Review: Philips Brilliance 109P20 monitor

A product review by Bobulous.


The Brilliance 109P20 (marked as simply 'Brilliance 109P' on the case) is a 19-inch professional-grade monitor made by Philips.


I ordered the 109P20 online from Watford Electronics at a price of £381.88 including VAT. I'm very pleased with Watford Electronics as an online vendor; they keep me informed, they deliver without unnecessary delay, and their phone staff are quick and clued-in. They don't have a problem with cancellations, either, so if you regret an order you've recently placed, there's no trouble in changing your mind. (Well, no trouble for you. The delivery man that's just lugged a huge box to your door only to be turned away may not be so delighted.)


Actually connecting the monitor to your machine is a simple matter of plugging the supplied data and power cables into the right places. Easy. (The monitor also comes with BNC connectors, but if I'm honest, I have no idea what BNC connectors are.) The trouble comes before you actually get to that stage: the Brilliance 109P20 has a mass of 23kg (over 50 pounds). Somehow you've got to get the massive box into a suitable place to unpack it. Then you've got to struggle to get the monitor out of the box. After that you just have to lift the thing onto your desk. Being a person far from athletic, this process strained my back and exhausted me. The good news is that installing the supplied drivers for Windows is an effortless procedure. Except that the CD and printed manual are in a cheap and nasty plastic bag with a sticky seal that the CD data-side gets stuck on when you're trying to get it out.


The first thing I noticed was the solid power button on this monitor. My previous monitor had an awful button that had to be finger-punched to turn it on. The 109P20 power button depresses on and off very nicely. A small deal, but every stress-evading feature is welcome by me.

Once the drivers were in place, and I was back in 1280 x 1024 resolution in Windows, I was slightly taken aback by the soft edges and flickering that were most noticeable in the corners of the display. The flickering was resolved by telling Windows to use a higher refresh rate, but the lack of sharpness in the edges (especially the lower left corner) remained.

Using the ICEadjust software that comes on the CD, I realised that the softness was due to a convergence problem. Convergence is the meeting of the red, green and blue dots on the screen; if the red, green and blue dots don't meet exactly, a convergence error is said to occur, and the image at that point has red and blue edges that shouldn't be there. This ultimately causes a patch of the screen to look blurred, less sharp than it should be. The ICEadjust software allowed me to fine tune all the aspects of the display very nicely (e.g. pincushion and trapezoid, purity, color temperature, etc.) but no matter how long I fought with the convergence settings, I couldn't get rid of the soft patch caused by convergence error. I could just move it around a bit. Like trying to get a picture hung on the wall perfectly level, you can have hours of fun adjusting the controls, convinced that the image could be tweaked just a little better. Here's a tip: adjust the settings once until you're happy, and then never, ever touch them again. It'll drive you slowly insane.

As tortuous as the selection of settings is, at least the on-screen display makes altering them pleasant. With only the four silvered buttons on the front of the monitor case, you can move around the settings, increasing and decreasing values and selecting options as necessary. Very intuitive. The only moan I have is that the OSD menu is always dead-centre of the screen, and sometimes you wish you could move it out of the way to see how the settings are affecting the centre of the screen.

The manual is a little lacking in detail. For instance, we're told that the auto-calibrate feature can extend the life of the monitor by adjusting the brightness and contrast of the screen automatically, but we're not told why this feature is set to off by default, or when it's not a good idea to use it. The CD manual does include a presentation that describes the various technologies found in Philips monitors. It also has a collection of high quality images that show off the sharpness of the monitor display, although these images don't reach to the edge of the screen in 1280 resolution.

A static-electricity sound was emanating from the back of the case every minute or two, especially after a few hours once the monitor had heated up. I telephoned Philips' freephone support number and asked if this was normal; they said that I should not be hearing crackling noises, nor should the display have convergence problems. They suspected interference from some electrical field that might be in my room, and suggested I try the monitor on someone else's machine in a different environment. I did: the crackling seemed to disappear, and the image seemed sharp all over, although I could not test the monitor at 1280 x 1024 resolution on the other machine. So I tried rearranging the position of my computer, but I still heard the occasional static-electric crackle and the image still had soft areas, so Philips sent a replacement monitor. With the new monitor, I still get crackles and soft spots, so I'm assuming that there's something wrong with the room my computer's in. (In fact, excessive crackling was the reason I decided to replace my old monitor.) If anyone has any advice for me about this, contact me.

The Philips phone support staff were helpful, and friendly to the extreme. The monitor comes with a three-year on-site warranty: if the monitor stops working within three years of purchase, a refurbished monitor is sent to you in exchange and the broken monitor is shipped back to Philips. This is a very good thing. It means that, included in the price you pay, you are guaranteed a monitor for three years.


There are a lot of good things about the Philips Brilliance 109P20, but the lack of sharpness across the whole screen is distracting. The crackling from the back of the casing is also pretty disturbing, though I may never work out what's causing it to happen. Philips assure me it's not typical.

Aside from that, the 109P20 has rich colours, great brightness and contrast, and a comprehensively featured and easy-to-use OSD. The three-year, on-site warranty is a reassuring addition.

But, for me at least, the 109P20 is a lot of money and advanced technology, for a slightly disappointing result.