Recently we had the Designo from Asus across our test bench and found that it was one of the better TN panels we've come across, but let down hugely by one of the stupidest stands we've ever seen. It definitely was a case of form over function.
Of course to have such a cool panel did mean we were eager to convince Asus to let us have something based upon their excellent (for a TN) panel, but with a more usable design.
They were, as always, only too happy to help and so we found ourselves in possession of a behemoth of a thing, the Asus VW266H.
Thankfully this is much more of a standard design monitor, as we will see on the next page, and so hopefully it will combine the ergonomic importance of a monitor, with the quality we saw from the Designo.
Most Asus monitors have a fairly standard set of specifications. In a similar way to how the BIOS of all Asus motherboards are nearly identical with just a few tweaks here and there, such it is with their monitor range.
This might of course be taken as a sign of lazy design. Re-badging the same old thing all the time. Whereas actually it makes a lot of sense. By utilising similar design elements across the range it ensures that those of us who struggle to afford a high-end model to not feel like we've been diddled on the feature set, and yet it also allows Asus to keep costs down and so we actually stand a better chance of affording a higher end model.
|TFT-LCD Panel||Panel Size: 25.5“ Wide Screen |
True Resolution: 1920X1200
Pixel Pitch: 0.287mm
Brightness(Max): 300 cd/㎡
Contrast Ratio (Max.): 20000 :1 (ASCR)
Display Color: 16.7M
Viewing Angle (CR≧10): 170°(H)/160°(V)
Response Time: 2 ms (Gray-to-Gray)
|Video Features||Trace Free Technology|
SPLENDID Video Intelligence Technology
SPLENDID Video Preset Modes (5 modes)
Skin-Tone Selection (3 mode)
Color Temperature Selection(5 modes)
|Audio Features||Stereo Speakers 3Wx2 stereo RMS |
|Convenient Hotkey||SPLENDID Video Preset Mode Selection|
|Input / Output||PC Input: DVI-D/D-Sub|
PC Audio Input: 3.5mm Mini-jack
Video Input: Component(YPbPr)/HDMI
AV Audio Input: HDMI
Audio Output: SPDIF
Earphone jack: 3.5mm Mini-jack
Let's go and have a look at the monitor itself.
Taking a Good Look
Firstly it's important to say that the front of the VW266H is actually uniform and the very deep black bit in the middle of our first shot is an aberration caused by the image processing.
With that out of the way the first impression is clearly size. For anyone who was brought up on 14" TVs the shift over to 19" monitors felt like sitting in front of a cinema. Now 24" is the norm we've all got used to having enormous amounts of display acreage available to us. However even with that said the difference that 26" makes is quite considerable.
The rear of the monitor is very sleek with a nicely curved Asus branded backplate. This actually hides a cool little feature which I'll get to below.
The front of the monitor is in Piano black, which has become very popular lately especially since the release of the original Playstation 3. Of course it does mean that you can't touch it, breathe on it, or have it somewhere where dust exists unless you are one of these people who just doesn't care about how your stuff looks. For the rest of us it's certainly high maintenance, even if it looks great.
If you remember the Designo review you'll remember that it had touch buttons. Thankfully in keeping with the more sensible nature of the VW266H Asus have returned to buttons that have a much more tactile response and don't require activation before you can tell which button does what. A great improvement. As indeed is the exceptionally small and dim power LED. As a monitor is something you're staring at every moment you're in front of the PC it is important that you aren't blinded by something stating the rather obvious fact that the monitor is on. After all it isn't as if the 2 million odd pixels don't give us a clue as to the on/off state of the monitor.
The stand that comes included with the VW266H is a sturdy number, as one would hope given the size of the monitor it has to support. Unfortunately it only supports tilt movement, with no rotation or vertical adjustment possible. With the quality of stands supplied with most monitors a conspiracy theorist would think that manufacturers have a vested interest in keeping the third-part VESA stand makers in business. Even for a value monitor such as this we'd hope it was possible to supply a stand that allowed three-dimensional adjustments.
One of the really cool features of the VW266H is how thin it is for a large LCD monitor. We all know that LED monitors are usually even thinner but by and large they forgo the VESA compatibility we have here, but for a 26" monitor is doesn't take up any more deskspace than it has to. The vents on the top ensure that even the tiny amount of heat given off by flat-panel monitors in comparison to their CRT forebears is still expunged swiftly, aiding the lifespan of the monitor.
Wow. Connectivity ahoy. From left to right we have HDMI (which is great to see on a monitor at this price), DVI, VGA and the Component inputs. Alongside those are the audio through-ports for anyone who fancies routing their audio via the monitor.
And now the little secret to the VW266H. You'll have noticed on the previous page that this is a VESA compatible monitor. But if you look at the rear above there isn't any VESA mount. Asus have, as always, kept one eye on design and yet have also taken into consideration functionality. So the Asus-stamped rear panel you see above just pulls off, revealing the 100mm VESA mount in all its glory.
This does make you wonder where you're supposed to put the back bit and why, considering it's the back they bothered to cover it up. However for those of us with a great stand we love it's nice to be able to utilise it.
OSD and View Angles
The On-Screen Display is familiar to anyone who has previously used an Asus monitor, and if you haven't then it's about as intuitive as these things can get.
