Sony GDM-C520K CRT
Sony's GDM-C520K is not your average jumbo CRT monitor. It's designed for photographers, engineers, and graphics professionals whose livelihoods depend on accurate and consistent color calibration. This may sound like marketing-speak, but thanks to the Artisan Color Reference System that comes with the GDM-C520K, this 21-inch monitor actually delivers on its promise of excellent color and grayscale performance. The only catch: the display will set you back nearly $1,800.
On the surface, the Sony GDM-C520K looks like any other CRT monitor. It's a hulking gray behemoth that weighs 67 pounds and measures about 19 inches deep. A closer look reveals a few thoughtful touches, such as dual RGB inputs that are angled so that the cables protrude less and an arrow marking the front of the base so that you can easily position the display to get the full 45-degree swivel to each side. The control buttons are also unusual: there's a button to engage the onscreen menu (OSM) and a joysticklike button that navigates through submenus and adjusts control parameters. You'll also find a switch that toggles between the two inputs (so that you can use the display with two separate computers) and a button that cycles through three brightness and contrast presets: Standard, Professional, and Dynamic.
What really sets the GDM-C520K apart from other jumbo monitors is its Artisan Color Reference System (ACRS). This sophisticated color calibration system consists of a padded hood that fastens around the bezel to reduce glare; a pucklike sensor that attaches to the display glass with lots of tiny suction cups; and software that communicates between the sensor, the display, and your graphics card to fine-tune the color and grayscale settings. The ACRS is remarkably easy to use: you just launch the software, attach the sensor, and instruct the devices to calibrate for RGB-D50 (professional printers), RGB-D65 (consumer and digital photography), and SRGB-D65 (Web publishing). You can also calibrate to custom color spaces, which you select either by the numbers or through a graphical interface. Each calibration takes about 10 minutes, and when it's finished, you can toggle between the three modes. A system such as this enables graphics professionals to be sure that the colors they're using are consistent from one viewer to another, one display to another, and from display to print, without wasting a lot of time and money going back and forth.
Of course, none of these extras would be worth much if the GDM-C520K weren't a top-notch display. Within the OSM are a couple of features that you never see in lower-end monitors, including separate top and bottom convergence controls and the ability to tweak the gain and the bias for each color individually. (Convergence refers to how well the red, green, and blue pixels come together; bias adjusts colors in dark areas of the screen, and gain adjusts color in bright areas.) The display also did a stellar job reproducing colors in our tests. And unlike most displays, the GDM-C520K's grays looked gray, its whites looked very pure, and steps from light to dark were even and had good gradation. The display's top resolution is 2,048x1,536, but we tested it at the recommended 1,600x1,200, with an 85Hz refresh rate.
Clearly, this display is designed for graphics use. As such, and because it's a CRT, text is not terribly crisp. There was also a lot of moiré, which is common in high-performing CRTs; it's a side effect of a highly accurate focus beam. If these issues are important to you, consider a less-expensive CRT or an LCD.