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Display status, winter 2014

2014 February 20
by Matt

A little note for the record about yet another of life’s little misadventures, which played out over the past couple of months.

When I elected to buy a Mac Mini, as-noted previously this meant buying a standalone display for the first time since 2002. Since when technology has changed a lot, but the basic problem that worried me a dozen years ago hasn’t: as much as any typical gadget there is, a desktop display is something that it would be very helpful to examine in-person before buying, but this has never been a very practical option and certainly isn’t in the context of modern retailing.

So I made do with reviews and buying guides, studied hard, prepared a detailed spreadsheet, and finally settled on a ViewSonic model… which seemed to be out of stock everywhere. The “manufacturer” did take my order… then several hours later realized that they were also out of stock, and, owing one presumes to poor supply-chain/contractor management, wouldn’t be in-stock for weeks if not longer.

So I tried again, and purchased a highly-rated display with the IPS technology that is apparently the new hotness and an absolute must… and after weeks of fighting with settings, finally had to write it off as unworkable. Wacked colors, terrible terrible banding and hard edges in gradients, and absolutely zero help whatsoever from the alleged customer support options.

So, crowdsourced wisdom having dismally failed, I decided to try a different approach and seek out some expertise. And here I will name names, because I can give some credit. Small Dog Electronics of Vermont not only has cute branding, but genuinely helpful people (or at any rate one of them) who gave some thought to my needs and provided personal recommendations. I researched all of them anyway, and finally settled on another ViewSonic product; I wasn’t best pleased about giving them another chance after the way this whole fiasco began, but at this point a practical solution took precedence.

Said fiasco was not, by the way, entirely over even at this point. Small Dog shipped off my VX2252mh promptly, only for a certain logistics company to misdirect it. I’ve decided to try and keep this a relatively positive post, but they’re known by a three-letter name. (The manufacturer of the dud display in-between my attempted and my successful purchase from ViewSonic, for what it’s worth, trades under a two-letter name.)

Finally, I received my display, and after some hesitation I set it up… and after a couple of weeks, it’s decent. The viewing angle could be improved, and gradients still aren’t everything I would want. But they’re significantly better, and the color range even after my very first attempt at calibration was much better. All of this, I note, from a discontinued display using the “old, cheap” TN panel technology rather than the IPS tech that everyone online insists is essential…

What to make of this? Once again, I wish I knew. I suppose Small Dog Electronics definitely deserves some gold stars, and I can probably give one to ViewSonic despite the shortcomings of their performance in all this… Beyond that, well, caveat emptor, but that’s not really new or especially valuable given that sometimes practical circumstances demand that one buy from someone, and wariness alone isn’t actually that helpful.

A friend of mine laughs at his elderly parents’ reluctance to upgrade; the other day he called their household “a stalled car on the information superhighway.” Which I have to admit was pretty funny. That having been said, though… more and more I kind of think “can you really blame them?”

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