We buried the segment of 19" monitors long ago — their prices are dropping, quality is deteriorating, the new products offer no innovations... it's boring and hopeless. Perhaps, the expensive new product from NEC will change the situation.
The test consists of three parts:
The 1990SXi opens a new page in NEC's design of 19" monitors. Although we expected to see the recently introduced interface with a joystick (in our opinion, it's an ergonomic masterpiece), the Japanese thought better of it and... invented a totally unusual [for NEC] layout with buttons in corners.
Moreover, it features a new stand — now the monitor rests on three feet, and its bracket is not in the center (like in ViewSonic models), but on the edge. A similar design is used in the other model — 2090UXi (it will be reviewed in a separate article - we've been using it for two months already).
The monitor inherited from its predecessor (1980SXi) a wide height adjustment range, tilt, and pivot. But as usual, these transformations result in backlash — if you bang your fist on the table, the monitor shakes noticeably. On the other hand, if you want to bang your fist on something, you can do it to the wall.
The monitor offers not only standard D-Sub and DVI, but also the second DVI-I port and a power connector for the proprietary soundbar — hanging speakers.
The 1990SXi can be mounted in a video wall matrix, so it has a very thin frame (running a few steps forward, it offers lots of configuration options in the extended menu). It's very easy to remove the display — you don't need a screwdriver or pliers. Just move the black metal lever under the bracket towards the display and swing the display up. That's all.
Manufacturer published the following specifications:
Let's compare it with the previous model at first — 1980SXi: peak brightness is the same, but contrast has grown by 100 units, angles of view have grown to 100% (2% are missed because of the frame depth) and the protective coating on the panel; it's less wide now and the height adjustment range has been enlarged. But the stand depth has been increased as well. Even though there is no USB hub, power consumption has grown noticeably (on the other hand, it's lower than in a weak 60W lamp).
Response time got noticeably shorter, mostly due to the fashionable overdrive function (in NEC terms: Rapid Response). By the way, the official web site does not publish the response time in overdrive mode (you have to enable it in the extended menu, as mentioned in the appendix of the electronic user manual).
The monitor is equipped with AmbiLight (dynamic adjustment of backlight brightness), which uses a light sensor to the left of the power button.
A convenient handle in the upper part of the display is probably intended to make up for greater weight. But the 1990SXi will hardly be used as part of the portable computer system.
OS: Windows2000 Server. Intel P4 3.0GHz CPU, 1GB of memory, ATI X1800 video card with two DVIs from PowerColor. Audio: Microsoft Digital Sound System 80 (2.1) connected to Creative SB Live! 1024.
As usual, the monitor is installed as a regular "wheelhorse" and tested in usual applications.
As in case with our reference monitor 2090UXi, the menu consists of seven buttons, two of them are navigational two-way buttons (in corresponding axes).
Elegant-looking thin buttons are placed on the right side of the front panel:
Nothing fancy. But a joystick (in other NEC models) is certainly more convenient.
Looking at the display
If we were pressed for time, we could start with the phrase "the picture is perfect" and call it a day But we'd like to emphasize that NEC miraculously manages to calibrate color rendition of its monitors. The 1990SXi is not an exception — our default background with a car and photos from family albums — we have no gripes with any of them. It's just like not being amazed at the crystal clear air on the fifth day of your vacations in mountains. That's how it should be.
But it won't be fair not to scold our sample for two light spots at the upper frame. If you press the display, these spots grow dark and almost disappear. A conclusion suggests itself that the module is not secured well enough in the LG.Philips factory. Nevertheless, the spots may disappear - (one light spot got much less bright on the third day of tests, the second spot almost disappeared). In other respects the bleeding is significant, the black is fairly dark (for a S-IPS panel, of course, they have never broken any records here).
Now what concerns overdrive. When disabled (it's disabled by default), a mouse cursor leaves a noticeable light trail. Overdrive makes the trail several times shorter, but we cannot say that its sharpness remains the same. We don't expect the speed of 70GX2 with its 4ms TN+film panel — the 1990SXi is designed for absolutely different applications.
Are there noticeable overdrive effects? If you want to find them, you will. At least if you drag a grey window on the light grey background fast, you'll see a short white shadow after the black border. If you drag a window very fast, you won't notice the bug. If it's done slowly, the panel performs well. You should get used to it. We didn't see any other defects with the naked eye, though there should be the reverse effect with light elements on half-tints.
We should also mention the heel of Achilles — violet hue of the black color, which appears when you sit at the side of the monitor. Yes, this effect remains. But it helps many users make the right choice in stores :-).
Being a truly all-purpose panel, S-IPS makes the 1990SXi an excellent office monitor. You can scroll through tests or slides, drag windows, and still read the content. Moreover, you can rotate the display to see A4 documents in portrait orientation, 100%. There is still enough room for toolbars, scroll bars, Windows taskbar, etc. This transformation will certainly please DTP specialists (we opened a booklet in Illustrator and even tried to format a document in InDesign) and assistants.
