When we reviewed 30-inch desktop LCD monitors from Dell, HP, and Samsung back in May 2007, we were left saddened by the large-screen state of affairs. These monstrous widescreens offering unparalleled 2560x1600 resolution seemed like the perfect fit for power users—if not for their inherent limitations. Unlike high-performance desktop LCDs of lesser size, these 30-inch panels lack an internal scaler (and Apple’s 30-inch Cinema Display is no different). The problem is that conventional monitor-scaling technology isn’t powerful enough to drive these screens’ 2560x1600 pixels.
As a consequence, the 30-inch panels are all restricted to a Dual Link DVI interface; they offer no onscreen display options, such as contrast, color, or even color temp adjustments; and if your videocard doesn’t carry high-def copy protection (HDCP) over a Dual Link signal (and most don’t), you’re forced to watch copy-protected high-def content at 1280x800 resolution (half the screens’ native res).
Back in May, we predicted the situation would be remedied in time—we just didn’t expect it to happen so soon, and certainly not by the likes of Gateway. But perhaps it’s precisely because Gateway has fewer resources, and thus a smaller development team and less bureaucracy, that the company was able to see a solution outside the box. That solution is the Silicon Optix HQV Teranex Realta video processing chipset. Capable of performing a trillion operations per second, this video processor has previously been found only in broadcast-industry equipment and high-end home-theater gear, but its pixel-by-pixel algorithmic scaling now serves to make Gateway’s XHD3000 the most flexible 30-inch desktop LCD going.
For starters, the XHD3000 features an array of interface options (see spec box), so you can not only connect to the monitor with a variety of different cables but also have multiple devices hooked up to the screen at once. Then you can switch among, say, your gaming console, laptop, DVD player, cable box, and PC (with each source set at a different resolution) using the onscreen display menu—accessible via touch-sensitive buttons on the monitor’s bezel—or the included remote control. Picture-in-picture functionality gives you access to two content sources simultaneously.
The scaler also makes it possible for you to adjust the screen’s brightness, contrast, and color, regardless of interface. Bundled EZTune software offers similar options, with the aid of step-by-step adjustment and calibration instructions, plus some additional PiP preferences, including the option to make a PiP window invisible when you roll over it with your mouse.
The XHD3000 is unique in yet another respect: It offers decent built-in audio. We’re usually loathe to even mention the presence of a monitor speaker because we don’t want to encourage any reliance on tinny, underpowered audio, but the eight transducers that span the XHD3000’s front-mounted speaker bar are capable of producing fairly rich sound at high volume. It doesn’t deliver the same bass response as a good stand-alone set of speaks, but it’s a worthwhile option if you want to save space on your desktop.
Of course, the meat and potatoes of any display is screen performance, and here, too, Gateway’s on it. The XHD3000’s black looks inky, and a completely dark screen reveals only slight signs of backlight at the corners; grayscale reproduction is strong, showing clear distinction of shades at the extreme light and dark ends; and the picture holds up off-axis.
The screen is capable of playing HDCP-encumbered content at its intended res and the results are impressive. Gaming is also a pleasure on the big widescreen. A powerful PC will let you play at the screen’s native res, but there’s no harm in scaling the res down for a faster frame rate. Either way, the screen’s pixel response keeps apace with the action.
You’d think that with all the extras it offers, the XHD3000 would be more expensive than the competition. In fact, at $1,700 it’s priced lower than 30-inch models from Samsung, HP, and Apple and is only slightly more expensive than Dell’s 30-inch. If you’re after maximum screen real estate and ultimate usability, the XHD3000 is well worth its asking price.
Nice, big picture; inputs aplenty; highly versatile.
Big investment; big power brick; gaming can be slow at native res.
Single and Dual Link DVI, HDMI, Component, Composite, S-Video, VGA, USB 2.0 (six ports), audio inputs for all video inputs