It’s been ages since I’ve written a real article for my personal site, and finally I managed to come up with something. This is a computer related article that chronicles my experience trying to find the right monitor. You’ll also be treated to a short review of the winning choice, the AG Neovo F419 19 inch LCD. This is not one of those professional reviews done at hardware review sites but rather just a personal judgment on the LCD panel. Unfortunately, you’ll also have to tolerate my poor photo-taking skills for the pictures in this article.
It was the winter holiday season and my university exams were finally over. When my winter vacation started, one of the main things that my family and I were thinking about was what to buy on Boxing Day. In Canada (and probably the US), there is a tradition where many retailers, especially large electronic stores, put on a huge sale on Boxing Day with incredible savings on certain items, and smaller price reductions on many other items as well. The prices are so low that many people decide to line up early in the morning in order to get their hands on the great deals.
This year, one of the things my family was looking for was a 17-19 inch LCD monitor. The main reason is so that we can get rid of the small CRT monitor connected to my father’s computer. That CRT was pretty old and it has some issues with displaying the correct colours. Sometimes it would lose one of its primary colour channels and screw up the colour on the screen. The new monitor would go to me since I have the newest and fastest computer in the family. My mother would get the 17 inch LCD I was using and my father would get the 17 inch CRT my mother was using, so that everybody will get an improved monitor. Besides, this was going to be my Christmas present. We didn’t have much money to spend so it would have been great if there was a 19 inch model for around $250 Canadian dollars or a 17 inch for $175ish. $250 for a 19 inch LCD is not unrealistic as I have seen that kind of prices online before and Boxing Day sales are known for their door-crasher deals. Brands weren’t really important to us as long as the monitor works fine, but of course a well known brand with a good reputation would be better than a no name brand if the two were at around the same price. If the deal was good enough, I was willing to go line up in the cold and possibly rain on the morning of Boxing Day. I have done so a few years before and it wasn’t too bad of an experience, so I was prepared to do so again if it meant saving lots of money.
The Boxing Day Sale flyers arrive on the morning of Christmas Eve. There were quite a few and every member of my family spent a few minutes carefully looking through every single page for the stuff we want. I also went on the net to check out the Boxing Day specials of several online retailers. We found a few places with 17 inch LCD selling for 200 bucks. The cheapest 19 inch we found was a generic brand that was on sale for 290. Most 19 inch LCD monitors were still 300 or above. We felt that the prices weren’t low enough to warrant getting up early to line up. My father also had to work on Boxing Day morning, and he was the only driver in the family, so we couldn’t go line up even if we wanted to. I also could have bought the stuff online since the Boxing Day sale for several stores start on the night of Christmas Eve, but I didn’t do so because we thought prices could be lower. So in the end we decided just to go around on Boxing Day and see if there was any good stuff left in the stores.
On Boxing Day, after my father came back from work, my whole family went to the crowded stores. We were still interested in the $200 17 inch LCD monitors but unfortunately, all the stores and the online retailers had already sold out of all those models, and even the $290 19 inch was nowhere to be found. I guess there were plenty of other people who thought those prices were great deals. The only ones left were some more expensive brand name models, which cost a bit more than we would like, so in the evening we went home without buying a monitor.
However, that wasn’t quite the end of the story. Originally, I wanted to wait until there is a 19 inch on sale for $250 again after rebates, but right after we came home on Boxing Day, my mother’s 17 inch CRT became pretty much unusable. The problem is that the monitor would sometimes go completely blank and wouldn’t work no matter what we did. It would work again only if we turn it on after letting in “rest” for a while. The problem started just before Christmas and has worsened as time went on until the point where it had more than a 50% chance of not working. So now we actually needed to buy a monitor, and buy it before my mom’s monitor goes into permanent hibernation. At this point, we were prepared to spend anywhere up to $350 to get a 19 inch LCD. After looking around, we narrowed it down to two choices: the Samsung 913V II for $349.99 and the Viewsonic VA902B for $339.99. Both models are entry level 19 inch LCD monitors from well known brands. They have similar specs on paper and got mostly positive user reviews on the net. The Viewsonic was a little bit cheaper, but I have to order it online, which means we might have to wait a few days or even a week before we can pick up the product, especially when New Year’s Day is coming up. The Samsung was a little bit more expensive but it was available right there at the big box stores. I was about to pull the trigger and go with the Samsung but decided to look around on the web one last time to see if any new deals came up or if I missed anything.
|Model No.||Samsung 913V II||Viewsonic VA902B|
|Brightness||250 cd/m2||270 cd/m2|
|Response Time||12 ms||8 ms|
|Viewable Angle||160 deg/150 deg||160 deg/160 deg|
During my last information gathering session, I came upon a smaller electronic store chain’s website and found a pretty interesting 19 inch LCD. The monitor was made by a company called AG Neovo, a brand which I’m not familiar with but seem to be available from quite a few retailers. This particular model, the F419-R12, was selling for $329.99, a little cheaper than my other choices, and again had similar specs when compared to the other models. It does however, have a DVI port, which none of the other models we considered have. For those who don’t know what a DVI port is, the Digital Visual Interface port is a video interface that appears on higher end LCD monitors. It’s supposed to give a clearer picture than an LCD using the conventional D-sub video port. I was a little worried about buying a strange brand so I did more research, and found that this monitor also has mostly positive user reviews, and that the company is fairly popular in Europe and Asia. I weighted my options a bit and decided that the DVI port and the difference in price was enough for me to choose the AG Neovo over the Samsung. So I discussed it with my parents. They said fine, so my mother and I went to the store to buy the monitor the next morning. It took two store workers half an hour to actually find this monitor. I think they buried it somewhere deep in the backroom and forgot about it. After the monitor was found, we purchased it and carried it home.
