Up to recently the top 19" model from NEC/Mitsubishi Electric Visual Systems used to be NEC 1980SXi that combined maximum constructive and visual achievements from NEC and its partner — panel manufacturer LG.Philips (NEC manufactures only small quantities of panels). But a new model has appeared at the end of the 1960/1980 life cycle, which we shall review today — 1980FXi.
The test consists of three parts:
Rumours confirmed: "F" really means "Financial". This model was designed specially for financial institutions as a cluster (multi-monitor) solution: exchange quotation displays, halls for dealers in banks, etc.
What's so specific about financial institutions that the Japanese decided to optimize their monitors? First of all, compact elements are important for video walls. So FXi got a record-breakingly narrow frame — 10mm at the sides and 11-12mm top/bottom. Secondly, high response times of a panel (quotations are usually displayed in creeping lines, which must be absolutely readable). While the 1980SXi had one of the best response time, the FXi panel has become faster — just 18ms (according to ISO). Thirdly, maximal angles of view (that was easy to do because middle and high end NEC monitors traditionally use S-IPS panels). The 1980FXi offers 89° to the normal along any axis with the guaranteed contrast drop 10:1 and higher. And the maximum brightness and contrast in the specifications is 270cd/m2 and 600:1 correspondingly.
This monitor inherited from the 1980SXi its construction that allows to tilt or rotate the display in any direction, including pivoting. Only the stand depth is different.
Fortunately, our current reference is the NEC 2070NX of the new generation. We shall compare all their aspects, disregarding their different exteriors.
We have already got used to the new corporate design of NEC monitors during our previous reviews (in fact, it has nothing to do with the old one) — certainly more ergonomic. But unlike the 70 series (1970, 2070), the 1980FXi keeps the old traditions: the row of round buttons, the complex menu, and the lack of integrated USB-hub (why would a video wall need a hub?). But on the other hand, unlike the 70 series, there is no problem to mount the 1980 vertically into a wall. Its support for long cables (with loss compensations) will come in handy as well.
NEC still doesn't save on materials and assemblage quality — excellent grey-white plastic, accurate menu keys, no backlash in the complex mount of the panel. Many users ask a question: why should we pay extra XXX dollars, compared to the available Chinese products at lower prices? One of the answers is for tactile and visual enjoyment.
The manufacturer claims the following parameters:
Note that the bundle includes two power cords (for Euro and for regular sockets).
Operating system: Windows XP Professional. The computer is based on Intel P4 2.4 MHz CPU, 512 MB of RAM, Adaptec SCSI-160 dual-channel controller with SCSI DVD-ROM Pioneer and 18 GB 10kRPM hard disks. Video card: NVIDIA Geforce4 Ti-4400 with DVI and TV-IN. Audio: Microsoft Digital Sound System 80 (2.1) connected to Creative SB Live! 1024.
Calibrated 19" NEC MultiSync FP950 CRT monitor is installed next to the monitor under review to compare color rendition and response times. We also used the NEC 2070NX as a reference LCD.
As usual, the monitor is installed as a regular "wheelhorse" and tested in usual applications.
A usual modest yellow-grey box of small dimensions. But it still contains a monitor itself (without removable stands), four thick cables, a pack of documentation and CD, and a cover for the rear panel to conceal wiring.
The front panel houses eight buttons:
A dull green indicator is located to the left of the power button, an illumination sensor is to the right. Yes, the 1980FXi is equipped with an automatic brightness control system! But it won't help you make out gray button inscriptions against the grayish white plastic. They must have used the black paint instead.
The menu differs little from the 1980SXi — even the color rendition settings are the same: R-G-B plus Y-C-M and Saturation. The monitor houses a 10-bit LUT, which contributes to precise color rendition of the entire hue luminance range.
The 2070 menu is much more convenient than that in the 1980! While changing some standard parameter in the 1980 required 4-6 key presses, no more than two key presses will be necessary in the 2070, the lion's share falls to natural joystick manipulations. Brilliant!
Looking at the display
As the reference 2070NX is equipped with S-IPS panel, we expected absolutely no differences. We couldn't make a bigger mistake! There is S-IPS and S-IPS! We have noticed with the naked eye that the 1980FXi is much brighter and renders colors differently.
What's so striking? Firstly, having installed a white background on both monitors, we saw that it's much whiter and brighter in the 1980. Compared to this performance, the white color on the 2070 looked dingy. Just imagine that the difference in specifications is not that large.
Secondly, gray colors on our test background with an auto in a dark alley have a definite blue-green hue on the 1980FXi! The 1980 temperature was set to sRGB/6500 and the corresponding color profile was used in Windows. For conscience' sake we swapped cables between the 2070 and the 1980 - nothing changed. The above mentioned problem is easily noticeable in real tasks by the greenish hue of the gray color in standard menus and windows under Windows.
Dragging windows fast proved that the 1980 is no slower than the 2070. As you might remember, the 2070 is equipped with the fastest production-line panel - S-IPS 16ms (LG.Philips LM201U04)!
In our LCD HTML test with factory defaults for brightness and contrast (100 and 50%), we can distinguish halftones from 7.7.7 and higher and from 251.251.251 and lower. The result is lousy, especially considering the 10-bit LUT. That's why we started Photoshop, created a 1000x1000 image, divided it in two parts, and filled them with neighboring tints. We found out that 255.255.255 is visually different from 254.254.254, 254.254.254 from 253.253.253, while 1.1.1 is no different from 0.0.0 up to 4.4.4. So the small squares are not always illustrative.
