On the other hand, connecting the cables is a simple task because the panel pivots, making the connectors easily accessible.The minimalist design of the LaCie 321 mirrors its intended use. The slim bezel fades into the background so as not to be a distraction. The control panel consists of tiny round buttons on the bottom bezel, and the onscreen menus are subdued. The base and the neck are also dark gray and form a simple and stable L shape. Unfortunately, there is no cable-control system, so the cables just hang off the back of the panel. The monitor doesn't include integrated speakers or an audio pass-through for headphones, which reiterates that this screen is for intensive graphics work, not for watching TV or playing games. The lack of flashy design elements allows the user to focus on the onscreen image.
The dark gray panel moves smoothly through 4.5 inches of up and down adjustment, and it swivels easily on its lazy-Susan turntable. Tilt adjustment however, is absurdly difficult, requiring a hefty yank to make the screen budge, which pretty much rules out fine-grained tilt adjustments. Because of this LCD's very generous vertical viewing angles, however, a slight tilt in either direction won't affect screen images, as it would on a low-end monitor. And although you can pivot the panel smoothly between Portrait and Landscape modes, the panel tends to tilt to random angles in the process. Once in place, the bundled Pivot Pro software lets you reorient the image.The LaCie 321 offers plenty of input options. It features two DVI inputs, for sharing the screen between a pair of high-end workstations, plus a standard analog D-sub port for connections to a notebook PC or a desktop with low-end graphics. (The second DVI port can also accept analog signals via an included adapter cable.) The 321 can easily serve as a single-screen command center for several computers.
The onscreen menus are very granular and sophisticated. The color submenu, for instance, allows individual adjustment of saturation and six color parameters: red, yellow, green, cyan, blue, and magenta. It also offers a choice of six color-temperature presets, from quite cool to rather warm Kelvin ratings: 9,300; 8,200; 7,500; 6,500 (sRGB); 5,000. The sixth preset, labeled Native, has a temperature of 6,500, which is identical to the setting designated sRGB and thus redundant. Other controls include image sharpness and screen centering (up/down and left/right adjustments). If you need further calibration, LaCie sells its Blue Eye Pro hardware calibration and ICC profile tool for $329, though it's for use only on Mac OS X 10.1 and above. Blue Eye Pro combines calibration software with a sensor that helps users calibrate the LCD, creates profiles for different colorimetric environments, and even helps users ascertain whether they need to recalibrate the monitor.
The menu provides access to some intriguing features. The Expansion mode, for instance, is used for zooming in on images. Auto Brightness automatically adjusts brightness to adapt to the material displayed onscreen (different uses, such as text, photographs, or Web graphics, look better at different brightness settings). This may come in handy when switching frequently to new sources during Web browsing or reading documents. But anyone using this monitor for graphics work should disable the feature to maintain color consistency, according to LaCie.
Powering up the monitor while holding the Select button on the bezel brings up an advanced menu with additional controls. This menu is required for adjusting the six primary colors in the programmable color-temperature setting. It also lets you adjust the monitor's gamma, used for precise color response to increasing brightness levels, and tweak settings for improving the quality of images from an analog source.While design frills are nice, the true measure of a professional monitor is its accuracy with colors and shading. And the LaCie 321 is a stunning performer--one of the best LCDs we have seen.
It nailed various tests for color consistency in CNET's DisplayMate-based diagnostic software, which translates to strong, accurate color for graphics, even for challenging material. One photo we viewed, for instance, shows a bronze statue with parts in very bright sunlight and other parts, such as the face, in shadow. The 321 was able to display clear detail in the dim face, while capturing the brilliant look of metal in sunlight. It also beautifully rendered a picture of a child in a stroller. The little girl's fair skin appears nearly translucent, with just a hint of pink in the cheeks, but not the artificially warm cast that some faces take on with lesser monitors. Color and detail benefit from the monitor's brightness, which was quite evenly distributed across the screen. Text was legible at a tiny font size of 6.8 points but started looking crisp at about 9 points, which should suffice for most documents.
The monitor also impressively maintains color and brightness consistency through generous horizontal and vertical viewing angles. Our hands-on tests show that even fine gradations are reliably presented through the normal range of motion for someone spending long hours in front of the screen.
Predictably, the LaCie 321 didn't fare too well in DVD viewing, but again, the display is for working with high-end graphics, not watching video. The company has clearly focused on elements other than fast pixel response time.
One disappointment was a smattering of defective pixels. We counted five that stood out with the wrong hue in various color patterns. All were at the periphery of the screen, in the upper-right quadrant. This level and location of defects falls within the industry-standard ISO 13406-2 guidelines that LaCie follows and is therefore not designated as defective by LaCie, though we don't usually see LCDs with this many. Unfortunately, the perfect LCD panel is still a rare find, especially in this large screen format.