NEC MultiSync EA231WMi review
Almost £300 is a lot of money for a 23in monitor, especially when you can buy a good-quality example for well under £200. However, NEC's EA231WMi is packed with features, and is aimed at business users rather than consumers.
Of course, there's nothing to stop you using the EA231WMi at home, and there are several reasons why you might want to. Chief among these is image quality. While the vast majority of LCD monitors use TN panel technology, the EA231WMi has an IPS panel. In short, the difference is that the liquid crystals move parallel to the panel instead of perpendicular to it. The main effect is that vertical and horizontal viewing angles are radically improved, so you can view the EA231WMi from any position without sacrificing colour accuracy.
This versatility comes in particularly handy since the stand is both height adjustable and allows the display to pivot to portrait mode – where TN panels struggle. Colours are extremely accurate, too, especially when the monitor is calibrated using a device such as the Spyder 3 Express (opposite). It makes for an ideal monitor for video and photo-editing enthusiasts. Brightness is good at 300cd/m2, and despite the 14ms response time, we saw no noticeable lag or ghosting in games or when watching videos.
Another advantage is the DisplayPort input. This is essential if you want to connect a third monitor to one of ATI's new Radeon 5000-series graphics cards, which can drive a trio of displays. The three displays can be used as an extended Windows desktop or for immersive gaming across all three screens.
At full brightness, the MultiSync draws 44W, but this is considerably reduced by the auto brightness modes. An ambient light sensor can adjust the brightness automatically, or you can set the brightness based on the white content of the image. This is usually too dim to be useful, but the third option, which is a combination of both modes, is rather better. Additionally, you can choose between two Eco modes: Energy Star and 30 per cent power saving. The latter reduces power to around 25W.
There's a useful two-port USB hub built into the rear of the monitor, plus a pair of muddy-sounding stereo speakers. The minijack headphone socket is welcome, though. We also like NEC's mini-joystick menu control, which is far easier to use than most monitors' confusing sets of buttons. Plus, rather than opting for side-mounted buttons, NEC has sensibly mounted the controls where you can see them.
There's not quite enough here to earn the EA231WMi an Ultimate award, but it's too expensive compared with good TN-based monitors like Philips' 230C1 for a Best Buy award. If you need great colour accuracy and wide viewing angles, or want the DisplayPort input, it's just about worth the high price. For everyone else, it's too expensive to be good value.
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