What can I say. I love a bargain, and I love really big monitors.
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CompUSA.com, aka TigerDirect, has been promoting some pretty serious blow-out deals lately. Last week, a particular deal caught my eye -- a 25" LCD flat panel HDTV monitor (no tuner, and made by a no-name Chinese company called I-INC) with HDMI and SVGA inputs for $199, less shipping. This seemed to be a crazy, too good to be true deal -- after all, widescreen monitors of comparable size from name brand manufacturers were going for considerably more -- twice the amount of money in most cases. And if you want Apple's new 24" display, it will set you back $800. The Samsung Syncmaster 245t goes for about $480-$500 street, which is at about the mid-range for a large desktop monitor.
However, I've bought a number of products from TigerDirect, and they're a pretty reputable online retailer. It didn't really matter to me that I had never heard of this Chinese brand before. Hell, the thing was so cheap, that if it dropped dead in a year (it has a 1 year warranty) it didn't much matter to me if I had to replace it. I like the Samsung Syncmasters -- I have three of them -- but I just couldn't justify spending nearly five bills on another one. The economy is making me think twice about how I spend my money, and the conventional decision algorithm which determines how I value name-brands in consumer electronics has gone completely out the window. Generic Chinese monitors? Sure, why not.
I must admit, preconceptions about build quality aside, I'm really impressed with this thing. The display quality on the I-INC is utterly fantastic. It's bright and extremely clear with incredibly high contrast. Whatever I thought about Chinese manufacturing quality as compared to the Japanese and the Koreans has completely changed with this purchase -- I honestly didn't think the PRC could make LCD display units this good.
Right now, I'm using it connected to my docking station for my ThinkPad, which only has SVGA, but I did some tests with my Roku box and my Samsung Blu-Ray player which have native HDMI outputs and the sharpness was crystal clear. For those of you who have a need for a smallish HD screen (and you've got a digital cable unit or a DirecTV/DishNetwork box with HDMI, and don't need a tuner) or want a really huge monitor for your desk, this would be a really good choice.
The good points:
1) Bright, very clear display quality, excellent color representation
2) Really, really friggin' huge amount of screen real estate
3) It's dirt cheap. TigerDirect is running it for $229.00 right now.
(TigerDirect is also selling a similar 23" unit made by Acer in Taiwan for $199.)
The bad points:
1) No ATSC tuner, so you'll need a HD input source if you want to use it as a TV set.
2) The built-in speakers are kind of lame. 2.5 watts are kind of tinny sounding, so if you want to use it for movies, I'd use external speakers running through a A/V receiver or your PC.
3) The base is a little on the wobbly side and the monitor is top heavy, but unless you plan to move the thing around a lot, it's not a major deal.