Ah, the wonder of economies of scale. Little did we ever think, when nodding through the stultifying tedium of A-Level Economics – not for nothing dubbed the dismal science – that the bit called economies of scale would actually turn out to be rather marvellous.
After all, it was only a very few years ago that a decent 17-inch TFT desktop monitor running at 1280 x 1024 resolution could easily set you back as much as £1,500. Today, Iiyama will be happy to sell you one called the ProLite E430S for £325 ex-VAT, all thanks to economies of scale.
Just in case you were spared the delights of an education into the workings of economic theory, economies of scale mean that the more of a thing that is manufactured, the cheaper it gets. The IT industry positively bristles with good examples like the silicon chip and its kissing cousin, the TFT panel. Fiendishly difficult and horribly expensive to make to start with, then once everybody wants one, the EOS kick in, and yesterday’s executive desk candy is tomorrow’s kids’ bedroom furniture.
You might not really want to treat your kids to the Iiyama ProLite E430S, but if you did, they should be able to get it installed without any problems. In the spirit of reality testing, we ignored the manual, and plugged the display straight in to a Windows Me box already running at the panel’s native 1280 x 1024. To avoid damage to it, we checked that the vertical refresh was set lower than the Iiyama’s rated maximum of 75Hz.
Power on, and up came a picture, albeit a rather dark and muddy. One press of the auto setup button on the bezel, and this transformed into a crisp, bright picture in about one second. This is how setups should always be, but often aren’t.
If you need to tinker with the settings, you can tweak brightness and contrast directly via the primary functions of two of the control buttons, or you can go into the on-screen menu and get right into the details. Any vertical or horizontal banding can be nudged out of existence with the clock and phase controls, and colour can be fine-tuned with a choice of presets and an RGB-adjustable user channel, sometimes handy if you want to match the characteristics of a colour printer.
Beyond the controls, the Iiyama is relatively basic, which is fair enough as it is billed as an entry-level display. It has a single D-Sub VGA signal input and an audio line-in for the 1.5W stereo speakers built into the bottom corners of the bezel. These are just what you would expect; adequate for business audio beeps and boings, but hardly the gamer’s choice. For convenience, there’s a headphones output and hardware volume control via the buttons on the lower bezel.
The stand is reasonably firm and stable, and the tilt hinge will not slip out of position (swivelling involves turning the whole base around), and the whole lot comes to a modest and easily manageable 4.1kg. The narrow bezel makes the ProLite pleasingly compact, and if you’ve just upgraded from a 17-inch or even 19-inch CRT, you will be very happy indeed with the increased desk space, quite possibly for weeks to come.
There’s an ideal resolution for every panel size, and for our money, 1280 x 1024 is dead right for a 17-inch panel like the Iiyama’s. You get plenty of Windows desktop and application workspace (you’ll really notice the difference if you are used to standard 1024 x 768 XGA), but everything is still large enough to be practical and readable.
The screen was quite brightly lit, and exhibited a fair range of viewing angles (140 degrees horizontal and 120 degrees vertical are quoted) although we found we couldn’t quite get the vertical perfect – the image always appeared slightly darker at the top. This wasn’t a killer defect, but if you are demanding about the details, you will notice it.
Everybody knows these days that the seemingly endless dominion of the cathode ray tube in computing is pretty much at close. Affordable, capable products like the ProLite are concrete indicators that the end is now very near at hand, but be cautious when buying TFT displays – some are rather more equal than others. Fortunately, this one, though not entirely perfect, makes the cut.
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