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A 19" glossy
If you want to replace your old monitor, youíll be hard pressed not to buy a LCD screen. There are many gamers out there more than happy to stay faithful to their trusty and generally much higher resolution CRT monitors, but with prices and supposed response times dropping maybe itís time to make the switch.

Not so long ago 15" LCD displays were seen as a prestige item only for the well off and the show off, yet not only have they now moved into the "so what?" category we're at a stage where 17" units are becoming old hat. Prices are such that 19" displays are now in the realms of mainstream usage. The Acer AL1951, a 19Ē LCD monitor weighs in at £289 including VAT.

The AL1951 we're looking at today is unashamedly a no-frills model that aims to bring the Acer brand to the masses. My worry is whether cost cutting will leave a product thatís barely usable. It's always a tricky path to tread, and a bad product, however cheap, can reflect badly all the way up the range.

The AL1951 uses a screen technology that Acer calls CrystalBrite, a technology I first saw in action on an Aspire 1691 notebook. Itís a lot like Sonyís XBrite technology that features heavily in their Vaio notebook screens. Before we look at the screen itself, there are some interesting features that need your attention.

The whole display hinges from the base and, as is standard for this price point, there's no rotational pivot or height adjustment offered. The AL1951 has an unusual but effective stand design by placing all the necessary controls in it.

This means you can push on them without any fear of toppling the screen. My only gripe was a sticky power button. An auto adjust button is present for one-touch configuration. The power button is illuminated in blue when the monitor is in operation.

The stand has a small foot print but this doesn't seem to compromise stability. The only fault I found was a small amount of lateral rotational play in the stand (imagine holding both sides and turning it like a steering wheel). Another reason for the compact stand is the integration of power and data connectors. This lowers the centre of gravity and makes the whole thing more stable.

The integrated stand eliminates the need for fancy cable management systems in or on the stand leaving more room for the designers to build in extra structural. Compared to some of the elegant stands this unit does look rather clumsy, but its functional advantages far outweigh and minor cosmetic gripes.

Both analogue VGA and digital DVI connections are present, which delivered excellent results. To the left is the DC-in jack while over to the right is the audio feed to the integrated stereo speakers, which, like so many monitors before it, delivered a sound that's fine at a pinch but best avoided if possible.

The speakers are located behind a mesh grill situated above the front control buttons.

There's also a headphone jack on the left hand side of the base and this is a definitely a better option if you can't or donít want to use a regular speaker setup.

The screenís depth is also impressive, measuring about 1.75" at its thickest point. This is achieved in part by the use of an external power supply. It comes with enough cable to position discretely out of sight so it shouldnít present much of an eyesore.

So you've seen the packaging, but is the screen any good? Find out on the next page.