“ The EX710F couples all the benefits of flat screen technology with 1600 x 1200 max resolution, 97 kHz horizontal sync and a 0.25mm dot pitch. „
So the time has finally come to get a new monitor. This one is to go with the new PC that I am about to build, but that's another story. So what influenced my choice? Well, I wanted a 17 incher. 19 would be nice, but they are so much bigger and are still to expensive for me to justify on this occasion. A flat panel type would be nice, but they are even more expensive. So a conventional monitor it is. I like to have my display set to work at quite high resolution (currently 1152x864) and I find I'm quite sensitive to flickering, so I like to use a high refresh rate. At work I've been using a monitor with absolutely flat screen for about 6 months, and I've really got used to it. The main advantage is that reflection from windows, lights and other monitors is so much more reduced, so one like that would be nice, but I thought it would be out of my price range. But it wasn't - read on to find out my little secret on pricing. So why CTX? Well, more about that later as well, but I suppose I'd better say something more specific about this monitor. The EX710F is from the middle range of CTX CRT monitors. The ranges are prefixed VL for Value, EX for Executive, and PR for Professional. Executive is one of the most misunderstood words in the English language, and I'm glad to see that CTX think that Professionals deserve better monitors than Executives. It's just a plain monitor, with no built in speakers, USB hub or the like. So you are paying for pure monitor, not other gadgets that may or may not be of value to you. It's all pretty standard stuff on the outside. A captive input signal cable and four buttons on the front to drive the on-screen menus. It has an absolutely flat screen - or so it seems at first. A closer inspection and you can see that the front is a flat sheet of glass, but the actual screen surface behind it has a very slight curve. It's not really a
noticeable curve unless you are looking for it. Anyway because the front is flat, there is absolutely no problem with unwanted reflections. It has an anti-reflective coating, so even if you get the angles just right so you can see a bright light, it really is not very bright when reflected. As is usual these days, all adjustments are made using on-screen menus and the four buttons on the front. Almost all monitors have only four buttons now, and this makes it really rather fiddly. The problem is that you can't easily adjust two related parameters without a bit of menu navigation in between. You have to press several buttons to move between adjusting any two of the twenty or so parameters, and it's just far too easy to press the wrong one by accident. To centre the image horizontally, say, I find myself switching several times between the width adjustment and the horizontal position adjustment. Throw in a few "enters" instead of "escapes" and the whole process becomes rather tedious. This is no criticism of CTX in particular - all monitors are like this these days. Personally I preferred it when they put just one or two more buttons and the menu system seemed to be much more intuitive; I'm sure that extra button wouldn't add too much to the cost. Anyway there are all the usual adjustments, including six for all that pincusion, trapezium, rotation, keystone, corner and pinbalance stuff. Again, a bit fiddly to get them all coordinated, but you only really do that once for each display mode you use. Most of us use only one, once we're settled in. Contrast and brightness are both easily accessible by a single button press without going into the whole menu thingy (although dumb old me didn't find contrast at first). So to the picture. The whites are really bright white, and the darks are really dark. And the colours are really coloured. So can I tempt you to swap back to your old
washing powder....... The contrast really is good. The fault I see with the image is that right at the sides there seems to be a slightly grainy, well more mesh, sort of effect. For the technically minded, I think it is probably a bit of an interference pattern caused by a slight change in the screen mask (an internal grid thing), and the scan lines. This only affects about the last inch each side of the screen, but it seems to show up most on that nice grey colour of the windows scroll bars that you invariably have down the right-hand side. I haven't tried with Windows XP yet so it may be less noticeable with those colours. I guess I'll get used to it. The image in the remainder of the screen is very clear, with good detail even at high resolutions. Resolution and refresh rate is where we really find that this is a bit above the value range. It is rated up to 1600x1200 at 77Hz, although I can't really see anyone using it in that mode. The image gets a bit blurry at the higher resolutions but is fine at 1024x768 and 1152x864 which are the ones I consider practical for a 17 inch monitor. Those practical resolutions will happily run at 85Hz or more which is enough for flicker not to be a problem, even for such a sensitive chap as me. So why CTX, and what's the pricing secret? Well, last Christmas my brothers and I bought a CTX VL700 (17 inch, value range) monitor for my dad. That was chosen purely based on price, written specification, and a few reviews I found. It came from www.dabs.com. I had never heard of CTX before and as far as I knew has never used one of their monitors. I've since found that they are a Taiwanese company who have been around about 20 years, and they very much specialise in monitors. I suspect they built their business making stuff that was badged by some of the big names in computing, but they don't really like to admit it, so I probably have actually used one of their mon
