For a change I’m going to jump right into a review and state that I’m a bit of sceptic when it comes to response time. Don’t get me wrong. I’m fully aware of the technical implications of liquid crystal response time to know that the speed at which these molecules react to an electrical field can affect the moving images we all observe on an LCD. However my scepticism only really kicks in when I hear users, particularly gamers, rant on about the miniscule time differences at anything below 16ms.
For me, this is almost a moot point and I’d challenge anyone to really show me a marked difference between an LCD with an 8ms response time, and one that has a 4ms one. In my opinion, there’s virtually no discernable benefit even at high gaming frame rates. I’m even going to stick my neck out and say that at these sort of response times there’s also little difference between a 4ms LCD and the gamer’s favourite, a CRT. Even these types of monitors can suffer from a motion smearing phenomenon that arises as a result of what is known as phosphor decay.
Now before I go on, this is not to poo-poo the efforts of display manufacturers in getting response times down. Indeed, their efforts and research will and are inevitably paying off. If it wasn’t for them, then the new techniques that are being employed now - for example to bring the notoriously slower (and more “real world”) grey-to-grey response times down - would not have occurred. So without going into too much detail, I think it is suffice to say that if you want a rapid response time monitor particularly for gaming and movie watching any screen that claims a response time of 16ms and below will be adequate for most peoples’ needs.
Now onto the review. Shuttle as you may know has already built up a very strong reputation in the small form factor (SFF) market with its extensive range of XPC barebones cases and systems. More recently it has turned its interests to the display arena with the launch of its popular XP TFT monitors designed to compliment its stylish PC boxes.
Here, we have one of its latest models – the XP17 TempAR 8ms 17in LCD. This is the latest incarnation of the XP range complete with an 8ms response (stated as a grey-to-grey, rise plus fall time) and a tempered glass overlay that gives the XP17 a high degree of resistance to knocks and scratches. In fact, Shuttle claims that the glass it’s used is equivalent to and possibly greater than 8 on the Moh scale of hardness. To get an idea of what that means, this glass layer has a similar level of scratch resistance to that of topaz, with diamond occupying the top spot in the table with a value of 10.
Of course, the thinking behind all of this is one of protection. Protection that Shuttle believes will be necessary when transporting the display to and from the likes of LAN parties. That said, if you carry the XP17 about or not, I have to say it’s a neat idea. For instance, cleaning this screen has been a pleasure. Don’t know about you, but I’m a hay-fever sufferer and I admit that on the odd occasion when I have sneezed at my desk, my screen has suffered. A quick wipe down normally sorts it out, but with a standard LCD I’ve always gone about that task with a bit of trepidation for fear of scratching the surface and damaging the liquid crystal layer. However, that’s not the case with this monitor. A quick, firm wipe (Shuttle even provide you with a soft cloth) and the screen is restored to its former glory.
Naturally, a great screen is not all about its robustness. One has also got to consider its design and features, which in the case of this XP17, are pretty good. Not only do you get a 17in screen with a native resolution of 1,280 x 1,024 pixels, but you also get one that tilts and pivots thanks to an ingeniously designed stand. As you can see from the pictures opposite, an integrated 90 degree circular hinge allows the screen to stand on its side for a portrait view, which is a real boon for text-based work. A set of very grippy feet wrapped around the high-impact aluminium tubing that forms the stand and flows around the edge of the panel, ensure a slip-resistant stance on your desk. Furthermore, this tubing is shaped at the top into a convenient carrying handle that underlines Shuttle’s approach to portability.