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21-inch LCD Monitors

In addition, 21 inches is the practical entry point for true widescreen ratio screens. Given that broadcast standards are moving to 16x9, if you're planning to use your monitor for presentations (or sneaking in the occasional movie), picking a widescreen LCD can future-proof your investment to an extent. For that reason, we included two displays that are capable of widescreen presentations: the Gateway FPD2185W and the HP f2105.

There are a few downsides to this equation. For one, the bump in price point will easily break slim hardware budgets. While plenty of 19-inchers hover around $300 to $500, 21-inch LCDs require a much bigger payout, with street prices coming in closer to $700 or above. In addition, you'll need a graphics card capable of driving a monitor at 1200 x 1600, since native resolutions for these 21-inch screens start there. Both the Gateway and HP widescreen monitors have slightly different native resolutions of 1680x1050, so you'll need to check your graphics card's capabilities before you upgrade.

Testing Criteria
In order to test the displays, I put five 21-inchers (one each from NEC, Samsung, Gateway, HP, and Viewsonic) through the same DisplayMate setup and benchmark scripts I used for last June's roundup of 19-inch LCDs. I also used the same computer: an Athlon64 3400+ with 1GB of RAM and a Radeon 9800 Pro video card. However, for the multimedia test, I swapped Star Wars IV: A New Hope for the newly released Revenge of the Sith, since the latter was shot in digital format; this gave me a more precise test bed to judge color representation. I also changed the test game from Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault to the faster Serious Sam II to tax monitor speed a bit harder.

Gateway's FPD2185W is a real multimedia powerhouse, designed to function as a jack-of-all-trades that can flip between TV and computer duties without a blink. It is a bit different from most computer monitors: It comes with an odd native 1680 x 1050 resolution, obviously in order to accommodate widescreen films and other video presentations. But I was surprised at the level of performance beneath all the flash.

Setup with the Gateway was smooth and simple. The 2185 has a clear user guide, excellent software, and a simple, dummy-proof quick start sheet; all hallmarks of a consumer-oriented company like Gateway. In addition, a brief tour of the monitor features can be accessed through the monitor's buttons.

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