Two years ago, it was a guarantee of boutique style and status to have a flat-panel LCD instead of bulky CRT monitor on your desk. These days, LCD monitors are much more common, but there are still boutique LCD brands like AG Neovo, the Taiwanese vendor that joined the U.S. market in the summer of 2002. Back then, we reviewed the company's 19-inch model S-19 and found it tres elegant, but no bargain at $1,300.
Well, AG Neovo still offers high style, but its boutique prices have become downright sensible: At $700 from Amazon.com and other online sellers, the new E-19A is right in the middle of the 19-inch desktop LCD market. But it stands out from the crowd in image quality as well as artistic design. It doesn't have every feature you can think of height adjustment and portrait/landscape pivoting are two that come to mind but it's a handsome alternative to increasingly similar-looking PC picture frames.
A Screen with a Storm Window
Like the S-19 before it, the E-19A boasts AG Neovo's signature feature (found on all but its F-series economy models): what the company calls a NeoV Crystal Optic Filter, a 3mm (0.18-inch-thick) layer of optical glass that overlays the LCD panel. The coated glass conquers almost all glare or reflection during normal viewing although it becomes a mirror, defeating the LCD's otherwise wide viewing angles, when you move far to one side.
It also makes the screen significantly tougher and more scratch-resistant than most LCD monitors AG Neovo claims it's slightly softer than steel, while a standard LCD is slightly harder than talc. We tried scraping our fingernails on the screen as if it was a blackboard, then knocking on it like a door, and the E-19A was unscathed. It's certainly possible to damage the display if you try, but the glossy monolith should survive the daily grind and respond to easy, wipe-off cleaning better than almost any of its rivals.
The glass filter helps increase contrast, which AG Neovo rates at a first-class 700:1 while its advertised brightness is nothing extraordinary (300 nits), the E-19A is one of the sharpest and brightest flat panels we've seen, offering crisp text against paper-white backgrounds even when we turned brightness and contrast to 85 or 90 percent, instead of the 100 percent to which we usually, promptly adjust LCD monitors. Indeed, it's the first we've tried in a long time that provided too much contrast, washing out the Windows taskbar and toolbars as CRTs can when cranked to the maximum.
The 1,280 by 1,024-pixel panel delivers fine details (pixel pitch is 0.294mm), and showed no ghosting with fast-moving video and animation or flicker at the usual 60Hz LCD refresh rate, although its 25ms rated response time can't match the 16ms LCDs now reaching the market for game maniacs. Colors were vivid, with ample contrast in our DisplayMate gradient test patterns. Our test unit had no bad pixels; AG Neovo considers four defective pixels, or one within a 30mm-radius circle of the center, grounds for monitor replacement.
Come Up to the Lab and See What's on the Slab
While most desktop LCD vendors tout their thin-bezel designs, the E-19A follows AG Neovo's S-19 in going the big-bezel route putting a glossy black frame around the display area, for a 17.2 by 17.7 by 7.7-inch shape that looks imposing at first glance but soon seems to fade into the background, leaving you to focus on your work.
You can adjust the screen's tilt from a minimum of 5 to a maximum of 25 degrees backward, and move the whole, 16.1-pound monitor by way of a swivel, but we occasionally found ourselves wishing for some height adjustment. While the E-19A can't pivot between landscape and portrait mode as some upscale LCDs can, it offers two inputs VGA analog and DVI-I digital instead of only the former as most economy models do.
Both types of video cables are in the box, as is an audio cable for the display's 2-watt stereo speakers, which are predictably tinny and weak for music or movies but fine for low-fi audio effects. The AG Neovo takes a thrifty 55 watts of power, using a notebook PC-style plug-in power brick instead of the slightly tidier internal power supply of some flat panels.
Six tiny buttons at the bottom right of the bezel labeled with virtually invisible icons control power, speaker volume, and a typically awkward-to-navigate on-screen menu for contrast, brightness, image position and sharpness, and color adjustments (two preset temperatures, automatic, or manual RGB settings). Happily, the leftmost button's auto-adjust function works well for analog input.
AG Neovo isn't yet a household name like NEC or Sony, but the E-19A deserves to boost brand awareness: Unlike last year's model, it offers above-average quality for an average, affordable price, while making a sci-fi fashion statement that's easy to like.
Adapted from HardwareCentral.com.