by Kevin Steele
Update December 2004: I've updated the review to reflect the discovery that the rotate and focus functions in the onscreen display do not work.
The Quest Begins
After posting my review of the Wells-Gardner D9200 multisync arcade monitor, I started receiving emails from other WG-D9200 owners, each with some sort of story of shipping damage or early unit failure. Since the WG-D9200 was the "monitor of choice" for MAME cabinets, I kind of expected that there would be a few stories of people who had had problems.
At first, these emails were only occasional, then they started coming more frequently. I realized that this was not just a few isolated incidents, but something more widespread. It looked like I should find another monitor to recommend, but I had no idea what other options were out there, if any. Thus was born my search for another arcade monitor that could serve as a direct replacement for the versatile but troubled WG-D9200.
Some of the criteria for a good MAME arcade monitor, in my opinion, were the following:
After looking at a wide number of monitors, my search quickly narrowed to one monitor that could, on paper, match the WG-D9200 monitor's unique capabilities. That monitor was the Betson Imperial 27" Multisync arcade monitor, also known as the Kortek KT-2914. I made arrangements to purchase one and soon a unit was on its way.
Opening it up (First Impressions)
After a few delays in shipping (using Alvan Motors Freight), the monitor was delivered via a semi (you can tell they aren't used to home deliveries!)
The monitor box arrived in great condition, and it didn't take long to find out why: opening up the box revealed a great packing job! Nearly every open space in the box was filled with cardboard spacers and padding, and the tube rested on a full-sized styrofoam pad. This was a welcome change from the minimalist packing used by Wells-Gardner for their monitors, which consisted of a few pieces of styrofoam for the corners of the tube.
This was a good sign for things to come, as it seemed there was little chance for shipping damage with something so well packed.
Unboxing things, I discovered a few surprises, like the lack of a VGA port on the back of the unit. Don't get me wrong — it has a video cable, complete with a standard DB15 VGA connector for plugging into any PC video card.
It's just that the included (and attached) VGA cable is a custom cable, and is actually screwed into one of the heat sinks. The video cable is stripped of insulation on the section that's clamped to the heat sink, which is strange considering that it is a plastic cable mount that holds it in place (with the exposed grounding jacket on the cable, I'd have thought that the attachment to the heat sink might have been a grounding point).
No matter, the cable is securely held. You won't be able to swap it out for an off-the-shelf VGA cable, but that's probably not a major issue — I swapped out the VGA cable on the D9200 with an better shielded VGA cable, but the attached cable on the Betson seems fine.
The boards themselves looked, well, like any other arcade monitor board set. Nothing special, although the construction and assembly looked good.
One nice touch was the power LED on the separate control interface board, which is otherwise very similar to the control board supplied with the D9200. It includes four buttons: Up, Down, Menu/Select, and Exit/Degauss.
A word of warning: be careful with the Exit button — the service manual recommends that you wait at least 30 minutes between deguassings, but I kept accidently degaussing the monitor by pressing the Exit button one too many times when exiting out of menus.
After a brief bit of "siteseeing," it was now time to hook everything up and start the real testing. I unplugged the D9200 from the PC in my MAME cabinet, and plugged in the Betson Multisync.
Firing it up (Testing)
Wow. No adjustments were necessary for the default Windows display (640x480) on my MAME cabinet, and the picture was very crisp and sharp. This was a good beginning.
Without hesitation, I switched to 800x600 mode, a resolution that the D9200 can unofficially support, but the picture isn't anything to write home about. 800x600 on the Betson/Kortek monitor, however, was very impressive. Not as sharp as a PC monitor, but still a very good image quality, and a solid picture. I would have no qualms about setting the default screen resolution to 800x600 with this monitor.
Next up it was time to run the monitor through some tests to check that everything was adjusted properly and to see what the monitor's display strengths and limitations were. I used Nokia Monitor Test, a simple but effective tool for adjusting a monitor's screen geometry, brightness and contrast, and moiré.
Overall the geometry for the monitor was very good — there was some slight "sag" on the lower right-hand side that I couldn't compensate for with the onscreen controls, but it's very slight.
Speaking of onscreen controls, the Betson's settings are very extensive, almost as good as a PC monitor. There are adjustments for image size and placement (h/v size and position, plus zoom), as well as pincushion, trapezoid, pin balance, parallelogram, rotation, top and bottom edge, and even horizontal and vertical moiré adjustments (which was a welcome surprise!)
As comprehensive as the standard adjustment menu is, even more options can be activated by accessing the hidden "operator's menu" by pushing the "Up" button on the button panel while powering on the monitor.
The hidden operator's menu adds color adjustment settings, focus and linearity adjustments, and onscreen display placement options as well. Overall, I am impressed with the wide range of adjustments available on this monitor — with some time and patience, it should be possible to fine-tune nearly every part of the displayed image.
Update: Several people have discovered, to their dismay, that the onscreen display's rotate feature does not work on the Betson. It seems Kortek did not actually bother to include the hardware necessary for this feature to work! The on-screen focus adjustment in the hidden operator's menu also does not work, but at least there is an adjustment pot on the board for fine-tuning the focus.