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At 18.5x17.7 inches, the 996PF's chassis takes up a bit more space than your average 19-inch CRT does, but it's quite easy on the eyes. The attractive light-silver front and dark-gray back match the color schemes that are in vogue with many desktop manufacturers. Plus, the unit is easy to set up. Its informative manual includes a diagram showing you how to attach the swivel base, which lets you adjust the monitor a full 360 degrees horizontally and 20 degrees vertically, as well as instructions for attaching the cables. Unfortunately, the 996PF ships with only a power cord; you won't find a VGA cable, a Windows driver, or any other software in the package. To install the monitor, you must use the default Windows Plug and Play driver, which provides only standard resolutions and refresh rates.
You can access the 996PF's onscreen menus via the monitor's intuitive JAG dial control, Mag's one-button fine-tuner, which resides on the front of the monitor. Simply push in the dial to engage the menu system, turn the dial to navigate the settings (contrast, brightness, pin cushion, degauss, color temperature, and so forth), and press the control again to choose a setting. To our dismay, however, there's no easy way to exit the menu system--you have to spin the dial until you reach the Exit icon. And oddly, on the model we tested, some onscreen settings didn't match those listed in the manual.
In other news, the convenient Enhance button, located near the JAG dial, toggles through five display modes (Normal, Zoom, Vivid, Warm, and Golden), which alter the color temperature and provide a slight zoom-in for the screen image.
It hertz so good
If screen flicker gives you headaches, the 996PF may be worth the price. It can handle a 1,600x1,200 resolution at a 75Hz refresh rate, compared with 68Hz for the 950b. That's just enough of a difference to allow flicker-sensitive folk to use 1,600x1,200 with no negative effects.
What's the score?
In CNET's DisplayMate performance tests, the 996PF earned high marks for accuracy and color quality compared to similarly priced monitors. The colors in our sample photos appeared evenly saturated, with detailed and realistic objects. We encountered some streaking while viewing high-contrast photos, and at higher resolutions, such as 1,280x1,024 and 1,600x1,200, the images appeared soft rather than sharp and focused. The 996PF's screen looked particularly blurry with 6.8-point text, especially with white type against a green background. If you're willing to pay more for superior focus, check out the Samsung SyncMaster 900NF.
We frown upon the 996PF's unusually complicated three-year warranty. In the first year, MAG covers all parts and labor, and you pay the shipping charge to the service center. In the second year, all parts are covered, and you pay all labor and shipping charges. In the third year, all parts except the picture tube are covered, and you pay all labor and shipping charges. Warranties for competing monitors usually offer more consistent coverage over the life of the warranty. On the bright side, Mag provides toll-free tech support for the life of the product. In our trial calls, we reached knowledgeable support personnel in less than two minutes. Plus, the Web site offers driver downloads, an FAQ, and a decision tree for common questions.
In most respects, the Mag InnoVision 996PF won't stand out in a crowd, unless you must avoid screen flicker. If that isn't an issue, however, the 996PF's $299 price is simply too high compared to that of similar alternatives, such as the $199, equally attractive and functional Samsung SyncMaster 950b.
|Monitor image-quality test|
Longer bars indicate better performance
|The Mag InnoVision 996PF's overall score places it firmly in the middle of the pack. The CRT outscored all of its competitors in Color Quality/Uniformity tests and tied for the top score in Geometry. However, it slipped to last place in Focus tests; at high resolutions, images appeared blurry, particularly with 6.8-point text.|