A Wider Perspective

I suppose it had to happen some day – despite the relatively small amount of time I spend at home sitting in front of a computer, I always wanted to have some truly spacious screen real estate – not just because I’ve been using multiple monitors at the office for years now, but also due to the great experience afforded by my 20” iMac G5, which was up until now the best machine I ever had simply because of the elbow room it afforded me for coding and testing without having to shuffle windows around constantly.

But even before I shipped it off to my parents’ in favor of my Intel mini, I found it hard going putting up with the rather crummy HP w17e I had originally bought as a console display (probably my cheapest monitor ever) and had half-heartedly started looking for alternatives.

And I say half-heartedly because not only are Apple standalone displays (my ideal solution) insanely expensive unless you get them as part of an iMac, but also because practically none of the consumer-grade monitors easily available to me on this day and age meet with my approval.

Even before going into the specs, I was put off by the looks – for some unfathomable reason, both monitors and TVs these days come with all sorts of weird colorful bezels that I find utterly horrid (not to mention distracting when either coding or sorting through photos), the legendarily dubious glossy finish that consumer electronics companies are so keen on these days to help mask limitations in color ranges, and entirely too many options that you’ll never use (but which add to the bulk).

But the bezels and coloring were at the top of my, er… shit list, as it were. I am unsure if this deluge of red translucent lacquering is due to Eastern aesthetics, mistaken Eastern beliefs that Western consumers like this stuff, or a sudden decay in Western tastes, but the fact is that pretty much all of the consumer-grade monitors I’ve seen over the past couple of years are just plain ugly.

So when I saw a Samsung P2370 on sale, and despite my ingrained dislike for their consumer stuff, I had to take another look – a black display with a discreet (and tolerable) acrylic border and a (very slight) blue hint on its stand and without any visible (and distracting) controls that bucked the tasteless red trend?

That got me interested – and browsing about, I saw the P2270, with the same resolution, a much cheaper price and a number of shared caveats that I could live with: no audio (but, as a direct consequence, only around 30mm thickness altogether), a single DVI connector (with an analog VGA-to-DVI cable for legacy machines), and a rather stiff stand (which only needs tweaking once every blue moon, as far as I’m concerned). Oh, and no USB or webcam.

All of which are fine with me, for not only is the mini’s internal speaker more than enough for audio alerts and watching YouTube videos, it can also deal with all my input devices via Bluetooth (except for a Wacom pad I dug out of the closet a few weeks back) and supply DVI via both the mini-DVI output (which is the default primary) and DisplayPort.

Which is why I took one home, fiddled about a bit with the desktop layout, loved the real estate and after double-checking1 that the 2009 mini was able to run two displays at 1920×1080, I went back and got another:

note the bundle of 4 USB cables for phones… |=. wallpaper courtesy of “mandolux”:http://mandolux.com/archive/2009/0512.html

All in all, and given that each cost me €179 and that I already had the mini, it’s a lot more bang for the buck than getting a 27” iMac (or a large Apple display).

I know it isn’t a photographer’s monitor2 and the viewing angles are not as wide as similar monitors I’ve used, but for my purposes and relatively light usage it’s good enough – and, who knows, a good stepping stone to the dual 30” displays I’ve always wanted…

My computing habits are changing, and in between the mini and the iPad (on which, incidentally, I’m typing this) I can see myself foregoing having a laptop at home. I am more than likely to keep using one at work (at least until iPads are beefed up a little), but the middle of the road just doesn’t seem that alluring anymore as far as portability is concerned – and definitely not when I can surf on both lanes, as it were…

1 With help from the local Mac geek mailing-list and Apple’s specs page (the latter being a lot more helpful than the former, which doesn’t make dual simultaneous display support plain)

2 For future reference, I’ve set the gamma to position 2 and color to warm to counteract a slight blue tinge and eventually thumbed their MagicColor setting to full until I have time to do a proper calibration run, but so far most photos look OK, with suitably vivid colors, a good color range and decent blacks.

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