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Philips 180B2W74 Review

Highs

  • Good price
  • very reliable and low maintenace

Rating

Our Score 9
User Score 8

Lows

  • No DVI input on base model
Even at the current prices Philips offers an excellent, value oriented, leading edge product.

Summary

With the 180B2 Philips has delivered an excellent monitor at a very reasonable price. Plenty of competition is driving LCD development at an alarming rate – so one of the natural concerns is that prices will continue to plummet, making it wiser to hold off on a purchase. Of course this is always a concern with new technology – but with LCD screens in particular it stands a good chance that prices will drop in the long run, dare we say it, even below CRT monitors. If this is really the case then it may be a painfully long wait until the prices stabilize. The fact that many businesses are switching to LCD’s shows that even though they are priced higher, their value is actually quite competitive with CRT’s. This value is seen in reliability and low maintenance, which drive many corporate purchasing decisions. Of course this is definitely a concern for the average consumer as well. Even at the current prices Philips offers an excellent, value oriented, leading edge product.

Introduction:
With the modern appeal of minimizing some dimensions and maximizing others, the LCD monitor market is becoming ever more competitive and crowded. The $730 Philips 180B2 flat panel adds another apt competitor for increasing your viewing area while minimizing your monitor’s footprint. Read on to see how it stacks up…

Features:
Given the advantages of LCD screens it seems appropriate to focus on dimensions first. The 180B2 has an 18.1″ diagonal viewing area and a base of ~10″ x 7″. Currently there are at least nine manufacturers’ of 18″ flat panels – and well over 20 models to choose from. Since the whole screen is usable – this means it would also compete with 19″ CRT monitors. Manufactures are doing the best they can to distinguish their products and the Philips 180B2 is doing no less. But with a little room for improving the aesthetics, (How pleasing can you make a bezel anyway?) the focus is really on engineering and price. Both of these were taken into consideration with this Philips and the result is a pleasant flat panel at a reasonable cost.

The common comparison on like-sized monitors, resolution, is actually unnecessary with 18″ LCD’s. All except the most expensive ones (above $1100) are 1280×1024 with a .28mm dot pitch. All have 24 bit (16.7M) color. It is not until you dig deeper into the details will you discover the real differences. The 180B2 has a maximum refresh rate of 75Hz at this resolution – which is better than average. Its brightness boasts 250cd/m2 – typical for 18″ LCD’s. The contrast is specified at 350:1 – also typical. It uses a standard analog 15 pin SVGA connector. Unfortunately it does not have an optional DVI input, which would allow newer DVI video cards to transfer lossless digital video. With the standard analog connector you can expect some signal quality loss (from the D/A, then A/D conversion), but quantifying it is difficult on this monitor without the DVI option to compare the two. It seems the LCD manufactures in general are lagging the video card manufactures in getting this technology out, because currently only some of the more expensive (>$800) screens have DVI as an option. Given this, it does not seem unreasonable for this $730 Philips screen to be analog only.

One of the big advantages of LCD technology over CRT is low power. For 18″ flat panels operating power ranges from 40-60 Watts and 2-5 Watts in standby. The 180B2 uses only 48 watts – less than half of what a typical CRT would, and an average amount for LCD screens of the same size. In low power mode it uses only 2 Watts, low by even LCD standards.

Six control buttons are easily accessible on the front, mounted just under the screen. The menus are intuitive, but we found the auto adjust button worked great every time. LCD screens don’t have the same susceptibility to skewing and warping as their CRT brethren, which makes the auto adjusting feature much more accurate. On the other hand, you are prone to other problems, such as bad pixels or the usual discoloration with shifts in viewing angle. Ours was flawless, but fortunately, among other things, bad pixels are covered under the 3 year warranty anyway.

A big plus is the flexibility in viewing. The monitor adjusts -5 to 35 degrees on the stand, or can be removed from the stand completely by just four screws. The narrow depth allows for hanging on the wall or mounting in other small spaces.

One of our only concerns is the stand’s lack of rigidity. While the base itself is large enough to prevent most wobbling, the vertical stand has some flex to it. This plus a high center of gravity allows for some undamped rocking when your cubicle neighbor has had too much coffee and is taking it out in knee spasms. This is a common complaint among LCD monitors and is part of the price you pay for low overall mass – at least until someone adds some miniature shocks. The entire monitor weighs only 15.4 lbs. This is an average weight in a segment with a range of 12.8 lbs to 22.9 lbs. More weight, if placed right, could add some stability – but this would diminish another big advantage of LCD screens: mobility.

Setup and Installation:
This is very much a plug and play monitor. A CD with the drivers & manual is included but hardly needed. We ran the included FPadjust program on the CD to help manually adjust the monitor settings but when finished found the single auto-adjust button on the front to work every bit as well.

Conclusion:
With the 180B2 Philips has delivered an excellent monitor at a very reasonable price. Plenty of competition is driving LCD development at an alarming rate – so one of the natural concerns is that prices will continue to plummet, making it wiser to hold off on a purchase. Of course this is always a concern with new technology – but with LCD screens in particular it stands a good chance that prices will drop in the long run, dare we say it, even below CRT monitors. If this is really the case then it may be a painfully long wait until the prices stabilize. The fact that many businesses are switching to LCD’s shows that even though they are priced higher, their value is actually quite competitive with CRT’s. This value is seen in reliability and low maintenance, which drive many corporate purchasing decisions. Of course this is definitely a concern for the average consumer as well. Even at the current prices Philips offers an excellent, value oriented, leading edge product.

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