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Apple's trend-setting 23in. Cinema HD Display is a beautifully designed LCD monitor, but the ViewSonic VP231wb not only challenges it on looks, but also on features. It's not cheap at £1,052 (ex. VAT; £1,236 inc. VAT), but it does provide a real alternative to a dual-monitor setup.
The 1,920-by-1,200-resolution VP231wb features a fast 16ms pixel response time, analogue and digital inputs, one upstream and four downstream USB sockets, and a power socket at the rear. There are five inconspicuous buttons on the front of the narrow black bezel giving access to menus and power. It has a cable tidy at the rear, and generally looks smart.
Design-wise, the VP231wb scores over Apple's 23in. display in that it's much more adjustable. Not only can you raise and lower it easily (although you'll need both hands), it also pivots through 90 degrees, allowing you to view your desktop and documents in portrait as well as landscape format. The Cinema HD Display is not height-adjustable and does not pivot. The tilt mechanism is a bit stiff and needs care, but you certainly won't struggle to find a comfortable working position for the VP231wb. It also has a VESA-compatible mount so you can attach it to the wall if necessary.
Setting up the screen is simple enough, with the defaults positioning the image correctly as you'd expect when using the digital input. There's a wide range of colour temperature and other adjustments, or you can select sRGB. You can set the input priority to allow for more than one machine being connected to the screen. Monitor calibration can be performed via a utility on ViewSonic's Web site.
As far as performance is concerned, we have no complaints: even moving video -- generally LCD technology's Achilles' heel -- looks smooth thanks to that fast 16ms response time. Text is crisp, while photos look vivid and flesh tones are displayed in realistic colour. We found that, apart from maximising the use of the valuable extra screen space, which really gives you room to work on two three of four documents at once, the monitor quickly becomes invisible, allowing you to concentrate on the work in hand. You can't ask more from a display, and you certainly won't want to revert to a smaller format.
The VP231wb even looks good when using the analogue D-Sub input, although of course image quality suffers as a result. We were surprised that the monitor gets fairly hot along the top of the bezel where the backlight is located, but it never becomes uncomfortable, and the lighting itself is even across the screen.
If you can stretch to it, there's little to match a big LCD for serious work, and ViewSonic's VP231wb comes top of the heap.