Posted by Deliverator on July 18th, 2006
After a couple weeks filled with technical frustrations, I decided that the only solutions for my problem was to engage in some good old fashioned retail therapy. I went out and bought myself a new monitor. Specifically, a Gateway FPD2185W. Yes, thats right, I *AM* a consumer whore – at least when it comes to computers/gadgets.
I purchased my monitor at Circuit City, which has an unconditional 2 week return policy. With the absolutely aweful bad pixel policies offered by most manufacturers, a LCD is one of those rare computer items that I recommend buying locally. In addition to the gateway, I was considering a 24″ Samsung and a 24″ Acer. The 24″ Samsung was a truely spectacular display, and is one of the first that I have seen with support for displaying the highest quality HD signal standard, 1080p, at its native resolution of 1920×1080. The Samsung cost quite a bit more than I wanted to spend at nearly $1100. The Acer 24″ was more tempting at around $750 (at Computerstop) and had a very nice display as well, manufactured by Hitachi, I believe. However, I was turned off by its limited ability to adjust anything beyond the most basic settings like brightness and contrast. At a mere $500, I consider the 21″ Gateway and absolute steal, particularly due to its unusual feature set.
The Gateway 21″ features your typical VGA and DVI inputs, but also has Composite, S-Video and Component inputs. The display supports picture in picture and has a plethora of control options for adjusting the size and position of the PiP window, as well as scaling options that let you determine how you want the video on the additional inputs to be scaled to fit the screen. The controls for these functions are located on the right side of the display, rather than the front, which can make them a bit more difficult to operate, but results in a very clean and thin front bezel. Considering how rarely these functions are typically accessed, I consider this a fair tradeoff. One can still easily switch between the various inputs quickly, as the input-select button is the topmost button. The PiP and rapid switch ability could come in useful if you have one of the additional inputs hooked up to a security camera, baby monitor, etc.
The display features an integrated, powered USB 2.0 hub with 2 ports on the back and 2 ports on the side. I hooked up my wireless mouse dongle and bluetooth dongle using the ports on the back, and am using the side mounted ports for plugging in USB flash drives and my iRiver mp3 player.
Perhaps the most interesting feature almost unique to the Gateway 21″ is its highly adjustable mounting pedestal. The display can be moved up and down several feet, turned left and right quite a bit and even tilt-swiveled 90 degrees clockwise to turn that wide screen display into a very tall display indeed! The monitor comes with software called Pivot to automatically change the resolution, orientation being output by your graphics card. This pivot function might not be useful for everyone, but I find it great for viewing PDF files and other scanned documents. The Pivot software worked flawlessly with my Nvidia 6600 GS, although I did have to reinstall it to get it working again after upgrading my display drivers.
Sadly, the VGA input defaults to stretching to fit the whole display (and offers no ability to overide this default), so if you are outputing anything other than 1680*1050, the display will be a bit fuzy, not to mention being skewed in terms of aspect ratio. Most newer Nvidia drivers support always outputting the display’s native resolution and placing the actual requested resolution within the center of the screen. This is very useful for playing games, which may not have been designed with a wide screen display in mind. This function is specific to the Nvidia drivers, and I am not sure if a similar function is implemented in drivers from ATI or other manufacturers.
The VGA input did not result in acceptable image quality for me. I got a headache and was feeling ready to puke after about half and hour. Despite attempts at adjustment using, the on screen controls (and yes, I autoscanned to align the VGA signal with the actual pixels), ezTune software and Nvidia’s control panel, I never was able to achieve an acceptable color balance using the VGA input. The DVI input was much, much better and I wouldn’t recommend using anything but the DVI input with this monitor. Sadly, only a VGA cable is included in the box and a good quality DVI cable will set you back a pretty penny, making this budget monitor a little harder on the budget.
Many users have reported problems with this monitor when using the DVI input. I have seen many long threads with dozens of users voicing near identical complaints. It seems like versions of this display with on screen display version <= 1.11 have a nasty habbit of having the DVI input just quit working after 10 days to 2 weeks of use. This has me somewhat nervous, as my OSD version is 1.02. Gateway will replace monitors that exhibit this problem, but there is no guarantee that you will get a flawless panel back. As mentioned earlier, many manufacturers quality control standards as relating to stuck pixels are quite frankly terrible. Gateway's standard is at least 6 stuck pixels in a 1 inch sqaure to warrant replacement. If this problem rears its ugly head soon enough, I should be able to return it to Circuit City, but only if it manifests itself quickly enough. Needless to say, I am a bit nervous. There are additional reports of the DVI input not working with certain very common video cards from both Nvidia and ATI. While the display's unique hinge mechanism allows it to be rotated to a wide variety of angles, it cannot be tilted downward more than a couple of degrees. My desk has a raised platform for the monitor to rest upon and my default computer use position is leaning way back in my easy chair. The display has a very wide acceptable viewing range in both the vertical and horizontal directions (178 degrees in both, is what is advertised), but I pretty much can't achieve the optimal viewing angle without sitting bolt upright in my chair. I may consider purchasing a 3rd party mounting bracket at some point, as replacing my deskt is out of the question. The cable management bracket included with the monitor is less than worthless. It pops off at the slightest application of pressure. The VGA and DVI inputs for the monitor are on the back on the monitors left side (while facing the monitor). The display can only be rotated 90 degree counterclockwise, which causes the cables to bump against the central pedestal when you rotate the display. This not only places stress on the DVI/VGA connector, risking damage to either/both, but also will pop the cable management bracket off the back side of the pedestal, if you choose to use it. It would have been much more preferable to mount all the connectors on the back, right side of the display, facing into the display rather than down. That way, cables would not bump into the pedestal when the display is rotated. As is, I am not making use of the cable management bracked at all, and have to route cables to the right side of the display and then across in front of the pedestal, to avoid damaging the connectors or cables when rotating the display. If you buy this display, I would be very careful to watch the cables when you are rotating the display and to get longer than usual cables to provide some strain relief. It wouldn't hurt to engineer your own cable support solution, either. All in all, I am very pleased with this monitor and enjoy the number of features it provides for the price. If you don't already have a DVI cable or don't need the extra inputs, USB hub, rotation features, etc., you might find that other displays provide better value. I am just pleased to not have to use my 17" Acer any more :)