Review: Insignia NS20EM50A13 monitor

My 15-inch Dell LCD died this weekend. Its date of manufacture was October 2001, so I can’t complain. I bought it used a number of years ago and paid a pittance for it. It had been acting up for more than a year, and at least it had the decency to wait until a potential replacement was on sale before dying completely.

Best Buy had its house-brand 20″ LED monitor on sale for $90, and I had a gift card with a few dollars on it, so I braved Best Buy again, and found a good low-end monitor for the money.

It’s about as basic as you can get and still have a DVI connection. I’ve seen a few other low-end monitors with only VGA connections, and have no idea why anyone would buy those, since DVI gives a cleaner picture and the industry is phasing VGA out. It has no speakers, not much in the way of onscreen menus, and a native resolution of 1600×900. Then again, I plugged it into a Windows 7 box via the DVI connection and it just worked, so why pay for lots of frills when they aren’t necessary?

Note that it has a DVI connection, but doesn’t come with a DVI cable. Monoprice has them for $4.19, so don’t pay Best Buy’s $25 price for one. Since I was replacing a monitor, I already had one. The monitor does come with a VGA cable, so now I have a collection of those.

Some comments on Best Buy’s web site report issues with dead pixels; mine had none. Since some people have had issues, I’m not sure I’d buy one if Best Buy was a long way away. It’s just down the street for me, so exchanging it wouldn’t have been a big deal. I didn’t have to, and found the display was sharp and clear, if unremarkable. The thing about LCD monitors is that if you notice something about them these days, it’s probably because there’s something wrong.

The power supply is internal, so it just plugs in with a regular power cord. That makes for a tidier desk, but if the power supply goes, you can’t just buy a $30 AC adapter to get it running again. So I actually prefer an external power brick, but internal power supplies seem to be the norm for 20-inch displays anyway. My HP 2009 20-inch display plugs in the same way.

At its regular price of $120, there’s no reason to buy this monitor–it’s not especially hard to find a name-brand 20″ monitor for $100 or $110–but if it’s on sale for $90 (and sometimes it appears they go on sale for $80), it’s a good deal. At $80, I’d say it’s a great deal. For the sake of comparison, Best Buy had an AOC monitor next to it for $100, but the Insignia is the better unit. The AOC has a longer warranty (three years vs. the Insignia’s one) but only has an analog VGA connector.

I’ve said it once, but it’s worth repeating: If you can get it for less than $100, the Insignia NS20EM50A13 is a good monitor for the money. A pair of them would give a pretty good dual display on a tight budget.

Update: After about a month with the monitor, I’ve noted that it defaults to the VGA connection and that can’t be changed, which leads to problems from time to time. If you can deal with that behavior, it’s a decent monitor for the money. I elaborate (of course) here. But if you’re willing to pay $100, you can get a less-annoying monitor.

What I really want is 2560×1600 resolution, but I can’t get that in a 20-inch display at any price right now, so I don’t see any reason to spend a lot on a monitor at the moment. If I can get 1600×900 resolution for less than $100, I might as well do that while I wait for smaller, more affordable WQXGA displays to become available. Besides, this monitor directly replaced a monitor that ran at a mere 1024×768, so it’s a big improvement anyway.

So what about Best Buy? A year ago, I had a rather poor experience shopping there. This time it was better. They’ve added registers to the departments, or at least some of them, so if you’re just buying one thing, you can check out right there. I was in and out with my purchase rather quickly. And I noted there’s a pickup lane for online orders right at the front door, so you can order online now and pick it up without venturing far into the store.

Their prices still aren’t always all that great–the cheapest 10/100 switch they offer sells for $35, which is what gigabit switches sell for elsewhere–but if they’re running a sale on something you need, shopping there doesn’t necessarily have to be a miserable experience anymore.

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