Sony is something of a troubled beast these days, what with rootkits and overpriced and over-delayed gaming consoles, but one can't deny that it still knows something about design. These days a 19in 4:3 monitor has to really offer something different to attract our attention and the SDM-E96D certainly falls into that category, primarily due to its eye catching design. What's more, at only £173 is sounds like a bargain. However, I soon found myself questioning a design ethic that appears to have been based entirely around Post-It notes. Let me explain.
From the press bumph that accompanied this screen Sony engineers noticed that, "even in this electronic age", people often stick Post-Its to their screens. Therefore, instead of a conventional screen that is raised off the ground with a stand, the E96D has a flat area underneath the lower bezel that reaches right to the bottom of the desk. Thanks to Sony's great vision, users who previously struggled to find a place for their Post-It notes are now happily able to stick away to their heart's content. Some might find this revolutionary but for me, more than anything it shows that companies should not be letting Sony engineers with clipboards walk around their offices.
Obviously, if you're the type that uses Post-Its, you're also the type that always needs Biros but probably can never find one to hand. Once again, Sony and the E96D comes to the rescue, thanks to a lip underneath the bezel where one can put pens.
At the bottom right there's an oblong gap with rounded edges with a large power button on the right hand side. This gap looks as though there should be a sliding door to cover it but there isn't - it's just an opening to enable you to get to the OSD controls, which in keeping with the sleek look of the monitor are deliberately hidden from view.
What it quite clever is that the whole screen rests on a spring loaded support, which means that you can push it forwards and back very easily with one hand. As it rests completely on the desk it inherently means that there's no height adjustment, but the tilting means that you find the optimal viewing angle, though only if you're sitting directly in front of it.
With all this space saving and ideas it's perhaps surprising the Sony hasn't integrated any speakers into the display. Round the back you'll find a DVI and a D-sub connector and that's it.
Design wise then the Sony is interesting, but what of the actual image quality. Considering the price one can't ask for too much and the specs reflect that. The native resolution is a standard 1,280 x 1,024 and the number of colours supported is 16.2 million, which reveals that this is only a 6-bit panel, rather than an 8-bit, which would offer 16.7 million colours. The result is fewer levels of colour gradations , which affects how images look on screen.