Thursday, January 21, 2010

Eizo CG243W FTW!

In my Thoughts Dump post I briefly mentioned my Eizo ordeal. This is the timeline summary:

December 23rd, picked up refurbished Eizo CG241W #1 from Cypress, CA.

December 28th. dropped off refurbished Eizo CG241W #1 at Cypress, CA for repairs. Issue: uneven backlighting.

On January 6, picked up the replacement monitor Eizo CG241 #2 from Cypress, CA.

On January 11, dropped off refurbished Eizo CG241 #2 at Cypress, CA for repairs. Issues: uneven backlighting AND calibration issues.

Today January 20th I had an appointment with Martin Ruiz, the technical manager at Eizo North America. Martin has been with Eizo for 20 years and manages both the support and repairs departments. After two less than spectacular experiences with refurbished Eizo CG241W units, I wanted to know the following:

-Was I crazy? Does anyone else see these backlighting uniformity issues?
-Is my MacBook broken? Or maybe the Mini DisplayPort<->DVI adapter?
-Is my Spyder3 Pro broken?

Here are the calibration results from my Spyder3 Pro and the CG241 #2:

The dE max and dE averages were way off. dE max around 3 is acceptable and dE average of 1 is acceptable. The CG241W #1 that I returned calibrated just fine. This second unit was something screwy...

Martin suggested that the unit I sent in was not defective. He calibrated with the ColorMunki and also the EyeOne. Here are his results:

Notice that while they were lower (he used different targets like minimum black point), they were still rather high as well. But nonetheless, I concede that maybe at the time there was something wrong with the Spyder3 Pro, the USB uplink, or something else that yielded such crazy results.

But the backlight uniformity is another issue.

When the Eizo CG241W comes from the factory (new), it comes with a Unifomity Data Sheet at Shipment. It looks like this:

The refurbished units don't have these, even though they're reconfigured by the repair center back to factory specs using the specific monitor calibration "blueprint" software, that's specific to each individual unit. So technically they should not have any luminosity unevenness issues.

So what happened at the appointment with Martin at Eizo?

Well, he pulled out both CG241W #1 and CG241W #2 that I returned. When plugged into their Mac Mini, we confirmed the luminosity variance across different portions of the screen. So now I knew my eyeballs weren't special (check off question #1 and question #2 since we used another computer/cable). Martin suggested that this was consistent across all CG241W that use the Samsung S-PVA panels. In fact, the panel in the CG241W #1 had been replaced with a new Samsung panel but still exhibited the uneven luminosity issue.

Since the luminosity issue was confirmed, there was no point trying to recalibrate either of the CG241W units that I returned. Basically Martin offered to let me choose between the two units if one of them was to my liking, but I was not going to take either of these home.

Then Martin suggested that we could look at a CG243W for comparison. This particular CG243W had just come back from a CDW customer (credit) return. Basically there was nothing wrong with the unit, the customer just didn't want it. It would be a good comparison to see whether or not the CG243W would be the "final answer" to my Eizo woes. I already knew that the CG243W uses an LG H-IPS panel so viewing angles would improve, plus it has a 10-bit LUT instead of 8-bit LUT (via DisplayPort), but how about backlight uniformity?

We hooked up the Mac Mini to the CG243W turned it on and in the first 5 seconds it showed a bit of a darker vertical bar across the middle of the screen. Within 30 seconds however, that bar was gone and the panel was the most uniform I'd ever seen on any monitor.

How about color accuracy via calibration?

Well, we hooked up the ColorMunki to the CG243W and ran ColorNavigator. The results came back positively. In fact, better than good. Average dE was somewhere less than 0.4 and max dE was around 1.5-2.0.

Damn, that's pretty good.

At this point I jokingly said, "Too bad you can't sell me this unit, otherwise I'd take it home today!" After all, the unit had just come in for repair. It would need to be inspected. Reset to factory settings. Repackaged. Processed through the system. Hell, Martin even mentioned that Eizo would not be selling any refurbished CG243W units at this point in time. It was way too soon. These had just been announced in late September and were heavily backordered from October to December (I had an order for a new CG243W from Adorama for almost 2 months before canceling it).

But shockingly, he said "Let me talk to the sales reps and see what the price difference is between the two units (CG241W and CG243W)"

While Martin was gone, I ran calibration tests on the CG243W with my Spyder3 Pro on the Mac Mini. Positive results! I then hooked up the CG243W to my MacBook and ran the same tests with the Spyder3 Pro. Calibrated perfectly! Average dE of 0.6 and max dE of 3.0 (darkest black patches). This was definitely the monitor for me. I looked up RP Imaging on my iPhone and got their number ready to place an order for the CG243W.

Martin came back and said, "Well, we would need to get the monitor through the system and do all the paperwork. Do you have to pick it up today?"

Huh??? Wha??? What did I miss?

Then I realized what Martin was saying. Playing it cool, I responded, "Well if it's even possible I can get this one, it's definitely worth the wait!" I also explained to Martin that I lived 45 minutes away. It was raining hard outside. Martin expressed that it would take at least an hour to process the unit through the system and draw up the paperwork. I assured him, "If it's possible to do this today, I've got all day!"

Fast forward 1.5 hours and after Martin runs the CG243W through his usual diagnostic check on returned monitors, he boxes it up and sends me on my way. Driving home, I was still in disbelief. There was no way that I could have foreseen the day's events unfolding as they did. Not in my wildest dreams! I was driving home in a barely used 14-hour-old refurbished CG243W. I was probably the first person in the world to own a refurbished CG243W and legitimately so! Martin followed all Eizo protocol and no rules were broken. The sales team was informed and signed off on the transaction. The unit was entered into the system and processed adequately and the paperwork was drawn properly so that this returned CG243W was now a "registered" refurbished unit belonging to me. Of course, I can not disclose the final "price difference" but I can suggest several excellent representatives at Eizo you should speak with regarding refurbished/demo Eizo units.

Hats off to Martin because he pulled all the stops in working with me for 2.5 hours checking 2 different CG241W and then helping me acquire a CG243W and then even testing the CG243W with the ColorMunki. I mean, this isn't Apple's Genius Bar where you can walk in and someone will kindly help you through whatever technical problem you have with your Apple product. This was me walking into the North America Eizo headquarters and getting personal troubleshooting service from the technical manager responsible for all of Eizo North America. Hell, I hope he doesn't get in trouble for working with me for that long. The Cypress location isn't even supposed to have customer visits much less personalized appointments.

I have to thank the team at Eizo for turning this experience around from slightly tragic to overwhelmingly-unbelievably positive. The technical support call service team including James, Tim, and Dean were responsive and helpful. The guys at Cypress including Jason, Todd, Michael, Max, Tom and of course Martin all bent over backwards to ensure that I was satisfied with the product and had a pleasant experience with Eizo.

Maybe I'll take pictures of the CG243W tomorrow! Enough excitement for one day!

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