The most obvious thing about IBM's "professional-grade" 19-inch P96 monitor

is that it is not the same boring beige as nearly all of the other monitors

in the world. IBM offers its monitors in a chic black as well as office

beige. It used to be a more expensive option, but now either color is available

for the same price.

In keeping with the P96's role as a high-end display for powerful workstation

applications, the device has two video input ports. In addition to the built-in

VGA cable, there is also a VGA plug to accept a second connection. Both

inputs can be simultaneously connected to two different sources. The monitor

has a simple front-mounted switch to select the source, so there is no rummaging

around in the dust bunnies behind the monitor to swap cables.

IBM enhances the P96's glare resistance with an antireflective coating

on the display's glass that absorbs ambient light for maximum contrast with

the displayed images.

The reason to buy a large display is to cram more information into the

visible area, not just to make the same images larger. This saves users

from scrolling up and down to see parts of an image or document. But while

some monitors can run at high resolutions, they cannot do so at high enough

refresh frequencies to prevent annoying screen flickering.

The P96 will not only run at the typical 1,280-by-1,024 dots per inch

resolution typical for 19-inch displays, it will even run at 1,600-by-1,200

dpi. But that resolution wouldn't be usable if the display couldn't refresh

that large an image faster than 75 Hz. Fortunately, the P96 refreshes at

75 Hz and 85 Hz, so it can be considered a true 1,600-by-1,200 display.

The trade-off for this large display space is the space the P96 occupies

on the desktop. It is big — much bigger than a 17-inch display, and much

bigger than some short-neck tube 19-inch monitors we have tested.

The front-mounted controls are fair, rating better than some but far

from great. The controls enable immediate, direct control of brightness

and contrast, and they also control selections within the on-screen menu.

The buttons are a little hard to use, though, because their functions change

as the menus change. However, the menus provide thorough control over the

display's functions, so once the settings are optimized, you won't have

to fool with them any further.

The P96's display is bright and clear, with vibrant colors.

—Carney is a freelance writer based in Herndon, Va.



Score: B+

IBM Corp.

(800) 426-7255

Price and Availability: Suggested retail price: $575. Available to the government at a specialdiscount.

Remarks: The 19-inch P96 isn't the least expensive display available, but itpacks the high- performance, high-resolution features engineers and designersneed into a stylish black package.

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