Besides, we found slight flares on the black background, which... could be shepherded with a finger. It sounds funny and very untypical of IPS, but indeed: if you poke your finger into the center of the flare, it splits into two flares — to the left and to the right of your finger. That may be external film specifics of the LCD module, which is not absolutely flat and its irregularities "catch" parasitic flares from side lamps.
That's not all yet — the 1980FXi has another strange effect — hues on a uniform background change slightly from left to right. For example, from whitish-pink to white. This effect is not pronounced, but you can still notice it in daytime or in the evening. Other users also noticed it. Is it a feature or a bug? We'll try to find out...
But the light sensor works fine — though sluggish (obviously to buffer possible rapid but strong illumination changes), it controls brightness correctly. The contrast remains the same.
Unfortunately, rich features of the 1980FXi are not used completely in the new NaviSet. It offers only basic settings. For example, there is no option to save/load settings into/from a file (however, three years ago Japanese engineers informed me that the program had been developed by a third party and its further development is problematic).
If there is an absolutely identical aspect in the 1980FXi and the 2070NX, it's their feel during routine work with documents. Both monitors display well scrolling text (it's hard to imagine other panels doing that), leave no trails after dragged dialog windows (for example, the search window), and don't tire your eyes, if you have chosen correct brightness. But the last issue is hardly up to the 1980 sensor. In return, pixels in the 2070 are smaller and texts are not pixelated.
But the 1980 leads even here — its display can be rotated 90° to be able to work with a full A4 page. But 2070 users gain only some horizontal space due to higher resolution.
Unlike the 2070, we found out that LC cells in the 1980 are inert, so that halos from contrasty elements still remain for some time after a static picture is displayed on screen for a long time.
Remember what we said about creeping lines with quotations? We created a short HTML file to test creeping lines (note that the animation is created using the MARQUEE tag, which may not be supported by some browsers, different from Microsoft Explorer 3.0+). The 1980FXi displays readable text in all three lines (moving at different speeds).
We shall use DVD movies to evaluate the display:
We use NVIDIA PowerDVD 6 in full screen mode to watch DVDs.
Parity again — both monitors display movies of an excellent quality (including HDTV) and render noticeable artifacts of a low-quality DVD.
Results of this test are absolutely usual for S-IPS panels: buy high-quality video copies not to be sorry afterwards!
We traditionally use Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Episode 2 (outdoor scenes and small closed spaces), for the gaming test. All video settings - to maximum.
After long hardware tests, I decided to take a break and to shoot some Fritz. 20 minutes after, it dawned on me that I played with the test 1980FXi instead of the naturally fast 2070. The new 19" model is really very fast, though we didn't trust the 18ms in the specifications. I noticed no significant blurring or sharpness losses, when RCW changed scenes. It was like the 2070 (we immediately tested it with an NVIDIA video card in Clone mode)!
Let's be frank to avoid accusations of being maximalists: playing games on CRT monitors is still more pleasant. But the 1980 offers a level bordering on this maximalism. It is certainly not required by all users.
So we can safely recommend the 1980 monitor for gaming (and for any applications with rapidly changing images). Unlike the 1970GX, it's a real champion, even if not brilliant (literally) in exterior.
The 1980FXi is definitely good. In all aspects, except for the strange color rendition, which is not flawless.
In order to understand the difference in figures and draw a line between the 1980FXi and the 2070NX, we must carry out a complete cycle of hardware tests.
Matrix response evaluation
* — factory defaults.
Panel gradually accelerated in on mode, when we tested it in the 0-100-0 brightness mode (that's why we published two values — at the beginning of the test and at the end). But this behavior was not reflected in other modes.
We didn't measure response times at increased contrast, because even 51% result in the loss of light halftones. So we are not interested in peak results because of the low image quality, as in the classic case of TN+film panels.
It should be noted that the 1980FXi is still slower than the 2070NX. It's outperformed by up to 2ms per cycle or by up to 5ms per a complete operation. There! We couldn't notice that by eye! But the FXi model outscores much the 1980SXi — from 3 to 9ms!
Color rendering evaluation
We calibrate the Pantone colorimeter and measure color rendering for the following brightness and contrast settings:
Maximum white luminance is lower than the certified value by 50cd, but it's practically identical to that in the 1980SXi. At the same time it exceeds the reference 2070NX by the same 50cd (if you remember, we praised the 1980 for its bright white background). What concerns black luminance, it amounts to 0.66 cd - a very good result for S-IPS (the 2070 had 1.05 and the 1980SXi — 1.22!). If you divide the former by the latter, you will get the contrast ratio of 334:1. It's also a very good result for S-IPS, even compared to other NEC monitors. Of course, it's way below the PVA records, but financial institutions don't need them.
We calibrated the monitor to solve the problem with the green hue of the gray color, but the calibrator seemed to overdo it or its symbiosis with a video card failed — the blue color is obviously too bright in the recommended profile. If properly adjusted, the 1980FXi will offer nearly model color rendition, except for the excessive blue channel in dark halftones.
And in conclusion, let's check the temperature in the grayscale control points (the monitor is set to 6500K):
Oops — the temperature is noticeably below the specified 6500K. It's uniform along the entire scale! Will a calibrator help? Yes, it helped. We are researching the reasons of this behavior. If we have new information, we shall update this review (according to the manufacturer, this problem is specific to the sample we tested).
The 1980FXi produces a nice impression so far. But a number of drawbacks we found restrain our optimism.
The 1980SXi replacement is very likely a success. But we'd like something better...
Alexander Maltsev aka AMP (firstname.lastname@example.org)
July 27, 2005.
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