The Sony SDM-S205F is a superior 20-inch LCD that's aimed at high-end business users. We were impressed by the display's near-flawless performance, although for its £465 price, we're disappointed at the lack of landscape/portrait pivoting abilities and the basic assortment of inputs.
Although there's a lot to like about the Sony SDM-S205F, the Dell UltraSharp 2007FP provides similar performance for considerably less while the LaCie 120 offers better image quality and costs just a little more.
Boxy black designs are typical of modern business displays, but unlike the bulky Lenovo ThinkVision L201P, the Sony SDM-S205F injects the basic-black look with class. With a thin 20mm bezel and nearly invisible buttons, there's little to distract from the viewable panel. The large, eminently stable, circular base is 280mm in diameter and sits upon a lazy Susan that gives you an impressive 350 degrees of rotation.
The panel tilts 20 degrees back and 5 degrees forward, and features a telescoping neck with 110mm of vertical adjustability. Unlike most other high-end business monitors, including the LaCie 120 and the ThinkVision L201P, the SDM-S205F's panel cannot pivot between portrait and landscape orientations -- an especially disappointing omission, as the display is otherwise perfect for design and layout work.
Placed in the back of the monitor panel are DVI-D and D-Sub ports, and Sony includes cables for each. The SDM-S205F includes a barrette clip to corral its cables, unlike the LaCie 120 and ThinkVision L201P, which lack any cable management. Still, we prefer the more elegant arrangement found on the HP LP2065, which actually hides the cords in the neck.
The SDM-S205F's on-screen menu is fairly easy to navigate despite the extremely small, poorly labelled control panel buttons. A helpful legend on the bottom of the menu indicates each button's function in that particular menu. In addition to typical brightness and contrast settings, you can apply gamma correction and adjust the gain and bias in the colour temperature settings, a useful feature for designers or anyone who needs to calibrate colour settings.
There's a dedicated button for toggling between the DVI and D-Sub inputs, which is useful if you work frequently with two computers. A button labelled Eco rotates through high, middle, low and user-defined brightness settings.
The Sony SDM-S205F performed very well on our DisplayMate-based tests. Tested at its native resolution of 1,600x1,200 pixels, text looked very sharp, with excellent contrast that made individual letters stand out clearly. In DisplayMate's greyscale test screens, the display rendered remarkably pure and mostly untinted greys, with a very even fade from the dark to the light end of the scale. Colours looked clear and were vivid without being garish -- a common failing in LCDs. In fact, they had a warm tone that's generally confined to CRT displays.
In our uniformity test, the SDM-S205F's screen displayed only slight light leakage at the top and in the corners, and images were easy to see even when we tilted or turned the panel. In spite of the display's slow 16ms pixel-response time, we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of its DVD and game playback. Our DVD tests showed quite a bit of digital noise, and there was some visible streaking and ghosting in both DVD and game playback, but the display captured plenty of fine detail and the colours looked accurate.
Edited by Charles McLellan
Additional editing by Nick Hide