After it was adjusted, the LCD display was excellent.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983
T e c h n o f i l e
$277 Walmart "IC Power" 19-inch LCD monitor has extra features and great image quality
Nov. 20, 2005
By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2005, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2005, The Post-Standard
LCD monitors make sense for a lot of reasons. They take up less desk space, run cooler, use far less electricity and are easier on your eyes than old-fashioned monitors. But one thing they haven't been known for is low cost.
That's changing at last. Prices of the two most popular monitor sizes, 17-inch and 19-inch, have fallen to record lows. Prices checked through Froogle, the Google price-comparison site (at http://froogle.google.com), show the least expensive 17-inch model selling for as little as $169.55. (It's a Neovo. Search Froogle with this search term to find it: "neovo 17 inch lcd monitor" -- but leave off the quotes.)
A similar check for the least expensive 19-inch LCD monitor showed a $199 net price for a Sceptre DCL9C model, after a $100 rebate.
I made note of those deals and many more when I began looking for an LCD monitor of my own last week. But I decided to buy locally instead. At a store just a few miles away, I found a 19-inch LCD monitor with the features I was looking for -- a DVI (digital) input, built-in speakers, a good warranty and an excellent return policy.
Better yet, the monitor was among the least expensive models in my price searches after I added the necessary cost of a DVI connecting cable.
The local store I shopped at was the Walmart in my neighborhood. The monitor I bought is an IC Power 2019. It cost $277. Included in the box were both VGA and DVI cables. Walmart had an even cheaper 19-inch LCD monitor, an ilo (its house brand), also with a DVI input. But the $258 cost of that model would have made it more expensive than the IC Power monitor if I added the $20 to $40 cost of the cable.
(What's a DVI cable and why would anyone need one? All LCD monitors use precise digital electrical signals to illuminate each pixel. The cheapest LCDs sometimes leave out the DVI connection, translating the computer's old-fashioned analog signal into a digital signal inside the monitor. This gives up some of the advantages of LCDs. If your computer can use a DVI-equipped LCD monitor, make sure any LCD unit you buy has an a DVI input.)
The IC Power monitor appears to be almost identical to the Balance CM2019, from Balance Digital Technology, a Chinese manufacturer. (The Balance model has a slightly different monitor base and a different screen adjustment menu.)
Like all other inexpensive 19-inch LCD monitors, the IC Power monitor has a native resolution of 1280 by 1024; these are numbers, in pixels, or individual screen units, indicating how much detail can be shown on the screen. Nearly all 17-inch LCD monitors have the same 1280 by 1024 resolution, but the pixels on such smaller monitors are closer together and not as easy to differentiate. On a 19-inch LCD model, 1280 by 1024 appears to be ideal, even for eyes that are tired after a long day at the office or school.
I was initially dismayed by the picture quality. Colors were washed out and the monitor was much too bright. But after adjusting the display with a Pantone ColorVision calibration system, a hardware device that reads levels off the screen during an interactive adjustment sequence, I judged the IC Power's image quality excellent. It was an almost perfect match for the image quality of my large Nokia CRT monitor.
In fact, the only noticeable difference in image quality between my previous (and very bulky) monitor and the IC Power LCD model was the way tiny items were shown; my Nokia 21-inch CRT monitor, which I bought about six years ago after many tests had established it as one of the sharpest monitors of its size, can't match the pinpoint illumination on the IC Power LCD screen. Words in the smallest possible type size and the tiniest details in my photographs are much sharper when I view them on the new LCD monitor.
The new monitor uses only 60 watts at full brightness, about one-tenth the amount used by my older Nokia monitor. Because I use my main computer for many hours a day, I'm likely to save a significant amount on my electric bill over the lifetime of the monitor.
If you buy the IC Power from Walmart, be sure to adjust the picture-quality controls as soon as you set it up. For no-hassle monitor calibration, I recommend the ColorVision Spyder2 Plus to everyone who does photo editing; it's now selling for $209 after a $50 rebate through the end of the year. Go to www.colorvision.com for details.
If you'd rather try adjusting your monitor without a calibration device -- a hard task, but worth trying if you want to save money and don't mind a little uncertainty as to the results -- read my 2003 article on adjusting your monitor. It's at www.technofileonline.com/texts/tec011203.html. The article mentions two sources for Windows monitor-adjustment software. Mac OS X users should read my article and then download the excellent SuperCal from www.bergdesign.com/supercal.