Formac Gallery Xtreme 1900
Formac's niche has long been Mac-oriented LCDs that mimic (and once matched) Apple's unusual design sensibility. But the company's designers have fallen behind the times. The new Gallery Xtreme 1900, a 19-inch LCD, offers lovely image quality at a reasonable price, but its easel-like design looks bizarre next to a PC and even clashes with the latest iterations of cool, white Macs.
If you've seen Apple's latest LCD line, the Cinema Display, you'll understand why the Formac Gallery Xtreme 1900 looks so clumsy by comparison. The Gallery Xtreme 1900 is shaped like an easel, with a clear-plastic outer casing that blends into two little front feet covered in nonskid black rubber and a third foot that kicks out of the back panel to stabilize and tilt the display panel. The tripod approach is problematic because it limits the adjustability of the display. You can tilt the panel backward a good amount, but you can't tilt it forward or get it to stand straight up (which irked our Labs technician considerably). You also can't adjust the height of the panel, and because it has three widely separated feet, you can't just prop it up on a dictionary or a riser--you'll need something more like a monitor raft. Add to that the lack of Portrait/Landscape pivot or left/right swivel, and you have one inflexible LCD. The Gallery Xtreme is VESA compatible, though, and MacMice sells a wall-mounting kit specifically for it.
The Gallery Xtreme 1900's color scheme--a clear-plastic frame with a shiny, black bezel--is similarly ill conceived; it doesn't match those of the new Macs or most PCs. The frame's construction felt a bit flimsy, almost as though you could pry the panel from the frame (not that we tried). The display comes only with a DVI connector, though users with older Macs can buy an ADC-to-DVI connector. Unsightly cable dangle is not a problem, as the display sits low on the desktop. Also, only one signal cable extends from the panel; halfway down its length sits a small box called the Formac Display Connector, or FDC, which has ports for a USB cable and the DC cable. There are two USB ports on the back of the display for connecting a mouse and a keyboard, but if you've chosen the DVI option, you must connect a USB cable (provided) between the USB ports on the FDC and your computer to use them.
The Gallery Xtreme 1900 has three touch-sensitive buttons on its bottom bezel: one for power and two to increase and decrease the brightness, which is the only setting you can adjust through hardware. Mac OS X users can make additional image adjustments and set up color profiles through the OS's Display Calibrator Assistant, while Wintel users will need to download Hex2Bit's free Monitor Calibration Wizard. For advanced graphics users, Formac sells a $250 calibration device with software that lets you further fine-tune the display's color.
We tested the Formac Gallery Xtreme 1900 at its native resolution of 1,280x1,024 and a 60Hz refresh rate. It performed quite well on CNET's battery of DisplayMate-based tests, especially when reproducing the colors of Web graphics. Most LCDs tend to make colors look overly bright, cheerful, and artificial compared to those on high-end CRTs. This display creates rich, vibrant colors that aren't over the top. Text is reasonably sharp, and the DisplayMate-based white-level and grayscale tests reveal an excellent range of light and dark grays and a fairly uniform progression from one end of the scale to the other; however, grays have a distinctly bluish cast. The display has good screen uniformity, and while the backlight does leak through, creating an unusual frame of light just inside the bezel, we found this less annoying than the irregular washes of light one usually sees in an LCD. DVD performance is good (on a PC with a state-of-the-art graphics card), with minimal streaking and ghosting and smooth, relatively noise-free backgrounds.
The display comes with a poor one-year warranty; three years is the industry standard for LCDs. For $99 you can buy two extra years of coverage for the Formac; however, even the extended warranty covers the backlight only for the first year. Formac's dead-pixel policy--a maximum of five--is good compared to those of most LCD vendors. For an extra $99, you can buy a guarantee that the display will have zero dead pixels when leaving the factory. But due to shipping, Formac can't guarantee that it will arrive without dead pixels, so in reality, the $99 buys you a maximum of two dead pixels before repair or replacement. Toll-free tech support is available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT. Formac's Web site also provides FAQs, software, and an interactive help desk.