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Philips 107B20

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Pros

  • Compact design
  • LightFrame technology enhances the display of photos and video.

Cons

  • Few features as standard
  • screen is noticeably curved.

Mature product categories such as the CRT monitor rarely play host to innovative technological developments, but that's just what Philips has delivered with its new LightFrame technology, as seen in the 17in. 107B20.

LightFrame is a combination of hardware and software that allows you to selectively brighten and sharpen an area of the screen or a window to enhance the display of photographs or video.

Because PC monitors are optimised for displaying close-up high-resolution content such as text, they lack the brightness associated with lower-resolution TV screens, which are optimised for viewing images at a distance.

TVs can use high beam currents and take advantage of 'pixel blooming', a phenomenon whereby adjacent pixels illuminate one another, to achieve high brightness. Another TV trick is 'peaking', which artificially sharpens a video signal's light/dark transitions. Neither of these techniques is appropriate on high-resolution PC monitors, as they would degrade the quality of text-based displays.

Philips' LightFrame technology simulates the output performance of a TV screen on a PC monitor, theoretically delivering the best of both worlds. Once the control software is installed and activated by clicking on the Taskbar icon, you simply click on a window or drag-select a rectangle on the screen to designate the LightFrame-enhanced region. If you select a window, the LightFrame software retrieves the co-ordinates from the operating system (it works with Windows 9x, NT 4.0 and 2000, as well as MacOS 8 and 9). If you select a screen area, the software writes instructions on the last line of the video signal, which is blanked to make it invisible to the user, to transmit the co-ordinates to the monitor. A proprietary ASIC in the monitor called CosmIC then translates the instructions and boosts brightness and sharpness in the selected area.

The 107B20 monitor itself is a compact 17in. unit based around a flat-square tube with coating to combat static, glare and reflection. Despite the shadow mask tube's 'flat-square' designation, it looked distinctly curved to us. Philips claims that its 'Xtra Space Design' results in the 107B20 being the world's shortest conventional 17in. monitor, with a depth of just 40.8cm. It's certainly space-efficient, and relatively lightweight at 15kg. You don't get any frills as standard, although a USB hub and a multimedia base are available as options.

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Setting up a LightFrame monitor is no more complex than installing a piece of software from the supplied CD, which also contains drivers, a user manual and a demo program. The picture is bright and clear, and the control system - five buttons and an on-screen menu display - is straightforward.

And what of LightFrame in action? Selecting a window containing a photo or a video stream makes a very visible difference: images appear considerably brighter and sharper. You need to keep the active window 100 per cent visible, otherwise LightFrame suspends operation -- move the window back into full view and it automatically re-engages.

As the preceding technical discussion should have made clear, you don't want to use LightFrame with text, as all it produces is an ugly streaking effect. For images, though, it's well worth having - especially as the 107B20 is no more expensive than a conventional short-neck 17in. monitor.

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