- Review Price: £397.00
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.
Despite the clever styling, I do have a number of gripes. The first concerns the height of the stand. I personally found it to sit a little low on my desk, and without any means of height adjustment it’s going to stay that way unless you stick it on top of some kind of platform. Secondly, and more obviously, there’s no way to swivel the screen from side to side – not a huge issue in itself however.
The other niggles concern the close proximity of the back chassis panel to the ports, especially the DVI-I port. What I mean by this, is that connecting a typical DVI cable to this port is hindered by the casing. In fact, I couldn’t plug the cable in all the way, nor fully tighten the connectors integrated securing screws. As a result, the cable end would sit at a slight angle. That said, I could push it in far enough to ensure that a digital signal was received by the monitor. Last of all, I’m not a big fan of external power supplies as they tend to find themselves kicking about under your desk or sitting in the way on top of it. It also means that you’ll be carrying this together with the display on your journeys, although Shuttle do offer an optional carry bag called the PF50.
Speaking of ports, the XP17 like so many LCDs these days comes with dual connectivity – a D-SUB and the aforementioned DVI-I one, the latter of which can accept either a digital signal, or an analogue one with an appropriate converter. Both cable types are also included in the box.
Ok, you’ve now read and looked at its styling and features. But what is the XP17 like to use? Well let’s fire it up and find out. Ah! I’m greeted with a glowing Shuttle logo – a nice touch for the show-offs, but perhaps a distraction for those that work in the dark. Still, at least Shuttle hasn’t played sheep and followed other manufacturers with their ubiquitous blue lights.
On the whole, I’m reasonably impressed. The screen is bright, sharp and not as reflective as I though it might have been. The AR part of the XP17’s TempAR label stands for Anti-Reflective and it definitely seems to cut down on reflections. Furthermore, I should add that this monitor is in no way as reflective as those that employ the high-black, glossy coatings, we’ve seen in the past. However, what I do notice is a pinkish/purplish cast to some reflections, especially where overhead lighting is concerned. This is probably a result of the multi-layer coating and unfortunately it seems to add a pinkish tone to bright whites too. Upon tweaking the independently adjustable RGB colour controls with the vertically mounted OSD controls I was able to minimise this although to the trained eye it’s still noticeable.
As for overall picture performance I was on one hand satisfied with the richly saturated and vibrant colour scales within the DisplayMate test screens, but on the other was a little disappointed when it came to fine picture editing. You see, the XP17 is one of those LCDs that uses a 6-bit panel and some clever algorithms to dither the colours up to 16.2million. This is often a technique that goes hand-in-hand with a fast response time, but regularly introduces some spurious coloured tonal affects, particularly when assessing skin tones. A favourite real world test of mine is to compare the skin tones in one of my test shots (a well-exposed portrait of a cello player) on a 6-bit monitor with an 8-bit one.
In this case the 6-bit XP17 made the skin tones in the musicians fingering arm look a little artificial (greens and pinks were noticeable), whereas the 8-bit monitor looked more natural. Before I continue, I should also say that this is quite a sensitive test and will probably only really concern those looking for an image editing monitor. For gamers after a monitor with a fast response time, this is probably not so important.
As for the rest of the DisplayMate tests, there’s virtually no banding but there’s some slight compression in the highlight ends of the greyscales. Nothing too drastic though. Indeed, the XP17 is a relatively high contrast and high brightness monitor which can lead to harsh highlights, but considering the XP17 is marketed as a gaming monitor, more light for those dark games will most likely be appreciated by its intended users.
Any comment from me on motion smearing in games and movies? Nah. You know me. I couldn’t notice any. However, I did notice that the XP17 has relatively narrow viewing angles and a distinct colour shift when you move your line of sight up and down from centre.
Finally a word on price. At just under £400 it’s very high for a 17in LCD, but Shuttle has clearly spent time designing and developing the 8ms XP17 TempAR which inevitably means it has to recoup the costs. Personally, I’d spend the cash on a larger monitor that can handle colours with more finesse. That’s me though, but if you want a stylish, tough, and portable gaming display to match your Shuttle SFF there’s little else out there.
A pricey yet rugged 17in LCD where design has been to taken to a refreshingly new level by focusing on the travelling gamer and Shuttle XPC owner.
”’Update:”’ ”Shuttle has informed us that the TempAR (anti-refective) version of the XP17 is no longer for sale. It said that its first TFT, with a 16ms response time, featured an anti-glare glass panel (AG.) For its 8ms model, the plan was to release a model with the anti-reflective coating (AR.) However, based on user feedback it opted to release the 8ms model with an AG coating after all; the technical specs of the display are otherwise the same.”
Score in detail
Image Quality 7
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