- MaxData Price - £250 - £300
Requirements - A strong desk
Size, whatever you try and tell your girlfriend, does matter. Four inches can make a world of difference. Move up from a 15" to a 19" monitor, for example, and there is no going back...
Why do I need a 19" monitor?
Well, if you're a hardcore gamer you may already have one of the latest generation of graphics card like the Riva TNT2 or 3dfx's Voodoo 3. These cards are capable of some rather ridiculous resolutions, and the next generation are likely to be even more excessive in their pixel-pushing prowess.
But that's no use to you unless you have a large monitor - most 15" monitors will only stretch to a pitiful 1024x768. The Belinea 10 60 20 on the other hand runs happily at 1280x1024, and can go as high as 1600x1200 if you have a graphics card that can handle it.
And if you do something other than play games on your computer, a higher resolution desktop can also be rather handy, and the bigger monitor size means you'll be straining your eyes less. Going up from 1024x768 to 1280x1024 might not sound like much, but it's giving you two thirds more pixels. That's a lot of real estate...
Of course, size does have its disadvantages as well. The monitor is about half a meter along each side, meaning you need a big strong desk to fit it on. It's also bloody heavy! Lugging 20Kg of monitor up a staircase only a couple of inches wider than the box wasn't much fun. This isn't the kind of monitor that you can easily pack into the back of your car and take to a LAN party every month, unless you have a lot of big hard mates to help move it...
Why the Belinea?
One word - price.
At around the £300 mark from most mail order companies and online stores, the Belinea 10 60 20 is £50 to £100 cheaper than most other 19" monitors. I got mine from for just over £250, and that's including VAT and shipping.
So if it's so much cheaper than other 19" monitors, surely there's something wrong with it? Well, not really, no. The Belinea can handle desktop sizes from 640x480 to 1600x1200, just like any other 19" monitor, and has a perfectly adequate 0.26mm dot pitch and 150Mhz bandwidth.
Even at 1600x1200 the picture is sharp with virtually no visible flickering, although at that high a resolution reading small text can be a bit of an eye strainer. But then, that's no different to any other 19" monitor - you have to go up to a 21" to really make the most of a 1600x1200 desktop, and 21" monitors cost twice as much.
Game-wise 1600x1200 works a treat as long as your graphics card can take the strain, and if you have a good one like a Matrox G400 or a Riva TNT2, that shouldn't be a problem.
Everything Is Under Control
The monitor is controlled by a system that isn't immediately intuitive, but does make a certain amount of sense once you've read the manual.
The two grey arrows on either side of the central button don't actually do anything - they're just there to look pretty. Instead you press the "Menu/Exit" button to bring up the menu and then use a wheel underneath it to scroll through the options. The wheel is a bit dodgy - occasionally you turn it one notch and it moves the menu selection two notches. But generally it works well.
Hit enter to select an option, then use the wheel again to adjust its settings. Hit enter again when you're finished and the setting will be saved. Hitting the "Menu/Exit" button again will close the menu - a big improvement on my old 15" monitor where you had to wait several seconds for the menu to close itself...
All the usual functions are here - brightness and contrast, horizontal and vertical size and position, various options to slant and squash your display, tilt (though sadly it only tilts a few degrees each way, so you can't panic people by turning their display on its side), and degaussing.
There's also a "Moire" function to correct distorted images, and an option to restore all the settings to the factory defaults if you do something silly. You can control the "color temperature", switch power saving on and off, check the horizontal and vertical frequencies of your current resolution, and even adjust where on the screen the control menu appears. Which is nice.
A rather more useful feature is that each screen resolution has its own individual settings. So if you have your desktop set to 1280x1024 and play games at 1024x768 for example, you can have different settings for each, and the monitor will automatically switch settings when it switches resolutions.
This can be annoying at first, as you have to adjust every resolution seperately the first time you use it, and if your monitor is anything like mine all the default vertical size settings will be slightly off. But once you've got every resolution set up to your satisfaction you shouldn't need to adjust anything again, however often you switch resolutions, so in the long run it's actually quite handy.
The Belinea 10 60 20 seems fairly rugged. I haven't tried dropping it out of my window, mostly because I'm worried that I'd damage the pavement outside, but it looks solid enough and survived my manhandling it up the stairs to my study.
Energy-wise the monitor swallows up to 150W during use. That's 50% more than my old 15" monitor, and a lot of that seems to come out of the holes in the top as hot air. Leave it running for a few hours and you can use it to cook your dinner...
The monitor also comes with an impressive looking manual. Impressive until you open it up and realise that it's actually the same half dozen pages translated into every language except Urdu - 15 of them in all. Still, it tells you just about everything you'll need to know to use the monitor, and if you speak Magyar you'll no doubt appreciate having the manual in your native language...
If you're a hardcore gamer looking to make the most out of your graphics card, or if you use your computer for more serious work and need a high resolution desktop, you really need a large monitor.
Even at £300 the Belinea 10 60 20 is cheaper than many 17" monitors, and if you can find it for £250 like I did then it's a real bargain. Unless you have the money to spend on a 21" monitor (which cost anything from about £600 on up), the Belinea 10 60 20 is an ideal choice for both gaming and "serious" work - dirt cheap, but solidly built and fully featured.