Worth Every Penny: The Sony G420 19" CRT

Posted By Joel Hruska

Date: November 30th, 2001

 Of all the components that make up a computer system the monitor is one of the most important. Ironically, it is also one of the least discussed. Online hardware websites, computer magazines, and even computer forums spend huge amounts of time discussing Intel vs. AMD, NVIDIA vs. ATI, Maxtor vs. Western Digital, etc, but relatively little time discussing the merits and pitfalls of various types of monitors.

This is unfortunate because the monitor is one of the most important parts of the computer. An old, flickery monitor can cause headaches for both the hardcore gamer and the corporate worker, while a monitor with rich, vibrant color and a good display can greatly enhance the computing experience of both. The CRT (or LCD) is one of the few products that is equally important to all computer users. While a corporate user might not care about a brand new GeForce3 or Radeon, he/she will definitely care about the quality of the display sitting on the desk.

When I got the chance to review the Sony G420 I wanted to see how much a difference the monitor could make, so I rounded up two other monitors to compare it too-a 17" Zenith 1740 from around 1996 and a 15" Sony 100SX from 1997. Both monitor's have been continuously used since they were bought. I picked up the older, smaller Sony to see how the displays had held up against each other and whether or not the 19" monitor would offer increased visual quality over its smaller 15" cousin.


Features of the Sony G420

●   19" Display (18" viewable)
●   Maximum Resolution of 1800x1440
●   Built-in speakers with Audio-In and Headphone Support
●   .24mm Aperture Grill pitch
●   Extensive manual with detailed usage instructions
●   Dual display jacks for multi-system support


Evaluating the Displays

I evaluated all three displays on a mixture of both 2D and 3D applications. In all cases, I examined the CRT for picture quality, color quality (and brightness) and clarity. I also evaluated all three monitors with multiple video cards, including a GeForce3, a Voodoo5 5500, and a Radeon 7500. The monitors were evaluated in day-to-day work, such as surfing the web, playing 3D games, writing office documents or using Microsoft Excel, reading large amounts of text off of the screen, and other such tests.


The Results: The G420 Pulls Ahead-but the Sony 100SX Surprises

The G420 easily won all of the visual display tests I put against it, particularly against the Zenith Model 1740. The Zenith lacks the fine text display of the Sony (partially because of the .26 dot pitch on the 1740 vs the .24 of the G420) and also lacks the color definition. Compared to the Sony monitors, the Zenith 1740's color is distinctly washed out and faded. This is particularly noticeable when looking at black text on a white background-the Zenith 'white' is distinctly yellowish, while both Sony monitors-even the four-year old 100SX-have much crisper color definition.

In low resolutions (640x480 and 800x600) in fact, the two Sony displays were surprisingly close in terms of visual and color quality. In 1024x768 and above, however, the G420 pulled clearly ahead as its higher refresh rates gave it a much better overall picture than the 100SX was able to achieve. Still, for a four-year 15" monitor, the 100SX surprised us with its still-excellent picture quality.

The Zenith, in contrast, came off looking rather shabby against either monitor. Though its 17" size was a benefit for Word Processing or Excel work when measured against the 15" Sony, its faded-looking color and noticeably-blurrier text put it firmly in third place in terms of overall visual quality.


More than Just a Pretty Face: Other Features of the G420:

In addition to an absolutely excellent display, the G420 has several other features we need to cover here.

Dual System Display Support: This is the opposite of Dual-Head Technology, in a sense. This monitor allows for two system's to both be plugged into it simultaneously, and has two output jacks in the rear of the monitor for this purpose. Switching from one to the other is painless and is just a matter of flicking a switch on the front.

This proved to be a very nice feature while reviewing systems. While using a G420 monitor I was able to hook two different test beds up to it and manipulate first one and then the other without needing to bring in a second monitor or move my current one.

This is not a feature everyone will need, certainly, but if you do find yourself in a situation where you need both two systems and two monitors sitting side by side, a single G420 can eliminate the problem. The switching process is painless and takes only 1-2 seconds.

Comprehensive (and Easy to use) Menu System: The menu adjustment system on the G420 is also very nice. There are a huge number of options available, including color settings, geometry adjustment, brightness/contrast levels, auto-calibration and problem-detection settings, and more. All are easy to access.

