In the market for a budget-price wide-screen LCD?
Wide-screen LCDs are becoming a must-have, especially for media enthusiasts and gamers. For more work-focused users, wide-aspect LCDs offer enough screen space to accommodate multiple windows at once. Though the 19-inch ViewSonic VA1912wb looks modest, it packs a punch with above-average performance, full-sounding built-in speakers, and a very sweet $349 price. The 20-inch wide-screen costs nearly $200 more, and the standard-aspect 19-inch competition, such as the and the can't match the VA1912wb's performance, and they offer less screen real estate. You can find better performance, however, in the and more adjustability in the , but neither offer the bang-for-the-buck of the VA1912wb.
The ViewSonic VA1912wb's design doesn't stray far from the matte-black case that is standard issue for budget monitors; the only touch of color comes from the eight too-shiny, chrome adjustment buttons on the bottom bezel. The large, elliptical base isn't heavy enough to keep the display from wobbling when you make even minor panel adjustments. Flexibility isn't this monitor's strong suit: the panel tilts 25 degrees back and 5 forward but offers no swivel, pivot, or height adjustment. The panel is suspended nearly four inches above the desktop--a good fixed height for most users. The display accepts DVI-D and VGA inputs (both cables are included), but it's a tight squeeze to attach the connectors, and the only cable-management feature is a plastic cover that snaps over the connector area. We approve of disguising the plugs, but we wish ViewSonic had added a clip to tidy up the cables.
When it comes to adjusting the image, the onscreen menu (OSM) is very easy to navigate, and the control panel offers all the buttons you need. There's a dedicated mute button for the built-in speakers, but we wish that ViewSonic had also made the up/down arrow keys double as volume keys instead of quick-launch keys for brightness and contrast adjustments. As it is, you have to go through the OSM to adjust the volume. The speakers themselves sound quite full for built-ins, but their maximum volume is not terribly loud.
We tested the ViewSonic VA1912wb at its native resolution of 1,440x900 and were pleased with its above-average overall performance. The VA1912wb scored high on CNET Labs DisplayMate-based sharpness tests: text in particular was crisp, nicely contrasted, and easy to read. The display's grayscale performance was average, with some compression at both ends of the spectrum, meaning the VA1912wb did not display the very darkest or lightest shades of gray. Grays had a reddish hue that we couldn't correct to our satisfaction using the color temperature controls. We also noticed that bars of gray looked darker along the bottom of the screen than the top. This jibed with our screen uniformity test, which showed a darker swath along the bottom third of the screen. Colors in both informal tests of Web graphics and DisplayMate screens looked somewhat muted, though fade and saturation screens showed no errors.
The display has a fairly fast 8-millisecond pixel-response rate which we partially credit for the VA1912wb's good performance on gaming tests. We saw smooth movement and good detail. Though, if you're considering buying this display, be sure to check that your favorite games support the monitor's somewhat unusual resolution; our official test game, Unreal Tournament 2004, did not. DVD playback showed a bit more digital noise than usual and somewhat orange-looking skin tones, but ghosting and streaking (blurred moving images) were within tolerable limits.
ViewSonic backs the VA1912wb with an industry-standard 3-year warranty on parts, labor, and the backlight. There are a host of upgrade options for the warranty: one- and two-year extensions cost $63 and $90, respectively; adding Express Exchange, with a replacement unit shipped within 48 hours, costs $74 for one year and $105 for two years. ViewSonic's support site has an e-mail support form, an interactive Q&A knowledge portal, white papers, and driver downloads. Toll-free phone support is available 24/7, but you must go through the Virtual Support Assistant to get the number.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)