Sony's Trinitron displays have a good reputation in the monitor industry, and for the most part, it's well deserved. The HMD-A400/L is a stylish, flat-screen display with overall good image quality. But when you factor in the high price, suddenly the competition starts to look a lot better. Sony's Trinitron displays have a good reputation in the monitor industry, and for the most part, it's well deserved. The HMD-A400/L is a stylish, flat-screen display with overall good image quality. But when you factor in the high price, suddenly the competition starts to look a lot better.
One thing is always true of Sony: It's not afraid to experiment with design. There's not much you can do with the basic bulky, cathode-ray-tube (CRT) monitor, but the HMD-A400/L's funky, silvery-purple case still looks cooler than the average big display's. The only problem with the case is that the frame around the glass is more than two inches wide, adding girth to an already huge piece of equipment. And although the base tilts a little, the HMD-A400/L lacks the swiveling base most monitors have.
On the back of the Sony HMD-A400/L, you'll find an upstream USB port for connecting the display to your PC, and on each side, there are two downstream USB ports for connecting peripherals such as scanners, digital cameras, or printers. Included with the monitor is a paper user manual that contains thorough setup and onscreen display (OSD) navigation instructions, in addition to a basic troubleshooting guide. There is also a plastic stand that you can slip into a groove under the monitor to adjust the angle or use it to store CDs if you don't need the extra tilt.
Shades of PlayStation
Sony must have taken a cue from its PlayStation when it designed the monitor's OSD. It consists of one joysticklike button on the front of the monitor that you press to call up the OSD menu. You then push it up, down, and side to side to select and adjust the various controls. The OSD is organized into submenus with headings such as Size/Center, Geometry, Convergence, and Screen (for degauss and moiré adjustments). Unfortunately, you can't move the OSD or adjust the length of time before it disappears. These are minor luxuries, but we expect them in a monitor this expensive.
The Sony's maximum resolution is 1,600x1,200 with a fine .24mm aperture grille pitch and an eye-fatiguing 70Hz refresh rate. Setting the monitor to 1,280x1,024 allows for a decent 75Hz refresh rate. But even at this setting, we noticed a fair amount of intensity fluctuations and flicker in the monitor, so those with sensitive eyes may want to look for a monitor with a higher refresh rate.
Flicker aside, the Sony HMD-A400/L's picture quality was good. As part of CNET Labs' DisplayMate benchmark tests, we look at pages of text in various fonts and sizes. The Sony's text was crisp, dark, and legible, even at 6-point font. The monitor's overall focus was very good, with only slight degradation at the corners. Despite a slight outward bow on the bottom edges that we couldn't correct, the image was very straight with respect to the outer bezel. The HMD-A400/L did a good job of reproducing colors on both our Photoshop and Web test photos; skin tones were even and accurate, and reds and blues were crisp and true. In our grayscale tests, we saw good separation between shades, and the grays and whites had a nice warm tone overall--preferable to the yellowish-green tints that plague many monitors.
Unfortunately, the Sony HMD-A400/L's one-year warranty on parts, labor, and CRT is skimpy compared to the three to five years offered by other manufacturers, and Sony offers no warranty extensions. Toll-free telephone tech support, however, is available 24 hours, 7 days a week for the life of the monitor.
Although we appreciate the HMD-A400/L's good picture quality and stylish design, the display's high price and short warranty period spoil the mood somewhat. The Editors' Choice Cornerstone p1450 scored higher on our tests, costs a bit less than the Sony, and offers a generous five-year warranty.
19-inch CRT image-quality test
Longer bars indicate better performance
|Aside from a slight distortion at the bottom of the screen, the Sony's image quality was good, with crisp text and true colors.|