SONY SSM-14N1E COLOUR VIDEO MONITOR
Video monitors play a critical role in the
effective operation of a surveillance system, yet they are widely regarded as
commodity items. Part of the reason is their largely passive, functional
nature, and the fact that they all look pretty much the same. Manufacturers and
designers have little opportunity to make their products stand out, moreover
there’s a widely held belief that there are only relatively small differences
in performance and reliability, between the various brands.
In that respect Sony have an advantage. Their
well-earned reputation for quality in the domestic TV market is clearly an
asset, and this is due in part to the outstanding performance of their
Trinitron picture tubes. A 14-inch Trinitron tube is the core component in the new
SSM-14N1E high resolution colour video monitor; this is fairly obvious from the
outside, even before it’s switched on. The faceplate has the characteristic cylindrical
curve and the corners of the screen are square and sharply defined.
Sony have to operate within the constraints
of standardised mounting systems, so the monitor has few adornments. The front
panel is stepped back from the screen surround, it’s clean and uncluttered with
a small grille on the left side for the speaker. On the right there’s a group
of four picture and sound control buttons, plus the main on/off switch. On the
sides of the EIA standard rack-mounting steel-cased cabinet there’s a pair of
carry-handles; on the back panels there are six input and output sockets, plus
an IEC mains connector. The six sockets handle video and audio inputs and
outputs: there are two BNC connectors for composite video, two mini DIN sockets
for S-Video or Y/C configured video, and two female phono/RCA sockets for the
audio. The two video outputs are looped-through from the inputs and
automatically terminated when not in use. Input switching is automatic, with the
S-Video input socket having priority.
Picture and sound adjustments are controlled
from a simple on-screen menu display. Pressing the menu button once brings up
the first six selections. They are for volume, contrast, brightness, chroma
(saturation), phase and the next page selector. Page two covers colour system
select, display duration, language and user memory.
Most of the menu functions are self
explanatory but a few items are worth looking at a little more detail. The phase
adjustment is used to correct colour errors on NTSC input signals, it has no
effect when used with a PAL source. The colour select options are: auto, NTSC
comb, NTSC, NTSC 4.43, PAL and SECAM. The display mode sets the length of time
information remains on the screen; ‘short’ lasts for a few seconds whilst the ‘long’
setting keeps displays active for 5 minutes. The display can be in one of 5
languages, they are: English, German, French, Italian and Spanish. Finally, the
user memory displays setting and stores changes to any of the menu settings, or
returns the monitor to the factory defaults.
The monitor is built in the UK though the
picture tube is sourced from Japan. This is a little surprising in view of the
fact that Sony manufacture Trinitron tubes at their plant in Bridgend plant in
Wales. In the base of the cabinet there’s
a single, large PCB carrying all of the power supply, scanning and deflection
circuitry. There are two further circuit boards, one plugged directly in the
main PCB, the other on the back panel, behind the input and output sockets.
Between them they handle picture and sound controls and video processing. The overall
standard of construction -- inside and out -- is very high; cables are neatly
dressed and it looks as though it has been built to last.
The horizontally curved faceplate has a good
viewing angle and produces very few annoying reflections from overhead lighting.
The first impression is of a clean, bright picture with sharp, well-defined
colours and very little noise. This is confirmed upon closer inspection. Picture
linearity is spot on; the contrast range is excellent; colours look natural and
lifelike. Maximum resolution on our well-used test sample appeared to be a tad
under the 500-lines claimed in the specifications, but the difference is very small
and well within what we consider to be an acceptable margin of error.
The image is rock solid, our non-standard ‘thump’
test produced only the very slightest picture disturbance. The small speaker
delivers a well modulated sound, slightly treble-heavy but that’s fine for
speech and incidental noise.
The menu controls are logically laid out and
very simple to use. Each adjustment is assigned a numerical value (volume and
contrast 0-100, brightness and saturation -50 to +50, with zero representing
the standard setting), this can be useful for applications that demand a very
precise picture adjustment.
Unlike most other video surveillance
components, that are getting smaller, smarter and generally more efficient, monitors
are saddled with a dowdy, unglamorous image. It would be unfair to expect Sony
to change that on their own -- maybe they will when their flat-screen Plasmatron display enters the market
-- nevertheless the SSM-14N1E does manage to stand out from the crowd. Picture quality
is excellent; the best demonstration is to stand it next to another monitor,
connected to the same source. In most cases there is a small but perceptible
difference in the sharpness and clarity of the image, colours look brighter and
the picture appears to have added depth. Needless to say the SSM-14N14 is more
expensive than most of its rivals, but the difference is relatively small and more
than offset by the performance and quality of construction.
Make/model SONY SSM-14N1E
Video system PAL, NTSC, NTSC 4.43, SECAM
Freq. response 6MHz
Inputs/outputs composite, 1 v p-p, Y/C, line-audio
Connectors video in/out (BNC), Y/C in/out (mini
DIN), audio (phono)
mains supply (IEC)
Power requirements 100 - 240 volts AC, 80 watts
Operating Temp. 0-35 degrees C
Dimensions 346 x 414 x 340 mm
Picture quality 10
Picture stability 9
Image resolution 9
Audio quality 8
Ease of use 9
Build quality 9
Ó R. Maybury 1996 2304