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NEC 2080UX+ LCD

January 10, 2005



Prices on the LCD market have been actively dropping for a year already. Prices for 19" were the first to drop down, and since autumn the prices for 20-23" have also been actively crawling down. That made the customers to rethink their decision on the diagonal measurement based on the already allocated budget. So, people are getting interested in 20" instead of 19". Besides an additional inch, such monitors offer significantly higher resolution of 1600x1200. Let's take for example the NEC 2080+.

Method

The test consists of three parts:

Introduction

Devices from NEC, one of the leaders on the LCD market as well as the oldest manufacturer of high quality monitors in general, frequently appear on iXBT pages. Aside from certain respect to the NEC brand we also take into account the fact that the sales of these monitors are really very high in Middle End sector (where there is no dumping or total economy on everything from lamp resources to design quality).

The 2080UX+ belongs to the same time series as 1960NXi, 1980SX or 2180UX. Typical angular design (favoured so much by some people and rejected by the fans of Asian "rotundity"), typical NEC-like menu, high quality of color rendition, fast response – it's all well known to our readers from the reviews of the above mentioned models. The only missing part is the golden mean – the 2080UX, where ideally all the features should be applied to a high resolution. But will this model be that golden mean?










The 2080 has the same flexible design as the 1980SXi: height adjustment; tilt, swivel and pivot capability. The entire plastic construction is rather steady. The only complaint is that the display dangles a little when you press buttons.

The rear panel houses three video connectors: analog D-Sub, and digital DVI-I and DVI-D.

Specification

The manufacturer claims the following parameters:

Matrix 20" S-IPS TFT, 0.255 pixel pitch
Brightness 250cd/m2
Contrast ratio 450:1
Response time 16ms typical full cycle
Angles of vision 176 horizontally from center, 176 vertically
Recommended resolution 1600*1200@60Hz, maximum 85Hz
Signal cable D-Sub, DVI (Ambix+ technology)
 
Weight 10.5kg
Dimensions 442 x 366-496 x 200 mm
Power Consumption ON: 54W, Power savings mode: <1W
 
Controls Buttons and the screen menu or in the NaviSet program.
 
Bundle User's manual and NaviSet on CD, power cable, D-Sub/DVI-A and DVI-D signal cables.

One cannot but note two characteristic features: 16ms typical response time (this model seemed to feature 20ms officially not long ago) and high vertical synchronization frequency of 85Hz.

While it won't take up much time to clear up the issue with the response time, we don't understand why this frequency – is NEC overcautious concerning interferences in case of analog connections? Running a few steps forward, 1280x1024 at 85Hz (we accidentally preserved the settings from a CRT monitor) is actually out of the 2080UX sync capacity, about which we were properly informed on the black background. And 1600x1200 at 60Hz (analog connection) displayed noticeably worse image than in digital mode. Fortunately the 2080UX bundle includes a DVI cable.

Testbed

Operating system: Windows XP Professional. Computer is based on Intel P4 2.4MHz CPU, 512MB of RAM, Adaptec SCSI-160 dual-channel controller with SCSI DVD-ROM Pioneer and 18GB 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 for comparison purposes.

Subjective results

As usual, the monitor is installed as a regular "wheelhorse" and tested in usual applications.

Setting up

The row of eight buttons is a usual sight on the front panel:

  • Exit – to leave the menu.
  • A couple of "left"/"right" buttons to navigate the menu.
  • Two "+" and "-" buttons to change a selected parameter.
  • The Select button to activate a selected parameter.
  • The Reset button to get back to the default settings.
  • And the Power button.



In the menu we select the color temperature of 6500K, enable AutoContrast (which intellectually changes brightness and contrast of an active fragment on screen) and reset the brightness and contrast to 100 and 50% correspondingly.

Looking at the display

Though our test background is designed for 1280x1024, we still set it as our work background. But let's not complain about the lost sharpness of lines, because it's not the fault of the monitor.

It's easy to evaluate the color rendition and saturation – we've seen S-IPS dozens of times. With the same brightness and contrast settings. No problems with color changes with viewing angle. So, let's be brief: the image is juicy, tasty, and precise. As any other photos.


Speaking in more detail about halftones, our LCD HTML test provided the following results: 1.1.1-3.3.3 are indistinguishable, from 4.4.4 and further the tones are distinguishable. The similar situation is with light halftones – 253 and 254 look very much like 255.255.255 (pure white). Standard results.

We have also noticed a strange effect – the image looked as though it consisted of horizontal lines. This is wrong according to all the rules, but we didn't manage to perceive it like an even background. Especially with this tiny standard font size. Speaking of fonts: the eyes get strained very quickly due to the small point size at the standard 96DPI in Windows. OK, let's use the scaling feature in Windows XP. Is it better? No. Because toolbars, non-standard inscriptions (like Photoshop palettes) and other elements still remain very small and make you move closer to the display. What can be done? Perhaps, one should use displays with this point size purely for design works.










We noticed no light or dark spots when measuring the uniformity of lighting on the panel. There is also no brighter area in the bottom of the display that used to be in other monitors.

Working

Though we have already touched the topic of font sizes, this section concentrates on working with text. As usual, we'll just work and evaluate the convenience and nuances...

The first day ended earlier than usual – smarting eyes. This is a bad joke played by the tiny points. Except for this, we had no complaints about this monitor – fast scrolling, good color rendering. The 2080UX has it all. On the second day we decided to act by contraries: we zoomed the page in Word and increased the font size in Microsoft Project. It got considerably better. If not for small lettering in menus and dialog windows. The next logical move would have been to change DPI on the OS level. But having decided that it was too much already, we said "stop". That may lead to total changes of the entire environment, which seems wrong. It's not the fault of the environment.

