Sony Multiscan SDM-M81

  • Editors' rating
    7.6 Very good


  • Large screen
  • strong image quality with both analogue and digital input signals
  • easy to set up.


  • No digital cable included
  • not suitable for viewing movies or fast-moving games.

Sony's Multiscan SDM-M81 is a stylish LCD monitor for graphic designers and business professionals who need high resolutions and large amounts of screen space. If the £1,491 (ex. VAT) price tag doesn't scare you away and you're not using the monitor for video applications, then this monitor is well worth considering. With a native resolution of 1,280 by 1,024 pixels, the SDM-M81's image is crisp and clear, taking up a fraction of the desk space of a 19in. CRT monitor with an equivalent viewing area.

Equipped for both analogue and digital (DVI-I) input, the SDM-M81 is easy to set up in either mode. Two different test PCs recognised the Plug and Play device instantly. An included calibration utility sets the pixel timing, brightness, and contrast levels using the straightforward menu system.

You have to provide the digital cable yourself if you want to use the digital input, as Sony only includes an analogue cable. The built-in speakers are weak with virtually no bass, but sound aficionados know better than to expect much from monitor speakers anyway. The monitor does have a headphone jack and a line-in jack for connecting the monitor to your computer's sound card. You can attach the SDM-M81 to a mounting arm or a wall if you decide not to use the stand.

The SDM-M81 demonstrated essentially no ghosting or streaking with the standard battery of DisplayMate tests. We noticed a barely perceptible loss of intensity in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen on some of the colour uniformity tests, but text as small as seven-point was sharp. The saturation and degradation of both colour and greyscale was dead-on.

LCDs in general are still considered lacking when it comes to moving image quality, and unfortunately the SDM-M81 is no exception. A DVD movie that looked great on a CRT monitor exhibited the blurry pixel distortion typical of flat panel latency.

Overall, the SDM-M81's image quality is exceptional in both analogue and digital modes, as long as you're not planning on turning it into an entertainment centre. Setting up the display takes virtually no time and the large screen takes up very little space. If you need the room that an 18.1in. LCD monitor affords, the Sony Multiscan SDM-M81 is a great monitor at a price that's not unreasonable for its class.

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