Sony CPD-E540

Great image quality at an attractive price highlight this no-frills 21-inch monitor

WHAT'S HOT: At $520, the Sony CPD-E540 shares with the NEC AccuSync 125f the title of least-expensive 21-inch monitor on our current chart. It also earned high scores in our tests of both text and graphics, with screens that were easy on the eye in both word processing and Web browsing applications (though they were not quite as sharp as those of the Compaq P1220). There are only three buttons on the CPD-E540's bezel: a power switch, a menu button, and the multidirectional control button. This gives the monitor a clean look and makes navigation of the on-screen menu relatively easy, but navigating the menu on this model can still be a little more awkward than doing so on other monitors.

WHAT'S NOT: You don't get any extras such as USB ports, dual inputs, or software; all you get is the monitor, with a built-in VGA cable, an adequate manual, and a power lead. Although the monitor has all of the controls that you would typically need, some of the higher-end controls (such as focus) that can help you get the most out of a monitor are absent.

WHAT ELSE: In common with all monitors that use aperture grille picture tubes, this model has two faint horizontal grey lines that are visible on bright screens: These lines don't bother most users, but some find them distracting. The maximum resolution of 1920 by 1440 is slightly lower than that of many competing models but is enough for most business applications.

UPSHOT: The low price and fine performance of the no-frills Sony CPD-E540 make it eminently suitable for general use in an office or home office.

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