The MFM-HT205's design is striking. A wide, silver-colored bezel measures more than an inch around the top and sides; the 4 inches on the bottom accommodate a built-in subwoofer and speakers. The MFM-HT205's easel-style design is stable but offers very limited adjustability. It provides 20 degrees of backward tilt, but you can't raise or lower the monitor or pivot the screen.
To preserve the monitor's sleek look, the image-adjustment buttons are tucked behind the right side of the bezel, and small gray icons along the bezel indicate their functions. The eight buttons control the onscreen menu, the TV channels, the volume, the picture-in-picture modes (PIP), the input selection (Video 1, Video 2, DVI-D, PC1, and 3TV), and Sony's ErgoBright settings, which include Movie, PC, Auto, and Game modes. The MFM-HT205's controls are easy to use, but it's much easier to navigate the onscreen menu with the included remote control.
The Sony MFM-HT205's built-in, standard-definition TV tuner sets it apart from other LCDs. To watch TV, simply hook up a cable connection or an antenna to the coaxial port. Of course, you still can't watch HDTV or digital cable sources--these require a set-top box, such as a cable or a satellite receiver, which would connect to the monitor's digital inputs. From standard-def sources, you can choose to view in 4:3, with bars on either side of the screen, or zoom to fill the screen, though the picture will look slightly stretched. When you view TV from a digital source, it fills the entire screen (16:9 aspect ratio). When watching TV in PIP mode, you can choose from three different viewing box sizes and move the PIP window to the corner of your choice.
A full complement of ports, starting with DVI-D, D-Sub (analog), and the coaxial port, hides behind a removable piece of plastic on the back of the display. Grouped in another section on the back of the monitor are component, composite, and S-video ports; you'll find a second set of composite and S-Video ports and a headphone jack along the left side of the monitor. We've never seen a monitor with such an impressive assortment of inputs. The only port we could fathom adding is an HDMI port. These ports are prevalent on TVs but haven't appeared on monitors yet. All these connectivity options means a lot of cords, and we're glad Sony makes an attempt at cable management by including a hole in the monitor's stand. We appreciate the effort but prefer a more complete cable management system as seen on the ViewSonic VP930b.
The MFM-HT205 has two built-in 3-watt speakers and a 5-watt subwoofer--a feature not available on typical monitor built-ins. We were impressed that both TV, video, and MP3 files all sounded full and rich; the speakers were more than loud enough to fill even a large room.
We tested the MFM-HT205 as a monitor at its 1,400x1,050 native resolution. The monitor delivered exceptional performance on CNET Labs' DisplayMate-based tests. The monitor excelled on our sharpness tests, displaying dark, legible text. Its grayscale looked better than average, showing a perfect fade and only slight hints of green and purple. Colors were nearly perfect, with only slightly orange and blue tints in the reds, and screen uniformity was exceptional, with only slight dark patches along the right side of the screen. Overall, the picture appeared bright and vivid. A shiny screen coating, Xbrite, which is advertised to optimize brightness, color, and clarity, adds some glare, especially under direct fluorescent light.
Sony rates the MFM-HT205 with a fairly fast 6-millisecond response rate, and we found the display's moving-image performance rather good. DVD playback from a PC showed sharp images, with wonderful color, though noise levels were higher than average, and we noticed some ghosting. Gaming performance was better, with outstanding color and detail and no visible streaking or ghosting.
We also tested the MFM-HT205 as a television and were equally impressed by its results. Viewing HDTV with a DVI connection was sharp: colors appeared accurate and bright, with minimal amounts of digital noise. Testing with a component connection showed nearly identical performance, though colors were slightly more vivid.
Sony offers a standard three-year warranty on parts and labor. Phone support is available via a toll-free number for the life of the product. The included CD-ROM has a detailed user manual with links to a searchable knowledge base and FAQs on Sony's Web site. You can also e-mail questions or chat with a Sony service representative online.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)