IBM – ThinkVision L200p review

huge flat-panel monitor
Photo of IBM – ThinkVision L200p
£1,233 + VAT

Would it be going too far to suggest that the IBM ThinkVision L200p represents the future for PC displays? You might sincerely hope not, since it costs more than most entire desktop systems, with a suggested ex-VAT selling price of £1,233, but we’re not really talking about money here.

The ThinkVision L200p has a 20.1-inch screen with a native resolution of 1600 x 1200, also known as UXGA, which is the limit for most graphics cards, mainly because it was the limit for conventional CRTs. To display this resolution readably used to require a whopping 21-inch (diagonal) tube which meant a monster monitor squatting on your desk. Anything bigger just wasn’t practical for the majority of environments, so as far as resolution went, for years everything stopped at UXGA.

This makes the ThinkVision L200p – at least on paper – the ultimate CRT replacement, and therefore exactly what we’d expect to see as standard on a mid-range system in about five years time. By then, the upper limit of resolution will have increased, simply because flat panel technology makes it practical and realistic to put really large screens on people’s desks without the huge weight and bulk associated with CRTs. UXGA will be middle-of-the-road, and something like the ThinkVision L200p will cost no more than an affordable 17-inch TFT panel does today.

Which is all very interesting, but doesn’t really give much away about the ThinkVision L200p itself, so back to the present, and the small matter of the actual review.

Despite its impressive capabilities, the ThinkVision L200p is surprisingly manageable, weighing 8.35kg and measuring 467mm x 259mm x 393mm (W x D x H), and that’s including the stand. Dismount it, and the cabinet alone is 467mm wide, 77mm deep and 373mm high. The extra bit of depth relative to some other flat panels is accounted for by the integral power supply, which to our mind is neater and preferable to an external ‘brick’.

This adds a little to the weight, but the sturdy, wide-base stand keeps the cabinet still, and provides height adjustment as well as tilt and swivel positioning, ensuring that the screen can be set just right in relation to the user.

Something like this might be standard gear in five years, but right now it’s strictly in the specialist league: financial analysis, the trading floor, the lab and the design studio. This may explain IBM’s decision to dispense with any integrated audio or even a USB hub. The ThinkVision L200p is unadorned except for a power cable and sockets for standard analogue VGA and digital DVI-I signal inputs.

Round the front you get the usual array of control buttons, including one for toggling between two signal inputs and one providing direct access to the brightness setting. More complex and less frequently used controls are contained within the on-screen setup menu, which we found to be logical and easy to understand.

You might not need it much, if at all, since the automatic setup routine can also be triggered directly from a single button, and it worked flawlessly. Still, if you want to change the colour balance by manually tweaking the RGB intensities, or fine-tune the clock and phase, you can.

When you fire it up, the ThinkVision L200p is an impressive sight. The available workspace is vast – UXGA delivers nearly two-and-a-half times the viewable area provided by standard 1024 x 768 XGA, so you really do have a lot of room to play with. The screen is very bright, and the colour reproduction is even over large areas and vibrant too. Better yet, the range of viewing angles is nice and wide so the image doesn’t fade if you move off to one side (IBM quotes an overall 170 degrees in both planes).

The image is very finely grained and sharp thanks to the fairly small pixel pitch of .255mm, and the choice of a 20.1-inch viewable diagonal panel ensures that the screen is big enough to display UXGA without everything shrinking to impractically small sizes. This can happen if the screen is just physically too small to carry its native resolution, but here size and resolution are perfectly in balance.

Obviously the ThinkVision L200p is going to be of restricted appeal simply because of its price. It does what it does very well, and IBM backs it with a reassuring three year parts and labour warranty, but we can’t see huge sales outside the specialist scientific, business and engineering markets. We can only commend the ThinkVision L200p to those who have the need and the budget for it right now, and look forward to the time when the economies of scale bring high-resolution flat panel displays into the mainstream.

Company: IBM

Contact: 0800 169 1458


Verdict
The IBM ThinkVision L200p is an excellent flat-panel display that convincingly replaces the behemoth that is the 21-inch CRT monitor. Sadly it's still in the upper echelon as far as pricing is concerned, but perhaps one day...