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The Dell UltraSharp 1707FP raises the bar on what you can expect to get from a $299 LCD. It combines great image quality with a wonderfully utilitarian design, and it offers all the adjustability we could wish for, including a pivoting screen. Also onboard are sensible extras such as four USB ports and an audio input. Other 17-inch monitors, such as the Sony SDM-HS75P/S and the SDM-S75AB, perform slightly better but cost more and lack the adjustability and the overall appeal of the 1707FP.
The Dell UltraSharp 1707FP's thin bezel is attractive, and its two-tone black-and-silver color scheme and slightly space-age design will blend in with any home or office environment. Most impressive is the 1707FP's adjustability: the panel tilts 5 degrees forward and 20 degrees backward, swivels smoothly 45 degrees left and right, and pivots easily between portrait and landscape mode. The 1707FP also offers 5 inches of height adjustment--as much as we've seen on any LCD. The monitor is slightly top-heavy, and the panel wobbles with even slight adjustments, though it won't tip over.
In back, the 1707FP has connection ports for audio, DVI-D, VGA, and one upstream and two downstream USB 2.0 ports; two more downstream USB ports are stealthily tucked into the left-hand side of the cabinet. We rarely see such an impressive assortment of connections in 17-inch LCDs. A quick-release button lets you easily remove the panel for mounting on a wall or an arm mount. Despite the audio input, there are neither built-in speakers nor a headphone jack, but Dell sells a sound bar attachment for $29.
Four small, well-labeled buttons on the 1707FP's front bezel let you switch between digital and analog input, launch the onscreen menu (OSM), navigate down and up within the OSM, and power on or off the monitor. The OSM itself is simple and straightforward, though we wish the 1707FP offered dedicated buttons for brightness and contrast adjustments.
Tested at its 1,280x1,024 native resolution, the Dell UltraSharp 1707FP delivered an excellent performance on CNET Labs' DisplayMate-based tests. The 1707FP's color scales were nearly flawless, with bright, vivid colors throughout the spectrum and just a small amount of compression at the dark end of the scale. The 1707FP's text was dark, distinct, and easy to read. The monitor's only significant flaws were in its grayscales, which progressed fairly evenly from dark to light but showed slight pink, green, blue, and brown tints.
DVD playback looked better than average, which we partially attribute to the 1707FP's quick, 8-millisecond pixel-response rate. We saw less noise in backgrounds than we usually see on LCDs, and the 1707FP's colors, including flesh tones, looked accurate and vivid. Gaming tests were equally impressive, with vibrant color and no noticeable image irregularities.
The Dell 1707FP comes with an industry-standard three-year warranty that can be extended to four or five years for $29 and $49, respectively. Toll-free tech service is available 24/7. At Dell's Web site, you can e-mail product support, download user guides, read troubleshooting tips, and join a Dell-hosted customer-to-customer discussion forum.