Easy as LCD
If you've always coveted an LCD but can't be bothered with a painful setup process, the Sceptre X9G will make your dreams come true. Even with its vast, 19-inch screen and 1,280x1,024 native resolution, this monitor weighs a fairly average 18.7 pounds. You'll find three USB ports on the back of the display, along with the conveniently placed digital and analog connectors, so there are no panels to remove or signal cords to feed. Plus, an audio cable lets you hook up the decent-sounding speakers on the bottom of the display's bezel. Unfortunately, if you want to connect the Sceptre to a digital interface on your video card, you'll need to buy a DVI cable for about $20.
Although the display sits on a reasonably sturdy base, its range of motion is strictly limited. The X9G can neither swivel 90 degrees into portrait mode nor does it let you adjust the vertical height of the display. In fact, it rotates only 15 degrees up, 5 degrees down, or 30 degrees to the left or right, whereas many other LCDs rotate a full 90 degrees.
The X96's calibration options are also fairly limited; with the digital connection, you can adjust the brightness and contrast, move the onscreen-display (OSD) controls around the screen, and change items such as the color temperature, but that's about it. There's no power-save mode and no way to lock your settings so that other users can't alter them.
The Sceptre X9G performed reasonably well on CNET Labs' DisplayMate-based tests. Its overall focus looks fairly clear and consistent from the corners to the center of the display. Text appears a bit jaggy at small point sizes and with sans serif and italic fonts, but at normal reading sizes, it's acceptably crisp. The display also shows a nice range of grays and clear, true colors on DisplayMate test screens, as well as with Photoshop and Web graphics. We noticed some inconsistencies with screen uniformity, however--it's a bit darker around the edges--but for the average user, this shouldn't pose a problem. DVD movies look smooth, as well, thanks to the X9G's blazingly fast, 15ms pixel-response rate. The display's high 250cd/m² brightness rating and 500:1 contrast ratio make for nicely bright and sharp pictures that require no brightness or contrast adjustments.
Meager support options
In terms of documentation, the Sceptre X9G is sparsely appointed. A user manual contains all the basic information you'll need to set up the display, connect the optional wall- ($50) or arm-mount kit ($50 and the cost of the arm), navigate the OSD, and troubleshoot rudimentary problems. But Sceptre makes no mention of tech-support contacts anywhere in the documentation and includes no software disc. That's not unusual for a monitor, but it's sometimes handy to have your drivers and manuals available on a CD.
The Sceptre X9G's one-year parts and labor warranty is downright skimpy compared to the three-year industry average. Fortunately, you can extend it to three years for $79, and Sceptre offers free tech support for the life of the display, regardless of the warranty length. Phone support hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. PT, Monday through Friday. Sceptre's Web site contains driver downloads, manuals, FAQs, and e-mail tech-support contacts. Beyond that, the company's stuck-pixel policy is acceptable, if not impressive; it will replace any 19-inch LCD that has more than seven stuck pixels when it first arrives.
If you must have a 19-inch LCD, you won't find a better reasonable-quality, bargain-basement model of this size. However, if you're willing to go down an inch or two, check out the Compaq TFT7020. It offers better picture quality, a lower price, and a longer warranty. Or if you want truly high-end graphics on a big screen, go with the Formac 1740 or the Apple Studio Display.
|LCD image-quality test|
Longer bars indicate better performance
|As this chart indicates, the Sceptre X9G can't keep up with its slightly smaller competitors. The display doesn't look terrible; with its clear focus, sharp pictures, and wide range of grays and colors, the screen appears quite eye-friendly. However, CNET Labs noted some problems and inconsistencies. Text, particularly small point sizes with san serif and italic fonts, isn't always as smooth as we'd like. Also, the display is darker around the edges than it is in the center. At this price, we expect better.|