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The LG L206WU is a fairly ordinary-looking 20-inch wide-screen LCD with an unusual feature: a DisplayLink video chip that lets you connect it to your PC via USB 2.0. This ability makes the L206WU highly convenient as a second display (and you can daisy-chain up to six via USB). The monitor can also be used as your main display, and it features both VGA and DVI ports. While it scored quite well on CNET Labs' image quality tests, the picture degraded when watching a DVD using USB. We also found the viewing angle to be surprisingly narrow in both modes. The display doesn't support HDCP, so you'll be left in the dark with Hollywood's copyright protected HD content. And at $350, it's priced higher than competing productivity displays such as the HP W2007 and the ViewSonic VG2030WM. The LG L206WU is worth the price premium only if you want the easiest installation possible for adding a second display or if your PC lacks a second video port (and you lack the skills or desire to upgrade your system's graphics). It's also a boon for those looking for a multidisplay setup.
Before we get to the design of the LG L306WU, we must first comment on the setup and installation, since it involves more than the usual DVI or VGA cable. Setting up the display as a primary monitor via DVI or VGA is straightforward plug-and-play. We ran into problems, however, when we connected it via USB. According to the installation instructions, once the display is connected to the system via USB, it will self-install the DisplayLink drivers in order to function. In our case, however, we got an image via USB only after we connected the display via DVI (VGA would work, too), manually installed the DisplayLink driver from the bundled CD, rebooted our Windows XP test system, and reconnected the display via USB. (Your mileage may vary; in earlier tests, we didn't encounter any driver issues.) Once DisplayLink is ready and working, configuring the display as an extension or a mirror of your primary display involves using Windows Display Properties and setting the hierarchy option for each.
From the front, the LG L206WU is a nice-looking monitor, with a narrow, glossy black bezel. The bezel is a very thin 0.6 inch wide, which means you can position a matrix of six units closely together, provided you have a long enough table or desk space for them. We wish the black color carried over to the stand and back of the display, however. Not only is it a bit jarring to the eye against the black bezel, but also the stand is a pure white and the rear compartment on the display is an off-white, which means they also clash with each other. The stand features a wide footprint that allows it to stand tall during everyday use without any fear of it toppling over. The neck of the display offers an impressive 5.5 inches of height adjustment.
The onscreen display (OSD) buttons on the bottom of the bezel are clearly labeled in large white font on the front. On the back, the DVI, VGA, and USB inputs are labeled in a large raised and tangible white font. The OSD has a blissfully short learning curve and offers the usual adjustments, including brightness, contrast, gamma, and color temperature. A cool blue LED above the Power button illuminates when the monitor is on.
Pixel-response rate: 2ms
Contrast ratio: 5,000:1
Connectivity: DVI, VGA, USB
HDCP compliant? No
Included video cables? DVI and USB
The L206WU features three USB 2.0 ports (two in, one out), a DVI port, and a VGA port, all of which are located on the bottom on the chassis. To connect the display directly to your system via USB, you use the USB-out port. (You'd use the USB-in ports when daisy-chaining multiple units.) There are no built-in speakers included and no support for HDCP, hammering home even more the intended market for this display. The screen can easily rotate 90 degrees for vertical-screen viewing and comes with the Pivot Pro software to support this feature.
The most hyped feature of the L206WU is its support for DisplayLink technology. Typically, you would need a video card with two video ports (VGA or DVI) in order to connect two monitors to a single computer. DisplayLink makes that task simpler and cheaper. If your PC has a lone video-out port, a DisplayLink display can save you the expense and trouble of upgrading your graphics card. You can simply plug the L206WU directly into a USB port on your PC and have it function as the main display, as a mirror of your current display, or as an extension of your current display. Also, if you have multiple displays that support DisplayLink you could even daisy-chain up to six to a single system.
Among the displays we've reviewed recently, the LG L206WU scored higher than most in CNET Labs' performance tests, bested only by the HP W2007 and finishing with a higher composite score than another DisplayLink model, the Samsung 940UX. It received a perfect score in our sharpness suite of DisplayMate tests, but it scored lower than some of our more recent 20- and 21-inch LCD on our grayscale test and our low-saturation color test, which measures how well the display produces color when also producing a bright white image. We ran our tests in both DVI and USB modes and found no difference in quality when viewing screens in DisplayMate with either interface.
While the display produces an acceptable image for viewing DVDs, a less-than-impressive viewing angle detracts from its overall appeal. When viewed straight on the picture is very good, with deep blacks and rich colors. When viewed from slightly below the optimal viewing angle or from the sides, however, the display gets noticeably dark. This problem was not limited to DVDs; the narrow viewing angle was also apparent during our playtime with World of Warcraft (it must be noted that DisplayLink is not compatible with 3D games because of the CPU resources DisplayLink requires), or just looking at a blank white Word or Excel screen. In contrast, the HP W2007 produced a great picture and had a very forgiving viewing angle, while costing roughly $90 less than the LG L206WU.
While the DVD playback through the DVI connection was fine, the picture quality degraded when viewed through DisplayLink. It was like watching the movie through a thick film of dust caked on the monitor. There was also very noticeable dithering and swimming of the DVD image when viewed in this mode. As when using DisplayMate, there was not a noticeable difference in picture quality when viewing non-3D Windows apps through USB compared with DVI.
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Service and support
We're disappointed that at the time of this writing, we could not find the driver required to run the display in Displaylink mode on LG's site, but they assured us that it would be posted by the time our review was up. The warranty period for the L206WU is three years for parts including backlight (panel) and labor. Toll-free support for the display when purchased in North America is available 24-7.