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IBM ThinkVision L200p

As with most things, there are flat panel monitors and there are flat panel monitors. IBM’s ThinkVision L200p is the latter sort -- the kind of flat panel yours would like to be when it grows up. It’s big (20.1in.), and comes with a price tag to deter the casual shopper: £1,233 (ex. VAT) -- enough to place it in the ‘professional’ bracket.
Written by Dominic Bucknall, Contributor

IBM ThinkVision L200p

8.0 / 5

pros and cons

  • Integral power supply
  • very bright screen
  • correct matching of screen diagonal with native resolution.
  • Too expensive for all but specialist business use.
  • Editors' review
  • Specs

As with most things, there are flat panel monitors and there are flat panel monitors. IBM’s ThinkVision L200p is the latter sort -- the kind of flat panel yours would like to be when it grows up. It’s big (20.1in.), and comes with a price tag to deter the casual shopper: £1,233 (ex. VAT) -- enough to place it in the ‘professional’ bracket.

Essentially, the L200p is the flat-panel equivalent of a 21in. CRT, and is pitched accordingly, with trading floors, CAD, scientific modelling and the more ambitious type of spreadsheet user in mind. It has a 20.1in. screen diagonal and a 1,600 by 1,200 native resolution -- hence the direct comparison with the 21in. CRT, the only conventional tube size really up to delivering UXGA in a satisfactory manner.

Design and features
The casing is what we'd call charcoal, a designer might call anthracite, and IBM terms 'stealth black' -- a notion it seems to have appropriated from the USAF. The upshot is that the monitor stands out more than its oatmeal counterparts and has that techno-militaristic look common to IBM's ThinkPad notebooks. Although it's a mere slip of a thing compared to the cement-mixer bulk of your average 21in. CRT, the L200p is a bit thicker than is usual for a flat panel. This is partly because it has a power supply built into the actual cabinet, which means you can mount it in an array and discard the stand. This increases the weight, but it's still hardly backbreaking at 9.5kg. If you do use the stand, it will serve you well, with proper tilt-and-swivel articulation, plenty of height adjustment (often entirely absent), and a wide, stable base that holds the screen steady. As you'd expect on a premium product like this, there are two signal inputs. The standard analogue D-Sub socket sits alongside a DVI-I digital connector, and you can switch between inputs directly using one of the control buttons on the bezel.

Ease of use and performance
Sensibly, you can also alter the level of brightness directly, although you need to go through the on-screen menu to change the contrast. The menu system is commendably clear and uncluttered, and everything you might reasonably expect is in there, including a manual clock and phase setup to eliminate banding, and full colour control consisting of three preset temperatures and a fully RGB-adjustable custom channel. It's quite possible you'll never need to bother with the menu though, as the auto image setup does a fine job. You can trigger it with a single press of one of the control buttons, and it worked perfectly first time around. The vast Windows desktop and application workspaces afforded by seriously high resolution monitors are a delight, but you need to be wary of the 'notebook syndrome'. This is what happens when the marketing people tell the designers that they want an extended high resolution, but there's only 14in. or 15in. of screen diagonal to display it on. The result is a nigh-on unreadable display: microscopic text, tiny icons and unusably small buttons and scroll bars. The L200p is a well conceived display that avoids this pitfall by matching its huge 1,600 by 1,200 native resolution to the appropriate screen diagonal, in this case, 20.1 inches. Where flat panels are concerned, 20.1in. is to UXGA what 17in. is to 1,280 by 1,024 SXGA and 15in. is to 1,024 by 768 XGA. In fact, if you were to line this lot up, you'd see that while the display area increased, the size of icons, text and screen objects remained roughly the same, and everything remained big enough to be easily readable and usable. The L200p scores in two other important areas, namely brightness and viewing angle. The illumination at maximum brightness was so great that we actually turned it down slightly, but this didn't dampen the panel's inherently vivid colour reproduction. Nor does the screen suddenly blank if you move to one side: thanks to the above-average 170-degree horizontal and vertical viewing angles, the display remains clear and readable from any normal range of positions. Reproduction of fine detail is helped by the smaller than usual pixel pitch of 0.255mm (about the same as a quality Trinitron-type CRT), which rounds off the panel's fairly impressive list of achievements.

The depressing part about reviewing any product like this is always the price. Most people would probably love to have something like this at home as well as in the office, but are unlikely to get either unless they are rather well off and do something slightly unusual for the day job. Businesses requiring the ThinkVision L200p's combination of high resolution and compact format will no doubt benefit from volume discounts, and will possibly be more interested in the three-year parts and labour warranty. But until the price falls, products like the L200p will remain in the labs and the dealing rooms. That's not to say that it's over-priced -- just that, right now, outside of specialist business use, it remains in the aspirational category.