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22in CRT Head 2 Head

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With a background in electron optics, microscopy and image editing you’d probably guess that I have something of a soft spot for the old cathode ray tube. In fact, I still prefer to use one at home despite the space-saving temptation to purchase one of the many LCD screens that have flooded the market.

The main reason why I continue to use my old CRT is down to image quality. I find that it’s difficult to beat a CRT if you want smooth colour scales and realistic tones, especially if much of your work revolves around images. And don’t just take my word for it - walk into any CAD/CAM, or imaging bureau and the likelihood of finding an LCD in use as the main display is pretty slim. That said, I have seen some very good LCDs, such as the soon to be posted ViewSonic 2290b (driven by a Matrox Parhelia HR256), but these tend to be for specialist markets like the military or medicine, and come with a price tag that’s beyond most home users.

Talking of price, that’s another reason why the CRT is currently a valid display choice. Because commercial CRT displays have been around for much longer than LCD screens the prices have inevitably come down. Add to that the falling costs of TFT fabrication and the consequent growth in demand for ‘desirable’ LCDs, and the humble CRT had no alternative but to compete on a lower price echelon.

Of course, that’s good news for the likes of you and I who know the virtues of a CRT. I can now get a lovely big 22in CRT for under £500, around some £300 cheaper than a few years ago. So if you’re thinking about making such a purchase take a look at some of the keen prices out there. And, to help you along, we’ve brought two of the market leaders together in a 22in CRT head to head.

First up, lets begin with styling. As you can see from the pictures the differences are quite evident. The NEC-Mitsubishi has on overall air of professionalism about it with its two tone silver bezel, and angular cream-coloured chassis. The Iiyama, on the other hand, is softer and more curvaceous, and also sits on a base that houses a set of reasonably loud speakers.

Both monitors come with dual non-captive D-SUB ports as well as a USB 1.1 hub with one upstream and four downstream ports. These along with headphone and audio-in jacks are found dotted around the Iiyama’s base. In comparison, the NEC-Mitsubishi’s USB ports sit along the left side of the CRT section and the D-SUB ports point downwards along the back. While I could push both units up against a wall without the cables becoming a hindrance, I prefer Iiyama’s solution because the cables remain static when swivelling or tilting the CRT section, thereby reducing the risk of mechanical damage to the ports and cables. The other gripe I have applies to both monitors and that’s the USB hubs. Why are they only USB 1.1 compliant? There’s nothing worse than plugging in a USB 2.0 device only to see it’s performance fall to that of the older standard.

Moving on to the actual screens, it’s important not to be taken in by numbers. Even though both the NEC-Mitsubishi Diamond Pro 2070SB and Iiyama Vision Master Pro 514 are marketed as 22in displays, their actual viewable diagonals measure around 20in. This gives a display area of approximately 406 x 304mm for each of these aperture-grille CRTs.

So, if you take the bigger horizontal value and divide that by the grille pitch, which is 0.24mm, you get a figure (1,692), which gives you a rough indication of the physical horizontal resolution. It therefore comes as no surprise that the recommended operating resolutions for both monitors is 1,600 x 1,200. Of course, you can push more out of these displays – up to 2,048 x 1,536 at a VESA refresh of 85Hz in fact - but the definition and of course font size drops. That said, I was rather impressed at how well each unit could maintain a stable picture at these sorts of resolutions. Granted, working with Windows from 1,920 x 1,440 upwards can become a little tricky, but for viewing pictures both the Pro 514 and Pro 2070SB were equally adept.

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