We love the way jumbo LCDs now double as video displays. We can write our reviews while watching The Simpsons DVDs in the picture-in-picture window, and it makes writing about monitors so much more fun. The 20-inch BenQ FP2091 is about as pricey as most other LCDs in its class, but it has a wealth of video inputs and USB ports, good image quality, and an even better design.
Taking a page from Apple's book, BenQ's 20-inch FP2091 has a sleek, minimalist design with no buttons to clutter the slim, half-inch bezel. Instead, the buttons are tucked away along the left side of the display. Considering that you can't see them while facing the panel, the buttons are surprisingly easy to use and intuitively arranged. Among them are a dedicated input button and the i-key, which autocalibrates the monitor.
The S-Video and composite-video inputs make this display ideal for watching DVDs or VHS and the picture-in-picture function lets you watch video while you're computing. The display also has a proliferation of USB ports: one upstream and four downstream (one USB cable is included). A 12V DC audio port on the back panel lets you connect a set of speakers to the display. Given the number of input options, you could accumulate lot of cable clutter with this display. Fortunately, a little cable-feed loop tucked discreetly behind the neck keeps things under control.
The FP2091's elegant design extends to the rest of the LCD. The base is an unusually shaped arched rectangle, and it remains stable as you adjust the display panel. The panel can be tilted backward and forward through a range of 30 degrees, it swivels smoothly from left to right, it pivots between Portrait and Landscape modes (PivotPro software is included), and the neck telescopes about five inches. You must push a button on the base of the neck to release the telescoping function, which helps you avoid accidentally raising or lowering the display. There's a similar button on the back of the display panel that quickly releases the panel from the neck, making it easy to attach the FP2091 to a VESA wall or swing-arm mount.
The BenQ FP2091 performed reasonably well in CNET's battery of DisplayMate-based tests. It produced sharp, clear text with good contrast and was especially good at reproducing bold, bright colors, as well as Web graphics. In grayscale test screens, it did a nice job of rendering a range of light-gray shades, but it did not achieve the same level of nuance on the charcoal-to-black end of the spectrum, and we noticed that as the grays got darker, they took on a greenish tinge that gave several test screens a dingy look. Also, we would have preferred a darker black. DVD playback was pretty smooth, though we noticed some digital noise in skin tones and colored backgrounds. But unless you're a graphics pro (in which case you should get a CRT or check out the stunning LaCie 321 LCD), you will be quite satisfied with this monitor's performance.
The FP2091 comes with a standard three-year warranty on parts, labor, and the backlight. Toll-free phone support is available Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT. Through BenQ's Web site, you can e-mail tech support, download new drivers, and search a knowledge base for setup and troubleshooting information.