Although Apple's displays continue to surpass all others in our image-quality tests, the Formac Gallery 1740 comes close, and in other ways, it's actually better than the Studio Display. The Formac is less expensive for what you get, and it's a good buy for PC or Power Mac users who want more connectivity and flexibility--plus a tad more screen real estate--than Apple's Studio Display offers. Although Apple's displays continue to surpass all others in our image-quality tests, the Formac Gallery 1740 comes close, and in other ways, it's actually better than the Studio Display. The Formac is less expensive for what you get, and it's a good buy for PC or Power Mac users who want more connectivity and flexibility--plus a tad more screen real estate--than Apple's Studio Display offers.
The Gallery 1740 is better than Apple's displays in a number of ways. For starters, at 17.4 inches (diagonal), it's bigger than Apple's 17-inch Studio Display. The Gallery 1740 has the same 1,280x1,024 native resolution as the Apple Studio Display, but it surpasses the Studio Display in brightness, contrast ratio, and pixel-response time (a faster pixel-response time makes video look smoother). The Gallery 1740 is also more friendly to legacy and cross-platform hardware. Apple's current displays can be used only with newer Macs that have an ADC connector. The Gallery 1740 has an ADC connector, but it also offers a DVI version (which we tested) with an ADC-to-DVI converter for only $50 more--about one-fourth of what you'd pay elsewhere--so you can use the display with any DVI-connected PC or older Mac. With all these additional benefits, it's still less expensive than a Studio Display--$949 with the DVI converter, $899 for ADC only.
Picture-frame design emulates Apple's
So how can Formac give you a bigger screen with some better specs for a lower price? Branding may have a lot to do with it, but Formac also seems to have cut some corners in the frame construction. The Gallery 1740 emulates the Studio Display in its physical design; a clear, plastic picture frame surrounds a gray or white border and is supported with a rear arm. The monitor looks nice, but compared to traditional, pedestal-mounted flat-panel displays, it uses more desk space and isn't as adjustable. Our bigger concern, however, lies in the sturdiness of the Gallery 1740's frame. It feels a bit thin and flimsy overall compared to the Studio Display's, and the Formac wobbles a bit, though it seems in no danger of tipping. More worrisome is the flexibility of the frame surrounding the display. Press the On/Off button or anywhere on the frame, and the screen image distorts temporarily, as any LCD does when you press on it. This may not be a real problem, but we were concerned about the cumulative impact of pressing the On/Off button every day.
Luckily, the flimsy-feeling construction is one of our very few complaints about the Gallery 1740. In most other respects, it's a well-designed monitor that's easy to use. Setup is simple: plug it in, turn on the computer, and it works. The three controls along the bottom of the display's frame control power and brightness; there are no complex onscreen utilities to master. The 16-page paper manual is adequate, covering system requirements, installation and configuration, maintenance, and troubleshooting.
Very good image quality
Whether you use the Gallery 1740 with its ADC connector or DVI converter, you'll probably like what you see. Formac designs its own electronics and screen using technology licensed from Fujitsu. We tested the display using the DVI connector on a Dell Dimension 4100 PC running Windows 98, and we also took the Gallery 1740 for a spin on a Power Mac G4. Either way, the results were stunning. Text quality was excellent; scaled fonts looked pure and true. Still and moving images displayed deep, pure blacks and vibrant, bright colors. The Gallery 1740's wide 160-degree horizontal and vertical viewing angles made it easy to view even from an off-center position. Its image quality equaled that of the 18-inch Philips Brilliance 180P LCD and slightly trailed that of the Studio Display. However, the Gallery 1740 surpassed Apple is some areas; the Formac had slightly less streaking and ghosting, due to a 10ms to 25ms pixel-response time vs. the Apple's 40ms. Also, the Gallery 1740 is a bit brighter and has a higher contrast ratio (400:1 vs. 350:1).
When it comes to service and support, Formac bests Apple in yet one more way: It offers a three-year warranty on parts and labor (but only one year on the backlight) compared to Apple's paltry one-year plan for everything. Technical support is more typical, available only from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays via a toll-free number. You can also e-mail questions via Formac's Web site. As of post time, there were no other support resources for the Gallery 1740 online, but the company said it would have something available by mid-February.
Mac users may be losing some brand cachet with the Formac Gallery 1740, but they lose little in the way of image quality. This display offers nearly the same great-looking picture (and a slightly bigger one) for a fairer price, and it also offers cross-platform compatibility and your choice of ADC or DVI connectivity. While we have slight reservations about the sturdiness of the construction, we still think it'd be a very good buy.
17- and 18-inch LCD image-quality test
Longer bars indicate better performance
|The Formac Gallery 1740's text quality was excellent; scaled fonts looked pure and true. Still and moving images displayed deep, pure blacks and vibrant, bright colors. The Gallery 1740's image quality equaled that of the Philips Brilliance 180P and slighted trailed that of the Studio Display. However, the Gallery 1740 surpassed Apple in some areas; the Formac had slightly less streaking and ghosting, due to a 10ms to 25ms pixel-response time versus the Apple's 40ms.|