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It’s big, flat and expensive but as Rick Maybury discovers, the performance of the Sony GDM-F500 will blow your socks off…



A lot of extra bits and bobs get tacked onto monitors these days, speakers microphones, ashtrays (well, maybe not ashtrays, but you know what we mean…), so we got quite excited when we heard the mighty 21-inch Sony GDM-F500 comes equipped with a built-in joystick. Sadly the joystick in question turned out to be a titchy little thing used to navigate around the on-screen displays but it's a neat touch nonetheless; we'll come back to it in a moment. However, of more immediate interest are the size, specification and the other little extras.


The GDM-F500 is based around one of Sony's FD Trinitron tubes; the key feature of the FD tube -- apart from the impressive screen acreage -- is a near flat faceplate, the flattest in the business. So what you ask? The main benefit is a complete lack of image distortion and no annoying reflections from overhead lighting. Trinitron tubes also have better than average brightness and contrast, and this one has an aperture grille pitch of just 0.22mm, which means a sharper, more detailed image at the higher resolutions the GDM-500 is designed to handle. Talking of which, the maximum resolution is 1800 x 1440, though it will automatically configure itself for all standard VESA and most user-defined settings (supported by the PC's video card). We guess most users will settle for 1280 x 1024 or 1600 x 1200 which are the most appropriate for desktop video on a 21-inch screen.


Installation is very straightforward on Windows 95/98. It comes with its own drivers and an auto setup utility on a 3.5-inch floppy that Windows asks for when it is powered up for the first time. The rear panel socketry includes a standard 15-pin D-Sub socket and there's a set of BNC connectors for Mac users. The two inputs are switchable from the front panel so it can be connected to two PCs at the same time. One of those extras we mentioned earlier is a built-in USB hub. It lives inside the swivel-tilt stand. This has one 'upstream' socket that connects to the PC (a lead is supplied), and four 'downstream' outlets for peripherals (printers, scanners, keyboard etc.).     


The joystick is mounted just below the screen, pressing it in makes the on-screen menu appear and moving the stick changes the highlighted selection. Adjustments to any of the picture or geometry settings are made using the joystick. Other noteworthy menu options include picture zoom, the facility to move the OSD menu around the screen, 3-preset and user-defined colour settings, moire cancellation plus an unusual control lock that prevents any tinkering with the settings. The only other front panel controls are the main on/off switch, the input selector and an automatic sizing and centring (ASC) button. There's not a lot to say about the cosmetics, unusually for a Sony product it is a fairly nondescript design, let's just say it's a big creamy-coloured box that takes up a lot of room…



Trintron tubes have damper wires to stop the aperture grill vibrating and making the colours wobble; the FD is no exception and the shadows they cast are clearly visible on a light-coloured display or desktop. Most users are happy to accept this as a trade-off for a brighter, sharper picture but try before you buy as some people find it irritating. On balance we reckon you can live with it on this monitor, image quality is simply stunning! It never put a foot wrong with any of our standard resolution, focus, convergence and stabilisation tests on static patterns and moving video. The FD screen has a real sense of depth to it, with crisp vibrant colours that appear to leap out of the screen; 'nuff said!



We haven't mentioned the price until now for fear of frightening you off. Yes £1526 is a lot of money -- possibly more than you paid for your PC -- but this kind of studio-grade performance doesn't come cheap and doubtless the Sony badge adds a few quid. If nothing else, if you're in the market for a 21-inch screen see this one first, before you make up your mind!


How Much?                               £1526 (suggested retail inc. VAT) *  

Tube size                                  21-inch FD Trinitron

Visible display area                  403 x 302mm

Aperture grille pitch                 0.22mm

Max Resolution              1800 x 1440 pixels

Max refresh rate             auto scan to 160Hz

Dimensions                               502 x 511 x 486mm

Weight                          34kg



Features                       9

Performance                  10

Ease of use                   10

Value for money            8


Overall Rating  88%


Sony UK Ltd., telephone (0990)  424424,


* Sony say it won't be in the retail chain for a month or two



Ó R. Maybury 1999 0402




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