NEC MultiSync LCD1980FXi – 19in LCD monitor Review
- Review Price: £432.00
With the 19in 1980FXi, NEC Display Solutions has aimed it squarely at the corporate market by citing that an information edge of a few seconds for a sock exchange dealer can decide whether profits are made or losses suffered. True, but I’m not sure that a monitor is the decisive factor of how quickly information is fed to it. Still there are other qualities that make it very well-suited to the financial world. These include a very narrow bezel measuring an impressive 12mm in width down the sides, and about 13.5mm along the top and bottom.
What this leads to is a display with a native 1,280 x 1,024 pixel picture that looks larger than it really is, and one that can be used in multi-monitor configurations where only a 24mm – 27mm internally conjoined bezel framework divides up the active screen areas. In other words up to 25 of these monitors can be stacked in a five-by-five matrix where the active pictures aren’t too far apart. The clever technology behind all this is built into each and every 1980FXi and is known as TileMatrix. Basically this allows a user to designate the position of each monitor in the matrix thus allowing one (very large) image to be displayed across the screens – ideal for tradeshows or marketing. In addition, a feature called TileComp effectively compensates for the area taken up by all the bezel edges, ensuring that the full image remains in proportion.
These aspects of the 1980FXi along with its relatively low 48W power consumption and automatic power-off timer should make it appealing to buyers looking to reduce operating costs. Another power saving feature I really like is the AmbiBright mode, accessible within in the OSD under “Auto Brightness”. By selecting option 1, the 1980FXi will automatically adjust its backlight depending in the brightness level of your environment. How? Well there’s a little light sensor mounted at the bottom right hand corner that detects the ambient light level which is then used to dim or brighten the backlight appropriately. So for a dark room, the display will dim and vice-versa. As for option 2 the sensor is completely disabled and instead the brightness is automatically set based on the amount of white areas in the actual picture. Clever stuff!
With these specs, there’s no doubt that the 1980FXi is suited to financial environments. However, when a product is designed for a certain market in mind, you’ll often find that its key features will be appreciated by users in other fields. This was evident from the moment I turned it on and started to edit some images in Photoshop. Let’s just say that I was very impressed with the overall picture quality, especially in terms of colour balance and shadow and highlight detail.
It has to be said that NEC knows what it’s doing when it comes to manufacturing high-end monitors. It may sound biased but I’ve always liked the way they handle colours (particularly natural skin tones and highlights) with almost no or very little tweaking needed on my behalf.
For instance, my job regularly involves shooting white, grey and silver coloured products that always tend to reveal subtle colour shifts on their surfaces when I use my pro SLR and our powerful studio flash lights. With this monitor, these nuances are clearly visible and I can correct for them in Photoshop. On cheaper monitors with smaller colour gamuts, I end up losing this level of information. The same can be said for shadow areas, where information is basically lost on a low-end LCD due to the lack of contrast, and compressed greyscales.
These intrinsic qualities can partly be attributed to the S-IPS (Super-In Plane Switching) liquid crystal (LC) panel that NEC uses. Keeping it simple, with this technology the LC molecules are aligned in a parallel orientation to the glass substrates and to one another, plus the electrodes are positioned parallel to each other on the lower substrate.
When a voltage is applied across the electrodes the LCs are free to rotate though 90 degrees and because all the molecules are kept in the plane of the display, light that passes through it at an angle remains at more or less the same intensity as light that passes straight out. The end results are very wide viewing angles (up to 178 degrees) with very little colour shifting, both of which I can certainly confirm in the 1980FX’s case.
NEC also backs this up with its GammaComp feature – dedicated internal circuitry combined with a small application downloadable from NEC’s website – that allows you to adjust the monitor’s internal 10bit gamma Look-Up-Table to custom gamma settings and tone response curves. Furthermore, because gamma correction is done internally in the monitor at 10bit, rather than using the 8bit Look-Up-Tables on the graphics card, you effectively get four times more tones per colour channel leading to smoother gradations and reduced banding.
The benefit of these features was borne out in our DisplayMate tests where the screens for colour scales and greyscales were very even and smooth. Furthermore, colours are very vibrant and there’s no sign of banding along the ramps. In addition, I should mention that the 1980FXi’s response time is 18ms and in real world use appears to be fast enough to keep motion smearing at bay in both games and movies. All in all, the 1980FXi is pretty much one of the best screens (that isn’t classed as ‘specialist’ like NEC’s SpectraView range) you can get. In my opinion it should happily find a home in a range of professional environments.
Last of all a word on the 1980FXi’s design. If you’re one of our regular readers you’ll notice that NEC has stuck with it’s older design compared with the updated new look as seen with the 2070NX and unveiled at the launch last year.
It’s a boxier design which I rather like, but then I drive a 1989 W124 Mercedes which goes a long way in explaining my love of angular aesthetics. Basically, you’re either going to love it or hate it. However like the Merc, the 1980FXi is solidly constructed and has some neatly engineered functions too.
For instance, the stand is fully adjustable. First, the display can be effortlessly raised through 130mm thanks to the telescopic, spring-assisted neck. Secondly, the whole stand can be swivelled through 170-degrees both left and right from centre, and finally the clever ball and socket arrangement between the neck and the back of the panel casing not only gives a tilting arc of 30 degrees, but also allows a full 90 degrees of rotation for a portrait view. As for cable routing, this is probably the stands weak point. There’s no cable hooks and instead a detachable cable cover that clips onto the back loosely retains the cables from sight.
Speaking of cables there’s two supplied in the box – a D-SUB to DVI-A cable and a DVI-D-to-DVI-D and because this monitor is an ‘Ambix’ (derived from the word ambidextrous) compliant one, it comes with a D-SUB, DVI-D, and a DVI-I port for a full range of connection options.
Running along the lower part of the bezel are a total of eight buttons. There’s the power button, a factory settings reset button, a select button that also switches between the inputs, two pairs of select and adjust buttons and an exit button. Using these to invoke changes from within the OSD is reasonably intuitive but the two-tier menu system did throw me off at first, and the fact that the exit button also allows you to enter the OSD is somewhat contradictory. Nevertheless, the range of settings is very comprehensive covering everything from brightness and contrast, picture position, and sharpness, all the way to image zoom expansion, video priority detection (for more than one PC connection), and OSD position/rotation.
The 1980FXi also comes with a very comprehensive set of colour controls. These include six colour temperatures as well as an sRGB and an original native colour mode that cannot be adjusted. A programmable option is also available for storing those custom settings you may make using the GammaComp function. Furthermore, you can individually adjust the red, green, blue, yellow, cyan, and magenta colour channels. Even the saturation can be modified. Remember, however, that the pixel clock, auto-contrast, auto-adjust, and fine focus options only become available over an analogue connection.
As is typical with most NEC monitors, you can use the company’s NaviSet software on the driver CD to adjust the screen parameters using a mouse or keyboard. For network environments, NaViSet Administrator is also available on request, and includes asset management and network-wide monitor adjustment capabilities.
So how much for all of this? Well, at just over £430 at the time of writing you could argue that the 1980FXi is expensive for a 19in monitor, but if you want an all round performer for any professional environment its money reasonably well spent.
Despite NEC marketing the MultiSync LCD1980FXi at businesses, its top of the line panel, excellent performance, complete stand adjustability, comprehensive picture control and all the video ports you’ll need, it’s going to find buyers from all walks of life. A tad pricey now, but I’m sure that’ll drop over time.
Score in detail
Image Quality 10