Having recently reviewed the stunning 23-inch Apple Cinema Display, we're not embarrassed to declare that our heads have been officially turned. So we were pleasantly surprised by the ViewSonic VX710 17-inch LCD. It may not win any design contests, but with its two-tone, black-and-silver plastic casing and its thin, 0.75-inch bezel set into a silver frame, the VX710 is sleek and understated. But looks aren't everything, and unfortunately, the VX710's limited adjustability and unimpressive video performance left us wanting more.
The bottom bezel houses five silver, bar-shape buttons--one power button, two arrow buttons to navigate the onscreen menu (OSM), one button to engage and exit the OSM, and one button to select submenus. We normally don't get excited about the onscreen menu, but the VX710's is delightful to use. It employs a joyful kelly green/royal blue/yellow color configuration, and the navigation is as easy as can be.
The VX710 accepts digital and analog signals, and both cables are included. Said cables are very easy to attach (no turning the display upside down or poking around blindly), and the recessed area in the back of the display where the interface ports are located is easy to reach and can be hidden behind a plastic cover. On the downside, the cables feed out through a fluted section of the plastic that also serves as the handle to the cover, so you have to cram them together to get the cover on properly. There's also no cable-feed system down the neck of the display, but the neck can't be raised or lowered anyway, so unsightly cable dangle is not an issue. You can tilt the VX710's panel about 25 degrees forward and back, but there is no side-to-side swivel and no Portrait/Landscape pivot option. The neck hinge is fairly stiff, so tilting is a two-handed job. You may not want to tilt it back too far anyway, because the vertical viewing angle isn't impressive. Just the slightest tilt back results in glare. The rectangular base is fairly sturdy, but it does kick up when you're trying to change the tilt angle.
The VX710's image quality and video performance are sadly unimpressive. Text is definitely the display's strong suit. At a native resolution of 1,280x1,024, text looks crisp and clear with good contrast and nice sharp letters, making it acceptable for basic productivity applications and Web surfing. The VX710 didn't fare as well with our DisplayMate-based grayscale and intensity tests. When scaling from black to white, the goal is for transitions to be smooth, each step to be discrete, and the grayscale to be free of color. While no LCD accomplishes this without flaw, the VX710 was particularly troubled--we saw many irregularities in the grayscale such as jumps, bumps, dull spots, and plenty of color. No amount of adjusting in the OSM improved the output.
The backlight of the display is also uneven. While you're looking at a black screen, the backlight clearly leaks along the top and bottom edges of the display. The irregular backlight also makes the bottom half of the screen noticeably brighter than the top half. Web colors are bright, making for an appealing end-user experience, but they lack the richness you'd see in a better-performing display such as the Apple. Video quality is average, with minimal streaking and ghosting, but there's a lot of digital noise in flesh tones and darkly lit scenes. The similarly pricedoffers better overall performance.