by Matt Serrano on February 23, 2009 in Displays
It’s been quite a while since we have last taken a look at an ASUS monitor, much less one that we’ve been ultimately impressed by, so when we received their latest model, the VW266H, we couldn’t wait to tear it out of the box to see if things have improved with their line-up. Read on as we find out whether this TN-based monitor is a winner.
Because the VW266H includes HDMI and component inputs, many customers considering buying the monitor may wish to use other sources, like game consoles or set top boxes, with it to replace a traditional television setup. Therefore, we have revised our customary testing methodology to include experiences with various sources, noting any unforeseen compatibility issues and quality concerns.
The ability to multitask with high resolution displays is a blessing that is always appreciated. Windows can be organized and displayed side-by-side, without the need to minimize an application not in focus. The extra space allows more information to be visible at one time, which creates a more efficient work-flow. Not only can you have multiple web pages open at one time, but applications that utilize windows and panes, such as an image editing program, can be arranged to have the tools where you need them, and your project in a large, plain view.
Text proved to be very readable. However, because there is so much screen real estate, it is ideal to situate the monitor farther away from you, which may inconvenience users who have less physical depth to work with.
To test performance with cinema, I watched the widescreen DVD release of Saving Private Ryan, 720p TV show content, as well as 1080p trailers of Speed Racer and G.I Joe: Rise of Cobra. Similarly, the first disc of the Planet Earth series on Blu-ray was also viewed.
Though DVDs will never look as good as their higher resolution counterparts, I found the quality to be quite watchable. Yes, the image lacked sharpness and definition, and yes, compression artifacts were still visible, but in this case, because the display offers a duller image (thanks to the higher pixel pitch), the format’s shortcomings were masked.
The HD content, much to my dismay, was not represented well on the display. While motion appeared smooth (especially in Speed Racer and G.I. Joe), I noticed unusually high amounts of grain when viewing the movie trailers and the Blu-ray disk. For example, the first episode of Planet Earth, titled “From Pole to Pole,” shows penguins huddled together in the arctic winds. The scene isn’t the sharpest or the best looking of the series, but when the movie was paused, the animals appeared as a grainy blob of black. In my opinion, the monitor doesn’t do the content justice, leaving HD video almost looking like it was shoot with a budget camera.
Left 4 Dead, Team Fortress 2 and Track Mania United Forever were used to test the monitor’s gaming capabilities. All of the games were tested with an 8800 GT and v-sync enabled.
For me, gaming was very enjoyable. Although we already established that the image quality isn’t the best, the monitor’s size does benefit the overall experience, making games more engaging and allowing room for less powerful graphics cards to render graphics at acceptable frame rates. However, if you’re looking for detail and sharpness over sheer size, a smaller display, such as a 24″ monitor, or the Lenovo 22″ L220X we reviewed last year would fit the bill. Similarly, if you have the power, a 2560×1600 30″ display would also suffice.
Because games are in constant motion, I did not notice the grain as much as I did with video. I will admit, however, that the problem may be more apparent with certain slower-paced games, such as an RPG, or games with a static background, like an RTS, but I do not think it will have a huge impact.
The monitor was used with two additional sources: an Xbox 360, using the component input, and an HD set top box, using the HDMI input.
The Xbox 360 looked amazing on the monitor. There were no problems with the component input. The dashboard was crisp, and games looked like one would expect. Fallout 3 and Geometry Wars 2 played and looked exactly how they would on a normal television screen, with the exception of the horizontal black bars on the screen.
The VW266H did very well as a television replacement. There is 1:1 support, meaning that the content can be displayed with black bars on the top and bottom of the screen to preserve the aspect ratio, but this may cause a problem for a small percentage of users. For example, if the 1:1 mode is used and your set top box is displaying HD content in 720p, the video will only display in a 1280×720 box in the center of the screen, and SD content would appear even smaller. To remedy this, the set top box must support some form of upscaling, and some older, less intuitive models tend to hide the options.
Keep in mind that the tuner (both digital and analog) and IR receiver are included, so a computer monitor will never be a perfect replacement.
The built in speakers sound decent overall. They certainly aren’t amazing, but they proved to be more than enough for occasional TV watching. An S/PDIF output is included, so it is possible to output the sound (transmitted via the RCA, 3.5mm, and HDMI input) to a receiver, but this functionality was not tested.