Sony's 20.1-inch SDM-S204 delivers neither the performance dazzle of the Planar PX212M. As such, we wouldn't recommend it for the "high-demand engineering and desktop publishing applications," that Sony says it's built for.
The SDM-S204's superthin bezel measures just a little more than 0.5 inches wide on the sides, 0.75 inches along the top, and just more than 1 inch on the bottom. Seven round control buttons are tucked discreetly along the lower-right bezel. For such a large monitor, the SDM-S204 sits low--the top of the screen is just 18 inches from the desktop--and it's considerably less adjustable than other large LCDs are. You cannot raise or lower the panel, nor can you rotate it to Portrait mode. However, the SDM-S204 swivels a generous 175 degrees on a lazy Susan underneath the base, and you can tilt the panel about 20 degrees backward and a few degrees forward. You can connect to a VESA-compatible wall or arm mount. Check out for a 20.1-inch LCD with greater adjustability.
The SDM-S204 has the range of connectivity options you'd expect for such a pricey display. With two analog signal inputs and one DVI-D input (Sony includes one of each type of cable), the monitor can accommodate a variety of graphics cards and support multiple PCs. Behind the SDM-S204's sliding back cover are three plastic cable-feed clips, and two more are concealed inside the neck. They neatly and discreetly gather the connection and power cords.
The SDM-S204 features Sony's ErgoBright technology, which adjusts the brightness level to ambient lighting conditions. We found it to be somewhat effective. There are also four preset brightness modes--High, Middle, Low, and User Defined--and the onscreen menu controls are easy to access and simple to operate. Still, in CNET Labs' bevy of DisplayMate test screens, the Sony SDM-S204 was merely an average performer. With a 1,600x1,200, native resolution text looked clear but not ultrasharp. We also detected a number of color inaccuracies, and the SDM-S204 had trouble making a smooth transition from the dark end of the grayscale to the light end. Despite its large screen, we don't recommend the SDM-S204 for serious DVD viewing and game playing.
The Sony SDM-S204 comes with a three-year limited warranty that covers all materials and workmanship against defects. Toll-free technical support is available 24/7 for the life of the warranty. Drivers, manuals, a knowledge base, and access to tech-support e-mail are all available on Sony's Web site.
CNET Labs has made amendments to its LCD testing methodology. As a result, some of the DisplayMate test scores listed may vary slightly from those published in previous charts. Find out more about how we test LCDs.