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If you like the glossy appearance of a plasma TV, then you'll appreciate the look of Sony's Xbrite monitors. The handsomely designed 17-inch Sony SDM-HS75P/S produces rich, brilliant colors with good accuracy. Provided you keep it away from bright light sources that can cause glare--overhead lights and windows, for instance--the monitor will deliver fine quality for entertainment and will fit the bill for most short tasks, but people staring at monitors all day may want to look elsewhere. The potential for a distracting glare and its $400 price keep the Sony SDM-HS75P/S from being a good choice for general deployment in large offices; this monitor is better suited to a home setting where its high styling and entertainment features will be best appreciated--and worth a few extra dollars.
Sony covered the LCD panel with a film that gives the screen a glossy look similar to that of a plasma TV. The resulting colors are vibrant, but the coating also can produce a distracting glare, along with reflections on the screen from, say, ceiling lights directly overhead or strong sunlight. You'll have better luck in a room with indirect lighting, such as lamps that bounce light off the ceiling or walls. With the right lighting conditions, the glossy Sony SDM-HS75P/S and its fast pixel-response rate of 8 milliseconds (ms) admirably displays most content, from Word documents and Web pages to DVDs and 3D games. Image purists such as digital photographers and graphic artists, who value subtlety and accuracy over flash, should look elsewhere.
Flashy looks go beyond the screen to its easel-style design. The panel is bordered on the top and the sides with a thin, bezel, which comes in pewter, silver, and black. The side portions extend below the screen to become legs that flare forward slightly before attaching to a bar that serves as the monitor's stand. Further support comes from a hinged leg behind the screen. It's controlled by a spring that is perfectly calibrated to match the weight of the monitor. Push the top of the screen back, and the foot extends out, allowing the panel to tilt back 20 degrees. Pull the front of the panel toward you, and the leg retracts to support the screen at any angle until it reaches the fully upright position. Although this easel-style monitor is attractive, it's not very adjustable: you can't adjust the height of the screen, nor can you rotate it.
Sony's attention to design detail continues on the back of the monitor. Its power connector, analog input, and DVI port are located in a square recession that opens up at the bottom of the panel to accommodate the cables (all three of which are included with the monitor). A pewter faceplate fits over the back of the monitor--hiding the ports and the cable connections.
Though we have mixed opinions on the glossy effect of the screen, we can't deny that this is a high-performing panel. With a strong overall performance on CNET's DisplayMate-based tests, it's one of the best-scoring 17-inch LCDs we have reviewed--with only the SyncMaster 173P performing better. Text was sharp overall, but we had some difficulty reading white letters on a black background because of glare from overhead lights in the room. The glare also provided a slight problem in our grayscale tests, in which we try to distinguish very subtle shading differences such as near-black shades on a black background or near-white shades on a white background. An ill-placed reflection sometimes blotted out these subtleties and required us to move the screen around to get a clear view. Despite the glare, we saw relatively good results.
Color performance was above average. The Sony SDM-HS75P/S mixed its three primary colors very well and showed only the slightest touches of blue or green throughout a grayscale. The monitor compressed color in saturated hues; however, these color issues are common among most LCDs and are relatively minor. The color glitches were among several flaws that take the SDM-HS75P/S out of the running as a monitor for refined graphics tasks. The screen's brightness wasn't uniform; the bottom portion appeared a bit lighter than the top.
In addition to brightness and contrast adjustment, the Sony SDM-HS75P/S provides control of the backlight itself--a feature that should please video geeks. Despite its name, the traditional brightness control on most monitors doesn't change the overall screen brightness but rather the depth of dark shades. Likewise, contrast affects the level of bright shades. By adding a backlight control, Sony allows users to raise or lower the screen's true brightness level--at both the dark and light ends of the scale--with one adjustment. You can also tweak midtones (the rate at which brightness ramps up from black to white) by choosing one of three gamma settings. And you can determine the overall tint of all colors by choosing from several color-temperature settings or by adjusting the individual red, green, and blue primary color levels.
Sony backs the SDM-HS75P/S with a three-year parts-and-labor warranty, but you'll have to pick up the bill for shipping it to a service center. For lesser problems, you can call Sony's 24/7, toll-free technical-support line, and online support is available via e-mail, live chat, or a Web knowledge base.