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                Review: Toshiba TIMM 20" Multiscan Monitor
                             By:  Jason Compton 
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Some time ago, Toshiba started doing nationwide (in the US) television
advertising for a new product called the TIMM: the Toshiba Integrated
Multimedia Monitor.  A 20" VGA monitor that could triple as a television
set or as a video monitor, taking RGB, coaxial (cable/antenna) and
composite video/audio inputs.

Big deal, right?  A 20 inch monitor with a .58 dot pitch isn't exactly at
the height of technology.

But there's a catch.  The TIMM is a multiscan monitor, meaning it can sync
down to 15khz in addition to displaying VGA-style output.  In quite plain
terms, that means that it can display all native Amiga screenmodes, from
NTSC/PAL Low Res on up.  And in case you haven't noticed, monitors that
support this range of screenmodes are not only in limited supply, but are
quite expensive--14 inch models without speakers often reach nearly US$500,
and are not exactly easy to find.  In Europe, the supply of Microvitec
Amiga Technologies-branded monitors has helped somewhat, but they too
suffer from high cost, and only now are 15 and 17 inch products being
offered.

The TIMM is a fairly attractive piece of hardware that doesn't go too far
into the "alternative design" concept.  The casing is off-white, with a
large tube flanked by two forward-facing strip-style speakers.  Control
buttons are located below the display screen, but you'll likely find the
included remote control (!) more handy.

The TIMM is advertised as the sort of item you'll use equally for TV
watching, videotape use, and your computer.  Maybe that's why the
instruction manual says virtually nothing about its use as a multisync
monitor and instead reads like a regular TV booklet.  And maybe that's why,
for some strange reason, the manual specifies that the TIMM has a maximum
resolution of a mere 640x480.

I can personally attest that the TIMM can display up to at least 1280x1024.
It does interlace at 1024x768 and above, but the display is actually quite
usable.

As an Amiga multisync monitor, I can quite honestly say that I have never
seen anything come close to the TIMM.  A trusty 1950 or similar is nice
while it lasts, but once you've had 20 inch display, it's tough to imagine
going back to something that sits comfortably on an Amiga 3000's case.
Despite the dot pitch rating, below 1024x768 the display is remarkably
crisp and clear.

As a video monitor and TV, the TIMM works quite well--while its size might
not make it conducive for use in large-scale video applications, as the
output monitor for the finished product it is an excellent choice, with its
quite capable built-in speakers.

The TIMM switches from RGB (computer operation) to TV to video input
operation at a touch of a button, either on the monitor or on the remote.
Each mode has its own settings--the RGB mode is most flexible, allowing you
to vertically and horizontally position AND size the screen to your liking.
Settings memory seems to be independent of power supply, but there is only
one setting stored.

All of this comes at a cost of about $700, street price.  That's rather
high for a 20 inch TV, but extremely inexpensive for a 20 inch fully
Amiga-compatible multiscan monitor with terrific NTSC and PAL displays.
(It is worth noting that while the TIMM will handle PAL RGB input it cannot
deal with PAL composite or television input)  In the Amiga's history, large
monitors with this degree of compatibility have been extremely expensive
and are no longer widely available.  What the TIMM offers is a reasonably
priced big-screen solution which offers the convenience of multiple inputs,
while sacrificing the .28 or below dot pitch found on monitors with fewer
Amiga features and a smaller screen size.

Only a few things concern me about the TIMM.  The first is that the power
plug is a two-blade affair instead of the usual 3-prong grounded plug found
for most serious computer equipment.  The second is that often the TIMM
will briefly flash the screen a minute or so after a cold start.  Finally,
the on-screen controls leave a lot to be desired.  They're perfectly
adequate, but for such a hip multimedia monitor, I expected something a bit
better than CGA cyan and purple blocky text.

For those with a dying 1950, or those looking for a large monitor that can
still handle a good round of Alien Breed, I would highly recommend you
investigate the TIMM.  Those looking to do 1600x1200 non-interlaced are
going to have to shop for something different.

Toshiba America Consumer Products
82 Totowa Rd.
Wayne, NJ 07470
201-628-8000 voice
http://www.toshiba.com/tacp/timm/TIMMhome.html