RISC World

Dell 2001 FP monitor

Dave Holden

About 18 months ago I purchased a Relisys 19" LCD monitor to replace my somewhat aging 21" CRT. One of the main reasons for doing this was that the old monitor was quite a lump and took up a lot of desk space. It gave a good, clear picture at the resolution I normally use, 1280 x 1024, and was capable of 1600 x 1200, although since I couldn't push the VIDC above 58 Hz at this resolution there was noticeable flicker which made it really only usable at this screen size with the Viewfinder card. The Relisys was chosen partly on price, 19" TFT monitors had just become affordable and this was good value, but also because although it was a 1280 x 1024 display it was actually capable of displaying a very acceptable 1600 x 1200 desktop. Obviously this wasn't as good as the smaller resolution, but as the flicker at 58 Hz wasn't noticeable I could actually use it on those occasions when a larger desktop was more important than the quality of the display. As is usual with LCD monitors the display size was about the same as a 2" larger CRT screen, and in fact it was almost identical to the screen size of my old 21" CRT monitor.

Having got used to it I realised that I would never go back to a CRT (anyway, although there was initially a lot of extra space on my desk it soon mysteriously vanished so it wouldn't have been a simple task) and I sold the old monitor at the 2004 Wakefield show.

Bigger and better

Since my earlier purchase the price of TFT monitors has continued to fall and 17" displays are now available for not much over £100 + VAT. This meant that even bigger and better monitors had become affordable, and I was beginning to read with interest the reviews in publications like Computer Shopper.

One of the prime considerations for me was that the monitor would be used most of the time with the normal VIDC display and not the Viewfinder. This is because my main RiscPC is the one that also gets used for a lot of software testing, including games. Many of these don't work with the Viewfinder and so unless I'm doing something that requires high resolution and a lot of colours it tends to be disabled most of the time.

When one of my suppliers had a "special offer" on the Dell monitor I thought it looked like a good buy. I had seen the smaller Dell monitors in operation, and they seemed to be extremely good.

The monitor's resolution is 1600 x 1200 and one of the things that attracted me to it (apart from the price, which for this offer was less than £300) is the narrow bezel around the screen as you can see from the photos below. This means that although the display size is more than an inch wider than my old monitor the monitor itself is slightly smaller.

Click on the picture for a larger image

One possible disadvantage with this monitor, as you can see from the side view above, is that the stand is rather large and bulky. The good thing, however, is that it's very stable (necessary with a heavy monitor) and that you can adjust it's height. To get the monitor positioned as I wanted I put a shelf along the back of my desk and placed the monitor on this, which enabled me to get the display in the position which suited me.

The photos above (and the specification) are taken from the Dell User Guide which is supplied on CD in straightforward HTML and which is readable in almost any RISC OS browser. The finish of my monitor is slightly different, being lighter (silver instead of grey) with the word "Dell" in black rather than white with the buttons being the same colour as the bezel. I have no idea which is the "standard" so if you're thinking of buying and appearance is important to you it might be best to check first.

The Dell has both analogue and DVI (digital) inputs, which may be an advantage if you have a PC as well as a RISC OS computer as they can share the monitor without using a KVM switch as you can switch between the inputs using buttons on the front. In my case the PC has its own monitor (a 17" TFT that can be seen on the right in the picture below) and the Iyonix and RiscPC share the Dell via a KVM switch. As well as showing the monitor itself which, as was previously mentioned, is different in appearance from the Dell photo, this also illustrates how compact the monitor is. The PC's monitor on the right is an "old" 17" LCD that I've had for around four years (and which cost the best part of £600!) and you can see that the overall dimensions of the 20" Dell are roughly the same. The computer to the left is my main RiscPC (I don't like the Acorn cases).

Click on the picture for a larger image

I'm actually using the same MDF that I created for the Relisys, and although it would probably be possible to "tweak" this it's worked so well that I've never bothered. In fact the monitor seems fairly tolerant and although it's far from ideal you can get a perfectly usable display using an AKF85 MDF so you can at least get a picture 'out of the box'.

