On the face of it, the WinBook C1900 provides excellent value for an LCD. For less than $700, you get 19 inches of screen space, built-in speakers, and a panel that pivots, rotates, tilts, and telescopes up and down. However, the C9100's image quality leaves much to be desired: its design is somewhat rickety and aesthetically unappealing, and its one-year warranty is short compared to the three years we've come to expect from monitor vendors. Inexpensive though the C1900 may be, you can find better-performing large-screen LCDs out there, including the Planar PL191M and the Envision EN-8100e for around the same price. The WinBook C1900 is clearly designed with function--not form--in mind. Its basic, one-inch-wide, black, rectangular bezel displays a handful of functional oval buttons that engage, exit, and toggle through the onscreen display (OSD), and the bezel's base consists of a pedestal with a flared foot that wobbles precariously from side to side.
Wobbly as it is, however, this pedestal is surprisingly adjustable for a display in this price range. Where most budget big-screen LCDs offer nothing more than a few degrees of backward and forward tilt, the C1900 screen swivels about 30 degrees from side to side and tilts forward 3 degrees and back 25 degrees. The base telescopes, so you can adjust the height, and best of all, the display pivots easily between Portrait and Landscape modes. However, WinBook doesn't include the software you'll need to pivot the onscreen image, so you'll have to buy yourself a copy of Pivot Pro software for $50 if you want to enjoy this feature, which you'd usually find included in higher-end LCDs.
The C1900 hooks up to your PC via an analog VGA connection (the signal cable is included), and unlike some LCDs where you have to remove a plastic panel, the C1900 has a functional design that leaves enough room to easily plug in the cables to the back panel.
Before you read further, make sure that this WinBook LCD meets your basic requirements. The C1900 works with Windows-based PCs only, so that excludes Mac owners. Also, the display runs on an analog VGA rather than a digital interface, which means that the display must convert your graphic card's digital signal. Technically, this results in a slightly lower-quality picture, but this is unlikely to be discernible to the naked eye. A digital interface, on the other hand, transfers the signal directly to the display without converting it.
Like many other LCDs, the C1900 has two built-in speakers embedded in its back. It's easy to plug in the included audio cable to your computer's sound card, but the results won't amount to much. The speakers are quite faint--we had to jack up the volume control on the display all the way to hear them--and the sound quality is extremely tinny and trebly. This particular extra doesn't seem to add anything special to the mix.
On the other hand, if you want to save desk space, it may help to attach the display to the wall or a swing arm on your desk. For this, WinBook sells VESA brackets on its Web site.
The adjustment buttons are perfectly easy to use, but they appear to have been slapped onto the bottom-front bezel with no particular design aesthetic in mind, although they function the same as other LCD controls. The six ovals let you bring up the onscreen display (OSD); scroll through the various settings selections, such as brightness and contrast; increase and decrease the volume on the aforementioned speakers; and exit the OSD. The OSD's organization is a bit unusual. Unlike most display OSDs, which have a cascading series of menus and submenus, the C1900's OSD is organized as a graph, with the main menus along the y-axis and the submenus along the x-axis. Navigating this system is actually quite easy once you let go of the dominant OSD paradigm.
The WinBook C1900 is the latest example of a tried-and-true maxim: You get what you pay for. The display doesn't cost much, nor does it deliver much in the way of image quality, especially when it comes to text quality. Most LCDs do a good job on text at least, but the C1900's text looked very grainy, with noticeable pixel fusion in some places and larger than usual separations between pixels in others. These flaws were visible on both serif and sans serif fonts, though serif fonts looked worse, and at font sizes as big as 9 and 10 points. We also noticed red and blue offshoots (that is, extraneous colored dots) when we looked at white text on a black background.
The display had more trouble with grayscale than most LCDs (in general, the extreme ends of the spectrum tend to cause problems for LCDs). At the factory contrast setting, the whites looked oversaturated, which gave images a washed-out appearance overall. Also, at the black/gray end of the spectrum, we had a hard time differentiating between shades of gray. Lowering the contrast helped a bit, but displays such as the Princeton SENergy 981 offer better overall quality.
On the positive side, the C1900 did a decent job of reproducing colors, and the focus and geometry were crisp and even.
18- to 20.1-inch LCD image-quality test
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
WinBook offers a mere one-year warranty for the C1900, and that includes the backlight. Compared with the three-year industry norm, this is pretty skimpy. However, the company's stuck-pixel policy is quite good: WinBook will replace a display if there are three defective pixels.
For the duration of the warranty, you get toll-free, phone tech support Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET. Beyond phone support, WinBook offers e-mail tech support, a user chat forum, and online manuals via its Web site. You'll also find some technical articles and software downloads, though most of these are geared toward WinBook's notebooks and other non-LCD peripherals; the LCD information consists of an online version of the user manual and a short list of specifications.
When we placed a test call to WinBook's tech-support hotline, a live technician answered on the second ring. Once we'd overcome the initial shock of not having to go through an automated call-routing service, we asked our basic tech-support question and received friendly, helpful advice with which we could quickly resolve our mock problem.