Compaq S 720 review:

Compaq S 720

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MSRP: $229.00
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CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Solid image quality; low price; distinctive design.

The Bad Missing some higher-end controls; no USB connection or option.

The Bottom Line The S720 offers a basic but all-around good monitor for business.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

8.0 Overall

Compaq's new S720 17-inch monitor targets businesses with employees that mainly use productivity apps such as spreadsheet and e-mail programs and Web browsers. As such, you wouldn't expect much from the S720, except maybe passable image quality and a low price. At $229, the S720 is indeed inexpensive. What's surprising is that its image quality is also quite good. Compaq's new S720 17-inch monitor targets businesses with employees that mainly use productivity apps such as spreadsheet and e-mail programs and Web browsers. As such, you wouldn't expect much from the S720, except maybe passable image quality and a low price. At $229, the S720 is indeed inexpensive. What's surprising is that its image quality is also quite good.

Hip outside; traditional inside
The Compaq S720's sleek, silver-gray and black casing fits right in with office decor of the new millennium. On the inside, however, the monitor employs a traditional, shadow-mask cathode-ray tube (CRT). The monitor lacks some of today's fancier features, such as integrated USB ports; they're not even available as an option. However, the S720 comes with a full assortment of literature, including a quick-setup guide, a booklet of worldwide tech-support numbers, a safety-information guide, a warranty booklet, and a comprehensive user guide on CD-ROM that takes you through unpacking, installing, learning the controls, and troubleshooting any problems with the monitor.

The S720's onscreen-display controls are also traditional--and easy to master. Four buttons grouped on the front of the monitor include one to call up the onscreen menu, right- and left-arrow buttons to scroll through the controls and to adjust levels, and another button to select which control you want to adjust. Pressing the arrow buttons also brings up the Contrast control and lets you toggle between Contrast and Brightness. The monitor includes a nearly full set of calibration tools--everything from horizontal-size and -position to horizontal- and vertical-moiré controls. The S720's onscreen display lacks some of the more advanced controls, such as pincushion balance, individual color control, and convergence, as well as controls that let you move the onscreen menu around and adjust how long it takes for the onscreen display to time out and disappear. While these controls are useful, in all likelihood, most business users won't need these monitor settings.

Acceptable text; great color
Fortunately, Compaq sacrificed little in the way of image quality to keep the S720's price low. The monitor boasts a .24mm dot pitch, small enough to promise crisp-looking images. It also has a maximum resolution of 1,280x1,024, but given its 65Hz refresh rate, it would hurt your eyes to look at it for very long. For CNET Labs' DisplayMate tests, we set the monitor to a resolution of 1,024x768 pixels with a much more comfortable 85Hz refresh rate.

The S720's performance was good overall. When we examined text, we noticed some jagginess and merging of letters at 6.8-point font size, but at 9 points and above, text was perfectly legible and much smoother-looking. The S720 did an excellent job of reproducing colors and grayscale images. We looked at several photographs in Photoshop and found that images were bright and vibrant, colors looked true, and tricky skin tones were handled with aplomb. The baroque and impressionist paintings we examined on the Web retained nearly all of the vibrant color and crisp detail of the original paintings, and the display's focus was good from corner to corner. Because of a few geometry problems, such as a slight tilt that couldn't be corrected, and the aforementioned text problems, the S720 scored about average on our tests compared with other 17-inch monitors. However, the average user will be more than satisfied with the S720's capabilities.

Solid support
Compaq supports the S720 adequately with a standard three-year parts and labor warranty that includes one year of onsite service and one year of carry-in service. Compaq also promises a second-business-day response time on service requests. Toll-free phone support is available 24/7 for the life of the monitor.

The Compaq S720's good overall image quality and very reasonable price make up for some of its shortcomings. The display may be missing some of the higher-end features found in more-expensive monitors, but most employees will be glad to have a display this crisp and clear on their desktops.

17-inch CRT image-quality test
Longer bars indicate better performance
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The S720's performance was good overall. Text looked fuzzy at smaller font sizes, but it was legible at 9 points and above. Color photographs looked bright, vibrant, and true--even the tricky skin tones. A few geometry problems caused the S720 to score about average on our tests compared with other 17-inch monitors, but most users will be more than satisfied with the S720's capabilities.

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