The Dell 2001 has the usual on screen menu system for adjustment. However, it has a very good auto-adjust system which normally succeeds in fitting the chosen resolution to the screen size. In fact the only desktop mode that defeated it is 1152 x 864, which is a rather non standard size but happens to be the largest screen resolution that can be used with 32,000 colours on a RiscPC. It also works with almost all of the games I've tried it with, and the picture below shows it running Repton in full screen mode.


Before I purchased this monitor I did a brief search to try to find some reviews. While writing this article I've gone back and found several more and read them (and re-read the ones I'd found previously) in the light of my own experience. There were two main criticisms (apart from some reviewers not liking its appearance).

Some reviewers criticised the colour rendition. Lab tests showed that it's not perfect and so may not be suitable for serious, professional quality photo retouching work, particularly when used with an analogue rather than digital signal. However, they all agreed that you would probably need to pay at least twice the price to get anything significantly better, and this was based on the "normal" price of more that £500. Certainly I haven't noticed any problems, but then I don't use it for "serious" photographic work. If your main use of your computer is photo retouching or other artistic work then this may not be the monitor for you, but do try to see one in action first as in my experience it's not as bad as the reviewers suggested. (I would also point out that for serious work you would need to colour calibrate the monitor and the computer - Ed).

Another fault that some reviewers found is that they suggested that the refresh rate is a bit slow for games. The sort of games they were talking about were the fast action games running on a PC with a high end graphics card, and even then it was only just noticeable. Certainly this problem will not arise on any RISC OS computer and the good thing about it is that the slightly slower response will allow RiscPC users whose VIDC can't manage a refresh rate greater that 56Hz at 1200 x 1600 to use it without visible flicker.

What all agreed is that the Dell 2001 FP is very, very good value for money.

The contrast ratio is shown as 400:1. This is lower than many others, including those in the Dell range, for example, the smaller E193FP is 500:1. However the contrast, even in its middle setting, is extremely good and consistent for all brightness settings (which is probably more important) and after some months of using the monitor I certainly have no criticism of it.

Although the 2001 has a 1200 x 1600 pixel panel Dell have obviously realised that people may not want to use this resolution all the time and have put a lot of effort into making the monitor work well at lower resolutions. Using a TFT screen other than at its "natural" resolution will always result in some loss of picture quality and how good the result is will depend upon how good the electronics are rather than the screen itself. All the "standard" modes shown in the table in the specification are extremely sharp despite the fact that they're not the natural size of the screen. 800 x 600 is, as you would expect, extremely good, but 1024 x 768 and 1280 x 1024 are also remarkably good and are as good as many lesser monitors where that is their true pixel size.

This is important when using a RiscPC because if you don't have a viewfinder card you will need to reduce resolution to use more colours. Obviously if you intend to use the monitor with an Iyonix this will not be so important, and although I've concentrated on it's use with th RiscPC as you might gather it does work perfectly with the Iyonix.

The three pictures below were going to be photos showing 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 1024 and 1024 x 768. However, I could not manage to get a satisfactory photo of either of the two larger sizes, the resolution of a 4 megapixel camera simply couldn't do it justice. I have therefore resorted to using screen "grabs" which although somewhat artificial do serve to illustrate just how much extra desktop workspace a higher resolution monitor can give you. In each case click on the small picture to see the full size image.

Click on the picture for a larger image

At the time of writing Dell have a special offer on the 2001FP with 20% off the normal price of £520 so you would pay just £412.66 including VAT and carriage. This is a rather large discount and suggests that it might be discontinued at some time so don't delay. The smaller, 19", E193FP with its 1280 x 1024 display and analogue only input costs just £245.88 inclusive for those that don't want the larger monitor.

The specification of the Dell 2001FP has been extracted from the manual and is included as a separate file. Dell 2001FP specifications.

Dave Holden