30-inch monitor will make you take a second look

Most 30-inch wide-screen monitors are finicky, inflexible beasts with few benefits beyond their high resolution and billboard-like size. Gateway’s XHD3000 30-inch Extreme HD LCD bucks the trend, delivering excellent image quality along with lots of screen adjustments and graphics-card compatibility that other 30-inchers lack. At US$1700, it’s a few hundred dollars more than the competition, though.

Most of our judges preferred the Gateway’s image over that of the Dell UltraSharp 3007WFP and the Samsung SyncMaster 305T, which we’ve tested in the past but reacquired to compare the Gateway against. The Gateway’s overall text-quality score matched that of the SyncMaster 305T, and its graphics-quality score narrowly edged out the SyncMaster’s. Judges particularly lauded the XHD3000’s rendering of our real-life office and photo screens. If we had any complaint about the unit, it would be that the brightness was a little overpowering.

The XHD3000’s uncluttered design hides a bevy of adjustments. While other 30-inchers let you alter only the brightness, the Gateway offers a full compliment of controls, among them gamma, black level, and saturation. The included EzTune software makes changing the basics simple, but for the more unusual controls, you need to access the elegantly hidden on-screen display. When you press the menu button, menu items appear on screen, and flat, touch-sensitive buttons light up under the glossy black bezel. These blue-lit buttons–which remain invisible until you summon them–change with each of the many menus; only the ones that are needed appear.

Like other 30-inch displays, the XHD3000 serves up a native resolution of 2560 by 1600 pixels if you connect to a PC with a dual-link DVI connection (in other words, two internal, discrete graphics cards). However, unlike others, it also supports single-link DVI and even VGA connections (albeit at a smaller resolution of 1920 by 1280). This flexibility allows you to connect the monitor to less-capable computer. We conducted our tests using dual-link DVI connections for all the sets.

Thanks to the XHD3000’s HDCP support, you can watch your content-protected video on a suitably equipped Windows Vista machine. The XHD3000’s friendliness doesn’t stop at PCs: With component, composite, HDMI, and S-Video ports, it welcomes input from many different types of external devices as well.

I found high-definition scenes from The Phantom of the Opera (played on a high-end HD DVD player connected to the XHD3000) crisp and detailed, with realistic color. The HD picture-in-picture function let me view the movie in a small window while working in Windows applications elsewhere on the big screen–and even better, it allowed me to swap between the two with ease.

The sound from the included speaker bar won’t rattle your windows, but it will suffice for everyday use. A headphone jack on each side of the bar permits two people to watch a training video, for example, without disturbing the rest of the office. For better-quality sound, you could take advantage of the coaxial-digital and optical outputs to connect the display to external audio equipment.

With solid image quality and features unprecedented in a 30-inch wide-screen monitor, the Gateway XHD3000 will make anybody–especially the competition–sit up and take notice.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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