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Hercules Prophetview 720 LCD Monitor Review

June 7, 2002



Hercules... This company needs no introduction for those who know the history of video adapters and monitors! If you remember, in 1982 nobody spoke yet about SuperVGA, millions of colors or millions of pixels on a screen. IBM offered two video adapters for its first PCs: MDA working with a monochrome direct-control monitor with a high resolution, and CGA used with color RGB or composite monitors (as well as with TVs). MDA, however, didn't enable capabilities of a monitor completely, and it supported only the text mode (by the way, only one page could be supported, contrary to later appeared video adapters). At first glance, the CGA looked better as it supported color text and even graphics, but image quality (in particular, text quality) was too low because of low resolution of monitors. And it was time when the HGC (Hercules Graphic Card) was born: an adapter completely compatible with the MDA, working with the same monitor but supporting several text pages of high quality and a graphics mode of 720x348 pixels. And although the graphics was monochrome, such resolution appeared only in first video adapters like SuperEGA and VGA. Only in 1984 IBM made an adequate response: it released EGA able to work with three types of monitors: monochrome, color and improved color. However, the latter was too expensive, the second had text quality still too low even with the EGA, and the HGC handled the monochrome monitor better. In 1986 we got HGC+ which, like the EGA, had a rebootable decoder which solved the problem of non-Engish letters. And in 1987 Hercules released HICC (Hercules InColor Card) as a competitor for VGA: 720x348 with EGA capabilities - 16 colors of the 64-color palette. This video adapter required a special monitor (though it could work with a monochrome one, thus, emulating HGC+), but this wasn't a problem as almost all multi-frequency monitors supported it (which at first couldn't work with VGA). Well, 256 and color MCGA/VGA 320x200 modes were better for games, but for business graphics 720x348x16 wasn't worse than 640x480x16 of the VGA, and the text mode of Hercules didn't yield to text modes of the VGA (which was much dearer at first), and bested EGA. The company retained a good share of the market. And even victory of the SuperVGA, as far as software support is concerned, wasn't able to bury the good old HGC. The fact is that for a long time the only way to use two monitors (and this is the only way now in DOS) was installation of two video adapters: one with a color monitor and the other with a monochrome one. Although it was impossible to use two EGAs or VGA and EGA, EGA/VGA/SVGA and Hercules matched well. And such mode was supported by a lot of programs, for example, Lotus 1-2-3 which could show a table on one monitor and plot diagrams on the other. Besides, it was impossible to program under the Windows without the second monitor - the first versions of the CodeView debugger couldn't work in a one-monitor configuration. That is why the HGC (and its successors) was the most long-living video adapter because it was in demand even in 1997-98, which means 15 years. There are not many computer pieces that lived so long (only a floppy drive :)).

However, Hercules was still popular afterwards, as a manufacturer of video cards (though based not on its own chipsets). Then came some problems, sale of Guillemot and... The old trademark began to shine with new colors: Guillemot doesn't employ dull guys, that is why the Hercules trademark wasn't used only for video adapters. They also produce quite good sound cards. And now we have one more Guillemot's product marked as Hercules in our lab, and this time it is very close to the original company's field: today we will study an LCD monitor named Hercules Prophetview 720.

What is this monitor interesting for? Because of a small number of companies producing matrices and electronic devices, they struggle not for technical characteristics but for design features. As a result, there are expensive stylish models which, however, lack for advanced characteristics. A year or two ago almost any LCD monitor could be included in this class, but today the prices are so low that even 17" samples are affordable for an average user. That is why to impress anybody who can see your work place, the designers must work hard. A monitor must prove itself without your help...

Technical characteristics

However, its characteristics are also important, because you look at it much more often than you show it to others. Let's see what we have in the Hercules Prophetview 720:

  • Matrix with two backlights
  • Viewing angle: 140° (H), 110° (V)
  • Brightness: 230 Cd/m2
  • Contrast: 300:1
  • 16M colors
  • Response time: less than 30 ms
  • Refresh rate: up to 75 Hz

The characteristics are very similar to the latest Samsung's matrices, except the response time which is usually 25 ms. The impressions coincide with the specs: this monitor is equivalent to Samsung, Hansol and others of this kind in case of static or low-dynamic images. As for 3D games, here images are blurrier when they jerk. But the difference is not great. You can play even on old-generation matrices if you want just to have a good time without squeezing out the maximum FPS. Besides, 30 ms is still much better than 50 ms on one-year old matrices.

The same concerns the electronic stuffing: all monitors of this class have the same adjustment parameters, the same autotuning etc.

That is why this is a classic 15" model working at an average level.

In the box

The monitor and accessories are packed in a bright box to attract attention, which differs much from calm colors of its competitors. The monitor comes with a detailed guide and a CD with drivers and software. The test program included can test the monitor for "dead pixels", check color transfer and estimate the monitor in dynamic images. It is interesting that the CD is put into a usual box instead of a paper one.

Besides, there is a power unit (external) with a cable. The VGA cable is soldered to the monitor.

Design

This is the lightest model we have ever tested before - 3.5 kg. When packed, it weighs only 4.5 kg, which is a pure weight of most competitors. Let's see whether it is not less strong. They replaced plastic with iron. On one hand, iron is heavier than plastic, but on the other it is stronger, that is why the case is much thinner. Besides, it provides additional screening :)

The material also influenced the stand, which now takes much less space. Besides, the basic part is smaller: 375x285x20 mm. The monitor looks the most impressive in front and from its side:

The control buttons are also metallic. They are all equally big and placed along the screen. Their functions are standard, as well as the screen menu: the same capabilities and the same control logic.

The only drawback is that the buttons look identical: you can easily mix them up in the dark. Besides, one might prefer words to symbols. However, you can quickly get used to it.

There is one more drawback of this construction which is typical of all thin monitors: a power unit connector is located below. But it isn't very important as you affix it just once; besides quite often it is more difficult to attach an interface cable which, in this case, is soldered to the monitor. Note that the power unit has a non-standard connector and, therefore, a non-standard network cable. And there are no cables on the market which can connect this monitor to a UPS.

However, similar disadvantages are also often typical of other, even more expensive, models which have worse design.

The "worst" downside of such design is that everything at your workplace must match it. It doesn't produce an effect when next to a dirty gray system unit and alike. That is why you have to take care of its environment.

Summary

This is an average monitor as far as technical data are concerned with an impressive design. There is nothing surprising because it's impossible to fight in the 15.1" LCD field from the technical viewpoint. All such models consist of the same components. That is why the companies have to attract attention by other means, for example, producing models for a certain group of users. Who is the Hercules Prophetview 720 for? It is for those who want to come forth, be it's their hearts' desire or work necessity :) So, if you need a non-standard interior for your home or office, this model is a good choice. And the comparable characteristics won't make you sacrifice convenient handling in order to attract someone's attention.

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