Category Archives: Hardware

Asus P5E3 Motherboard With Built-in Linux

Just saw on CNET TV that Asus has a motherboard, the Asus P5E3 Deluxe, that contains a Linux operating system with Firefox (Web browsing) and Skype (Internet phone calls) in a flash chip right on the motherboard itself. No need to wait for a full system boot up from the hard drive to check your web mail or call a friend. The feature is called Express Gate and means that within five seconds from powering the system on, you can be in Firefox. How cool is that?

Since Express Gate boots from flash, it’s not only fast, but it’s pretty safe as well as a Web workstation. The system’s main hard drive is not accessible during express mode so it won’t get infected should someone bother to create a Linux/Firefox virus or Trojan. Another benefit is that shutting down is also fast since the operating system doesn’t have to do a lot of cleaning up.

The downside is the price. It’s only available in this high-end version of Asus motherboard. Hopefully, more motherboard manufacturers will be doing this and with more models in the very near future.

Dell Ultrasharp 2407WFP-HC Spot Followup

In my August post, Strange Spot on Dell UltraSharp 2407WFP-HC LCD Monitor, I wrote about a spot of dirt or some kind of contaminant in my monitor’s LCD panel. After receiving a lot of visits from people searching about this topic, I figured I’d ask Dell about it and report back here on my blog. Here’s what Chris M at Dell replied:

“Your seriously considering exchanging a monitor over this minor issue? Your call. Any exchange done outside of the initial 30 days from the invoice date will be for a refurbished monitor.”

Seems he was a bit appalled at my question. Nevertheless, it’s good to know that it is possible to return the monitor if you have a similar spot and don’t like it. Note that he also states that you should do so within 30 days of purchase in order to exchange yours for a new monitor, not a refurbished one.

I’m not returning mine because of the fear that what I get in exchange might have dead pixels. The risk is probably low but Dell’s policy is to not replace a monitor with seven or fewer dead pixels. That’s a lot of potentially dead pixels to stare at.

Since my spot in near the bottom corner of my monitor, I can live with it. Dead pixels would be more annoying–to me, anyway.

Strange Spot on Dell UltraSharp 2407WFP-HC LCD Monitor

My Dell UltraSharp 2407WFP-HC widescreen LCD monitor arrived the other day. Dell currently has it on sale for $569 (regularly $669). That’s a pretty good price considering that this monitor has picture-in-picture (PIP), picture-by-picture (PBP), portrait and landscape orientations, a four-port USB hub, five-format memory card reader, wide-gamut LCD panel and inputs for VGA, DVI, component, S-video and composite video.

The Samsung SyncMaster 245BW, by comparison, is only $100 less but has none of these extra features and only offers VGA and DVI inputs. However, the Samsung included both VGA and DVI cables, whereas Dell only included a VGA cable with their more expensive monitor. Weird.

Anyway, when I got the monitor set up, I checked it out for dead pixels and/or stuck pixels. Near the lower-right corner of the screen, I noticed a dark spot. Upon taking a closer look, it appeared to be larger than a single pixel and gray in color, not black (stuck off), white (stuck on), or any particular color (sub-pixel stuck). Just to be sure, I ran Dead Pixel Buddy to check what kind of dead pixel it might be. Well, it still didn’t seem like a stuck pixel because with any background color I tried, the spot was just a darker shade of it.

One more close-up look at the spot yielded an unusual feeling that the spot wasn’t in the same plane as the LCD pixels. My eyes felt as though they were shifting focus to see the spot. Then, I noticed that if I moved my head to the side, the spot would move relative to the image being displayed. You can see this behavior in the two photos below taken at different angles relative to the front of the screen.

In this first photo, you can see a gray dot above the red arrow and inside the on-screen button. This is taken at about a 45-degree angle to the left of perpendicular. (Note: In real life, the spot is sharper and more apparent than in the photo.)

In this next photo, the camera is about five degrees to the right of perpendicular. Notice how the spot has now moved to the right and appears to be on the right of the on-screen button.

So, what is this mysterious spot? The good news is that it isn’t a dead pixel or cluster of dead pixels. All I can figure at this point is that it’s a speck of dirt or some other contaminant that got caught inside the panel during manufacturing.

