The ViewSonic VX2255wmb is a 22-inch widescreen monitor with a native resolution of 1680×1050 pixels. Built into the monitor casing are speakers and a webcam. The monitor is on a height-adjustable stand, but has no tilt or pivot.
Things got off to a bad start as soon as I'd removed the monitor from the box. I found several pieces of jagged plastic rattling about. The monitor doesn't come with a setup guide, so I had to guess that these parts were needed to attach the monitor to a plastic disc that must allow it to rotate smoothly. This isn't a feature I'll need, and what there was of the monitor stand was enough to allow it to stand upright, so I decided it wasn't worth the hassle of sending the item back. It does suggest that the packaging isn't protective enough, though.
Once you've unwrapped the fiddly plastic film covering the monitor, it's simple enough to plug in the power and video cables. The VX2255wmb offers both DVI and a VGA ports. I used the DVI port, and the supplied DVI cable, plugging it into the DVI port of my ATI Radeon 9700 Pro, with my old Philips Brilliance 109P CRT monitor plugged into the Radeon's VGA port.
Windows XP detected both the new and old monitors without any problem, and both monitors can be used side-by-side if so desired.
Getting Ubuntu (I'm now on 7.10) to detect the monitor proved hard work, however. I spent a fair amount of time modifying xorg.conf to describe both monitors, but Ubuntu would still either start up with nothing displaying at all, or a scrambled display, or a message explaining that Ubuntu was forced to run in low-graphics mode. In the end, it was as simple as disconnecting the old CRT monitor from my Radeon's VGA port. As soon as I did that, and then ran sudo dpkg-reconfigure xserver-xorg so that the video setup was detected, the Viewsonic VX2255wmb appeared correctly in Ubuntu. Possibly the signal from the Philips was interfering with the EDID information from the ViewSonic. Whatever the cause, I gave up trying to get both monitors running side-by-side in Ubuntu.
The VX2255wmb comes with installation CDs for the monitor and for the webcam, for Windows. Annoyingly, once the webcam software is installed, it loads every time Windows loads, which is totally unnecessary. Getting the webcam to work in Ubuntu is a matter of installing the UVC driver, and then making sure to select the V4L2 video plugin in software such as Ekiga.
My Philips CRT monitor has served me well for the last six or seven years, but its huge size means that it barely fits on my new desk, and the display has shown some signs of imminent death lately. I've avoided buying a flatscreen monitor for years, for the following reasons:
However, it's almost impossible now to buy a good old CRT monitor, so I was careful to read plenty of reviews before buying the ViewSonic VX2255wmb flatscreen monitor.
When the display powered on, I was genuinely gobsmacked to see how awful a job the VX2255wmb did of rendering a black background. Bright blue light was smeared around the bottom edge of the display (possibly caused by the obscenely bright power LED, but I'm not certain), and silvery smears of faint light litter the other edges too. I actually swore out loud and asked myself what had I done, it was that poor a first impression.
Once a black background is replaced with an actual image, the backlight bleed isn't so noticeable, but then my other pet hate is noticeable, the silvering effect caused by the poor viewing angle limits offered by this sort of display.
By default, everything had a murky, silver-grey look. This was vastly improved by visiting a few monitor calibration web pages online for tips on how to adjust the black point, white point and gamma. I found that these were right for me at monitor settings of Contrast:60 and Brightness:25, and then tweaking gamma (using QuickGamma in Windows, or xgamma in Ubuntu) until the red, green and blue channels looked correct.
The problem with calibrating a monitor like this, is that as soon as you move your head even slightly, the effective gamma changes wildly, with the top edge of the VX2255wmb visibly darker than the bottom edge, and the sides much yellower than the middle. If you set the monitor back from your eyes, at least sixty centimetres, and keep your head fairly still, it usually looks fairly evenly balanced. But if you sit closer than that, or fidget a lot, it's quite off-putting.
Assuming you go to the trouble of finding a comfortable viewing position and calibrating your black and white point, and your gamma, the display is actually pleasant. A trip to photo.net's gallery is very pleasing. The colours in nature photos look subtle but beautiful, and because an LCD (running at its native resolution) maps images pixel-for-pixel, everything looks crispy sharp. In comparison, the old CRT makes images look soggy.
Creating a back background and drawing gradients from pure colours down to black shows up quite a lot of banding, especially in blue. Gradients moving from pure colours to white do so perfectly smoothly, however. This means that darker scenes look less appealing than bright scenes.
Looking at the VX2255wmb alongside the Philips CRT, moving black text on a white background does blur much more on the VX2255wmb than it does on the CRT, but in practice this hasn't caused any trouble. The only other place I noticed any motion blur on the LCD display was in a screensaver where a bright white object was rushing across a pure black background. Mixed scenes seem to display fine.
Playing Team Fortress 2 at the ViewSonic's native resolution of 1680×1050 produces a beautifully crisp image. The fast-moving action never seemed smeared, the textures seemed clearer and more detailed than I'd ever noticed before, and my only complaint is that dark scenes have the awful silvery look caused by a flatpanel's narrow viewing angles. Just make sure to adjust the in-game brightness so that black really is black first, otherwise it all looks like a grey mess.
DVD movies (in standard definition) played back by PowerDVD don't look great at the sort of distance you tend to sit from a PC monitor, because you can see all of the compression artefacts and because the resolution is so much lower than modern flatscreens are capable of. But the VX2255wmb isn't to blame, as fast motion was displayed without problems. You'll need to adjust the brightness setting of PowerDVD, though, as it's way too bright by default.
The built-in webcam produces an acceptable image, though grainy and sluggish in indoor light. I didn't even try the speakers, because I'm doubting that anyone would choose a monitor under the delusion that built-in speakers could ever sound better than separates.
Problems and irritations I've encountered include booting to Windows one time to see the login screen appear with quite a lot of picture corruption strewn in diagonal stripes across the monitor. This has only happened once so far, and I've no idea what caused it. Another oddity is that the picture brightness in TF2 would change suddenly for no reason, and this is something that I never noticed while playing TF2 on the CRT.
I was not happy to find that the on-screen menu controls are hidden around the side of the panel, where you can't see them. It makes it much harder to access menu settings, as you're always losing your place on the buttons. A final frustration is that the VX2255wmb offers no 1:1 pixel mode, so the monitor simply stretches any signal that isn't at the native resolution of 1680×1050. I hate stretched images, so I would really have liked a 1:1 mode.
Most annoying of all is the power button. If you turn the monitor power off while your machine is on, to give it a rest while you're away for a few minutes, and then turn the power on again, the monitor stays blank. No amount of fiddling will bring the picture back, and you're forced to reboot your machine before the monitor finds the signal again. Totally moronic. The power button also fails to turn off the power first time if you've just shut down your machine, and you have to keep pressing it until it obeys.
I was sorely disappointed by the ViewSonic VX2255wmb at first. The backlight bleed is immediately obvious, and the silvering caused by narrow viewing angles is definitely enough to make you long for a CRT monitor. However, the VX2255wmb has so far displayed no defective pixels, and doesn't smear fast-moving images except in the case of pure-white against pure-black.
Photos, games and movies can look very nice on the VX2255wmb, so long as you calibrate the monitor, and then position yourself carefully at a decent distance from it. However, the problems with viewing angles and backlight bleed mean that I wouldn't recommend this monitor to someone who needed colour fidelity as part of their specification.
LCD monitors certainly aren't of the quality I had expected them to be after so many years of dominance, but the ViewSonic VX2255wmb is a reasonable replacement for a CRT, if you're looking for a general-purpose display. Just don't expect perfection.