We shall use DVD movies to evaluate the display:
We used PowerDVD 6 and Nero 7 ShowTime (with the AVC plugin) for playback, full screen.
Let's start with the most important thing — HD video to evaluate how the panel blurs moving objects in a scene. Small details are slightly blurred, but the image is not foggy. Growing video resolution and quality require much faster panels (color rendition goes without saying). It's quite an unexpected conclusion, which will not please many vendors, who hide mediocre panels behind "short" numbers.
We have no comments about Desperado — video offers high details and contrast. The same concerns Star Wars — everything is perfect.
We used the concert disc to compare video quality with and without overdrive. The results are quite expectable (though it may still be a surprise to some readers). The slower mode is more acceptable, because natural panel blurs make up for video artifacts well. When we "overclock" the panel, the display shows much more color spots.
We traditionally use Return to Castle Wolfenstein, Episode 2 (outdoor scenes and small closed spaces), for the gaming test.
The monitor's performance is not impressive, it certainly won't be the choice of a gamer, neither with 90GX2, nor with 20WGX2. But the real response time still allows to complete levels adequately and not make wild guesses "where this blurred figure twitched?"
We noticed no overclocking artifacts.
As we have already said, the 1990SXi is an accurate tool for working with multimedia and graphics rather than a multimedia monster.
And each good tool should have distinct tolerances and excellent basic features. How much will the 1990SXi please those users, who choose "by specifications" and only then "by eye"?
Panel response evaluation
The 1990SXi is amazing — we can see overdrive artifacts only in pure halftone-halftone modes. If the first or the last brightness value is extreme (0 or 100%), overdrive is not applied (overdrive here means applying either extra or insufficient electricity to LCD, which makes brightness temporarily exceed its normal bounds). Why not accelerate the panel for 0-50% operations? But no. Evidently, that's the reason why the 1990SXi is not as fast as the 20WGX2 (these graphs show well the effect of overdrive on 0-50 and 100-50% operations), to say nothing of the 90GX2 (TN+film).
What's the reason of such unexpected behavior of the panel? Perhaps it has to do with marketing that dictates the necessity to give a start to the gaming series (GX2 monitors).
Nevertheless, the 1990SXi qualifies for the title "just a fast monitor". It seems to justify the seemingly large response time of 18ms.
Color rendering evaluation
We calibrate the Pantone colorimeter and measure color rendering for the following brightness and contrast settings:
Peak white spot brightness is nearly 266 cd, just 4 cd short of the specification value. It's very good. Black spot brightness is 0.84 cd, a mediocre result. The resulting contrast ratio is 316:1, which is almost twice as low as the promised value. But experienced users won't be surprised — a rare monitor can demonstrate what is promised by vendors. LCD contrast has become a notorious stumbling block. S-IPS panel is not an unbreakable ideal here. But in consumer terms, black color, which brightness does not exceed 1 cd, will suffice for practically any application. You should just allow for it in the dark (daylight reflected from the panel makes the "black hole" impossible anyway).
And now let's have a look how the calibrator evaluated color channels. A storm of applause. The blue channel is 100% ideal, red is a tiny degree too bright, green is approximately just as bright. The overall error does not reach even 3%. That's the 19" sector, where even twice as bad results are rather rare! There is also no harm in comparing the model under review with the 1980SXi and praise the Japanese again (ok, they don't assemble NEC monitors, but they control the results and do it very good).
What about the color temperature in grayscale control points?
Do your palms hurt? If not, you should applaud once again. Try to find another model from another vendor, which is at least close to this quality of settings!
Let's digress a little: we are often asked "Why do you love NEC so much? There are much more cheaper counterparts from XXX, YYY, ZZZ." Scroll the article up for the answer as to why we respect this manufacturer so much. Its MultiSync trademark had been expensive even 15 years ago. It was the price of QUALITY, which couldn't be provided by any "cheap brand". It has been proved time after time.
The 1990SXi is a very rare case, when there is no need to use a hardware calibrator. You practically don't see the difference between profiles (default and compensating). Professionals may use GammaComp (NEC planned to update this program by the time this article was published) or 10-bit per-channel adjustment in the extended menu of the monitor.
We are not done with praises yet. Because the 1990SXi offers fine settings in the extended menu. Turn off the monitor and then turn it on with two buttons: Power and Input.
As a result, the usual menu is replaced by dozens of pages, where you can adjust practically everything. There seems to be no point in describing each parameter, as it will take too much time. It will be up to professionals to explore after they buy the monitor!
Out of doubt, the 1990SXi is one of the best professional monitors, which also performs well at home. It's a pleasant surprise to see rara avis on the dull background of other devices in this class.
Alexander Maltsev aka AMP (firstname.lastname@example.org)
November 15, 2006
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