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The ability to pivot the screen 90 degrees to a ‘portrait’ orientation is a nice touch for people laying out single pages or posters, or working on a long list or form, and the software worked flawlessly in my evaluation when using it as a single display. The PivotPro software is provided by Portrait Displays, Inc.

In a multi-display setup with a 19” CRT monitor as secondary, the software exhibited a minor but annoying limitation – it only seems to support a 60Hz refresh rate, which is hard enough on the eyes using a CRT straight on – but with it off to one side in your peripheral vision, the incessantly flickering screen is intolerable. (A 60Hz refresh on an LCD screen is perfectly acceptable.)

The software authors claim that this is a limitation in the Matrox driver software, and while that may be true, it doesn’t help. Workarounds would include a different dual-head adapter (The Appian Jeronimo is mentioned on the Portrait Displays web site) or using an additional PCI adapter. See the Portrait Displays web site for configuration specifics (of both OS and hardware). Some configurations will let you rotate both displays, others only the main display.

I also noted that while the PV720 offered refresh rates of either 60 Hz or 75 Hz before installation of the PivotPro software, 60Hz was the only option under PivotPro.

It’s obvious once you think about it, but the Pivot software doesn’t take effect until Windows is started. This means entering the bios and boot-up menus sideways, which isn’t a tremendous problem, just peculiar. Any DOS apps run outside of Windows will display sideways.

Physically rotating the display panel itself seems a bit more difficult than necessary, but design alterations to make it easier would hamper the monitor in it’s more typical horizontal duty. For instance, the monitor’s stand isn’t tall enough to allow the monitor to be rotated without tilting it back a substantial amount first. Also, it requires two hands to steady the monitor while rotating, and then once in position, to straighten out the tilt you had to employ to allow clearance between the corner of the monitor and the desktop.

Games and DVD Movies

Judging from the performance of LCD screens when run in anything but their native resolution in Windows, I was prepared to be disappointed in the same way when it comes to games – but the PV720 does a fine job with quickly refreshing images. After jumping through some configuration and command line hoops, I managed to get an old favorite, Need For Speed – Porsche Unleashed to run on our Win2K test bed (no small feat) and it looked very nice, even at 640 X 480 – a pleasant surprise.

DVD movies are pleasing to the eye as well, but chances are good that you might prefer a traditional CRT for a more natural look. Dark nighttime scenes are often disappointing – but then, no LCD I know of can produce anything approaching a true, natural-looking black. But if film noir shows the monitor’s weakness, brightly animated programs such as Toy Story display its strength. The PV720 also draws the moving images from a DVD without the jerkiness or jagged edges familiar in many laptop displays.

Finally, the viewing angle is sufficient for most work. A co-worker standing over your shoulder need not get cheek-to-cheek with you to see what you’re doing, and you can count that as a plus or minus, depending on your particular situation.


The PV720 I received included a “Smart Medium System” SAB801, which is a small audio amplifier and pair of speakers that affix easily to the bottom of the monitor frame. If LCD panels remind you of a laptop, these speakers will really bring the illusion to life. They’re fine for voice reproduction and system sounds, but music and movie soundtracks are disappointing.



-         Razor-sharp Images

-         Reduces Eye Fatigue

-         Excellent Value

-         No DVI Input

-         Weak Audio

-         Awkward Rotation Procedure

This CTX PV720 is as nice an LCD monitor as I’ve seen yet, and the $600 street price makes it worthy of consideration for many. To me (on the verge of needing bifocals) the reduction in eyestrain alone is worth it. The sharp images and brilliant colors are pleasing to the eye, and the screen is viewable from a reasonably wide angle. Anyone looking for a general use monitor would be pleased with this unit. Once you’ve used a good LCD panel, there’s just no going back – except, perhaps, for gamers.

Graphics professionals may want to sample other, higher-priced units before deciding on an LCD display for shop use, but at ~$600, the PV720 is worthy of consideration, especially if you are just wanting to gain some initial experience with the technology.

I am looking forward to comparing some of these higher priced units to the PV720, as I’m curious as to how much it will cost to improve on it’s performance. The pickier you get about your nits, the more it costs to avoid them, and I’m sure any significant improvements will come with a hefty price tag. It’ll also be interesting to see if other competitively-priced models from other manufacturers can equal the performance of this colorful, sharp, and affordable display.


There are older LCD displays on the market at attractively low prices, particularly in the 14” and 15” sizes. Be careful! LCD technology for desktop displays has improved dramatically in the recent past, and you may be disappointed by the performance of an older unit, especially using an analog video card. Some models, even recently discontinued ones, suffer from dim output, jerky video playback, and uneven illumination, among other foibles. Many of them (in the 14” and 15” sizes) are simply laptop screens adapted for desktop duty. Make sure you know exactly what you’re buying before you place an order.

Scott Salveson

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