22-Inch LCDs: More Screen for Less Green
Have you been holding out for the right wide-screen monitor? The big manufacturers are releasing a torrent of new 22-inch wide-screen models, starting at around $270, that may just persuade you to open your wallet. And though any of these models will expand your desktop view, they're far less likely than a 24-inch-plus display to empty your pockets.
The PC World Test Center subjected seven new 22-inch wide-screen monitors to a plethora of viewing tests. Our hawk-eyed jurors scrutinized various text documents and graphics to see which monitors were pleasing and which merely middling. Our Best Buy award went to the good-looking HP w2207 monitor. Priced at $360 (as of October 9), this display combines beauty and substance. Though it trailed others in graphics and text quality, it still performed well enough to earn scores of Very Good and Good, respectively, on those two measures. And its many features, such as a pivoting panel and USB ports, helped it overcome its minor shortcomings in performance. ViewSonic's VG2230wm finished close behind, thanks to good performance and an even better price ($319).
Nipping at the heels of the top two was the Samsung SyncMaster 2232GW. The best graphics and text performer, this monitor will satisfy both casual users and graphics pros. AG Neovo's H-W22, which ranks a respectable fourth, carries a budget price ($269) that belies its impressive showing in our tests. It trumped many of the more expensive displays with accurate and attractive renderings of graphics and text. To boot, its minimalist design will suit users who want to simplify the appearance of their desks. Dell's staid-looking E228WFP rounded out our Top 5 with test scores confirming it as a serious workhorse for users who don't consider design a priority.
We also tested the Envision G218a1 and the Acer P221W, but neither of them captured spots on our chart. Though inexpensive ($280) and fairly well designed, the Envision display suffered from so-so graphics performance and a paucity of extra features. Meanwhile, the Acer's performance was okay, but not nearly enough to compensate for its $500 price.
The Office Workers' New Desk Friend
For a time, many manufacturers were pushing 19-inch wide screens, already a consumer hit because of their low price and broad spread, to businesses. But that market hasn't taken off as expected. Tom Mainelli, senior research analyst for monitors at IDC (and a PC World contributor), sees monitor manufacturers responding by producing a raft of 22-inch wide-screen models that may soon emerge as "blockbuster" performers for office use. "Twenty-two-inch wide monitors have been [in the market] for a while," he observes, but demand for them only recently "started gaining some traction primarily because of the dramatic price difference between 20- and 24-inch wide screens."
Currently you can buy a no-frills 22-incher for as little as $250, while few 24-inch monitors cost less than $500. Mainelli says the price difference reflects the fact that "monitor vendors have kept 24- to 30-inch [displays] as premium monitors, [so] customers are more likely to expect extras" such as high-definition video connectors, pivoting panels, TV tuners, and multiple physical adjustments. If you don't need these frills, however, you can parlay a budget for one 24-inch monitor into an enviable double-22-inch-monitor configuration. Moreover, even though 22-inch models have the same resolution as 20-inch wide screens (1680 by 1050), Mainelli thinks that most users feel more comfortable viewing that resolution on a larger panel. By contrast, 23- and 24-inch models sport a 1920-by-1200 resolution.
Our test batch of 22-inch units did indeed tend to be bare-bones displays, with just a smattering of extras such as speakers. Only the HP w2207 offered features on a par with those of larger and more-expensive monitors. But in general, the displays in our tests will provide easily readable text and high-quality graphics.
For general-purpose uses, such as word processing and Web surfing, all seven monitors we tested are good, and some are excellent. A very small room could benefit from a 22-inch wide-screen monitor's space-saving design, particularly one like AG Neovo's thin H-W22, which could double as a display for DVD movies. In our test assessing each monitor's movie-playing talents, the Samsung SyncMaster 2232GW stood out, thanks to the unit's wonderful balance of colors and its ability to handle fast action.
The speakers built in to several of the models we looked at--the AG Neovo, Envision, HP, and ViewSonic--tended to fall short of producing satisfactory sound for applications that require robust audio, such as music or movie playback. Only the Envision G218a1's integrated speakers managed to produce above-average sound for movie dialogue or audio. Unless you're willing to tolerate tinny-sounding speakers or you desperately need to conserve space, you should plan on supplementing these generally weak built-ins with a pair of freestanding speakers.
Few of the models we evaluated permitted full, multiple physical adjustments. All of them include a tilt mechanism, but most stop there. The ViewSonic VG2230wm and HP w2207 come with height-adjustable stands, and the former swivels 360 degrees, too. Only the HP w2207 had a pivot mechanism, but it lacked a true swivel stand.
If you've already moved to Microsoft Windows Vista or bought a PC that runs on it, you may already know that sidebar widget applications (such as those from Google) work best with a wide screen. Sidebars sit on the left or right side of the monitor; and depending on the application, they offer a constant stream of information such as RSS feeds, weather updates, and images. Several monitors in our cohort sported a "Vista Certified" logo--a confusing selling point signifying, among other things, that the screen supports Microsoft-specified technical display standards, such as monitor sleep states and rendering of standard Red Green Blue (sRGB) color spaces. For consumers, the most important Vista-compatible feature is that a monitor have HDCP compatibility, which will enable you to view copy-protected high-definition content, something movie studios are pushing to become standard. This feature may not be paramount for everyone--especially not people who aren't planning to watch movies on their monitors, but it's a feature to think about if you want to future-proof this component of your computer setup.
HP Wins; Neovo's Thin
You can't go wrong with any of these monitors if you simply need a wider screen for word processing and spreadsheets. The HP can even swivel to portrait (vertical) mode, which can be ideal for Web browsing. Each monitor in this segment is generally very good for viewing text and graphics. If you want the thinnest, go with AG Neovo's H-W22, which also happens to be the least expensive of this bunch. If you want one that offers maximum physical adjustability, consider the HP w2207 or the ViewSonic VG2230wm. And if an eye-catching design tops your list, check out the HP w2207 and the Samsung SyncMaster 2232GW, whose unique cabinets are sure to set adjacent offices and cubicles abuzz. Samsung's model also had the best performance numbers, a boon for graphics pros and gamers.
For a full review of each 22-inch wide-screen model in our rankings, see our Top 5 22-Inch Wide-Screen LCD Monitors chart.
Find the Very Latest Monitor Charts
Click on the links below for the latest online wide-screen LCD monitors rankings or a comprehensive list of all monitors we've tested.
- Most current Top 5 17-Inch LCD Monitors chart
- Most current Top 10 19-Inch LCD Monitors chart
- Most current Top 5 23-Inch and Larger Wide-Screen LCD Monitors chart
- Most current Top 5 20-Inch Wide-Screen LCD Monitors chart
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