Sony's style has come to the forefront with its first entries into the hybrid LCD TV/monitor space, the 19" MFM-HT95 and the 17" MFM-HT75W. We took the 19" model for a test spin to see if its performance matched its looks.
Sony hit a six when it came to the design of the MFM-HT95, with minimalism obviously the guiding mantra. The unit looks extremely sleek, with the curving metallic silver front a definite eye pleaser. The rear of the unit is recessed just far enough away from the edges of the silver front that you're given the illusion that the entire TV is only a centimeter wide sliver of metal (the unit is actually 185mm thick, still not a 'fat' set by any measure). The front of the unit only sports one button (the power switch), with other controls such as volume, channel change, picture in picture and contrast arranged vertically on the side of the screen.
The rear of the unit sports all the connectors, and even here Sony keeps it neat with a detachable panel hiding the main inputs (such as the power, antenna, DVI and D-Sub connectors). It's a mystery, then, why Sony has kept the two main AV connectors - one component with stereo audio and one composite/S-Video with stereo audio - in a separate exposed panel.
The MFM-HT95 also sports one of the most elegant tilting mechanisms we've seen on an LCD TV/monitor. Supported only by what seems to be a thin bit of plastic at the rear (it's quite sturdy, we assure you), the MFM-HT95 easily tilts by pushing on the top of the unit. Not much force is required, and the screen can easily be angled backwards up to 20 degrees.
As well as DVI and D-Sub, the MFM-HT95 features inputs for component video, S-Video and composite (which means you can have to up four different sources feeding into the screen at once). It's aiming to be a best of both worlds solution, and as such does give you some pretty decent connectors for both IT and AV - though an HDMI connector would have been nice to round off the package.
The set comes with a built-in analogue television tuner, but to make the best use of the screen's high 1280x1024 resolution you'll need a high definition digital TV tuner. The screen has an excellent picture-in-picture function, which allows you to work on any PC-based application while having the TV (or any other AV product you may have connected to the screen, such as a DVD) appear in a small box in the corner of the screen. The MFM-HT95 allows you to have this small PIP as one of three sizes (with the largest screen being about 15cm to 20cm wide and the smallest roughly about 10cm wide) , and it can be placed in any corner of the screen you feel most comfortable with.
To help with picture quality, Sony has integrated its patented Clear Bright Technology into the unit. Clear Bright is the combination of high brightness (450cd/m2), a glare filter and low reflection coating. Sony has also included an automatic brightness meter, which when turned on can automatically adjust the brightness of the screen depending on the room's ambient lighting conditions.
We connected the MFM-HT95 through a regular D-Sub connection to a PC, via component cables to a DVD player and component to a high definition set top box, and it performed exceptionally under all three different conditions.
As a monitor, the unit made a great workscreen, with its fast 12ms response time resulting in a smooth, bright image and very little eyestrain. Connected to a DVD player, the MFM-HT95 produced an image with outstanding contrast and brightness. We put Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones on a test run using the Sony screen - the film's fast moving scenes such as the chase through the heights of Coruscant city played without any motion blur or distortion, while the asteroid chase with Obi-Wan and Jango Fett was reproduced with literally hundreds of stars in the background (a feat lesser screens find difficult to do). The screen shines particularly when connected to a high definition set top box - if you're getting this screen, then keep in mind that you're not seeing it at its best until you hook it up to a HD tuner box.
Set-up is a breeze for this Sony - the set features an auto-scan function for television stations that is easy to find and works well. The included remote also has a nice feel and weight to it, with the buttons logically laid out for ease of use. The set performs well sound-wise, with the unit's SRS WOW speakers providing a decent stereo performance.
Perhaps the biggest gripe we have with this otherwise decent TV is Sony's decision not to provide it in widescreen. While the 19" model we tested gave us plenty of screen real estate, its 5:4 format still meant that viewing in picture-in-picture mode meant some areas of documents became easily obscured by the TV or DVD mini-screen (this tends to happen less with 16:9 ratio screens, such as Dell's W1900). Sony was able to create the 17" equivalent of this screen, the MFM-HT75W, as a widescreen, so why not its bigger brother?
Despite this niggling complaint, Sony's MFM-HT95 is a great LCD monitor/TV hybrid, and is sure to adequately serve your IT or AV needs.