Upon closer inspection
Did I mention the MiTac display has an IPS panel? I guess that's not entirely surprising, since we're now seeing stand-alone IPS monitors retailing for under $150 at Newegg. Still, it's a nice change from the plague of mediocre TN monitors that has gripped the PC industry for years.
We didn't have time to run a full battery of display tests. However, we did take a few minutes to check viewing angles, since that's supposed to be one of the chief advantages of IPS panel technology. Ideally, colors shouldn't shift or change when the display is seen off-center—or at least, the shifting should be minimal.
The photos above show the display sitting vertically at 90° and leaning back and forward as far as it goes (80° and 105°, respectively). Also, one of the shots shows the system rotated 30° to the side.
The image seemed to lose a little bit of contrast when viewed from the side, but colors didn't change dramatically. Even when looking at the screen from much further off to the side, I didn't notice any color shift. Vertical viewing angles, however, were another story. There was a fair bit of contrast shift at 105°, and it got even worse when I looked down at the display from a standing position. Colors went negative, and the on-screen image was a mess.
Are these viewing angles better than those of a cheap TN panel? Absolutely. Are they on par with those of a pricier, stand-alone IPS monitor? No way. The poor vertical viewing angles wouldn't pose as much of a problem if the panel could recline farther back, but as it is, the MiTac M780T isn't very pleasant to use while standing up—unless, of course, you can find a tall enough surface to put it on. Now that I think about it, this thing could work as a kitchen PC. Hmm.
Other than that, this is a pretty solid display. It's nice and bright at the maximum setting, and colors are vivid but not overblown. The default white balance seems to be a tad on the blue side, but it feels close enough to the 6500K sweet spot to be comfortable. I did notice some minor pixel-walk in the Lagom display test, but both of my own HP IPS monitors (a ZR24w and an LP2475w) suffer from the same problem, so it's hard to fault MiTac for that one.
However, there was a red stuck pixel in the lower third of the screen, near the center. I think that may have been the first stuck pixel I've ever seen on an IPS panel. At least it was easy enough to ignore considering the size of the screen. The fact that the touch-friendly glass attracted smudges and dirt like a magnet helped to mask the stuck pixel, too.
But enough about the screen. There's a whole world of hardware sitting right behind it.
The right edge of the system plays host to the DVD burner (a slim, tray-loading model), card reader, front-panel USB ports, and display brightness control. The power button is at the very bottom, parallel to the display, next to the power and storage activity LEDs.
I actually had trouble locating the power button at first, since there's no hint of its presence on the front of the machine. A manual would have helped, but Intel didn't include one in the box. Oh well; I figured it out eventually.
The left edge is where the motherboard's I/O cluster lies. Here, Gigabyte's GA-H77TN motherboard serves up stereo and microphone audio jacks, a set of four USB 3.0 ports, one DisplayPort output, one HDMI output, and one Ethernet port. There's also the DC connector that supplies power to the system. (Thin Mini-ITX PCs don't have internal power supplies, so AC-to-DC conversion is handled by a big external power brick.)
It might seem like an obvious design choice to have the port cluster on the side, but not all enclosures are this sensible. The Loop chassis we looked at last year had the cluster facing down, which made accessing the ports an ordeal. Think of how annoying it is to connect a DVI or DisplayPort cable at the back of your monitor. Now, imagine doing that for USB, Ethernet, and audio. Ugh. Thank goodness MiTac went with a more convenient layout.