ASUS MS236H Monitor Review
Striking a balance when reviewing is always tricky. On the one hand you want to make sure that you've covered all the good and bad points fairly so that the conclusion is just a summation of all that is gone before. However sometimes something is so over-riding that you can end up, be it good or bad, focusing on that element.
With monitors, like mice and a few other things, it's even harder. After all if the picture displayed is great and there isn't a lot of motion-smearing or huge issues with the consistency of the back-light brightness, then it will be great in everything. Which does tend to make the good points rather sparse and the bad points brought into even sharper relief.
Firstly the panel is fantastic. The sharpness and clarity are great through all applications without ever having those white specs that can come from over-use of a sharpening algorithm. Rather the display itself is of a very high standard for a TN panel. As we showed on the previous page, even when calibrated the colour reproduction is exceptional.
Sometimes for the sake of grabbing your attention the brightness and saturation are overly enhanced when you first set a monitor up, but ASUS have done a great job with getting the MS236H pretty close at the default settings. Equally good as always is the ASUS build quality. Despite the monitor being very thin indeed, it's fairly robust. The lack of girth from a VESA mount or an on-board power does make it slightly more flexible than most, but never in a problematic way.
Finally the buttons work exactly like all capacitive buttons, in that they work with a mere touch. Exactly like the buttons on your PS3 or similar. This makes the front of the monitor as sleek as the back. With a panel so good there are bound to be a few issues.
Sadly the primary one is ergonomics. As part of this I naturally have to sit here for a large portion of my day. The inability to raise the monitor at all off the desk is almost crippling. If you're one of those people who've always wondered why VESA compatibility is a useful feature to have, then you really need to get a quality stand that allows you to put the monitor where you want. If, like me, you have got a third-party stand then the adjustments available on the MS236H are woeful. Maybe because they're entirely non-existent. It can't be put in portrait mode. I can't be raised or lowered. It can't be rotated without physically moving it.
All you're left with is the ability to lean it slightly forward or slightly back. Even this is flawed. The stand design certainly looks wonderful and if you like your PC to be part of the decor rather than part of your life, then I'm sure it scores highly. But what on earth possessed ASUS to not only have a tiny piece of plastic being the only thing really keeping the monitor up, but to not even supply it with a little rubber so it stays where it's put, is beyond me. A £200+ monitor shouldn't require a blob of Blu-Tac to be useful. The positioning is wrong too. Without the weight of the power supply at the bottom the monitor weighs the same all over. So the bottom position of the stand only exacerbates the problem of it naturally returning to a tilted back state.
So you have two choices. Have the monitor vertical and lower your chair so you don't end up with crippling shoulder and neck pain from looking down all the time but have to type with your arms around your ears, or live with the pain and maybe even use the monitor less. Which seems to defeat the object.
Lastly, and small potatoes compared to the ergonomics problem of the stand, are those swish buttons. Sure they look good when they're off, but there aren't any labels. So with the glow of a screen and the naturally darker environment we place our screens into, means the tiny dots to indicate the placement of each button get lost. So you poke at the corner until they light up and you can use them. The actual sensitive area is also too small. I've got big fingers and still have about a 50% success rate of getting the button to activate. Why they couldn't have indented them as they have with the power button is beyond me.
So, back at the start we said about how the ASUS MS236H was using design to separate itself from the pack of monitors. Unfortunately this is almost a perfect example of form over function. The back is in plain white, the front in gloss piano black. The buttons look good but aren't very easy to find or to press. And the stand looks the part and is easy to fit but causes huge comfort issues for the user.
It's very disappointing because the panel is fantastic and one of the best TN panels around. It's just been wasted in this weird design. And it would take so little to make it a star too. A little bit of rubber at the base of the stand, VESA compatibility, 1:1 Pixel Mapping and change the other buttons to the same style as the power button and you have a blinding monitor that still follows the design creed, but would be fun to use.
So if you're a midget, or don't mind only using it in extremely short burst, then it could be the monitor for you. Otherwise, there are equally good monitors that haven't thrown ergonomics out the window entirely.
For our scoring today Performance relates solely to the panel itself, and Presentation relates to the design elements.
- One of the best TN panels we've used
- Good connectivity
- Looks flash
- Buttons aren't the easiest thing in the world to use
- Stand was clearly designed for looks and is almost wholly useless.