Is it just me, or has DVD made you look at all LCD screens differently? Whether it's a PDA, laptop computer or high-tech refrigerator, if its LCD isn't widescreen, it just doesn't look right anymore. DVD and HDTV have created a widescreen world, and other sectors of the electronics industry are finally starting to fall in line.
The availability of widescreen computer monitors means great things for anyone who likes to look at two Microsoft Word pages side-by-side or anyone who likes spinning DVDs in the old DVD-ROM drive. The trouble is, widescreen monitors
(which admittedly have been around for a few years) are typically no larger than 17 inches (diagonal). Well friends, feast your eyes on BenQ's FP231W and its 23 inches (diagonal) of widescreen glory.
For anyone who has spent any time shopping for a LCD monitor, there is one term you're bound to be familiar with: response time. LCD monitors have what's called a "pixel response time" which is essentially how long it takes (in milliseconds) for a LCD pixel to go from active to inactive and back to active again. If you mostly look at static text pages all day long and there isn't a lot of motion on your screen, a monitor's response time isn't terribly important. However, if you're into PC gaming or watching DVDs on your computer, then response time becomes incredibly important.
A slow response time results in a distracting artifact called "ghosting", where images linger on screen a moment longer than they should. If you drag your mouse across the screen really fast, a slow response time will result in a trail of arrows streaking behind your cursor. This problem becomes infinitely more annoying when watching a fast-moving game or DVD movie. A general rule of thumb is that anything under 20ms is probably fast enough to keep up with games and DVD video without ghosting. Anything over 20ms and you might regret your purchase. BenQ's FP231W is one of the first LCD panels in this size category to feature a blazing fast 16ms response time.
Also unique to the FP231W is its built-in four-port USB 2.0 hub. The number of USB-enabled peripherals is countless and having four ports right in front of you makes quick connections a snap. Whether it's a digital camera, joystick and/or PDA cradle, BenQ's monitor makes it easy to drive your gear from one convenient location. This is one feature that belongs on all monitors, large and small.Read more on Page 2.
Finally, you gaming buffs and HDTV viewers will be happy to see the FP231W's DVI connection. DVI has become a staple connection on high-end video cards, and newer HDTV settop boxes are almost guaranteed to have DVI (or HDMI) as an output option. Be sure to take note that the FP231W is first and foremost a PC monitor and as a result, it does not include component video connections. If you plan on viewing HDTV or (external) DVD content using this monitor, DVI is your only connection option.
Installation/Setup/Ease of Use
Snapping the panel onto its unique base pedestal was a tad confusing, but once it clicked together, it posed no further question marks. I didn't detect any slow creeps down the pedestal; the monitor was complacent to stay up when I had it at its highest setting. The monitor swivels left and right up to 45 degrees and tilts considerably to make it a fairly flexible display. Unfortunately, the FP231W does not rotate to a portrait position, but this is not unexpected considering the panel's considerable size.
I connected my PC to the FP231W using a standard 15-pin D-Sub connector. I would have liked to have seen two such connections, especially considering the price point this monitor is competing at. However, for my purposes, one connection was sufficient. I connected my VOOM satellite receiver via DVI and had no problems. Like most monitors, the FP231W will detect if a signal is present and enter a standby mode if there's nothing to display. S-Video and composite video inputs are also available.
From an aesthetic standpoint, the FP231W is a gorgeous monitor. Its thin silver bezel is rather chic and the pedestal base does a fine job of concealing most of your wires. Although I liked the fact that the monitor's buttons were hidden on the side of the monitor, I found myself tilting my head to see which button was which whenever I had need to use them. Minor gripes aside, this monitor generated plenty of questions (and jealousy) whenever friends or colleagues dropped by my office.
More than just a pretty face, the FP231W was also a strong performer when it came time to do some work. Text looked extremely crisp when using the monitor's native resolution of 1920 x 1200. Colors looked accurate when viewing some high-quality photographs in Adobe Photoshop and I was impressed with the monitor's geometry and image stability, even when using the D-Sub connection. When I looked at a solid black screen, there were a few issues along the perimeter with varied black levels. Black depth on the whole was adequate, bearing in mind that a convincing black is not the strong suit of a LCD panel.
I finished my evaluation material by watching several DVD videos using my PC's DVD-ROM drive and connecting my VOOM box for some HDTV. Both sources looked particularly good, with HDTV looking the better of the two for obvious reasons. The 1080i DVI connection made for a spectacular picture and showed me that a separate "television" in your office isn't necessary when your PC monitor can look this good. On both DVD and HDTV material, I marveled at the complete lack of ghosting and I now look forward to the day when all LCD panels have response times this fast.
BenQ has a fantastic monitor on their hands with the FP231W. Even though it may have been designed as a first-class PC monitor, it's comforting to know that you're also getting a highly-capable HDTV monitor for no extra cost. Throw in the USB hub and attractive styling and it's no wonder this thing makes me grin every time I sit down at the computer.
BenQ FP231W PC Monitor
1920 x 1200 UXGA Resolution
16:10 Wide Aspect Ratio
Response Time: 16ms
Contrast Ratio: 500:1
Tilt and Swivel Base
(4) USB 2.0 Ports
DVI and D-Sub Inputs
Composite and S-Video Inputs
21.1"W x 18.3"H x 9.8"D
Weight: 19.4 lbs.