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ViewSonic VP201b

ViewSonic built its top-of-the-line VP201b LCD for video editors, financial traders, CAD/CAM engineers and also 'power gamers'. Is the VP201b actually worthy of such demanding graphics pros? Its versatile design and useful features suggests that it is, but its image quality, while competent -- especially when it comes to displaying text and video -- isn't as good as it could be.

ViewSonic put a lot of thought into the VP201b's design. The very thin 2cm bezel lets you tile multiple panels together for the wall-of-monitors effect so popular with financiers and others who need a huge viewing area. Two wings protrude from the circular base, making the VP201b extremely stable. Ergonomically, this monitor does it all. The thick, sturdy neck can telescope to bring the bottom of the panel from 4cm to almost 15cm off the desktop; you won't need a riser unless you're extremely tall. The panel swivels about 45 degrees to the left and the right, tilts approximately 10 degrees forward and 20 degrees backward, and pivots easily between Portrait and Landscape modes (ViewSonic includes PerfectPortrait software that orients the image). Finally, the VP201b can be attached to a VESA-compatible wall or arm mount.

The VP201b has one digital and one analogue input on the back panel, and both cables are included -- a generous touch. Nearby, you'll find a USB 2.0 hub with one upstream and four downstream ports (ViewSonic includes one USB cable), which let you more easily hook up peripherals such as mice, joysticks, cameras and scanners. ViewSonic also offers a video-processor/TV-tuner module via its Web site so that you can turn the VP201b, which is HDTV 720p-compatible, into a high-resolution TV.

The on-screen menu (OSM) is easy to navigate, thanks to four unobtrusive buttons along the bottom bezel. All of the basic adjustments are available, and you can go straight to the brightness and contrast settings by pressing one of the two arrow buttons. Usefully, the OSM has a memory; when you call it up, it goes to whichever menu setting you left it on.

The VP201b's image quality is good overall, although it doesn't quite measure up to the calibre of ViewSonic's intended user. Our test yielded nice, sharp text and high contrast, and we liked the fact that tweaking the brightness and contrast levels actually resulted in pronounced differences in the picture. Video also looked very good, with less ghosting and streaking than you'll see with most LCDs. On the downside, the VP201b didn't do a very good job on our greyscale and colour test screens. Lighter greys had a slightly beige-and-pink tint, while dark greys showed hints of green. For day-to-day productivity tasks, the colours will be fine, but video editors and graphics professinals may have some issues.

ViewSonic backs the VP201b with a standard three-year warranty on parts, labour, and the backlight. Telephone support is available via an 0800 number, and the company's Web site offers drivers, FAQs, documentation, white papers and an online calibration tool.

            

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