The Sharp LL-173C-B's black bezel and stand, simplistic design, and low price destine it for mass use in large corporate offices. Let's hope those companies also provide risers and adjustable chairs; the LL-173C-B offers next to nothing in the way of adjustability. Home users will appreciate the LL-173C-B's unobtrusive looks and low price of $279, too, but for similar money, the Envision EN7220 gives you better image quality, lots of adjustability, and strange accessories.
The analog-only Sharp LL-173C-B comes within an office-ready soot-black, matte plastic finish. The design is pedestrian: a thin, three-quarter-inch beveled bezel on three sides widens to 1.75 inches at the bottom. An anvil-shaped base supports the panel and adds the slightest bit of flair to the design, but it wobbles slightly with a firm touch to the top of the monitor. By contrast, the X-shaped base on the Sharp LL-172G-B is much more eye-catching and less prone to wobble.
The LL-173C-B's stand is only three inches tall and cannot be raised unless you put a riser (or a spare ream of paper) underneath it. This is very short compared to other 17-inch LCDs we've seen; such as the Envision EN7220, for example, which starts at 3.5 inches above the desktop, and its telescoping neck gives you an additional 4 inches. The LL-173C-B's flexibility is limited to tilting the screen 20 degrees forward or 5 degrees back. You have to swivel it manually, but it slides easily on a smooth work surface. Plus, the monitor is light: less than 10 pounds.
Setting up and using the Sharp LL-173C-B is quite simple. It comes with a shiny setup poster, a five-page start guide, and a PC-only utility disk. You can use the LL-173C-B with a Mac, but you'll need an adapter for it, and you won't be able to use the electronic start guide or other utilities on the CD.
Sharp provides power and analog-signal cables, so all you have to do is connect them and you're on your way; you don't even have to remove a back cover to get at the connectors. Once the cords are connected, you can make adjustments by using the onscreen menu (OSM), or you can automatically optimize the image by launching the test pattern from the utility CD and pressing the Auto button on the control panel.
The Auto button is the first of six raised, narrow buttons hidden under the bottom edge of the bezel. The others are Menu, Mode, two directional arrows that scroll through the menus and control brightness, and lastly, a power button. The menu selections are short and to the point and easy to move through. You can adjust the basic settings, such as brightness and contrast, as well as more advanced settings such as black level, white balance, and gamma.
You can also choose from four color presets: Cool, Standard, Warm, and User Defined; and four modes: Office, Standard, sRGB, and Vivid. The dim Office mode is actually a low-power setting. Standard mode has an eye-easy bluish look, sRGB is bright and yellowish, and Vivid is a hot white that amps up colors.