The $700 HP f2105 will look good with any media center, whether it's in your living room, den, or study--especially if your PC's design runs toward the chrome or brushed-steel look. With a 21-inch-wide screen and built-in speakers, the f2105 is ideal for entertainment, and its excellent image quality and copious screen space make it a good bet for business and graphics applications as well. Though it lacks a built-in TV tuner and composite and S-Video ports, it otherwise charts a middle course between business and pleasure with its combination of high image quality, adjustability, and good looks.
The eye-catching HP f2105's wide-screen design makes it look more like a TV than a monitor. The panel and bezel together are 13.5 inches tall and 23 inches wide, with an 11-by-18-inch viewable area. The silver bezel itself runs an inch wide on the top and an inch and a half long on the bottom; the speakers take up 2.5 inches on either side. The two USB outputs are located on the left side of the display and can be used for connecting peripherals such as a camera, a printer, or an MP3 player. Two open loops on either side of the neck gather in the audio, signal, and power cables. The f2105 isn't very adjustable: it tilts forward 5 degrees and back 35 degrees and can be folded flat for shipping or storing; it doesn't pivot or swivel from side to side. A double-hinged neck makes adjusting the monitor up and down very easy; you can literally move it with one finger. The f2105 wobbles just slightly when it's adjusted or moved, but thanks to a big C-shaped stand, it won't tip over.
Ports include analog (VGA), digital (DVI), and three USB 2.0 (one upstream and two downstream) along the back of the monitor, partially covered by the removable black-plastic cover. The audio inputs connect your computer's sound card to the built-in 5-watt (per channel) speakers; the audio outputs let you connect to additional speakers or a subwoofer. The stock speakers sound relatively good and powerful, but won't rattle windows. HP earns points for including cables for all of the connections.
The menu navigation buttons set into the bottom bezel are clearly labeled and easy to use. Two control the speaker volume; the others open the onscreen menu, let you browse and make selections, and launch the autoadjust feature (on a VGA signal only).
The HP f2105 turned in a stellar performance on CNET Labs' DisplayMate-based tests, outscoring even top-notch LCDs such as the Eizo FlexScan L997 and the LaCie 321. Tested at its native resolution of 1,680x1,050, the f2105 performed especially well in some notoriously difficult areas: displaying grayscale and color gradients. The f2105 created smooth, gradual progressions of gray tones from dark black to bright white and back again without compression--the tendency to crowd sections of a gradient into one or both ends of the scale. The f2105's grayscale gradients were also free of red, green, or blue color tints--another common pitfall for flat-panel displays. Color gradations were also much smoother than the norm; the f2105 displayed changes in hue cleanly, without bright or dull spots. Text was reasonably sharp and easy to read but not exceptional. The f2105 showed no signs of streaking or ghosting during our gaming tests, and DVD playback showed some slight irregularities, but no more than on other LCDs.
HP offers a skimpy one-year limited parts-and-labor warranty; unfortunately, it does not sell an extended warranty for the f2105. Most other LCDs come with a three-year warranty and three years of tech support. HP's Web site offers customer support in the form of FAQs, problem-solving and installation tips, and driver and manual downloads.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)