Review: Sony SDM-S205 Monitor

This 20.1-inch LCD display is big and bright enough to use for presentations and good enough to use for watching DVDs, but beware -- some assembly is required.

May 17, 2006

4 Min Read
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The first thing you’ll notice about the Sony SDM-S205 LCD 20.1 inch monitor is its presence on your desktop. Sleek and jet black, the monitor sports a thick pedestal and a large viewing area suitable for a desktop, trade show or small conference room presentation. It comes with four USB ports and supports both PC and Mac. The large screen pivots and can be viewed in portrait or landscape (or anything in between) and the stand is adjustable. Watching a DVD is like watching a television with clear, bright color. Yet in spite of all these features, Sony made some puzzling design decisions that make it difficult to set up and adjust the monitor, and these flaws take away from this otherwise high-quality monitor.

When you pull the monitor out of the box, you have to attach it to its base. There is a dearth of documentation and illustrations to walk you through this process, so if you have any trouble with this sort of activity, you will find it a challenge. Sony uses a hook system, which is augmented by a screw that looks like a key. After you line up the hooks in the pedestal with its corresponding holes in the base, no easy task with a monitor of this heft, you need to turn the whole unit on its side, and turn the key to firmly attach it to the base. The pedestal height adjustment mechanism consists of a cotter pin, which you pull out, adjust the height up or down, then lock into place by replacing the pin. It seems that Sony could have come up with a more elegant design for both of these activities, especially for a monitor in this price range.

The Sony SDM-S205 20.1 LCD display provides plenty of attractive screen real estate, but is big enough that assembly might be a challenge.

Once in place, you need to access the connectors to connect the power cord and the monitor cable that runs to your PC (or Mac). This would seem to be a simple activity, and it is with most monitors, but Sony decided to bury these connectors behind a removable plastic plate, creating a layer between you and the connectors.

When I finally got the unit setup, I needed to adjust the monitor, but I found the controls small and hard to distinguish, being black on a black background. The onscreen menu system uses symbols much of the time instead of words, undoubtedly a nod to an international audience, but many of the symbols were incomprehensible (at least to me). My setup difficulties still weren’t finished though, because when I connected the monitor to my desktop computer, my Windows desktop filled only about three quarters of the screen. It took some hunting around the menu system to get it to fill the entire screen. Again, good documentation would have helped minimize these issues.After you get past setup, however, you’ll find the wait was worth the aggravation you experienced. I normally use an NEC MultiSync LCD1735NXM monitor, and the move from a 17 inch to a 20 inch monitor is dramatic. To compare picture quality, I played a DVD on both monitors. While the NEC certainly hold its own, the Sony looks and feels more like you are watching a television than a computer monitor, and the color is all that much brighter. I did find, however, that for working purposes, I actually preferred the 17 inch, which was more manageable on my desktop. If I had more desktop real estate, I might have felt differently, but for my office, the SDM-S205 was almost too big.

One additional feature worth noting are the four USB connectors located on the back of the SDM-S205. These provide a handy way to connect USB devices to your computer. You can plug in a digital camera or MP3 player right on your desktop, and connect your keyboard and mouse to the monitor and gain flexibility in where you put the computer case. You can never have enough USB connectivity these days, and having this kind of flexibility on your monitor, certainly helps justify the purchase. It might have been nice, however to place these connectors in the base where they were more accessible.

This monitor has a lot of potential, especially with the USB connectors, and Sony delivers great picture quality in a large footprint, but poor design decisions and a lack of documentation to explain these decisions, drag this monitor down.

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