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How big is big? A question asked in many instances. Not so long ago, a CRT was considered big if it was 17 inches; a television was considered huge at 27 inches. Now, thanks to LCD and plasma technology, the word big has become somewhat vague when someone talks about displays. NEC is redefining the word big as 30 inches—at least for a PC monitor and for a world where a 22-inch LCD was once considered big.

NEC’s LCD3090WQXi-BK has a big model number to go with its big 30-inch widescreen size, but be warned, a big size comes with a big price—in this case $2,200 (street). Users should carefully consider what they are getting for that price tag. After all, you could set up a pair of 22-inch LCDs for about half that price and have 44 inches of display space available to gaze upon. That may not be a fair comparison when you consider resolutions, display ratios and many other factors that a dual monitor setup changes when compared with a single large screen, but perhaps that is a debate best left for power users working with graphics, videos and images on their displays.

There is more to NEC’s display than just size. Weighing in at a whopping 40 pounds, the LCD3090WQXi-BK offers a contrast ratio of 1000:1, a 6-millisecond response time, resolution of 2560 by 1600, and an 89-degree viewing angle. The unit includes both DVI-D (HDCP) and DVI-I (digital/analog) connectors and a USB connector, but it has no integrated speakers. Are speakers important? That depends. If you are going to use this beast for presentations or digital signage, speakers are a welcome addition, but if you are looking to edit video, play games or perform some other tasks, you are better off with separate, high-quality speakers. Once again, how you use this big monitor is in the eye (or ear) of the beholder.

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We put the monitor to the test using DisplayMate, a PC display testing tool, which displays various high-resolution complex images. We also plugged the monitor into a Kill A Watt Pro electricity meter. During operation, the monitor pulled about 140 watts of power—a lot less than a big CRT but significantly more than the typical 17-inch LCD. That big power drain was not unreasonable considering how bright the display was; a pair of 22-inch LCDs would come close to using that amount of energy and be nowhere near as bright or have as much contrast as the NEC unit.

DisplayMate showed the monitor to be crisp, with no distortion. Using the DisplayMate tuning utility, we were able to set the unit to show realistic colors, which well represented the actual color of real objects. The monitor arrived at the labs with no documentation or software, so it was impossible to judge how well NEC’s own setup utilities and software would work. DisplayMate also showed how well the monitor’s ultrahigh resolution of 2560 by 1600 displayed complex, highly detailed images. Artistic and technical images were almost breathtaking in their beauty and detail.

NEC sells the LCD3090WQXi-BK direct from its Web site, through mail order retail and via the channel. The company did not provide any information about its channel program, but a quick visit to the company’s Web site shows that there is a partner area that offers what the typical hardware reseller looks for from a vendor.