Thorough Documentation: The manual for the G420 is written in three languages and weighs in at over sixty pages long. Furthermore, the twenty pages devoted to each language are well-spent, as each of the menu features are well documented, as is the technical support and troubleshooting area.

Warranty Service: The Sony G420 carries a three year warranty on parts, labor and CRT from date of service.


The Single Caveat: Mediocre Sound

I was very interested to test out the Sony G420's onboard speakers, but ultimately found them a disappointment. I would say they tie standard computer speakers in terms of quality and volume and the speaker is only monaural output. On the other hand, the headphone jack provided has a much better output level and does output in stereo. Given the difficulty of putting powerful speakers NEXT to a monitor (where the speaker's may well cause interference) its not fair to fault Sony for not building a powerful speaker set inside a monitor. At any rate, no one buys a monitor for its speakers. The Sony embedded speaker will output decent enough sound to avoid desktop speakers, if you need to save space on your desk.


The LCD Factor: Are CRT's Dead?

With the dropping costs of LCD's, their vastly smaller desktop footprints, and sometimes astounding text quality, one might ask whether any CRT is worth buying at all. CRT's, after all, are bulkier, heavier, use considerably more power and are much more inconvenient to move.

There are several reasons why a CRT is still an attractive buy over an LCD, however.

Refresh Rates: Most LCD's do not support refresh rates as high as CRT do, often topping out around 75 Hz at 1024x768. Although with a CRT low refresh rates can lead to screen flickers and cause headaches for some, LCD's generally do not suffer from this problem because their pixels persist longer. However, this makes LCD's generally poor for fast-moving games, though this is improving with each generation of LCD panel.

Pixel Failure: Though also improving markedly, our own report here on two major LCD's show that pixel failures remain common. Moreover, some retailers demand that as many as 20 pixels be defective before they accept a returned LCD monitor - this many dead pixels would make your image look like Swiss Cheese.

Price: LCD monitors with the same screen area as a 19" monitor are still expensive. Sony's 17" LCD (same desktop size as a 19" CRT) is $800-almost twice as expensive as their 19" CRT models).

None of these factors are permanent injunctions against LCD's which are, in all likelihood, the future of computer displays. Nevertheless, they are important considerations, and CRT's will remain viable purchases for the next few years at least.


Personal Experience: Monitor Quality Matters

I debated whether or not to include this part of the review, but decided it was an important enough development in my experience with the Sony monitor to warrant inclusion.

Since last March I have spent increasingly large amounts of time doing heavy spreadsheet work in Microsoft Excel. At first I had no problems, but the nature of the work itself combined with the low-quality monitor I was using caused increasingly large levels of eye strain. By the end of October I was munching between 8-12 Ibuprofen tablets a day to keep my headaches under control.

Within two weeks of switching to the G420, my headaches and eye strain have all but vanished. Now, I want to make this clear: Neither Sony, VHJ, or this reviewer has made or intent to make any claims about the medical benefits of Sony monitors in relieving eye strain. Chronic, serious eye strain is a serious condition and should be discussed with a trained medical professional. With that said (and firmly meant) it is not hard to see that upgrading to a much higher-quality display could make a drastic difference in vision problems.


Conclusion: An Excellent Monitor for the Right Person

If you're a buyer whose desk space is at a premium, an LCD is likely a better choice. The G420 is not huge, but it is quite a bulky 19" monitor and, at about 60 lbs, requires a fair amount of muscle to move around. A really high quality LCD will set you back quite a bit more than this monitor, but the trade-off in desk space may be worth it.

Also, if you're a cost-conscious buyer who is on a tight budget, the G420 is likely not a monitor you'll want to purchase. There are a lot of good or even very good monitors available for less money. One caveat, however, is that it's generally better to buy a smaller, high quality monitor than a larger one with only mediocre display quality. If you want Sony quality at a lower cost, the company does offer a line of 17" monitors-and many companies such as NEC, KDS, and Samsung have 19" solutions you might want to consider as well.

If, however, you're a buyer who is willing to spend good money for a great product, or to whom visual quality is more important than price, the Sony G420 is a great solution. Even its price, while admittedly higher than any other 19" monitor I'm aware of, is not truly a negative. There's nothing wrong with a more expensive product that delivers a better overall experience-and the G420 succeeds brilliantly at doing this.


Pssst!  Our Shopping Page has been updated.