The same thing with surfing: the fonts are too small, especially it concerns news resources. Surely you can sometimes control the font size from the Internet Explorer menu, but the font sizes may also be hardcoded (in points at best, it's much worse when the font size is set in pixels). But the scrolling speed, sappiness of banners, sharpness of lines – everything is good in the 2080UX.

Watching movies

We shall use DVD movies to evaluate the display:

Desperado The main scenery is dark (old America: bars, houses), there are some dynamic scenes with shooting and fighting. Superbit version of the high quality (the level of rare original discs).
StarWars The Fantom Menace (Episode I) Combination of computer animation and regular movie. Very dynamic episode with chases, bright backgrounds. Original disc.
DVD-version of the "Gorky Park" TV concert, TV clips. Average TV quality, high compression – small stream. It reflects the quality of most "black market" discs. Original disc.
Paul McCartney's concert Average quality, many completely changing scenes (conservatory hall). Original disc.

We use NVIDIA NV-DVD 2.2 DVD-player to play video full screen.

High resolution at a slightly larger (in comparison with 19") diagonal played a bad joke: It's more difficult (in terms of resources) for a computer to decode and play back video full screen. But we have noticed no other differences from the previously seen S-IPS (in NEC models). The same noticeable artifacts in bad quality concert discs and excellent dynamics in Star Wars races and "alcohol war" of Antonio Banderas in Desperado.

We draw our usual conclusion: good matrix requires a good signal source. No revelations.

Gaming

We are seldom shy to speak about games. Well, if a monitor does not manage to display all the frames for a well-known reason, so what? In this case we remember the claimed 16ms response time in a seemingly old S-IPS matrix. Will NEC come up to expectations?

Loading the second episode of Return to Castle Wolfenstein, finding ourselves in a narrow basement room and quickly turning around. And... no, no miracles happened. It's no CRT. It's still no CRT with its almost instant response. Though in an hour of gaming it seemed that everything was rendered instantly and there were no other options. But there are. It was perfectly demonstrated by the Clone mode enabled in NVIDIA drivers.

But still? Is 16ms a fake? It's hard to answer this question without hardware measurements. In comparison with the Sony HS94P, which was also present on the table during testing, the NEC is noticeably faster and more comfortable. And the 2080UX is probably the fastest monitor in shooters so far. But it still can be insufficient for a hardcore gamer.

Concluding the gaming part, let's note a decent interpolation function. Not only in games, but in regular Windows mode as well.

Bottom line

Vague fears that 16ms are not "the 16ms" are gradually coming true. "And what about the violet hue, this Achilles' heel of IPS?" you ask. As usual – it's still present. But only in case you take an angled view of the display. When you look at the display normally, there is absolutely no violet hue. What's better in exceptional situations: a drop of contrast as in other displays or some stray black hue in S-IPS? Anyone can choose what he/she likes. To our mind, S-IPS is better. That's because large fragments colored black are a rare thing on screen.

Objective tests

But still, let's see what the difference is between the rather elderly 2080UX+ with its claimed 16ms response time and other models. For example, our old model of NEC 1960NXi, which is actually out of production already, replaced by the 1970NX (in new case).

Matrix response evaluation

Again we reset the brightness/contrast settings to the default values and measure the matrix response time.

Brightness (%) Contrast (%) Switch on time (ms) Switch off time (ms) Full cycle (ms)
0-100-0 mode
100*
50
9.6
8.5
18.1
100
70
8.5
8.3
16.8
100
30
18.6
9.1
27.7
0-50 mode
100
50
19.9
8.9
29.8
50-100 mode
100
50
10.5
13.6
24.1
30-60 mode
100
50
19.8
13.6
33.4

* – factory defaults.

Dammit – this monitor really features less than 20ms in standard white-black-white mode! Again NEC fulfils its promises made in a barren style of specification figures.

Comparing the 2080UX+ with another new model – 1980SXi, we can see the total supremacy of the 20" matrix over 19". The difference is almost by 50%. It's fantastic!

100% brightness, 50% contrast





100% brightness, 70% contrast





100% brightness, 30% contrast





You can also recall the results demonstrated by another S-IPS from NEC: 2180UX with claimed 20ms response time – the 2080UX is faster anyway!

Color rendering evaluation

We calibrate the Pantone colorimeter and measure color rendering for the following brightness and contrast settings:




factory defaults

brightness: 100%
contrast: 50%



According to our calibrator, some green should be added at bright halftones. But on the whole the correction procedure is close to zero. This result is quite standard for S-IPS matrices, that's why we recognize them as the best average weighted choice.

The only usual drawbacks of S-IPS are peak brightness and contrast. Unfortunately, the 2080UX is not an exception: 169cd for white and 164:1 contrast ratio are obviously far from the record. To be more exact, they are antirecord. Though subjectively one can only complain about a tad bright black color, but we remember that the default setting is 100% brightness. So reducing the brightness, one can easily increase the contrast a little.

Now for conscience sake, let's measure the color temperature in three grayscale points (K):

 50%75%100%
brightness 100, contrast 50 (factory defaults) 649064906470

Excellent figures, which again illustrate the wonderful factory color rendering settings!

Final conclusions




If only the white color were brighter. In other respects the 2080UX is a miracle of 2004 at quite a market price.
Returning to the question asked at the very beginning: is there a point in buying 20" instead of 19"? Yes, there is. If it's the NEC 2080UX+.

Pros:

  • High quality and maximum flexible design.
  • Excellent color rendering.
  • The highest matrix speed.

Cons:

  • Low contrast ratio.
  • Small point for office work.

The new model for our test lab and for the most LCD manufacturers in the world.



Alexander Maltsev aka AMP (lcd@ixbt.com)
December, 2004



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