In terms of connectivity, there’s little to complain about as mounted vertically around the back are a total of three video ports – two D-SUBs, and one DVI-D, that latter of which supports HDTV in both 480p and 720p flavours. This means the VP171b can potentially be used in the same way as an LCD HDTV, albeit one without a TV tuner or integrated speakers. With these three ports the option of hooking up three PCs simultaneously is also a real prospect. To switch between the signals you can choose the connection within the OSD or use the button labelled ‘2’ to select the one you want. Alongside the video ports is the power socket that feeds the internal PSU together with its own on/off rocker switch to completely cut off the power. In the box, you’ll find a cable for each port type that, when connected, can be neatly routed around the back of the stand’s neck through the series of cable loops.
Moving onto the VP171b’s controls, the lower part of the bezel sports ViewSonic’s five familiar and unobtrusive buttons consisting of the power button, a main menu button labelled ‘1’, up and down scroll buttons and another button labelled ‘2’. The reason behind the labelling is clearly displayed on most of the sub-menus, in that by pressing ‘1’ you exit, and ‘2’ you select. This makes for an intuitive OSD that also carries settings for auto image adjustment and picture position (both for an analogue connection only), plus contrast, brightness, and colour temperature. There’s also an input priority function for selecting the order in which the VP171b searches for the relevant signal feeds.
While the OSD is on the whole pretty comprehensive there are a couple of niggles I’m not too fond of. First, when using an analogue signal over one of the D-SUB ports, I would have liked a button to function as a one-press auto-calibration button for correcting any pixel jitter and/or timing drift that could develop over the course of a working day. Instead you have to enter the OSD for that setting. And second, I’m not a big fan of peculiarly calibrated adjustment scales. For instance, I’d much prefer to see a percentage scale rather than 34 steps for the brightness and contrast levels and 51 steps for the user-definable RGB settings. Still, the level of control is better than in some displays and this was needed when setting up the display for testing.
In testing over both port types, the VP171b needed a little attention before DisplayMate Multimedia Edition with Motion 2.10 was fired up. This manifested itself as a pinkish cast that could be seen across much of the panel and especially from an elevated viewing angle. To eliminate it a representative from ViewSonic popped over to our office to inform us that this was a result of the preset contrast values which are somewhat elevated when the displays leave the factory. Indeed, this pinkish cast was reduced by dropping the contrast level and ensuring that the colour temperature was set 6500K.
With VP171b now optimised and set to its native resolution of 1280 x 1024, I ran through Displaymate’s test script for LCD screens. First of all, I was highly impressed by the greyscale tests. There were no visible signs of banding across the 256-level scales, which showed a silky smooth gradation from black to white. In the white level saturation test I was able to distinguish level 253 against the white background, which for an LCD is also commendable and is largely attributable to the VP171b’s 500:1 contrast ratio.