High-resolution flat panel monitor for tomorrow's workstations

Last month I reviewed the Nokia 500Xa flat panel display (see "Nokia 500Xa," March 1999). This month I review Compaq's Thin Film Transistor (TFT) 8000. This 18.1" flat panel monitor provides crisp resolution and comes with straightforward tools for fine-tuning almost any system. The TFT8000 supports numerous connections; thus, you can connect it to multiple workstations simultaneously.

The display offers high-resolution imaging. Resolutions and associated color depths that it supports include 1600 X 1200 with 65,536 colors; 1280 X 1024 with 16 million colors (True Color); and 1152 X 864, 1024 X 768, 800 X 600, and 640 X 480 with True Color. The monitor's optimal setting is 1280 X 1024 with True Color.

For power conservation, the TFT8000's control panel has an integrated sleep timer that lets you set active and inactive times for the monitor. The display also has a power-saver feature you can use to further reduce the resources the monitor consumes. You access these tools (and the brightness, color, contrast, position, language, digital conversion, management, and factory reset settings) via three buttons on the bottom of the monitor's front fascia. One button lets you select the mode, and the other buttons (+ and -) let you increase and decrease the values you select.

The TFT8000 is reasonably portable. The monitor has a fair-sized molded handle on the back. Fortunately, Compaq designed this handle well, and it easily accommodates the 12.5-pound monitor and 7.5-pound stand. The handle helps you move the unit during an office reorganization or if you need to take the monitor with you when you travel. Although the unit is 17" X 18" X 9", you can remove it from the stand and mount it on the wall to save space.

The monitor has flexible connectivity. A discreet switch under the lower left corner of the front of the panel lets you switch between two systems, either workstations or servers. Unfortunately, the switch controls only monitors; it doesn't function as a true keyboard/video/mouse (KVM) switch to coalesce two keyboards, two monitors, and two mouse devices—but for engineers and power users who use multiple systems simultaneously, the switch is a step in the right direction.

The TFT8000 is a powered Universal Serial Bus (USB) hub, and it accommodates two standard VGA adapters and two USB connections. You can use the USB connectors for dual system support, or you can use the second port to daisy-chain additional USB devices off the display. You can connect as many as 127 USB devices to one workstation or server simultaneously.

To test the TFT8000, I connected the unit to a Digital PC 3000 workstation with a 300MHz Pentium II processor and AIMS Lab's VideoHighway Xtreme (VHX) 98 television receiver card. (For a review of the VHX 98, see "Networked Video Solutions," page 149.) I experienced no refresh rate difficulties—the TFT8000 supports refresh rates from 43Hz (interlaced) to 85Hz.

In my tests, the display worked perfectly with all the systems I attached it to except one—an aging HP Vectra with a P120 processor. On this system, the display developed three colorless streams, each a half-inch wide, running vertically down the screen. I contacted Compaq about this problem, and the company's representative suggested I adjust the clock rate. The clock rate helps the monitor adapt to a variety of systems and graphics cards. You adjust the clock rate through the digital conversion setting on the display's control panel. Adjusting the clock rate fixed the problem on my display.

The TFT8000 doesn't have any competition: Most of the other flat panel displays in its price range have lower resolutions and smaller screen sizes, and none of them operate as powered USB hubs or support multiple workstations. In spite of its high price, the TFT8000 is a good buy. But if you ask me, flat panel monitors' prices are likely to drop drastically over the next year.

TFT8000
Contact:
Compaq * 800-345-1518
Web: http://www.compaq.com
Price: $3199
System Configuration:
4MB of VRAM to view 16 million colors (True Color)