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So . . . how is it?
You're probably ready for me to tell you about the rainbows of ecstasy shooting into my eye sockets, and I can testify, when I first turned on the display, that's pretty much what happened. The visual impact upon firing up this baby is formidable. The pixel pitch is smaller than almost any other desktop display I own, and the glossy anti-glare coating on the screen doesn't diffuse light like the coating on most older monitors. The result is awesome crispness and definition. The colors really pop, too, with none of the fakey over-saturation and lack of subtlety you'll find on most TN panels. My eyes immediatelly began soaking up the fluid, crystalline eye candy and transmitting its sweetness to my brain. If you don't want to be tempted to buy one of these things, do not look at one in the face. And especially do not browse through a series of beautiful 2560x1440 images at InterfaceLift. If you do, you're doomed.

Since my neurosis requires me to pick apart anything good and find its flaws immediately, my very next task was to fire up the LCD tester tool here and to use the all-white and all-black image tools to check for dead or stuck pixels. After all, getting a panel full of dead pixels is one of the great risks of ordering an LCD monitor from the other side of the world. Returning it would be a huge, expensive pain in the rear. Plus, the scuttlebutt is that these panels are secondary stock, the ones rejected by Apple and such due to imperfections. True or not, I dunno. The eBay listing for my monitor outlined the apparent Korean-market standards for dead pixels, and they sound fairly solid: if there's more than one bad pixel in the center region of the screen or more than five elsewhere, and the display won't pass muster. Still, one never knows.

Now, I don't want to overstate the risk here. A few dead pixels in an array of 3.7 million of 'em isn't really that big of a deal. Plus, as far as I'm concerned, every pixel on a TN panel is a bad pixel. A slightly gimpy IPS display is still a vast improvement over what most folks use every day. We must keep these things in perspective.

With that said, I'm very happy to report that this monitor has, believe it or not, zero dead pixels. As far as I can tell, there's not a single dead or stuck sub-pixel on the entire panel.

Of course, that happy news didn't divert me from searching for a deal-killer problem. Heck, I came prepared. You see, shortly after I mentioned on Twitter that I'd ordered one of these monitors, my friend Jeff Atwood of StackOverflow and SuperUser fame decided to order three of them on my "recommendation." Vaguely terrified, I tried to explain that my review was still forthcoming, but he wasn't dissuaded. Then, two of his monitors arrived before mine, and he reported something jarring: the buttons on the front of the display, presumably intended to adjust the picture, appeared to do nothing.

Whoops.

The complete lack of brightness control, combined with a standard-issue too-high default brightness made this problem a total show-stopper for him. By the time my monitor shipment arrived, all I could hope for was that somehow, both of his were broken but mine wouldn't be.

No such luck. Once I had the display connected, I immediately attempted to adjust the picture with the control buttons. Although the power light flashed when I held down a button, nothing else appeared to happen. The listing had promised an "easy & convenient OSD," but no on-screen display was evident at any point—not when I pushed the buttons, not when I powered on the display, not even when there was no DVI signal attached. And yes, the default brightness seared my retinas, locking in their flavorful juices. The ecstasy rainbows were on overdrive, too powerful for my biological systems to withstand over time.


Worse, I couldn't decipher the markings on the apparently faulty buttons to discern what they were originally intended to do. The labels are entirely in Korean, as is the product manual.

I futzed around with using the video card control panel to tweak the display brightness, but that's a patchwork solution at best, since the panel is simply dampening the output of a too-bright backlight. You're sacrificing the display's dynamic range by modifying the brightness in software, and in my experience, you can only drop the brightness by about 10% before quality is obviously sacrificed.

In a last-ditch effort to redeem the situation, I contacted the eBay seller to see what he had to say for himself:

I received the 27" LCD monitor in good condition, except the control buttons on the front panel don't work and the on-screen display doesn't appear. Is there a way to adjust the brightness and contrast on this monitor? How can the user access the OSD?

His reply was enlightening.

thanks for the message... you are worrying about the control button of the monitor(OSD)..
the front side, there is the button of the brightness, volume, and on/off button..
the second and third buttons are about the brightness
and the fourth and fiveth are about the volume,

there is not the other function of the osd..it is automately ajust itself..
not only this monitor but also all of 2560 X 1440 monitor doing like this
and if you have anymore troblue please contact me!!!
have a nice day!!!!

Now I had a map to the supposed button functions, which was an important start. Also, his message revealed that he equated the monitor's control buttons with the OSD. This dude clearly had no idea that the acronym "OSD" stands for "on-screen display."

What's more, there's evidently no need for an OSD with menus to navigate, since the only available adjustments are brightness and volume. I don't consider that a big problem since my Dell 3007WFP-HC also lacks an OSD and tuning controls, and it has been exemplary in everyday use for years. The color tweaks in video card control panels can handle the rest of the adjustments one might need.

There was still the small matter that pressing the buttons on the front of the display didn't, you know, appear to change anything.

But I was on the trail of this mystery. My next step was to connect an audio source to the back of the monitor and see whether the volume controls would work. I fired up some music and twiddled with volume buttons, and at first, nothing seemed to be happening. However, once I held the volume-down button long enough, the speaker volume seemed to decrease. Excited, I mashed the volume-up button and held it, and the sound level rose. Control at last! I fairly quickly realized that the flashing power LED above the buttons was an indicator: the faster or slower it flashed, the higher or lower the volume. At the end of the range, the light glowed solid blue.

Armed with a sense of how the buttons worked, I was soon adjusting the display brightness up and down, as well. I was able to dim the display to an acceptable level for the cave-like Damage Labs, and it wasn't even at the lowest possible setting.

I contacted the seller with my thanks and suggested he remove the term "OSD" from his future listings for this monitor. He seemed to understand and thanked me, and I gave him a nice rating on eBay, in spite of the snafu in the listing. With that issue settled, I was free to use the monitor without worrying about show-stopping problems. Or was I?