Mag InnoVision priced its LT565 flat-panel display within reach of bargain hunters. But before you plunk down $350 on this 15-inch (diagonal), 1,024x768, stereo-speaker-equipped LCD, you should know what you don't get for your money--namely, good image quality. If you absolutely need a flat-panel display and cannot spend a fortune, you could get by with the LT565, which is no worse than other LCDs in its price range. But we're hard-pressed to recommend it or any other low-cost LCD and urge you to keep in mind that $350 these days buys a good 17-inch CRT, such as the Sony CPD-E240/B. When it comes to stability, the LT565 is almost kid-proof. It sits on a squat, heavy pedestal with a large base, so it's exceptionally secure on your desk. The panel's top edge is only 15 inches above your desktop, so just about anyone can look down on the screen at the proper ergonomic angle. The panel tilts smoothly and stays rigidly fixed where you release it--a good thing, too, since the LT565's viewing angle is so narrow that, when you stand up, the image suddenly disappears. Further, the fixed, nonswiveling panel and heavy base make it awkward to adjust the display from side to side.
On the bright side, the LT565's ports don't sit flush against the back panel, so you'll have plenty of room for inserting the power cord, as welll as the audio and analog video cables. However, if you want to remove the base to attach the panel to an arm or a wall bracket, you might have a little trouble. We didn't attempt it, but you'd probably need a bent screwdriver and a lot of patience to reach the screws.
The LCD is capable of displaying images at resolutions up to a respectable 1,024x768. But Mag InnoVision didn't endow this 15-inch display with many hardware or software frills, which isn't all that surprising given the bargain-basement price. And you won't find any special drivers or color-matching software with the LT565, so you can't fine-tune the display's output to match those of other equipment, such as printers and scanners.
To receive standard input signals, the LT565 ships with an analog and audio cables. It lacks a digital video interface (DVI), but if your PC has an advanced graphics controller with DVI output, you're probably not in the market for an LCD in this price range anyway.
Speakers flank the panel on either side and are far enough apart to give a sense of stereo sound. Located on the monitor's right side, Up, Down, Automatic, Open Menus, and Power buttons operate the onscreen-display menus; small symbols stamped on the bezel itself direct you to them.
There's no way to sugarcoat it: the LT565's image quality disappointed us on CNET Labs' tests. To be fair, most LCD panels at this price range exhibit similar image quality problems as well, but you should still know what you're buying.
Text looked blurry, and colors slipped out of their pixels and gave nearby areas a smudged appearance. White areas and pale backgrounds showed odd color tints, mostly greenish near the top of the screen and purplish near the bottom.
Like many LCDs, the LT565 has two general settings for overall color cast: cool and warm. The screen defaults to cool, which unfortunately made most of the colors look waterlogged, though blues seemed OK. And even on the warm setting, we couldn't make oranges, yellows, and reds appear lively. When we cranked up the brightness and contrast, colors quickly started to fade. Launching a DVD movie didn't help; colors still looked flat, and moving objects appeared patchy. Also, when we set all the volume controls to their maximum levels, the movie's soundtrack was barely audible.
To test the LT565 with DisplayMate-based tests, CNET Labs used a standard monitor test system consisting of a 730MHz Dell Dimension 4100 with a 128MB Nvidia GeForce4 Ti4600 graphics controller.
15-inch LCD image quality test
Longer bars indicate better performance
It's a good thing that the LT565 is simple to install and operate. An included 16-page manual adequately explains setting up and operating the display, but it often reads like it was written by a nonnative English speaker. Mag InnoVision offers no supplemental online documentation.
Mag InnoVision's support policy is also rather confusing. The warranty runs three years on all parts except the backlight, which gets a mere two years, and it covers labor for just one year. And that's only if you buy it direct from Mag; if you shop retail, you get a one-year warranty for all parts and service. Most LCD panels these days come with three years across the board, so Mag's coverage doesn't reassure us.
On the other hand, Mag provides a 45-day monitor replacement guarantee with no minimum on dead or stuck pixels; the company says it replaces panels with even one defective pixel if the customer demands it.
The toll-free tech support line is staffed business hours, Pacific time. In our test call, the first technician we reached seemed uninformed, but he quickly referred us to a supervisor who knew the score.