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Diving In

Selling on the street for around $600, the PV720 is an impressive display. In hooking it up, I was disappointed to find that there was no DVI input, but after living with it for a while, I am beginning to wonder if it could offer much improvement. I had planned to connect it to the new Matrox G550 dual DVI graphics card (reviewed recently by TPC), but wound up testing it as the main display on an older G450. Since my focus is not on gaming, 3D performance is of minor concern. The testing system was a 1.33MHz T-Bird on an Iwill KK266R with 512 megs of ram.

The monitor was delivered with an optional speaker set that attaches neatly to the bottom of the monitor. This amplified module also features a headphone jack, and is exactly what you’ll get if you order the PV720A (I assume the ‘A’ suffix stands for ‘audio’).

PivotPro rotation software from Portrait Displays is also included. This allows the ability to use the monitor in ‘portrait’ mode – that is, on it’s side. This feature could be quite useful in page-layout and poster illustration, plus it offers an aesthetic alternative when arranging multiple windows on the desktop. It can also save a few precious inches of width on a crowded desk.

Sharpness is a Virtue

There is no doubt about the supremacy of the LCD display over the CRT in terms of sharpness, and the PV720 is no exception. My everyday setup includes two monitors – one Trinitron model for the bright, vibrant colors, and one shadow mask model known for its crisp text. The PV720 is beyond compare in sharpness, providing a bright, high-contrast, even-toned display seemingly impossible to reproduce on any CRT I’ve seen.

Whiter Whites, Brighter Brights!

Casual use of the PV720 reveals an image quality that simply pops off the screen in brilliant color – and that may be as much of a weakness as a strength, in terms of absolute color fidelity. Television manufacturers have long known that the brightest set in the store will draw a customer’s eye – no matter how inaccurately it reproduces color. People are drawn to vibrant displays of color, and that’s okay – but if you’re trying to accurately reproduce a photograph or make sure your client’s logo is the exactly the same color on his print materials as it is on his product packaging, it’s another story.

I spent hours sampling and comparing colors between the PV720 and other monitors, as well printed samples. The color rendition was very good, but I found my trusty Trinitron to be much more accurate, particularly in the blue ranges. However, it delivers enough additional benefits to tempt one to learn to live with it.

For critical color proofing, it is essential that a CRT monitor be warmed up for several hours, and adjusted in that state. It is also necessary to check and verify these settings frequently, as CRTs are massive but vulnerable things, shifting color and focus with time and changing conditions. These frequent adjustments should be unnecessary with LCD panels. If I could eliminate the time spent on keeping monitors in line, I might save an entire workweek or more over the course of a year. That’s something to think about.

The PV720 springs to life almost instantly with a ‘perfect’ image, whether it’s been in sleep mode for an hour or powered off for a day. In contrast, my CRT doesn’t light up until long after the bios screen has passed. I don’t know that there’s any great value in it – but the cool factor is definitely there when you tap your mouse from a long sleep and a clear, bright image pops on the screen. It helps give your entire system a snappy, responsive feel – something techno-geeks will appreciate.

The Color of Night

An inherent weakness in LCD display technology–perhaps it’s greatest weakness—stems from the fact that the display is backlit. A bright white light shines between the pixels, and those that should appear black are, at best, a dark and often muddy gray. Given the contrast against the extreme brightness of the whites displayed, the PV720 does a credible job of reproducing ‘black’ until large dark areas are displayed. However, until there is a display technology (‘digital ink?’) that does not require anything more than ambient light to view, we will never achieve true black, although some CRTs come close.

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