GCN LAB REVIEW

Up to the job

Acer's 20-inch LCD has the right qualities for the office

GCN LAB TEST

Acer AL2016WBSD

Pros: Highly accurate color, consistent brightness.
Cons: Poor pixel tracking.
Image quality: B+
Features: B
Value: A
Price: $219

Acer’s AL2016WBsd monitor is a 20-inch LCD unit that has many qualities you would want in a larger, high-end monitor optimized for video. It has a few flaws that prevent it from being ideal for intense graphics, but its low price more than offsets them, making it a good combination of value and performance.

The monitor has only a single Digital Visual Interface–Digital port and one VGA port, which are all you need for most applications. But it would have been interesting to see what the monitor could have done with a higher-end input.

Acer AL2016WBsd LCD product imageThe on-screen menu has all the options necessary to tweak the monitor to your needs. In addition, an Auto menu instantly changes the settings to optimize them for video or text, among other functions.

In our image-quality tests, which use a combination of our criteria and the DisplayMate Technologies Professional benchmark suite, the AL2016WBsd performed reasonably well. Its colors were accurate, with an almost perfect red. However, its blues tended to get purplish at lower intensities. Admittedly, smaller monitors tend to perform better in some areas, but this monitor did well even for its size.

In the 64-step intensity scale, the monitor was good at displaying different shades on the dark end, but the shades at the light end of the scale tended to wash together. A user would have no problem discerning a dark image on a black screen but might have trouble seeing a light image on a white screen.

While performing the saturation tests, we often got better results when looking at the monitor from an angle rather than straight on. That is usually the opposite of how an LCD behaves, so we thought it worth mentioning.

Using our portable LX-101 light reader from Lutron Technologies, we got a reading of 216 lumens in the center of the screen with a pure white field and 173 lumens in the corner, which means the monitor is bright enough to operate in a typical office environment. Also, the human eye doesn’t register a difference in brightness of less than 100 lumens, so the 40-lumen drop from center to corner will go unnoticed in most situations.

San-serif text was comfortable to read both as black on white and white on black at 12 pixels. However, at 10 pixels, both versions tended to show a little fuzz on some letters. Although that fuzziness is probably acceptable for most word-processing work, many Web sites use smaller fonts to conserve space, which means that extensive Web viewing on the AL2016WBsd could be uncomfortable for some users.

The monitor’s high color accuracy and good saturation levels made us think it was optimized for video, but a review of the Auto menu revealed it to be on the Normal setting. Although ever-so-slight errors on a blue/red registration test indicated that extremely high-end graphics might give it problems, the AL2016WBsd would do quite well with anything short of that.

However, we were concerned about the pixel tracking in one of the gray-screen tests. Where we should have gotten a smooth gray field, the Acer monitor displayed horizontal stripes of gradation, no matter what settings we tried. We even checked for electromagnetic interference in the vicinity but found none. Admittedly, the test screen is designed to thwart automatic pixel tracking, so some monitors do have problems. But we had not seen an LCD monitor have that much trouble with pixel tracking in a long time.

The retail price of the AL2016WBsd is $219, which is a great value for what you get. With its accurate colors and good saturation levels, it can do many things a more video-intensive monitor can but for a much lower price.

The AL2016WBsd would be well suited to nearly any office environment, and its price makes it a great buy for agencies still looking to convert from CRTs to save money on power and cooling costs and reduce eyestrain for employees.

Acer, 800-848-2237, www.acer.com/us

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