The massive 23-inch SDM-P234 has the thin bezel and crisp lines of its sibling, the 20.1-inch SDM-S204, but instead of going with an all-black look, the SDM-P234 has a shiny, circular, brushed-metal base and stand. Wide-screen displays like this one can often look clunky, but Sony keeps the P234's lines crisp with the help of a semihidden control panel on the right bezel that lights up when you touch it. Once illuminated, the control buttons are easy to see and operate, but when they're unlit, they disappear into the bezel. In fact, they're so well hidden that before you get used to them being there, you may inadvertently hit the power button at the top of the column a few times while adjusting the tilt angle. The only other ornamentation on the P234 is an illuminated Sony logo which you can turn off if it becomes a distraction.
At 21.4 pounds, the P234's stand is sufficiently heavy to keep the big screen from wobbling, though the weight means you'll need to stand up to maneuver the display on your desktop. The P234 looks neat and tidy, thanks to the combination of a sliding back cover, three well-placed cord clips, and a removable stand cover.
The P234 can swivel 175 degrees to the left and right. The screen tilts forward 5 degrees and back 20 degrees. The viewing angles--176 degrees both vertically and horizontally--are typical for such a large, presentation-friendly display. Unfortunately, like many of the 23-inch LCDs we've seen lately, the P234 cannot be raised or lowered and is only 17.5 inches tall. Taller users may need to set the display on a riser.
The SDM-P234 is easy to set up and use. As soon as the display receives an input signal from your computer's graphics card, it automatically adjusts its picture quality for the appropriate position and sharpness. Further manual adjustments, such as brightness and contrast, can be made using the control panel.
With the control panel illuminated, you can easily open the P234's onscreen display (OSD) and scroll through the menu choices. Along with the usual brightness and contrast controls, Sony includes a backlight adjustment option so that you can set the display's luminance to a comfortable level. You can also set the control panel's Eco button to Auto and let Sony's light-sensing ErgoBright technology automatically adjust the brightness level in accordance with ambient light changes.
Unlike the Philips Brilliance 230W5VS, the Sony SDM-P234 lacks speakers, S-Video, or any other fancy features, such as picture-in-picture or a USB hub. At the back of the P234, you'll find only two HD-15 analog ports, one DVI-D port, and one audio input port. With the extra ports, you can connect the P234 to multiple computers if you like, but you'll have to buy a second HD-15 cable, as the P234 ships with just one analog, one DVI-D, and one audio cable.
The Sony SDM-P234 performed well in CNET Labs' DisplayMate tests. Text is clear and legible, and overall, the P234's flaws are minimal, although like all LCDs, it has trouble cleanly displaying the extreme ends of grayscales without inducing unwanted color tints. The Sony P234's backlighting is a little uneven, with light leaks along the top of the display. We found DVD viewing on the P234 disappointing because flesh tones and other large monochrome areas of color are plagued by pixel noise, and fine details are hard to see. To some degree, these flaws are common to all LCDs, even those that share the P234's 16ms pixel response rate. However, some other displays, including the 230W5VS and the Planar PX212M, handle DVD playback with fewer image errors.
The Sony SDM-P234 has a three-year limited warranty that covers parts labor and the backlight. Software updates, drivers, and a searchable knowledge base are available on Sony's Web site.
|Measured with the Minolta CA210|