|Model No.||AG Neovo F419 (R12)|
|Response Time||12 ms|
|Viewable Angle||140 deg/ 130 deg (Minimum)|
|Interface||Analog & Digital|
Like most teenage boys, I couldn’t wait to open my brand new monitor, so I started unpacking the box right after we got home. The packaging was a pretty plain cardboard box with some low quality graphic and pales in comparison to even the box of my old generic brand LCD. Of course, it’s what’s inside the box that counts the most, but a better looking box would have buyers a better initial impression. The packing inside was similar to most other LCD monitor boxes, with two pieces of foam holding the panel and the base in place.
Setting up a consumer level monitor is a pretty easy thing to do. I just had to connect the cables and plug the cord into the outlet. At last, it was the moment of truth and I turned on my PC and the monitor. The boot-up screen appeared without incident and then the Windows login screen. After logging in, I changed the resolution from 1024 x 768 (the resolution I was running my old monitor at) to the panel’s native resolution of 1280 x 1024 and that gave me a huge chunk of extra desktop space. My older LCD was supposed to run at this resolution as well, but the text and images were a little blurry at 1280 x 1024. The F419 was perfectly capable of doing so with more clarity. The colours displayed were brighter and more vibrant as well. Of course, I’m comparing a new LCD to a model that was 2 years old at this point and made by some off-brand manufacturer, so there should be a pretty substantial difference. I also tested this monitor with a mild gaming session and didn’t notice any ghosting as some reviews have mentioned, but then again I don’t play those kinds fast paced first person shooters, so I wouldn’t really know. Video playback seems to be fine too. Since I don’t use my computer for any serious design work, I don’t really worry about technical things such as colour accuracy or screen uniformity that much, as long as there isn’t anything obviously wrong with the monitor. I was using the DVI connection the whole time, so I don’t really know if there is any difference between using the DVI and the D-sub connector.
The exterior of the F419 is also pretty well designed. It has a thin black bezel with other areas being a dark grey. The base is a little on the small side but the monitor seems to be steady. The plastics used seem sturdy enough and are of a fair quality. If you look at the monitor from behind, you’ll see a hole on the support that is supposed to help you organize your cables, but the hole is a bit too small to easily rout the cables through, so I didn’t bother with it. Other than vertical tilt, this monitor doesn’t have any other external adjustments. The F419 has an internal power supply (no external power block) and the power plug is on the left of the back side (if you are looking at the back). The video ports are hidden behind a removable cover on the right back side. The power and control bottoms are on the lower right corner of the front. A single LED tells you the status of the panel.
Some reviews had complained onscreen display (OSD) adjustments, stating that the menu wasn’t very intuitive and easy to use. After trying it out a bit, I have to agree that the OSD could have been designed better but I probably won’t use any setting other than the default, so it won’t be a problem for me. Also note that depending on which connection method you use (D-sub or DVI), some of the options in the OSD may become disabled. If you really want to adjust the panel to just the way you like it, then be sure to read the manual on the CD and visit the AG Neovo company website. Finally, all the cables, including the DVI-D cable which costs around $20, are included in the package along with a quick setup guide, a warranty card, and a CD with drivers and manuals in different languages.
For the price I bought it for, the AG Neovo F419 is a good value for a 19 inch LCD with acceptable performance and a DVI connection. Unfortunately, the monitor I bought wasn’t completely problem-free. After using it for around 15 minutes and carefully examining the screen, I noticed a small dot on the upper left region of the screen that seem to be black all the time. At first I thought it was dirt but when I tried to wipe it, it wouldn’t come off. At that moment I realized this panel has a dead pixel. Dead pixels are pretty common occurrences on LCD panels. For those of you who are not familiar, a dead or stuck pixel is a pixel on the screen that doesn’t change colour along with the rest of the screen. It’s a minor manufacturing defect and most manufacturers don’t cover for dead pixels as long as there are less than five on a monitor. The dead pixel is not a huge problem but since the monitor was still within the exchange period, my parents and I brought it back to the store to get another one. Thankfully, this one had no defects and now it sits on top of my desk beside my computer. Overall, it’s a decent monitor that will serve my needs for a few years. I would have liked onboard speakers on the monitor because I don’t have to remember to turn them on. Yes, I’m a lazy bum sometimes. If I play games or listen to music, I’ll turn on the “real” speakers. I hope my monitor will remain problem-free for a long time, since $330 is a still a pretty significant investment for my family. My mother is also happy now that she has the 17 inch LCD. My father however is still stuck with the colour-shifting old 14 inch CRT and a Pentium II laptop with a broken screen, but he doesn’t use his computer much anyways, and we’ll probably get him a new laptop sooner or later, so not to worry.
So after all that running around and comparing items, we didn’t quite end up with the best deal. Thinking back now, I probably should have just purchased the $200 17 inch LCD during the online Boxing Day sale, but my parents and I are happy with my (or our) new 19 inch LCD, and there’s no point regretting things now. Anyways, I thank you all for taking the time to read this article about my little comparison shopping experience and I hope it has been helpful to you in some way (even if it’s just for wasting a few minutes of time).