In a market stuffed full of LCD monitors it takes something extra to stand out. And for the past 12 months or so it has been "world firsts": eg the world's first ms response rate, world's first "true cinema black" and so on. It's no surprise, then, that Viewsonic has done a little lateral thinking and come up with another "first": an LCD iPod dock.
For convenience, this LCD monitor tops the lot. No more white cords dangling out from behind your computer - just plug your iPod into the base and you're connected.
The provision of front-mounted USB ports is always a plus - you can never have too many USB connectors. There are some caveats to this, however, as we'll see below.
We think the marketing department were locked out of the room when they were discussing this product, because here's a doozy: "Connect your game console, camcorder, DVD player and other electronic components and enjoy big screen entertainment." Sure, if your device outputs via DVI. But it is not a beautiful or unique snowflake in this regard -- most other LCD monitors will be able to do this.
On the upside though, the ergonomics are fairly decent, and unless you're mounting this on your floor, you should be able to get a decent angle out of it. The controls themselves will be familiar to users of Viewsonic monitors: press "1" to enter the menu and "2" to select.
The downside to the addition of the dock and USB ports is that this monitor has cables running all over the shop -- six in total, being made up of two power, two audio, a VGA, and a USB.
As far as monitors with onboard sound is concerned, the precedent that has been set is pretty dismal. And we're sad to say that the ViewDock follows in this fashion. There is a "subwoofer" in the base of the unit rated at 3W, while the stereo speakers are rated 2.5W each. This gives them about as much power as a clock radio, and unfortunately they sound about as good. Sound is hollow, and though the sub gives it some extra low-end heft, we'd be the first to connect up an external speaker set via the stereo-out jack.
But this adds another complication, as the provision of stereo-only means that your rear speakers won't work. Not without some extensive rerouting of audio cables. The marketing material makes it look like you can watch video on your screen while controlling your iPod. You can't. Sure, you can watch videos stored on your iPod, but only through iTunes.
We also had another problem with the dock inserts: we had two different monitors, and for one we couldn't remove the iPod adaptors without a screwdriver. Whether this is a common problem, we can't say.
The display itself is big -- really big. And for a desktop it's almost too large. Depending on the angle you position the monitor, you may notice the screen starting to discolour. Though the company claims a viewing angle of 170 degrees, it is more like 30 degrees at full colour.
Features-wise, we like the integrated card reader, which works as it should, and will also accept Memory Stick Pro Duo natively (some memory readers don't) which will be important to users of Sony cameras and the PSP.
The monitor has a relatively 700:1 contrast ratio, supplying better-than-average blacks. Text is very readable -- even at the default 1680 x 1050 resolution. The ability to read two A4-sized windows side-by-side is also a handy productivity booster. So it works well with Word documents, but as it's a "multimedia" monitor, how does it deal with colour and movement?
Using the King Kong DVD as our test, we found that the monitor was able to handle the highly contrasting jungle scenes and fast movement fairly well, though there was still the faintest trace of ghosting. The Cinema colour mode was very good at highlighting these comparative strengths.
As a monitor, then, it's pretty good, but as an iPod dock it's fairly average -- with none of the functionality of some of the dedicated video docks from hi-fi vendors. However, we like the addition of a USB dock and memory card reader, and the inclusion of a subwoofer in the base gives it another one-up on its Dock-less stable mate, the VX2235wm. As the ViewDock only costs AU$50 more, we think it is a much better deal.