Firstly we have the Asus splendid presets, which we will demonstrate on the next page. Moving along we have the obligatory Brightness/Contrast adjustments. Proper calibration of your monitor to the light conditions that are wherever you will use it is vital. More often than not monitors, like televisions, are shipped with everything to the stops so that it will stand out in the brightly lit shop. Whilst insane brightness, contrast and huge saturation might be important in the sales world, at home or in the office we much prefer something that is easy on the eye and produces good colour reproduction.
Speaking of colour, or "color", that is the next thing along in our OSD. There should never be a reason to adjust the color [sic] temperature as minor swings to either the warm or cool end of the spectrum can be adjusted in a much more delicate manner.
Finally system setup which is, barring the reset of some ham-fisted adjusting, something you'll never need to use.
Ah viewing angles. There are two real differences between the cheaper, and thus the one that nearly everybody owns, TN panel and the more expensive IPS or PVA types. The first, and far more important, is colour reproduction. TN panels are limited in the amount of colours they can display at any one time and so in graphics work it's almost vital that you choose a more expensive panel as befits the importance of your work. At least 90% of you will never notice the difference, and of those remaining 10% barely any will actually care.
The second thing that is oft quoted is viewing angles. Simply the ability of the monitor to produce a consistent image whether you're looking at it standing up, laying down or walking past. To be honest I've never held much weight to that. A lot of monitor snobs will belittle a panel saying "oh but if you look at it from three feet below and at a 100° angle the colours are amiss". I don't know about our OC3D audience but I'd wager not many of you lay on the floor below your desk and play games or watch movies. I reckon you, like the rest of us, sit in front of it. It's not even as if the primary usage for a display of this type is as your main family television and so you have to make sure that your Dad snoozing by the fire has the same picture as your Grandma staring out the window.
Anyway, given that inexplicably some people demand to know if it still looks great whilst they do handstands up the other end of the room, here are some viewing angle shots. As you can see for such a large panel it's very consistent. This Lagom.nl test picture is an extreme example used for calibration and testing purposes. In average use it's even less noticeable. Should you feel the need to do the Macarena in the middle of a Photoshop session.
6 inches above 6 inches below
To the left And to the right
Those Splendid Modes
It's difficult to find a picture that fully demonstrates the difference between the five stock modes on the VW266H. Especially because they either seem to wash the colours out and crank up the brightness, or add saturation and contrast.
Scenery mode is up first and definitely goes heavy on the contrast, with not so much brightness adjustments but quite a lot of saturation. I'd assume this is designed for "scenic" things such as azure seas and rolling green fields. But a volcano is scenery and it doesn't really work so well here.
Second we have Standard which, unsurprisingly given that these were taken post calibration, gives us a good balance between retaining detail in the shadow areas and still having deep blacks to contrast against the lava.
Theatre mode seems to be the Spinal Tap "None more black" version of Scenery mode with everything but brightness taken up to 11. Try watching The Dark Knight in this mode and it might give a good indication of what it's like to be partially sighted.
Game mode has a bit more contrast, a bit more brightness, and a bit more saturation over the standard settings. It's actually the closest of the four non-standard modes to something you might actually want to live with.
Finally Night View mode, is very similar to gamer, but with the edge taken off the brightness to try and give your eyes a rest in the darker evenings.
In built presets like these are more of a bother than any use. The scenery mode is pretty dark with lots of clipping going on on the histogram. The theatre mode is so dark as to entirely erase any shadow detail at all. Even the light stuff is black.
The boring answer is to just take your time calibrating the standard mode, and then leave it the hell alone because it will be great for all applications. And indeed it was.
With more and more games being like movies as PC hardware technology improves the amount of eye candy available, and movies becoming more like games with lots of action and more CG than real props, the line most definitely is becoming blurred. It wasn't too long ago that movies weren't fill with 1 second cuts for the ADD generation, and games were incapable of pumping out the detail and speed necessary to appear similar to a movie.
Back then it was important to mention that movie performance was good, or game performance was good. Whatever. Now gaming and movies are so intertwined it's pretty much just static images, moving images, and, to a lesser extent, text.
Static images are great. Photos look excellent. Even with the limitations of the 6-bit TN panel it's still possible to differentiate between subtle shade differences. Sure it's not up to the quality of a professional graphics-editing panel, but considering the relative price difference I don't think anyone but the most optimistic would expect it to be.
As for gaming and movies this was one area I'd expect the VW266H to fall down. It's still a 1920x1200 monitor, but 2 inches bigger than most. So naturally those two inches mean larger pixels. So you'd understandably expect there to be rough edges even with anti-aliasing on, just because of the sheer size of each pixel. Not a bit of it. In extreme contrast situations (a harsh black to white transition for example) the eagle eyed might spot a slight tiny minuscule little loss in edge smoothness. However the fact I had to use four different words to emphasise how teeny-weeny and small that loss is, should tell you that only the extremely anal or nerdy will find fault, and they'll find fault with anything.
The extra size made everything SO much more enjoyable to play and watch. If, like me, you read a lot on-line or have to read a lot as part of your work, then you wont realise how much you're squinting at the screen until you switch to this larger format. It's all just so much more relaxed and wonderful.
So if you've got about £260 to spend on a monitor and want a good quality image, a nice looking monitor, a poor stand but VESA compatibility and you have the room for a big one, then the Asus VW266H should be on your shortlist.
It comes with the OC3D Recommended Award, and that's good enough for me.
Thanks to Asus for providing the VW266H for todays review. Discuss in our forums.