review summary At least ViewSonic's VA720 looks attractive. Its brushed-silver bezel runs a fairly wide inch and a half on all sides, but the bottom edge has a pleasing convex shape, contributing to a clean design. The five round buttons for image adjustment and power are set into an etched, rippling groove on the bottom edge--a stylish touch. The panel is connected to the sturdy ovoid base via a too-stiff hinge; using two hands, you can tilt the panel a few degrees forward and 90 degrees backward, flush with the base (which makes it very easy to attach to a "--="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">&siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex_1&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Evesa%2Eorg%2Ffdmipr%2Ehtm">VESA-compliant wall mount). Otherwise, the VA720 lacks adjustability: it won't swivel or pivot, and there's no way to raise or lower the panel, so most users will need to boost the display with a riser.
The VA720 is Mac and PC compatible, but it doesn't offer many connections or features for a $450, 17-inch LCD. The back of the panel sports an analog signal port (ViewSonic includes a cable) and a power input. ViewSonic offers extras such as a TV tuner and a USB hub on its "--="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">&siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex_1&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Eviewsonic%2Ecom%2Fproducts%2Flcd%5Fva720%2Ehtm">Web site.
Image quality is the VA720's Achilles' heel. In CNET's tests, text lacked contrast, colors were distorted, and it was hard to read even black type on a white background. The panel also displayed rampant inaccuracies in both grayscale and color test screens; instead of a smooth transition from dark black to pure white, the VA720's grayscale looked like a strip of Fruit Stripe gum. And while the onscreen menus are intuitive and easy to use, we found it almost impossible to get a good picture with the VA720, no matter how much we tweaked the image settings.
ViewSonic's service and support for the VA720 is decidedly second-rate. Three years of warranty coverage on parts, labor, and backlight is standard, and that's what VA720 owners get--if they live outside of the United States; otherwise, you're stuck with a measly one year of coverage. ViewSonic's dead/stuck-pixel policy is about average: the company will replace a VA720 that has seven or more dead or stuck pixels. ViewSonic offers toll-free, 24/7 phone support for the life of the product, and the company's "--="" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">&siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex_1&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2Eviewsonic%2Ecom%2Fsupport%2Findex%2Ehtm">Web site has useful features, including drivers, FAQs, white papers, user guides, a calibration tool, e-mail support, and a terrific Instant Support tool that delivers intelligent answers in real time.
ViewSonic's Web site says that the VA720 is "a mix of performance and style," but we found a mix of only disappointing image quality, limited adjustability, and an inflated price. Other 17-inch LCDs, including the Planar PE170 and AOC's LM729, offer much better image quality for a comparable or lower price.