Product Reviews

Product Reviews

In Brief

Sub-$1,000 18-inch flat-panel monitor delivers the goods. Crystal clear image looks great and the unit, with it's black cabinet is sleek. Audio is so-so but overall, the BenQ FP882, with its dual digital and analog inputs is a winner.


Price

Price: $999

BenQ Inc.
City of Industry, Calif.


Competition

When it comes to LCD monitors, there’s no shortage of competition. Check out Apple, CTX, Dell, Eizo Nanao, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi, IBM, KDS, LG, NEC, Philips, Princeton, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, and ViewSonic.


Key Specs

Type: Active TFT

Maximum Image
Resolution:
1280 x 1024

Inputs:
   Analog: 15-pin plug
   Digital: 24-pin DVI

Viewing Angle:
   Right/Left: 80°/80°
   Up/Down: 80°/80°
Power Consumption:
   Maximum: 75 watts
   Power Saver Mode: 5 watts

 

flat-panel display

BenQ FP882 18.1-inch LCD Monitor

Rating:

By Joel Shore

September 3, 2002

BenQ? Sure, it’s a strange name, but it’s attached to a pretty good flat-panel monitor. It turns out that BenQ is the new name for an old friend, Acer Communications, a company that has been around for eons.

Why LCD? First there were CRTs, monitors based on the television-like cathode ray tube. We saw the light and that it was good. But CRTs take up a lot of space, they generate heat, and consume a heap of electricity. LCDs, liquid crystal displays, have a perfectly flat screen, take up much less desktop real estate, use far less electricity, and are a whole lot cooler (that is they generate no heat and they look awesome). Until now, the holdback has been price. Just a few years ago, an 18-inch LCD would have set you back about $5,000. Having a product of this caliber available on the street for significantly less than $1,000 is an amazing bargain.

LCD panels are better for another reason, one that you may remember from your high-school geometry class. A TV-like CRT uses an electron gun, located in the neck of the picture tube, to “paint” a beam of electrons across the screen, causing light-sensitive phosphors to fluoresce (glow). But the distance to the corners of such a screen is longer than to the center, necessitating angling the beam to reach the corners. Both of these factors can degrade performance.

An LCD panel has no electron gun, and, therefore, no beams. Instead, there is a transistor at every one of the BenQ’s 1,310,720 pixel locations (1280 x 1024). They are simply turned on or off. Consequently, there are no geometry errors, resulting in, at least theoretically, a more accurate image.

The BenQ FP882 contains a built-in USB (universal serial bus) hub. You use an included USB cable to connect the monitor to a USB port on your computer (this does not carry the monitor’s video signal, however). Then, you can connect USB devices to the the two USB ports on the monitor. You could connect your mouse, keyboard, business-card scanner, headset/microphone, or any other device.

Installation and set-up. There’s not much to do when it comes to setting up a monitor. First, you connect the signal cable from the PC. If you using a regular analog signal (which most PCs do), you’ll connect the video cable you’ve come to know and love. If you’ve stepped up to full digital video, you’ll be using a DVI (digital video interface) cable. Second, plug in the power cord. The USB hub cable is optional and has nothing to do with the operation of the monitor itself.

Making Adjustments. In addition to the purple power button, the FP882’s front panel sports five buttons. These are labeled “iKey,” Enter, Exit, <, and >. You can use the Enter key to display the on-screen menus, such as brightness, contrast, image size, image position, and then use the < and > keys to increase or decrease the selected setting.

It gets more complicated, though. The iKey button is a short cut that takes you directly to settings for vertical and horizontal positioning of the image, and the less commonly refresh rate and phase settings. Likewise, pressing the < key brings you directly to the contrast setting, while tapping the > key takes you to the brightness setting. This is a pretty confusing setup, one that users should rarely have a need to access. And if you don’t remember those short cuts (like most of us), you can still press the Enter button to cycle through the complete set of features.

The entire library of video settings is present. You can chose from three predefined color temperature settings (9800°K, 6500°K, 5800°K) as well as a manual option where you can set the red/green/blue mix any way you like. Choose “info” and the monitor displays all of it current settings.

The image was great. Whether I was looking at text or photos, everything appeared crisp and very readable. Both brightness and contrast were good. High-resolution photos were vibrant and had that “snap.” Even in the corners, the image was bright.

An important feature of any LCD panel is its viewing angle. Think about it: you never actually look at a monitor exactly straight on. You lean right, you reach left. Some of us look down into a monitor, others prefer look up. The further you can go side-to-side or up and down, and still get a clear, usable image, the better. With the BenQ FP882, you can go up/down or left/right by up to 80 degrees. Not bad. For a carload of additional money, you can find panels with a wider viewing angle, but it’s not really necessary.

One of the features I didn’t care for were the built-in speakers. They are certainly convenient, but the sound is pretty thin. I’ve been spoiled by my PC’s audio system, which consists of left and right desktop speakers and a subwoofer that sits on the floor beneath my desk. The only reason I can think of in favor of using built-in speakers is in a business environment, where free-standing speakers might get heisted. If you already have a speaker set-up that you like, stick with it.

So should you buy the BenQ FP882? As someone who has followed the market for many years, the fact that 18-inch LCDs are available for less than $1,000 blows my mind. This one looked good on my desk, performed well, and the black enclosure even matched nicely with my Logitech Cordless Freedom Optical mouse and keyboard (read the review).

I’m a big proponent of buying the largest display you can afford. If you have the bucks for the BenQ FP882, go for it.<

 
Yeas & Nays

Yea:

4Good picture

4Sleek design

4Wide viewing angle

4Analog, digital inputs

 

Nay:

4Mediocre audio

4Unusual controls


Save, save, save

LCD monitors help you save money. Unlike traditional CRT monitors that throw a lot of heat, LCD’s run very cool, That can save on your air conditioning bill.  And LCDs consume a lot less electricity than CRTs. Finally, LCDs occupy a lot less space.


Plummeting Prices

As recently as 1998, an 18-inch LCD monitor would have cost at least $5,000—and the image wouldn’t have been as bright and crisp as today’s $1,000 offerings. If you don’t need the luxury of an 18-inch display, dozens of 15-inch units are available for about $500.


Digital or analog?

CRT monitors are analog, not digital devices, requiring your computer’s video card to convert its internal digital video data to analog format before sending it down the cable to your monitor.

 

But an LCD monitor, like your computer, is a digital device. That means it’s not necessary for your PC to convert the video to analog. In fact, that’s just an extra step, because the monitor would have to convert it back to digital.

 

If that’s the case, then why do LCDs accept an analog signal? They do it simply to be compatible with the video signal your PC is already generating.

 

For a real treat, get rid of your computer’s old analog video card and invest in a digital video card. You’ll be digital from end to end, and the image will be even better.


   

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