The Good Exceptionally bright screen; composite-video and S-Video inputs for multimedia; wide viewing angles; three-year warranty.
The Bad Brightness revealed uneven backlighting; wobbly center support; sparse documentation; tinny speakers; no digital connection; warranty limited to original purchaser.
The Bottom Line This extrabright LCD would work well in environments with excessive ambient light, but that same attribute picked up flaws in display quality.
Solarism's $649 LM1503 is this new company's first product, and its main selling point is its brightness, which is significantly higher than that of other LCDs we've seen. LCDs could use more brightness in some situations; they fade fast outdoors, for instance, or in rooms with lots of ambient light. But while the LM1503's brightness had its benefits, it came with a few caveats. Solarism's $649 LM1503 is this new company's first product, and its main selling point is its brightness, which is significantly higher than that of other LCDs we've seen. LCDs could use more brightness in some situations; they fade fast outdoors, for instance, or in rooms with lots of ambient light. But while the LM1503's brightness had its benefits, it came with a few caveats.
Sunglasses not included
Solarism attributes the LM1503's dazzling personality to the company's Advanced Brightness technology (ABT). The company claims this technology doesn't shorten the life of the backlight by burning it out too quickly, but as with all LCDs, the backlight will degrade over time. (Industry estimates put backlight life at 20,000 hours to 30,000 hours; measured in typical business hours, that's roughly 9 to 14 years.) According to Solarism's field tests, after five years, the brightness level should be at least half of its original level, which would still be brighter than that of other TFT LCD monitors. The LM1503 also has a better-than-average 160-degree (horizontal) and 120-degree (vertical) viewing angles. With its bright image and reasonably wide viewing angles, the LM1503 would make a good conference-room monitor, allowing most participants at the table to see the display clearly.
Even though we were warned that this monitor was bright, we were still surprised when we switched it on. Based on its brightness rating of 800cd/m² (candelas per square meter; a higher rating means a brighter screen), the Solarism LM1503 is about three times brighter than a typical LCD. But you can definitely have too much of a good thing; we had to turn the display down for comfortable viewing. In CNET Labs' DisplayMate tests, we tried the monitor at various brightness levels, always looking for the best possible display quality. Overall, we felt the LCD was best at 75 percent brightness. While some images looked best at 91 percent brightness, over time our eyes hurt when viewing the display at that level. At 100 percent brightness, eyestrain began almost immediately, and shadows appeared along the periphery of the screen. The colors, especially greens, suffered at 100 percent brightness, as well.