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The BenQ FP591, at almost $450, is fairly expensive compared to other 15-inch LCDs. Judging by the promotional prose on the company's Web site, BenQ believes that the FP591's superior specs and unusual extras make it worth the extra dough. We disagree. The FP591 tested below the specs attributed to it by BenQ, and we found the extra features to be more gimmicky than useful.
The FP591 has a busy, angular design featuring a series of frames: one houses the speakers, another surrounds the screen, and a third (made of tacky, silver, corrugated plastic) holds the slim, rectangular, soft-touch adjustment buttons. We wish that BenQ had paid less attention to aesthetics and focused on more important things, such as access to the signal and power cable jacks. Hooking up the FP591 was a two-person process for us: after turning the whole display upside down, one of us held it while the other poked blindly toward the digital and analog signal inputs (both cables included), which are housed in a crevice between the panel and the neck. The same hard-to-reach area is also home to a speaker jack, a USB-in port (audio and USB cables included), and a DC-out plug for an optional TV tuner, which will be available later this year for $99 from Ingram Micro. Like most low-cost 15-inch LCDs, the FP591's display can be tilted backward and forward slightly and attached to a "--="">&siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Evesa%2Eorg%2Ffdmipr%2Ehtm" target="_blank">VESA wall mount, but you can't raise, lower, pivot, or swivel it.
Digital Photo Frame, the FP591's most unique feature, will appeal primarily to digital-photo enthusiasts. A small rectangular housing along the top edge of the bezel holds slots for CompactFlash, SmartMedia, and SD/MMC removable media cards. Just pop in your media of choice and choose a display option (Thumbnail, Full Screen, or Slide Show) via the onscreen-menu adjustment buttons to view your digital images--no PC needed. You can also transfer images to your PC via the display's USB port.
None of these features, however, make up for the FP591's disappointing overall performance. The embedded speakers offer only mediocre sound quality, and in spite of BenQ's claims of 500-nit brightness and a 450:1 contrast ratio, image quality was just OK. Furthermore, to approach the 500-nit level, we had to jack up the contrast to 100 percent, which made looking at the display somewhat like staring straight into the sun. We were similarly underwhelmed by the FP591's supposed 16-millisecond (ms) pixel-response time (the rate most LCDs claim in this price range is 20ms to 25ms). DVD movies looked no smoother on the FP591 than they did on any other comparable 15-inch LCD.
The FP591 comes with decent documentation, including a comprehensive quick-start guide and a user manual on CD. BenQ offers a standard three-year parts-and-labor warranty.
While the BenQ FP591 has some unique features and design elements, in the end all we want is a monitor that works well. LCDs that are longer on performance, shorter on gimmicks, and lower on price include the Sony SDM-HS53 and the HP L1502.
|CNET Labs DisplayMate tests (Longer bars indicate better performance)|
|Brightness in nits (Longer bars indicate better performance)|
|Note: Measured with the Sencore CP500.|