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LaCie 321 review: LaCie 321

LaCie 321

Seán Captain

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6 min read

8.0

LaCie 321

The Good

Excellent color fidelity; bright; advanced image-adjustment controls; wide viewing angles; plentiful inputs.

The Bad

Chintzy stand that makes position adjustments difficult; no cable-management system; toll-call tech support with limited hours.

The Bottom Line

This is one of the best LCDs for people who need a monitor with precise color and shading capabilities.
Intro
The LaCie 321 is one of the best-performing LCD monitors we've reviewed, tying with the high-scoring, Editors' Choice-winning Eizo ColorEdge CG18 in our test scores. The display's excellent color fidelity, high brightness, and generous viewing angles dazzled us in both our Labs' tests and in our real-world evaluation with digital photos. Its features mark it as a monitor designed for graphics professionals or highly demanding enthusiasts. Unfortunately, LaCie skimps in a few areas, such as its chintzy stand offering with very poor screen-tilt adjustment. Tech support is a bit skimpy, as well. The LaCie 321 is clearly a professional-grade monitor, not only due to its 21-inch wide-aspect panel but also because of the included hood, which shades the top and the sides of the screen from light that can cause glare or subtly alter colors and shading. The hood works well once it's in position, but assembling and mounting it is tricky. Futzing with the three interlocking metal plates so close to such an expensive screen can provoke anxiety.

Mounting the hood on the 321 requires patience, and a steady hand.

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.


The 321 allows find-grained color adjustments for various material and settings.

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.

CNET Labs DisplayMate Tests
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Note: Measured with the Minolta CA210

For its high price, the LaCie 321's lack of a printed manual seems skimpy. It does, however, come with a CD that bears a PDF version of a handy manual that provides basic setup and adjustment instructions, specifications, and troubleshooting advice. LaCie offers a three-year warranty covering parts, labor, and the backlight. Phone-based technical support for the life of the product is available weekdays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT. And unless you're dialing from the 503 area code, callers must pay toll charges. Customers can also send a help request via a form on LaCie's Web site and can expect an e-mail response within 24 hours.
8.0

LaCie 321

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 9Support 7Setup 7