The Dell 2005FPW Monitor

Because the readership has relatively low interest in detailed (or any, really) computer-related stuff, this will probably be one of only a handful of “high-tech” reviews. In the first post I had mentioned reviewing this product (keep in mind this was before Nate and I had really developed some sort of “concept” for the site), so here it is. Also, it can serve as a starting point back into normal reviewing after the Junior Staff had felt it necessary to call my reviewing skills into question. Being that anyone looking for an opinion on this particular monitor can look up highly technical, highly detailed reviews by lots of other websites, I’ll focus on whether or not it was a worthwhile purchase. Any of those other reviews are far more thorough in both methodology and scope, but being that their samples are usually sent by the manufacturer for free, specifically for the task of reviewing, their price/performance discussion is rather superficial as they’ve not spent any of their own money on the product.

2005fpw_example
This is more useful than a new computer.

A rough overview of the monitor in question:

  • It’s a 20″ LCD widescreen. This is phenomenally larger than a 17″ tube monitor.
  • Its native resolution is 1680×1050 which is equal to a 16:10 aspect ratio. Most LCD monitors are either 4:3 or 5:4.
  • It’s plenty bright and doesn’t show any ghosting during movies. I haven’t played any modern computer games for quite a while, so I’m not sure if ghosting is an issue in those games. Ghosting is when the tiny pieces that make the LCD “work” can’t keep up the speed of the signal. It was a huge problem with LCD monitors until 3 or so years ago.
  • It has one analog VGA input (the blue monitor plug), one DVI (the newer, white monitor plug), one composite video in (the yellow cable that’s usually in the white/red/yellow bundles), and one S-Video in.

The composite and S-Video inputs make it potentially useful as a TV, but if you notice, the aspect ratio is 16:10. This makes it so widescreen DVD’s and their 16:9 aspect ratio are either distorted vertically to fit the screen or are viewed with black boxes across the top and bottom. All screens sold specifically as “widescreen computer monitors” are in the 16:10 aspect ratio. Products sold as computer-compatible “LCD TVs” can be bought in the 16:9 ratio, but they are frequently hundreds of dollars more than the computer monitors for a given size. Obviously, the panel makers don’t want to cannibalize the LCD TV sales. I wasn’t planning on using it as a TV, but being that it doesn’t have speakers and has an awkward aspect ratio, consider that a warning for those that might be swayed by the composite and S-Video connections. The signal carried in both of those connections has only 480 vertical lines of resolution while the screen displays 1,050; the monitor upconverts the signal, but doesn’t do the best job. If someone were to buy a PC-based TV tuner, the monitor becomes a better choice for TV-watching as the computer’s speakers can be used, and the TV tuner probably includes a better resizer.

But, as a computer monitor it excels. The screen is super bright, super clear, takes up less space even though the screen itself is bigger, and trumps the old tube monitor I had used in every way. Most significantly, two documents can be opened next to each other at a size that’s very legible and doesn’t require an obscene amount of scrolling to effectively read. That means having an internet browser or Acrobat open next to Word and not having to switch between the two when working on some sort of paper. You can have Excel open next to Word and simply copy and paste figures without having to switch between them. This is hugely helpful and all but impossible with a single non-widescreen monitor. For those that ever edit websites, it’s also a huge help to be able to see the code and the result on one screen without (again) having to switch between windows.

Beyond the usefulness of the screen itself, the monitor provides four USB connections, similar to having USB connections on the front of the computer, but even more useful.

As I alluded to earlier, I doubt that anyone who normally reads the site is even considering purchasing something like this, but there have been multiple people who’ve connected to this site after searching Google for “2005FPW Review” because of a comment I made in the site’s first post. So, here it was.

Here’s an example of the benefits of widescreen.
Adobe Premiere make sure you un-shrink the images if you’re using Internet Explorer or Firefox
The window arrangement when running the old 17″ tube monitor
1152×864 ~175KB
The window arrangement when running the Dell 2005FPW
1680×1050 ~350KB

Compared to the original, not only are the video previews much closer to actual size, the timeline covers a significantly larger amount of content, and if you look at the bottom, the taskbar isn’t filled even though there are numerous programs open.

For those that couldn’t care less about response time, contrast ratio, other technical specifications, or if a favorite game has support for widescreen resolutions, consider this a hugely worthwhile investment. With coupons and patience (and liberally checking “deals” sites such as gotapex and xpbargains, the monitor can be had between $360 and $400. This is about half the price of a new, decent computer, but the kicker is that it will work with your next computer. Monitors last longer than practically any other computer part, and you spend the most time directly interacting with it compared to any of those other parts. On top of that, Dell has a 3 year warranty which is setup in such a way that they send you the replacement before you send your problematic unit back to them; it’s all rather painless.

****½

The Dell 2005FPW Monitor receives four-and-a-half stars due to how much it can enhance computer use. The price is (relatively) nice, the extra features (USB, composite, S-Video, adjustability in six directions, etc.) are all, at the minimum, useful, and beyond that, consumes significantly less power than a tube monitor. It’s not perfect, as the Picture-in-Picture mode is tough to toggle on or off because everything is controlled by buttons on the bezel and the the Picture-by-Picture mode is not particularly useful because it leaves so much black space above the two images. Also, though it’s not specifically a problem of the monitor, when watching DVD’s on the computer with PowerDVD or any other program, the screen’s resolution is so high compared to the DVD that when the video is resized to fullscreen, the flaws in the DVD source are rather obvious. Video savvy users can use Media Player Classic in combination with ffdshow to do a very high quality resize of the DVD’s output, but that’s a rather inelegant method. Both of the new DVD formats will fix this as their native resolution will most likely be closer to that of the panel, but as of now, viewing either of the new formats in the higher resolutions (720p and 1080i/p) will require components with HDMI connections, something that the 2005FPW lacks. But, when it comes to computer stuff, waiting for the “next and best” never works out being that there’s always a “next and best” around the corner.

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