Impression 5LS review: Impression 5LS

  • 1
3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Wide viewing angles; superior brightness and contrast; sturdy cabinet with tilt and swivel.

The Bad Screen limited to 18-bit color.

The Bottom Line Despite its strong performance and support policies, this affordable monitor suffers from lower-than-average color bit depth.

7.0 Overall

Updated 7/30/02

Editors' note:
When we originally reviewed this product, we nicked it for having limited tech support and warranty policies. Since that time, the company has extended its warranty to three years on both the unit and the backlight. Also, free tech support used to end after three years; now, it lasts for the life of the unit.

When you're shopping for LCDs that cost $400 or less, you won't find perfection; you'll find models with various trade-offs and choose the one that fits your particular likes and dislikes. The Impression 5LS has many outstanding features, but prospective buyers will likely be scared away by its limited, 18-bit color palette. Updated 7/30/02

Editors' note:
When we originally reviewed this product, we nicked it for having limited tech support and warranty policies. Since that time, the company has extended its warranty to three years on both the unit and the backlight. Also, free tech support used to end after three years; now, it lasts for the life of the unit.

When you're shopping for LCDs that cost $400 or less, you won't find perfection; you'll find models with various trade-offs and choose the one that fits your particular likes and dislikes. The Impression 5LS has many outstanding features, but prospective buyers will likely be scared away by its limited, 18-bit color palette.

Dither hither
Nearly all current LCDs support 24-bit color (or 16.7 million colors), but because the $395 5LS supports only 18-bit color (or 262,144 colors), it has to use dithering to approximate the millions of colors it can't produce directly. And in CNET Labs' DisplayMate tests (and in informal testing), the analog-only Impression 5LS's color limitations became apparent. For example, a photo on CNN's Web site had slight distortions in its backgrounds and highlights. While most of the dithering was extremely subtle, we experienced slight banding with some color and black-and-white photos, and we noticed patterns in the flesh tones while watching certain DVDs. Mainstream users may not mind this shortcoming, but if you edit digital photos, visit graphics-intensive Web sites, or play DVDs from your desktop, you can expect occasional, unpleasant color shifting or improper color matching.

Good features balance limited color capabilities
The Impression made up for its color problems in other departments. Its focus and resolution (1,024x768 native) were sharp and consistent, offering good graphical detail and making even six-point text easily readable. With a luminance rating of 250cd/m² and a contrast ratio of 350:1, this monitor was bright and provided a wider range of dark-to-light shading than did many of its competitors.

Installation was a snap, despite the weak documentation. The rudimentary, 16-page manual has a slapdash look but contains a few good sections, most notably the pages devoted to explaining the onscreen controls, the instructions on how to remove the hinge (for mounting an arm stand), and the list of compatible resolutions. No driver is included with the monitor, so we used the standard Plug and Play driver.

The Impression 5LS has a larger-than-average cabinet and a stable base that's impressively easy to adjust. The monitor tilts a generous 30 degrees up and 5 degrees down without feeling fragile, and it features fairly wide viewing angles: 150 degrees horizontal and 140 degrees vertical. Its rugged swivel base lets you turn the display a full 180 degrees (90 degrees left and right). Rather than hide the video and power-cable connections under a plastic door, the 5LS makes the connectors easily accessible on the lower back side. A long-term problem, however, is the display's lack of a DVI connector; you can't enjoy the better image quality that pure digital video provides.

The onscreen menu system is controlled with five front-mounted buttons. The two brightness buttons double as menu-navigation controls, and the slightly oversized Menu button also serves as a selection button. You get the usual menu commands, such as color temperature, image position, and contrast. Image tweakers will be delighted with the separate sharpness and clock settings.

Bolstered support
Impression recently strengthened its service and support policies for the 5LS. Toll-free support line is open 24/7 and lasts for the life of the display. A three-year warranty covers the unit, the backlight, and the panel. However, the warranty applies to only the original owner. Consult the Impression Web site, and you'll find just a driver page, FAQs, and online registration.

If you take out the color-dithering limitations, the 5LS is a decent deal for the price. Unfortunately, many more worthy entries are available in the sub-$400 range.

15-inch LCD image quality test
Longer bars indicate better performance
0-50 = Poor   50-60 = Fair   60-70 = Good   70-80 = Very good   80-100 = Excellent
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Impression 5LS
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Solarism LM-1503
68 
 

The Impression 5LS is bright and offers sharp focus, but its limited color palette produces patterns and dithering in complex color transitions.

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