Technology

A Multitasker's Dream Monitor


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Editor's Rating: star rating

This large flat-panel display lets users open multiple windows, each with readable text

Here's my advice for companies that want to get more out of their employees without dangling the carrot of a large bonus—outfit offices with big monitors, specifically Dell's (DELL) 24-inch liquid-crystal display. At $719, the latest price offered by Dell, this flat panel is a steal compared with others its size. (Apple (AAPL) has a 23-inch flat-panel with a $999 price tag.)

My productivity definitely increased the week I test-drove this unit. In fact, I'm sure I wrote this review quicker than usual.

Zeroing In

One reason for my newfound alacrity was the monitor's wide screen: 24 inches is large enough to have multiple windows open at the same and keep each one big enough to still read the text. That's a boon for any multitasking worker who needs to monitor e-mail while working on a multitude of projects.

As I write this article, I have my e-mail in a window at the bottom of the screen, open just enough to read new messages. My notes are full-size in a window at the left, and the story is on the right side of the screen. The monitor has thus eliminated the time wasted toggling between windows. There's no need to search around for the window with the notes verifying that the monitor does, in fact, have automatic image centering and picture-in-picture technology (it does), just like a high-end, high-definition TV. Everything I need to work more efficiently is right in front of me.

Setting up the unit didn't negate the time saved over the course of the week either. It was simple. The monitor, complete with stand and head, weighs just over 18 pounds. My gym-neglected arms easily plucked the unit from the box and settled it on my desk. It slid into the stand and fit securely without the need of screws, bolts, or even much adjustment. A quick tilt and swivel of the monitor to my preferred viewing angle, and I was nearly ready to work.

Perfect Picture

But first I needed to adjust the brightness and color. Like any person who stares at word documents, spreadsheets, and Web pages all day, I appreciate a bright screen with clear, crisp text and sharp contrast. This unit definitely delivers, but only after toying with the menu buttons at the edge of the screen. For me, a brightness setting of 86 out of 100 and a contrast of 83 was ideal. Some monitors require users turn the settings all the way up before displaying a sufficiently bright picture. I didn't find that necessary with this unit. Once at the right settings, I was able to work on this monitor well into the night without feeling as if I was gradually losing my eyesight.

Don't tell the boss, but this monitor also comes with a ton of capabilities better suited for your, er, lunch break. It displays great video. I watched a few scenes from the original Rocky and found the picture to be clear, crisp, and rich. I could discern colors and shades in dark images, such as Rocky Balboa's charcoal-gray pants, and I didn't see any color bands or heavily pixilated images. Images on YouTube videos didn't display full-size, but that's due to the quality of the recordings—not the monitor, which can display high-definition video thanks to its 1,920 x 1,200 resolution. (HD quality is defined as 1920 X 1080.)

The monitor's resolution, along with its 6-millisecond image-response time, makes it a great option for gamers as well. LCD monitors typically have a response time of 8 to 16 ms, although other large monitors, such as the NEC (NIPNY) MultiSync 20WMGX2, have the faster 6-ms rating (see BusinessWeek.com, 12/22/06, "A Monitor for All Seasons"). Fast response times are key, considering the rapidly changing environments in today's games. Imagine playing a racing game where the screen lags in its ability to reflect the changing viewing angles as the car speeds along the track. The resulting fuzzy images impair the experience.

Getting Hooked

Hooking up a game system to this monitor is no problem. The device has ports galore for all manner of devices. Besides the AC power connector, there's one for DC that can be used for Dell's Soundbar, a four-speaker, 12-volt system that works with the monitor. There are also a DVI, VGA, composite video, S-video, and component video connectors. That means the monitor can be hooked up to all manner of video devices. It also has several USB ports for flash drives and the like.

But the best part, for me, was just the sheer amount of information this monitor can display at once. It makes it easy to scan a Web site while writing a word document as a video plays in a corner of the screen. It's the perfect gift for the multitasking worker.

Holahan is a writer for BusinessWeek.com in New York.

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