Once upon a time, Formac LCDs were, as the name suggests, for Macs only. But sometime in the last year, the company must have decided that PC users might also enjoy a little style with their hardware. Hence, the latest Formac display, the Gallery 2010, is available in both Mac and PC versions. This huge, 20.1-inch LCD delivers stunningly beautiful picture quality; this lovely package is sure to appeal to graphics professionals and those with plenty of discretionary income. However, the more practical among us may prefer a less expensive display with more extensive support and a broader feature set, such as the Princeton SENergy 981, the 17-inch Apple Studio Display, or the Planar PL191M. Even though it's PC compatible, the Formac Gallery 2010--thanks to its silver and clear-plastic casing--looks more like a hip Mac accessory than a sober PC peripheral. Like the Apple Studio Display series it strongly resembles, the 2010 has an easel design, with a third leg on the back panel that you adjust to tilt the display. This design makes for a very stable monitor, but at this time, you can't mount the display to the wall or a swing arm (Formac says these options will be available soon). The easel configuration also takes up more desk space than pedestal-footed LCDs and limits the display's tilt range. Although you can stand the Gallery 2010 nearly upright or tilt it back to an approximately 120-degree angle, you can't swivel the monitor from side to side. Thankfully, the Gallery 2010's wide, 170-degree viewing angle makes the screen easy to see from almost anywhere around your desk.
The Formac Gallery 2010 is strictly digital-compatible, so you can buy either a Mac-ready version with an Apple Display Connector (ADC) or a PC-ready version, with a DVI interface. Because of it digital-only interface and an innovative proprietary connector cable (called the Formac Display Connector, or FDC), the Gallery 2010 is easy to set up and has only one cable feeding out the back panel, which cuts down on untidy, unsightly tangles. The one cord, which ends in a DVI (or ADC) interface, is permanently attached to the back of the display. Halfway along the cable's length, you'll find the tiny FDC hub to which you attach the power cable and, if it's a PC-ready display, a 4-inch-long USB cable that then plugs into your PC, activating the two USB ports on the back of the display. The Mac-ready version is USB activated right out of the box.
It's a good thing the Formac Gallery 2010 delivers excellent picture quality out of the box because this display offers the fewest picture adjustment options we've ever seen in an LCD. To a certain extent, minimal adjustability is the norm for digital-interface LCDs, but we were surprised that you can't even adjust the contrast on the Gallery 2010. The display does have three touch-sensitive buttons on the bottom front bezel that activate with the slightest finger pressure. One is for power, and the other two increase and decrease brightness. For nearly $1,700, the Formac should provide a few more frills.
Given that there are no settings to adjust, the 2010's included manual is very thin; all it contains is information on how to install the display and adjust the tilt; some guidance for installing the LCD on Mac OS X; and a few troubleshooting tips. There was no software--installation or otherwise--included in the box, and when we checked Formac's Web site, we found no drivers for this particular model either, no doubt because this display is fresh off the assembly line, so the Plug and Play drivers included with your OS should complete the installation.
The Formac Gallery 2010's display attributes are many and impressive, including a 1,600x1,200 native resolution; a very high 600:1 contrast ratio for sharp, detailed images; and a fast 10ms to 25ms pixel-response rate for smooth DVD playback. The display also boasts 24-bit digital color technology, which results in some of the most stunningly vibrant shades we've seen.
Web graphics and Photoshop photos exhibited beautifully realistic skin tones and great subtlety in the range of hues. Our Display Mate-based tests showed uniformly sharp focus across the screen; crisp, clear text; and consistently excellent geometry. So far, only the 19-inch Princeton SENergy has earned a higher CNET Labs test score.
LCD image-quality test
Longer bars indicate better performance
No matter how uncomplicated and beautiful a monitor is, it needs a strong support system to back it up. Thankfully, Formac's dead-pixel policy is excellent; the company will replace any 2010 unit that has two or more dead pixels, but beyond that, the company's tech support offerings are meager.
Formac's standard three-year warranty doesn't apply to the backlight, which is covered for a mere year. You can access tech support via only the phone for the length of the warranty, and hours are limited from Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT. Our test call yielded disappointing results. According to the automated response system, it's not possible to speak to a live technician (you must get help via e-mail). And if you don't find the answer to your question among the automated menu selections, you're directed to the Web site. Unfortunately, at the time we evaluated this monitor, the Gallery 2010 was not even among the products listed on the menu.
Formac's Web site includes a FAQ for the 2010, but there are currently no driver updates available for this particular product and little information about phone or e-mail tech-support contacts. In the end, we found the department's e-mail address in the paper manual and figured out that the unidentified number prominently posted across the site is for tech support, though it's not clearly indicated as such. When we e-mailed Formac a simple question, we received an automated answer within a few minutes. More than 24 hours later, we received another e-mail, but instead of an answer, it asked us for more information about where and when we purchased the display and what kind of computer and OS we were using--not too helpful, especially considering that e-mail is the only way to get personalized tech support.