IntroductionWhat's the most important class of components in a PC system? Now really think about that answer for a second, since the obvious answer is wrong. We can extol the virtues of CPU's, memory modules, graphics cards and motherboards until we are blue in the face, and it's criminal that after thinking about the start of this review, this sentence, that HEXUS don't cover more of what really matters. Confused? Wondering what else there is about a PC that's worth caring about, that isn't clocked or has pixel shaders?
I'm talking about human interface devices, the class of device you use to interact with a computer system, the devices that you utilise more than any other. Your mouse, keyboard and monitor, along with another class of ergonomic devices like your desk, chair and lighting arrangement, are the single most important items on your 'PC'. I ain't kidding.
I know a guy that's been muddling along with a 15" goldfish bowl of a monitor for years. 1024x768 at an eye piercingly bad 60Hz. For years. I recently had a hand in persuading him to grab himself a LCD monitor, the 17" Samsung Porsche model, and he finally realises what the fuss is about. It doesn't matter if you have the finest PC subsystem on the planet, if you are interacting with it using a bad monitor and un-ergonomic keyboard and mouse, how much of that power can you use effectively?
Stopping every 10 minutes to rest your eyes or to flex your fingers because they hurt, even with 4GHz and a water-cooled Radeon 9800 Pro under the hood, isn't good. You owe it to yourself to spend a little more money on a comfortable keyboard and mouse that really suit you. And most important of all, since you stare at it for hours at a time, you need a good monitor.
Good CRT monitors from the likes of Sony, Mitsubishi and Iiyama have been around for years, but back when I invested in a good CRT in 2000, my previous Samsung LCD had just stung me for £1000 and that was 2nd hand. £350 for the Sony G400 CRT monitor that I traded it in for, again 2nd hand, hurt the wallet too.
But nowadays that isn't the case. G400 rivalling CRT's, such as LG's F900P, a truly flat 19" CRT, are way under £300, often under £200. Brand new with warranty too. With the drop in end-user CRT cost for truly good displays, we've seen the same with flat panels, as manufacturers get to grips with producing them, creating demand and a market for them and also bringing the specs up to scratch in terms of what people are looking for.
Back when I first purchased a flat panel monitor, the advantages over a CRT were clearly evident. Pixel perfect picture, very bright, sharp images, substantial power and emissions savings. But it stopped there since price, function and non-2D performance weren't too hot. If desktop work was all you did with a computer, older TFT's were perfect, provided you could take the hit in your pocket.
But todays computer user, the one who's willing to demand that little bit extra from his display device, demands a bit more than a great 2D picture. 3D performance is now the focal point of all new flat panel's being released. If it doesn't play a game well, manufacturers can expect to sell less than one that does, no matter how fantastic the 2D performance is.
Function, in terms of fixed resolution, is never going to go away. Dynamic pixel panels are a thing of fantasy just now, so you get one resolution to play with and that's it, everything else is simply scaled to fit and that's only with lower pixel count resolutions. Anything higher wont happen. And desktop panels seem resolutely fixed in low resolution land too. 1280x1024 on a TFT is old news in the laptop world. You can buy 1920 x 1200 15.4" equipped laptops from Dell for good money, so why are we stuck with 1280x1024 on 17" and 19" models in the desktop display market?
You can see the tradeoff between a high resolution LCD on a laptop that 95% of its time will be spent in a 2D environment and a lower resolution panel on a desktop version that runs at a native resolution you can realistically play games with. But it would still be nice to see higher resolution panels in desktop displays, graphics cards can play games in 1600x1200 now and the extra screen real estate for your operating system is always welcome.
So today's home flat panel market is stuffed full of manufacturers looking to provide as much of that wishlist as possible, compromising on what needs to be compromised on, while delivering the best product they can to entice consumers.
Hercules were keen to stress they are doing just that when they sent over their latest gamer oriented panel, the ProphetView 920 PRO, so that's what I'll take a look at today.