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Boxy black designs are typical of modern business displays but unlike the bulky Lenovo ThinkVision L201P, the Sony SDM-S205FB injects the basic-black look with class. With a thin, 0.5-inch bezel and nearly invisible buttons, there's little to distract from the viewable panel. The large, eminently stable, circular base runs 11 inches in diameter and sits upon a lazy Susan that gives you an impressive 350 degrees of rotation. The panel tilts 20 degrees back and 5 degrees forward and features a telescoping neck with 4.3 inches of vertical adjustability. Unlike most other high-end business monitors, including the LaCie 120 and the ThinkVision L201P, the SDM-S205FB's panel cannot pivot between portrait and landscape orientations--an especially disappointing omission, as the display is otherwise perfect for design and layout work.
Placed in the back of the monitor panel are DVI-D and D-Sub ports, and Sony includes cables for each. The SDM-S205FB includes a barrette clip to corral its cables, unlike the LaCie 120 and ThinkVision L201P, which lack any cable management. Still, we prefer the more elegant arrangement found on the HP LP2065, which actually hides the cords in the neck.
The SDM-S205FB's onscreen menu (OSM) is fairly easy to navigate despite the extremely small, poorly labeled control panel buttons. A helpful legend on the bottom of the OSM indicates each button's function in that menu. In addition to typical brightness and contrast settings, you can apply gamma correction and adjust the gain and bias in the color temperature settings, a useful feature for designers or anyone who needs to calibrate color settings. There's a dedicated button for toggling between the DVI and D-Sub inputs, which is useful if you work frequently with two computers; a button labeled Eco rotates through high, middle, low, and user-defined brightness settings.
The Sony SDM-S205FB performed very well on CNET Labs' DisplayMate-based tests. Tested at its native resolution of 1,600x1,200, text looked very sharp, with excellent contrast that made individual letters stand out clearly. In DisplayMate grayscale test screens, the display rendered remarkably pure and mostly untinted grays, with a very even fade from the dark to light end of the scale. Colors looked clear and were vivid without being garish--a common failing in LCDs. In fact, they had a warm tone that's generally confined to CRT displays. In our uniformity test, the SDM-S205FB's screen displayed only slight light leakage at the top and in the corners, and images were easy to see even when we tilted or turned the panel. In spite of the display's slow 16-millisecond pixel-response time, we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of its DVD and game playback. Our DVD tests showed quite a bit of digital noise, and there was some visible streaking and ghosting in both DVD and game playback, but the display captured a lot of fine details, and the colors looked accurate.
The Sony SDM-S205FB comes with an industry-standard three-year warranty on parts, labor, and the backlight; you can upgrade the warranty to four or five years. Phone support is available 24/7, and when we placed a test call, a representative picked up immediately and was very courteous, though it did take him about 10 minutes to find the correct answer to our admittedly strange question. Sony's Web site offers additional support options such as live chat, e-mail support, FAQs, documentation and driver downloads. The information is well organized, and we appreciate how easy Sony makes it to find the e-mail form and the support phone numbers.