Moving down to the lower part of the bezel, you’ll find six elongated buttons. These include an Exit button for either moving back to the previous menu or exiting the OSD completely, an Enter button for activating the OSD and selecting/confirming the options within the submenus, and left and right buttons for invoking adjustments (which also provide direct access to the brightness and contrast levels, respectively). The button on the far right is for turning the power on or off and the one to the far left is what BenQ calls the ‘iKey’. This is basically an auto-adjust button that realigns the vertical and horizontal position, together with the phase and pixel clock for an optimised picture. This only takes a few seconds to complete and seemed to work without any problems. Furthermore, if you can’t nail down that optimum picture, BenQ also provides a small executable program on the driver CD that throws up a test pattern for observing the affects of manual adjustment. All the other usual OSD functions are also available, including two colour temperature presets, simply named ‘bluish’ and ‘reddish’ as well as an sRGB mode and a user preset for making changes to the colour balance of the three RGB signals. Screen sharpness, language selection, and OSD position are also catered for and, as a whole, the OSD is quite intuitive to use.
Of course the most important aspect of a LCD is picture quality and performance. Overall, the FP731 fared well in general use but a few issues were thrown up when I put on my specs and ran DisplayMate and our real world tests.
The first thing I noticed was some slight light leakage when viewing a totally black picture where the backlight remains on. This appeared to be most prominent along the top of the display and proved to be quite distracting especially if you’re a user who likes to use a black background for the Windows desktop.
I also found that the vertical viewing angle was rather narrow with a distinct colour shift as I moved my eye level up and down. Horizontally, however, things were much better and easily on a par with more expensive units I’ve used. Impressively, the picture remained stable for the duration of my working day with no signs of interference and thus highlighting the FP731’s ability to firmly lock on to the analogue signal.
Despite this, the FP731 didn’t cope as well with the colour ramps and greyscales. Here, the colour scales showed signs of compression at the dark end where colours on the 25-step intensity scale were somewhat clumped together. The dark and highlight steps in the 64-step intensity greyscale also showed signs of compression together with noticeable changes to the tint of the greys as they varied with intensity. Banding was also evident in the 256-step greyscale tunnel test screen.
As for DVD playback, the picture was surprisingly good in the face of the earlier tests and is largely a virtue of what is a rather bright display. Detail in low light movie excerpts was commendable and although the response time is not earth shattering at 25ms, high-speed action didn’t reveal any noticeable motion blurring. When editing pictures the FP731 wasn’t quite at home though, as highlight colours appeared a little harsh and discerning between bright and slightly off whites wasn’t the easiest of tasks. This reinforced the compression issues I observed in the 64-step greyscale test screen.
While the FP731 will suit the needs for those wanting a convincingly stylish and inexpensive upgrade to an LCD, this screen does have limitations. The captive analogue cable and lack of DVI port do little to inspire and the stand offers no more than a basic tilt function. Picture quality is also not the best I’ve come across and if editing photos is your thing then the colour and greyscale performance will leave you wanting more refinement. In it’s favour, though, is an easy to use OSD and a stable, bright picture.