Tools Of The Trade: The 17LZ21 flat panel display from LG Electronics

From media to monitor, a multiple-choice unit

The price of liquid crystal display (LCD) monitors has dropped to the point where few buyers now opt for bulky, cathode-ray-tube displays for a new computer. But screens that combine PC connections with a television tuner continue to command a substantial premium over a computer-only LCD.

The LG Electronics 17LZ21 still costs more than a regular 17-inch PC monitor from the likes of Sony or Dell, but the unit is packed full of extra features that might justify the extra cost - especially for home offices or for use in a meetings room.

The Korean company sells the screen first and foremost as an LCD TV, rather than a monitor, so an integrated TV tuner is standard. But whereas several consumer electronics brands opt not to provide a computer input, the 17LZ21 has a video graphics adapter (VGA) connection too, as well as video in-feeds for use with external audio-visual equipment. Most surprisingly, given that the screen sells for just a few hundred pounds more than a top-tier brand's LCD monitor, it also includes a built-in DVD player.

The complete package sits neatly on a desk and occupies only a little more room than a conventional 17-inch flat panel. The power supply is an external brick, which keeps down the weight of the screen, and there is a neat carrying handle on the rear, making the whole unit easy to move around.

Playback from terrestrial TV channels and the built-in DVD player was reasonably bright and sharp, although perhaps not quite up to the standards of a good cathode-ray TV set. Sound from the unit's speakers was crisp and the controls, both on the remote and on the display itself, worked smoothly.

Connecting a computer to the 17LZ21 is simply a matter of attaching a VGA cable to the socket on the rear of the screen, and selecting the PC channel from the remote.

Other reviewers have reported problems when using this screen as a computer monitor, but we were able to connect it with no trouble at all to both Windows and Macintosh laptops.

If anything, the 17LZ21 functions better as a computer screen than it does as a TV. A 17-inch monitor is ideal for a desktop computer set-up and works well as a second screen for a laptop, whereas it is on the small side for a TV.

With a computer connected, the screen behaved perfectly, both mirroring the PC's output and working alongside it, giving additional desktop space. It was perhaps not as sharp as our Mac laptop screen, but certainly equal to that on a mid-range laptop PC.

The one drawback is that the 17LZ21 only has an analogue computer signal input, rather than the increasingly popular digital visual interface (DVI) connector.

DVIs should give a cleaner picture than analogue connections, and they are being fitted as standard on more and more PCs.

LG Electronics intends to add DVI connections to most of its flat panel displays over the coming months, so a buyer who plans to use the screen mostly with a computer might want to wait until this is available.

But anyone who needs TV or DVD functionality now, and wants an LCD screen to use occasionally - perhaps at home with a laptop - should take a look at the 17LZ21. It is a stylish and well-built piece of equipment that also comes at a very attractive price.

THE VERDICT

LG Electronics 17LZ21 combined LCD TV/DVD/monitor

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Pros: reasonable display, good sound, neat design, built-in DVD.

Cons: no digital computer input.

Price: £799.

Available from: LG Electronics, www.lge.co.uk

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