The Sharp LL-172G's design blends stability, mobility, and functionality. Its sturdy base consists of an X-shaped foot with two elongated toes that jut forward and two shorter ones that angle back. A telescoping neck rises from the center of the X-shaped base and attaches to a support panel behind the screen. You can raise or lower the panel almost 3 inches, as well as anchor it in place at any point along its range by pressing down on a tab-style locking device. The LL-172G's screen is backed in white plastic, and its bezel, which comes in either black or white, is 5/8 inch wide on three sides and 7/8 inch at the bottom. The screen tilts forward 25 degrees and back 5 degrees, and swivels smoothly, though stiffly, 45 degrees to either side.
The LL-172G's two single-watt speakers are craftily hidden in the underside of the control panel, which is a thin shelf of silver plastic that comes up from underneath the display panel like the bottom edge of an easel. Because the speakers are small and point straight down, they're quiet and sound slightly tinny. The front face of the control panel houses a headphone jack, labels for the control panel, and a power button. The control buttons are tucked away on the underside of the control panel, between the speakers. The buttons have a finger-friendly, raised bar-and-trough design that makes finding and using them by touch alone quite easy. The LL-172G's buttons control signal input choice, the onscreen menu, four preset viewing modes, and speaker volume. The input button has three settings: one for analog, one for digital, and a third that you can use in conjunction with a $39 cable splitter from Sharp if you want to connect the LL-172G to up to three PCs. With the mode button you can quickly change the screen from standard viewing to vivid color, to a low brightness office mode, or to the sRGB color standard, useful for quickly adjusting the display to changes in the room's lighting. The speaker volume buttons double as menu-scrolling buttons, which can be confusing.
The LL-172G has both analog and DVI-D ports, and it comes with cables for both, plus one for audio. The LL-172G's flimsy cable-management system consists of two rubbery clamps that remind us of bread-bag sealers--one on the neck and one at the base--that corral the cables.
The LL-172G's good looks didn't help it excel in our Labs' tests. The LL-172G's performance on CNET Labs' DisplayMate-based tests indicate that there is room for improvement under the hood. People who will use the LL-172G mostly for text-based work will have the least to complain about. At its native resolution of 1,280x1,024, the LL-172G's text was a bit fuzzy but legible in a 6.8-point font size, and the text became clearer and easier to read in larger font sizes, such as 10 and 12 point. Like many LCDs, the LL-172G had trouble uniformly gradating a full grayscale range from completely black to bright white, and we noticed color tinting in what should have been a color-free scale. Also, the screen wasn't uniform: the top was darker than the bottom half. On our DVD and gaming tests, the LL-172G gave a mediocre performance. We noticed ghostly after-images, swimming pixels, and loss of detail in dark areas; flesh tones, in particular, looked fake.
The Sharp LL-172G comes with a CD-ROM containing a PC-only control pattern for adjusting the 172G's screen when the display is connected in analog mode. There is no user guide on the CD, but you get an informative printed operation manual. The LL-172G is covered by a three-year warranty on parts, labor, and the backlight. Toll-free phone technical support is available 24/7 from Sharp for the life of the product. At Sharp's Web site, you can look at the LL-172G's operating manual and read general information about LCDs.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)