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AG Neovo M-17 review: AG Neovo M-17

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The Good Cool-looking design matches new Macs; sturdy; USB ports built in; moderately priced; six preset viewing modes.

The Bad Not very adjustable; image quality varies depending on viewing angle; built-in speakers sound crummy.

The Bottom Line Inconsistent performance shouldn't stop Mac users and others concerned with having stylish peripherals from considering this reasonably priced display.

6.2 Overall

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It's about time someone came up with an affordable LCD that matches the Mac aesthetic. The Formac Gallery Xtreme sort of fit the bill but had an uninspiring design. The AG Neovo M-17, on the other hand, is a genuinely cool-looking 17-inch display that comes in either black or white, so it'll look great with a PC or a Mac. It also has two built-in USB 2.0 ports on the front panel and is moderately priced. Unfortunately, its image quality is somewhat uneven, its built-in speakers sound faint and tinny, and the display's position is barely adjustable. For PC users who want a similarly priced but more adjustable LCD that still looks good, we recommend the Sharp LL-172G. If you care less about design, check out the Envision EN7220, which costs less, is much more adjustable, and has image quality that's slightly better than the M-17's.

We've never seen an LCD that looks quite like the AG Neovo M-17. The display panel is embedded in a bezel-within-a-bezel. The narrow inner bezel, which comes in matte black or white, is wider along the bottom edge to accommodate built-in 2-watt speakers and the menu buttons. The outer bezel is a clear plastic frame about two inches wide that houses an automatic picture adjustment button and a button to switch between six preset avModes which have different brightness, contrast, and color temperature settings for viewing text, video, and games during the daytime or nighttime (night mode is dimmer). These buttons seem almost to float within the clear bezel and they make a satisfying click when pressed.

The AG Neovo M-17 has an easel form factor, a design that appears periodically among Mac-oriented LCDs. The easel design, with a kickstand leg, makes for a very stable display that will not wobble. The design also hides dangling cables that would otherwise clutter up your line of sight; there's a little notch cut into the back leg through which you can tidily feed the DVI or analog signal cable, the cable from the downstream USB port, and the power and speaker cords. We only wish the input area weren't so cramped; turning the signal connector screws was an irritating and difficult feat. The downside to the M-17's easel form is that it's barely adjustable. You can tilt the panel back about 20 degrees, but there's no side to side swivel, no Portrait-Landscape pivot function, and no height adjustment. What's more, the kickstand takes up more space than a pedestal base, so you can't prop it on a phone book or a monitor riser. You also can't set the display completely perpendicular to the desktop, which is unfortunate given that the picture quality is best at this angle.

The AG Neovo M-17's unusual menu buttons borrow their quad-directional cluster layout from DVD players and the iPod. They are as intuitive to navigate as these other devices, but we had to consult the manual on the included CD to learn that the center button does double duty as a power switch and an onscreen menu (OSM) launcher. We were similarly stumped by the OSM's iRelax feature; after some investigation, we discovered that it's a timing device that reminds you to take a break to rest your eyes by periodically displaying a blinking eye icon. The OSM's navigation is easy to grasp and lets you adjust typical settings such as color temperature, brightness, and sharpness.

The AG Neovo M-17's performance was decent overall and, with its sharp, nicely contrasted text and reasonably vibrant colors, it's certainly adequate for basic productivity work such as Web surfing, e-mail, and word processing. However, CNET Labs' DisplayMate-based tests revealed hue shifting and color-tracking errors. We also found compression in the grayscale; this means that the display's grays tended to take on extraneous hints of color and that it was not capable of reproducing the most extreme shades of dark and light gray. Its grayscale performance was at its best when the display was completely vertical. Because the AG Neovo M-17 can't be positioned completely upright, you'll have to sit up really straight to get the best picture from this display. Screen uniformity was similarly affected by viewing angle, though even when we held it upright, the top half of the screen was darker than the bottom half. We were also unimpressed by the built-in speakers, which sounded tinny and quite faint even when turned up as high as they would go.

The AG Neovo MG-17 comes with a standard three-year warranty, and toll-free phone support is available Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT. AG Neovo's Web site offers the bare minimum of support options: e-mail support via a Web-based form, driver downloads, and a short FAQ.

CNET Labs DisplayMate tests  (Longer bars indicate better performance)

Brightness in cd/m²  (Measured with the Minolta CA-210)

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