GCN LAB REVIEW
NEC MultiSync monitor looks stunning — despite eco quirkiness
The NEC MultiSync EA232WMi-BK LCD is a very accurate wide-screen monitor at a great price. And if it weren’t so insistent about also being eco-friendly, we might have loved it even more. Not that we don’t want to help the environment, we just don’t want to do it at the expense of getting our work done.
A 23-inch LCD monitor that costs $275 for government buyers — its list price is $299 — is a good deal that could not have happened even a few years ago. And a monitor packed with the latest and greatest technology at that price is amazing, even today.
This MultiSync is an IPS active-matrix LCD. It also uses LED backlights instead of the normal fluorescent tubing, which is quickly becoming an old technology. Those LEDs mean less power consumption and much better image control, particularly with dark images or those with a black base. The EA232WMi displays them perfectly in nearly all cases.
NEC MultiSync EA232WMi-BK LCD
Pros: Brilliant contrast ratio; LED backlight produces great black-based images.
Cons: Ambient-light sensor tends to dim screen too much; ECO Mode snapped back on after being disabled.
Ease of use: B-
Government price: $275. List: $299.
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There is almost no measurable light bleed anywhere along the frame of this tightly built panel. In another measure of quality, the light levels are homogenous throughout. From the center of the panel to the corners, there is only a minuscule 45-lumen drop-off. Given that the naked eye can’t see a difference unless it is 100 lumens or more, that means every image will look evenly bright on the EA232WMi.
Colors are displayed rather vividly — thanks to the 25,000:1 contrast ratio — and they are very accurate. In fact, the colors on the monitor were often less than 5 percent off their true tones. Color stepping tests — in which we display one color in various hues along a 64- or 256-step grid — were also accurate, with even subtle differences displayed correctly. The EA232WMi is more accurate with darker colors than brighter ones, but all are well above average for accuracy.
Besides static images, the EA232WMi does a nearly perfect job with color registration testing, in which fine lines of different colors alternate on the screen. In lower-performing monitors, the second color can appear to step over and off the lines or, in the worst cases, blend to form a new and inaccurate color. But this monitor had no such problems. The test measures suitability for displaying video, and the EA232WMi passed with room to spare. It can display all the static PowerPoint slides you want, and when it’s time to switch to high-resolution video, it will do so without a hitch.
In terms of extras, there is a DisplayPort input, but no HDMI connection. Normally, monitors will have one or the other, so we don’t deduct points if one exists and the other does not. There are also USB ports where you can connect various peripheral devices. Although most desktop PCs have many such ports, they are not always in easy-to-reach places and might even be on the tower, which could be under a desk or locked in a cabinet. But a monitor is almost always accessible to the user, so having the USB ports there could be a big help.
Another perk for this monitor is the wide viewing angle, which is about 170 degrees. That does not mean that you can see fuzzy images at that distance. Instead, it means that almost right to the 170-degree mark off-center, images are still true and colors accurate. In that respect, it’s a lot like the old CRT monitors, which had very wide viewing angles despite their many other flaws.
The biggest problem we had with the EA232WMi was the inclusion of the eco-friendly features. We are all for reducing our carbon footprint and saving the environment. In fact, the GCN Lab is making an effort to review more green IT. But those savings can’t come at the expense of productivity, and for us, it would in this case. A lot of the raw savings from this monitor comes from the LED backlight, which is good. But there is also an environmental mode that gave us a lot of trouble.
There are four settings for ECO Mode, with most tied into an ambient-light sensor mounted on the front of the monitor. These settings rely on the amount of white balance being displayed or the amount of light being recorded by the sensor — or both — to automatically set the EA232WMi’s brightness levels. The reasoning is that if you are using the monitor in a dark room or with an image that has a lot of white space, you don’t need to have the monitor as bright as usual. This approach saves the environment by using less power, requiring less air conditioning to cool the equipment and so on.
Sounds great, but it’s quirky.
For one, the monitor was constantly far too dark on any setting that made use of the light sensor. We would be working, and all of a sudden, the screen would dim and dim and dim until we had to move forward to read the text on the screen. We found that the biggest problems would occur when working in an environment where the light source was off-center from the monitor. So if a room was perfectly bright but the lights were to the left or right of the screen, the sensor read that as a dark room and dimmed the monitor too much. With overhead lighting, this was still a problem but to a lesser degree.
Even more frustrating was the fact that we could not disable the ECO Mode features. We would bring up the menu and select “ECO Mode Off.” The monitor would confirm that ECO Mode was set to off. But within a few minutes, the screen would start to dim. When we went back in, we found that ECO Mode was set to position one again. We never could get it to stay off.
The EA232WMi is a great monitor at a good price. And if you are really into green IT, this is the way to go. It was a little frustrating getting ECO Mode to work how we wanted, but not everyone will care as much, especially those who work in brightly lit areas that the sensor can easily read.
NEC Display Solutions, www.necdisplay.com