature of 6500K (Kelvin) and the Mac’s standard gamma of 1.8. Then we looked at a variety of documents on screen to see how well the displays were able to reproduce accurate color and legible text.

Our jury of Macworld editors rated each display on several criteria. In many ways, the performance of these displays was similar. A minority of jurors rated the Samsung’s text quality as Excellent, possibly because its extra inch of diagonal screen space gives the pixels a little more elbowroom, making text appear a little bit larger. But the jury’s consensus was that the text quality of all the displays deserved a rating of Very Good; they fell short of an Excellent rating due to slight fuzziness in fonts at very small point sizes.

Macworld Lab Test

Text Color Viewing angle
Apple 23-inch Cinema HD Display Very Good Very Good Good
BenQ FP231W Very Good Very Good Very Good
Hewlett-Packard L2335 Very Good Very Good Very Good
Samsung SyncMaster 243T Very Good Good Very Good
Sony PremierPro 23-inch Very Good Very Good Very Good

Scale = Excellent, Very Good, Good, Flawed, Unacceptable

Editors’ choice in bold. All displays were connected digitally (via DVI) to a dual-1GHz Power Mac G4 running OS X 10.3.6. and with 512 MB of RAM and an ATI Radeon graphics card installed. We assembled a panel of Macworld editors to judge each display using a variety of test images in Adobe Photoshop CS and Microsoft Word.—Macworld Lab testing by James Galbraith

We saw color casts in the BenQ and Apple displays when we first set them up (the BenQ’s was greenish; the Apple’s was pinkish), but once they were calibrated, the jury—using standard Macworld test files including color charts, gray-scale photos, and a variety of elements—gave both displays Very Good color ratings. All the displays benefited from calibration, and all but the Samsung earned the same Very Good score.The Samsung display’s colors were less saturated than those of the other displays. The colors were also a touch on the blue side and slightly washed out.

The viewing-angle tests were the most interesting of all our tests; results were very different from those of viewing-angle tests on other LCDs. The jury looked at a screen that showed a variety of test images (solid colors, photographs, and a light-gray background) and rated each LCD based on its ability to display consistent color from different angles. All but the Apple received a score of Very Good, and the HP exhibited the most-consistent color and lost the least amount of contrast when we moved to the left and right while looking at the screen. The grays on the Apple and BenQ displays had a pronounced green cast when we moved to the left or the right of center. The Apple display also showed problems with screen uniformity—even when sitting directly in front of the display, we noticed that the edges showed slightly different colors than the center of the display. At Macworld , we own several of these monitors, and we found the same problem on two other 23-inch Cinema HD Displays that had different graphics cards and were connected to different Macs.

After we reported these issues to Apple, the company sent us a second unit that didn’t have the original pink color cast, but the colors in the edges of the display were still a bit darker than the colors in the center. If you plan to buy one of these monitors for general use, then you may not be concerned with the problems we found. In fact, you may not even notice them: the users of our own Apple displays were surprised when we changed their desktop patterns to a medium gray and showed them what we’d seen. However, if you plan to use an Apple display for color correction, you should be aware of these color-consistency problems.

Macworld’s Buying Advice

The HP L2335 is our Editors’ Choice for its very good performance in our tests, as well as for its outstanding value, at $400 less than the Samsung SyncMaster 243T and the Sony Premier Pro 23-inch. The HP offers both analog and digital connectors, video inputs, and the ability to pivot into portrait mode. Were it not for the BenQ’s out-of-the-box color problems, its additional video inputs and low price would’ve put it higher up on our list.

Editors’ Choice: Hewlett-Packard L2335

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