Widescreen monitors once the choice of enthusiasts and power users, have dropped in prices rapidly, and are now finding favor with consumers. Looking to gain a foothold in this rapidly increasing market, Asus has released the MW221u with a response time lower than the competition and at gamers and professionals. How does this panel stack up to the competition? Read on...
The MW221u is one of the most solidly constructed monitors we have come across in the 22-inch range. Like the PW201, we reviewed earlier, the MW221u comes with a very solid metal base, a shiny piano-black bezel on the outer edge of the monitor and a thick plastic frame which runs around the edges of the LCD panel. Asus seems to have paid particular attention to this frame, as it appears to have been constructed out of a more sturdy plastic that is normally used for frames. The bottom edge of the monitor which houses the OSD buttons is enclosed in a thin metal frame adding to the air of solidness this monitor seems to have. Just beneath this metal frame, lies the speaker grill which is hidden away. We appreciate this touch, as other manufacturers often stick the speaker grill on the front side of the monitor and more often than not this spoils the whole presentation of the monitor. Overall the monitor with its polished bezel, toughened plastic and hidden speaker grill projects an image of a tough reliable product.
The OSD controls of the MW221u are as annoying as the controls of the PW201. While the PW201 had an electronic touch-panel, the MW221u has a standard pair of touch keys, which at times were unresponsive to even the hardest of jabs and when they did register often caused menu lag. Considering the premium and care Asus normally places on its products, it is beyond comprehension why they insist on equipping their monitors with these "headache causing" controls. The back of the monitor has the D-SUB and DVI-D ports present along with the audio-in port for the multimedia speakers of the monitor.
The base of the MW221u as we have mentioned before is made out of a thick metal cast, which while adding unnecessary weight to the monitor also restricts a users chance of moving it around too much. In a similar vein, the MW221u also lacks height adjustability a must in any monitor today. When you combine these two points together, you get a major negative strike against this monitor as getting that perfect viewing angle and height is just a total pain in the neck.
The MW221u is a 22-inch TN LCD panel with a native resolution of 1680x1050 and has a contrast ratio of 700:1. While these specifications are common and very typical of 22-inch monitors, what sets the MW221u apart is its response time of 2ms. For testing the performance of the MW221u, we used a combination of synthetic benchmark tools such as Everest and Display-Mate, FPS games like F.E.A.R and Prey, MMORPG games like WoW and by watching HD movies to arrive at a consistent performance result.
For our first series of tests we ran graphically intensive games such as WoW, F.E.A.R and Oblivion. There were no surprises here. The monitor's 2ms response time made any form of ghosting that might have occurred in other monitors a virtual impossibility. To stress the monitor further, we used a variety of WMV HD clips and 2 movies that have intense action sequences (Gladiator/X-Men2). Here also the monitor held its own admirably with no video lag and fluid playback.
For our second series of tests we decided to check out this monitors sharpness, color output and contrast ratio using the rather comprehensive tools that Everest and Display-Mate offer. The results we got from these tests were rather surprising. As compared to the sterling standards set by previous Asus monitors, the MW221u had average results across the spectrum. Color output though being vibrant tended to be over-emphasized in certain games leading to a cartoony like display. The black-levels which are normally an Asus panel's strength were very average and for some HD content were below the standards that even a standard 19-inch panel would offer. The only place that the monitor did not suffer in was the contrast ratio and sharpness, which were as good as one would expect. However keeping in mind all the factors, it is disappointing that a monitor that offers a 2 ms response time would be handicapped by these issues.
The MW221u priced at Rs. 28,000 is an average performer. While it offers a fantastic response time, its lack of height and base adjustment and less than satisfactory performance does nothing to promote it as a serious contender. If you are in the market for a 22-inch LCD panel, we suggest you look at competitors like Dell, Viewsonic and Benq each of who have equally good performers and cost as much as Rs. 10,000 less.