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Review: Hercules ProphetView 920 PRO

by Ryszard Sommefeldt on 5 November 2003, 00:00

Tags: Hercules Prophetview 920 PRO, Hercules

Quick Link: HEXUS.net/qaui

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It's hard to quantify monitor performance. With it being such a subjective medium to assess, after all, everyones eyes are different. It's always going to be a bit of "my word against yours", until you see the unit for yourself.

I pondered long and hard about using something like DisplayMate to show you just how badly my Sony G400 CRT performs in DM tests, versus the 920 PRO. I decided against it for a couple of reasons. With such a low range of monitors to test with (920 PRO and G400) and no other LCD's or CRT's available, interpreting my results would have been unscientific at best, pointless at worst.

Instead, you'll get some opinionated information that apply to my eyes only. Hopefully that's enough for you to make some kind of decision (to go see one on display for yourself) on whether a 920 PRO is for you. Here goes.

Initial Impressions

Initial impressions were formed from unpacking the unit, hooking it up to the test graphics card (a copper clad ASUS GeForceFX 5900 Ultra with 400MHz analogue RAMDAC), turning on ClearType, and using it without manual adjustment and only a single prod of the automatic adjustment setting, for a couple of hours. With DVI, automatic adjustment shouldn't be needed, but being the analogue version of the 920 PRO, it's wise to give it a go first off.

I have to say, image quality wasn't too hot using auto adjust. On my usual range of day to day applications which include IRC, this HTML editor and my application coding tools, all featuring text on white backgrounds for the majority of the time, subpixel colour bleed was clearly evident, especially on my favourite coding font, Courier New.

Subpixel colour bleed happens in ClearType mode, when ClearType smooths the font edges using subpixel colour information to essentially antialias the font edge. On an uncalibrated display, digital or otherwise, colour data from the subpixels can appear incorrectly on the edges of some fonts. Being off colour, they are easy to spot, and stand out fairly significantly. To my eyes, that makes the image 'muddy' and harder to focus on.

So not too great out of the box with a single stab of auto adjust.

Manual Adjustment

However, the story changes with a little manual adjustment. With ClearType enabled and your fingers manipulating the intuitive on screen display (OSD), it's possible to adjust horizontal and vertical phase enough to completely eliminate subpixel colour bleeding. A quick look at the manual provided on the CD showed me what I needed to be adjusting via the OSD, with the end result a picture so sharp I couldn't distinguish text from the 920 PRO running on an analogue 400MHz RAMDAC, versus a Formac 17" LCD panel running from a digital ADC connection on a G4 Apple Mac. Using PDF as the common display conduit, with a couple of hastily created documents with embedded fonts (embedded TTF font handling in PDF documents on OS X just rocks), everything looked identical to me. Pin sharp.

Of course, that's user adjusted and not out of the box DVI style display clarity, something my DVI owning LCD friends assure me exists, but it took me no more than 5 minutes to tweak it to display excellence.

DVD performance

I watched Monsters Inc, Matrix and Oceans Eleven on the 920 PRO, using a copy of ASUS DVD, running fullscreen. It was just like watching it on my CRT (which can do full motion video without a care in the world), no ghosting due to pixel response or any TFT based quality issues at all. Top notch, just like all modern LCD panels built recently.

Gaming performance

Ah, the $64,000 question among current and potential LCD monitor owners, will it play games without ghosting? Yes, it will. Now don't get me wrong, I stared long and hard while playing games and running graphical benchmarks on the 920 PRO, to be able to spot it. Ghosting exists in some situations (seemingly only between moving, high contrast pixel colour changes), I can't deny that. But I spent that long actually staring at the 920 PRO looking for it, willing myself to see any, that I now think I see it on my Sony CRT. Hopefully that makes sense, and you realise just how rare an occurence it was, at least to my eyes.

There's a big difference between ghosting (which will always exist on an LCD monitor until they develop ~5ms panels) and ghosting that makes all your games look like they were coded by Rockstar (remember that shit motion blur effect on GTA3 and GTA:VC?).

Just so you can be sure I wasn't just playing some enthusiastic Solitaire with lots of card wiggling and energetic wrist action, to come to the above conclusions, here's what I tested vigourously, all in the name of reviewing: Quake 3, Unreal Tournament, Colin McRae Rally 2, TOCA RCD, Battle Engine Aquila, GTA3, Wolfenstein, MS FS 2004, MS Train Sim, Solitaire, Medal Of Honour: Allied Assault, Solitaire.

No ghosting in any title, unless you're staring waiting for it to happen. As far as my eyes can tell.