Sony SDM-HS73P 17in X-Black monitor

Lovely LCD, lousy product?

All the control buttons are mounted in the underside of the front fascia, so as not to spoil the lines of the monitor. The power button looks particularly cool - it's a long clear plastic button that lights up green when the monitor is switched on. The rest of the controls are pretty standard, with Menu and OK buttons, along with up and down arrows for OSD navigation. What is a little more unusual is the backlight button, that lets you toggle between brightness settings for the backlight. You can choose between Low, Medium, High or User Defined. With the backlight set to high, this screen is amazingly bright and vibrant, in fact too bright. Much as I love bright displays, I actually found this Sony painful on the eyes at the High brightness setting, much like sitting too close to a CRT. I found the Medium setting pretty close to perfect, but after a little bit of fiddling with the User Defined setting I managed to get it perfect.

Sony SDM-HS73P 17in X-Black MonitorAs well as the backlight brightness there are also three pre-defined gamma settings which also help you set the screen up exactly how you want it. The rest of the OSD is pretty standard, although I was surprised that the auto adjust setting was only available in the OSD instead of being allocated to its own button.

The rear of the monitor looks as stylish as the front, with a glossy black panel hiding all the cabling and sporting a Sony logo. Removing the panel reveals the power socket and the D-SUB analog video input. Now, you might be wondering why I haven't mentioned a DVI port, and the reason for this is that there isn't one. I really do find it hard to believe that a monitor produced by a company like Sony would ship without a digital DVI input, especially since this isn't a budget screen and is considered the premium home product in Sony's range.

Firing up DisplayMate showed some good and bad points with the SDM-HS73P. The most obvious plus point is the vibrancy of the colours - the colour purity test looked amazing, as did the colour scales which all decreased in a uniform fashion right up to the final block. On the down side though, there was a significant amount of banding when viewing the 256 intensity greyscale screen and similar issues with the 256 intensity colour ramp. With this in mind, the SDM-HS73P could have problems resolving delicate tonal graduations, but to be fair, this isn't the sort of display that you're going to use for serious image editing, so it's a problem that's unlikely to arise in general use.

Because of the analog-only input, you're never going to get a perfectly crisp and clear image like you would via DVI. As with all analog connections, the pixel clock and phase will drift over time, meaning that you'll have to select auto adjust to get things back into line, and since there is no dedicated button for this it can get a little annoying.

Where this screen really excels is when you're not constricted by a Windows environment. Fire up a DVD or your favourite game and you'll really see what makes the X-Black technology special. The image is so bright and vivid that it makes any movie or game environment seem even more real. Put simply, I'd like to have a very large X-Black screen in my living room for watching films and playing games on.

Unfortunately, even though I love the X-Black screen, the design of the stand and lack of digital input take all the shine off this little Sony. Add to this a price of £409 and these short comings becom even more of an issue. Even though the screen itself is excellent, it's the supporting features that let it down.

Verdict

The X-Black panel looks great but no 17in TFT display that costs over £400 should come without a DVI input. There's also a significant lack of adjustability despite the aesthetically pleasing design. Ultimately, the SDM-HS73P looks like an object lesson in style over content.

Sony SDM-HS73P
 
Rating 60%
 
Price £409
 
More info The Sony web site

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