itors without knowing it. On the VL700 I was quite impressed with the image quality for an entry-level monitor. Unfortunately it developed a fault in the first few weeks. The colour kept flickering to being yellowish. This was intermittent, and my dad being my dad, he never complained, so we never got around to doing anything about it for months. Then a couple of months ago I decided I had better try to sort it out. I felt responsible, since it had been a present from me. So I dug up the guarantee information on the web site (we couldn't find the book). I was impressed. A three year guarantee and they would simply swap the faulty monitor for a working one. I was a bit doubtful, but gave it a go. I composed my description of the problem, got dad on the phone to read out the magic serial number and model numbers and filled in the form on the CTX web site. That was on a Sunday night. .... Nothing happened! .... Still nothing happened! .... I began to doubt the good words in their guarantee. .... By Wednesday afternoon I thought I had better call to see if the form had arrived. So I phoned, and the call was answered immediately by a friendly voice. She had a quick look for my message from the web site, but it seemed to have completely disappeared. Anyway that didn't matter, she took all the details, and immediately promised that a replacement monitor would be delivered on Friday. Exactly as stated in the guarantee (call before noon and it will be next working day, after noon and it will be the one after that). So Friday the monitor arrived at dad's house, and the old one was taken away. He did have to have the old one ready packed for collection, but he was up and running again quickly. It's really quite a sad reflection on the world that I am impressed when a company has clearly written guarantees, and sticks to its promises in a friendly and helpful manner. But I am impressed! The last thing I had to sort out under gua
rantee was a DVD drive from Dell, and that took several evenings of my time spread over about a month to build up enough evidence to convince them that the thing really was broken. So even though I had seen a faulty product from CTX, I thought they were worth buying from again. And the price? Well, during all that messing about, I found that CTX have a small online shop where they sell off "refurbished" stock with a very attractive discount. By refurbished they mean stuff that has either been used for evaluation and demonstration, or has been returned under warranty but found not to be faulty. They are not items that have been returned and repaired. There are also some obsolete models in the shop. The address is www.ctxshop.net From here you only get a three month guarantee, instead of the standard three years. Also, there are only small quantities of a few models from the range, so there's an element of luck as to whether they have the one you want. So I got my EX710F for £108, including VAT and carriage. Compare this with about £160 or more from other online shops, and I certainly thought is was worth the saving. It came properly packed and clean, with its mains cable, manual and diskette, and looks nearly as good as new. It has a few very minor marks if you look really closely, but nothing too serious. As for the shorter guarantee, I console myself that it has probably had a much longer "burn-in" period than most. If something is going to go wrong with a monitor it's most likely going to happen in the first few weeks of use. I hope mine was beyond that period long before I got it. So all in all a good buy I believe. Stop Press: I've just seen that ebuyer.com are doing this monitor new for £127 delivered, so consider that if you want the security of the full three year warranty. Everyone else still seems to be around the £160 mark.
When my monitor gave up the ghost on Boxing Day,it was like most folk something that you don't expect.The "old" one was only 2+ years,so I was not pleased.So,a new one.I had no idea & frankly went for a magazine best buy. With on-line purchase & next day delivery,that was painless.Also setting up.However placing the thing on the revolving stand needs 2 people.The manual unlike my last one is on-line,so you have to connect up before reading.There is a brief printed item for this.The OSD (on screen display) is clear & easy to operate.In about half an hour I had it set up & adjusted.The default resolution is 800x600 which is just fine.With it's totally flat screen the picture is superb,just a hint of black line,which I probably could get rid of with more playing.The screen is coated to reduce radiation & only mild detergent & soft cloth should be used to clean it. I am delighted with it & at £163.00 inc.delivery,I think it a good buy. It seems great for gaming,with rich bright colours. Hope this will help anyone thinking of the CTX710F