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Entertainment fans gather around. I have something special to share with you and it comes from LG. If you’re in the market for a small flat panel LCD display, then make sure you check out the L197WH as its got a fantastic spec that promises to deliver superb pictures for your movies and games. So my job is to report back whether in reality, it actually delivers on that promise.

The LG L197WH is a 19-inch widescreen LCD display with a native resolution of 1440 x 900 and a 2-millisecond response time. Those are fairly standard specs when you look at its competitors. What sets this monitor aside is the picture quality for when you’re watching your films or hooking it up to a games machine or console.

With a native contrast ratio of 5000:1, it already has the natural ability to display brilliant whites and dark blacks. This is one of the most important criteria when selecting a display for colour accuracy. I’ve seen displays with low contrast ratios that have a picture which doesn’t give accuracy colour reproduction – a quick comparison between my MacBook Pro LCD and my 30-inch Cinema Display is an instant give away for this and becomes even clearer at your electrical retailer.

A feature of the L197WH is the Digital Fine Contrast ratio (DFC), which boosts the contrast ratio to an unprecedented ratio of 10000:1. Whilst this is software controller using the technical wizardry built in to the monitor, the effects in reality are surprisingly significant. A setting within the menu system allows you to activate this feature and what you’ll notice instantly is that colours become more vibrant and the image is richer – what I can only describe as bringing it to life.

This feature is great to have, but only if you’re going to be using this monitor for entertainment purposes (covering everything from viewing your photos to gaming) as it’s not necessary for everyday productivity use.

To test out the gaming performance of the screen, I plugged in my Xbox 360 using a VGA cable and did a few laps around the N├╝rgburgring on Need for Speed Pro Street – a game with plenty of speed, dynamic scenes and demonstration of colour. The 2ms response time allowed the cars and the scenery to flow very smoothly across the screen and didn’t notice any lag or performance issues. Picture quality was spot on.

I was able to test out some HD video action using the DVI connection (cables provided in the box) on my Mac and was able to output a stunning picture. It’s worth noting that you should calibrate the display contrast first using the wizard built in to OS X – it makes a massive difference.

Another feature of the L197WH is the flexibility that the stand and base has been designed with. A dual hinge system allows you to adjust the height by 175 mm, folded back or simply swivel the base. It offers flexibility like no other screen I’ve seen since the Mac G4 a few years ago and can be important if you’re trying to work the display in to a cramped setup or if you’ve got limited height availability.

The world has been going mad with the whole glossy design, with the likes of Apple joining in with the release of the second generation iPhone. It’s not my cup of tea but when used appropriately, it can look stylish. The LG frame is very thin in comparison to some other screens I’ve used, so the black glossy border isn’t too bad, however the hinge and the base are in a matching glossy black and after a few days of it being on my desk it was covered in dust and cleaning it with a micro-fibre cloth left some feint scratch marks.

Finally, to cover the ‘green’ issue, I’m happy to report that the spec sheets point out that this monitor consumes only 36W when switched on, and has standby of just 1W – so it’s not going to cost you a fortune to run and you can feel good when you sleep at night knowing you’re not destroying the world.

The LG L197WH is a great screen for multi-purpose use in the home/office environment or someone who has limited space and want something that can connect up to a computer and games console (read: student dorm). At 19-inches, it’s not the biggest display out there so I would like to have seen a whole range of these in the larger sizes with higher resolution. It’s a good gaming monitor and equally as good for general-purpose use.

2008-06-21 Onwah Tsang

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