A couple of years ago, Moazam blogged that his Dell 2005FPW was collecting dust inside and that he rapped on the side of the screen with his knuckles to dislodge it. I tried that but to no avail. Oh, well. At least it’s near the bottom corner of the screen where it’s not too distracting. If the backlight burns out before I upgrade, I may try removing the spot when installing a new backlight.

The Ultimate LCD Monitor Thread

As a follow up to my mini-review of the Samsung SyncMaster 245BW, I’d like to point out a very good thread I found on Anandtech’s forum called, what else, “The LCD Thread“. It goes into great detail on everything you’d possibly want to know about LCD monitors. It also has a list of some of the best monitors for specific uses such as office work, hardcore gaming, web design, etc.

The SyncMaster 245BW isn’t in the list but a smaller version, the 20-inch SyncMaster 205BW, is. Not sure if the 245BW and 205BW use the same type of LCD panel or if the 245BW uses the brighter S-PVA panel like the one in the Dell UltraSharp 2407WFP-HC (also made by Samsung). If anyone knows, post a reply here.

Samsung SyncMaster 245BW 24-inch Widescreen Flat Panel LCD Monitor Review

The Samsung SyncMaster 245BW is a 24-inch widescreen flat panel LCD monitor with a maximum resolution of 1920 by 1200. It sports a bright, anti-glare screen and a thin, high-gloss black bezel with five round control buttons along the bottom right followed by a power button. It looks clean, sleek and stylish. The stand is adjustable for height, swivel and tilt, but does not rotate for portrait-orientation viewing.

The back of the monitor has a basic set of connections for analog VGA and DVI (with HDCP support) input so it’s geared primarily for computer use (there are no S-video, component video or HDMI inputs). There’s also a power output jack for an optional integrated external speaker set that can be added to the monitor since it doesn’t have any built in. The last connector is the socket for the main power cable. Finally, there’s a mechanical power switch to physically turn off the monitor.

Speaking of power, according to the manufacturer the SyncMaster 245BW draws 100 watts while turned on and less than 2 watts when turned off via the front power switch. This 2-watt power draw enables the monitor to turn on when you press the snazzy power button on the front bezel. If you’re thinking green, you can avoid continuously wasting this power by simply turning it off using the physical power switch on the back of the monitor.

The screen is rated to have a 3000:1 dynamic contrast ratio and 5-millisecond (gray-to-gray) response time, which makes it a very good choice for gaming. Some people prefer a shiny finish on LCD screens, supposedly for a sharper image. However, I don’t see the point of having slightly better sharpness if you end up seeing yourself and a lot of glare instead. The SyncMaster’s screen is sharp, bright and glare-free that looks as good in a sunlit room as it does in the dark.

I only had two minor issues with the display. First, unlike other LCD monitors that simply dim when viewed off center, this one has a yellow tint in addition to dimming the further from center that you view it. Unless you normally view the screen off center or from less than 16 inches away, it won’t be an issue.

The second minor issue occurs when using the analog VGA input. The automatic screen adjustment circuitry doesn’t do a very good job of scaling the horizontal image for best clarity. As a result, with the default settings, I experienced alternating vertical bands of fuzziness and sharpness despite setting the video output to the monitor’s native resolution of 1920 by 1200. However, the image can be manually corrected by adjusting the Coarse and Fine settings in the Image options of the monitor’s control menu (the icon looks like two overlapped rectangles). To fix this anomaly, first adjust Coarse until the fuzziness is minimized as much as possible. Then, adjust Fine until the remaining fuzziness is eliminated. This adjustment seems to only need to be done once since I was able to connect two different laptop’s VGA outputs without having to make any further tweaks.

I purchased the Samsung SyncMaster 245BW at Costco for US $479.99 and, at the time, Samsung was also offering a $20 mail-in rebate. What a deal! For a short while, Dell.com also had it for $479 but at the time of this post, it went back to $599. Although light on features and input options, if you plan to use it strictly with a desktop or laptop computer, this monitor has a beautiful display and provides good bang for the buck. Other 24-inch monitors may offer more features but they usually cost $200 or more than the SyncMaster 245BW.

Additional information about the Samsung SyncMaster 245BW is available at the Samsung web site.