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ViewSonic VLED221wm Review

by The Review CrewJune 10, 2010

At $500, the ViewSonic VLED221wm can’t keep pace with better monitors, such as the Gateway HD2201, which can be found for at least $300 cheaper. In our tests, the VLED221wm achieved good performance in games and movies, and it includes built-in speakers; however, its lacks an HDMI connection and ergonomic options. The Gateway HD2201, in contrast, includes HDMI and although it also lacks ergonomic options, its low price–as cheap as $150–and has great games and movie performance make it a steal. The ViewSonic VLED221wm is fine for handling simple office tasks and good is for games and movies, but its $500 price tag cannot be justified.

Design and features
The 22-inch ViewSonic VLED221wm has a glossy black bezel measuring 0.75 inch on the sides and top and 2.5 inches on the bottom, thanks to the built-in speakers that run along the bottom of the bezel. In the middle of the speaker area is a flush, silver ViewSonic logo. The relatively thin panel is nearly 1 inch deep–middle-of-the-road compared with the Gateway HD2201 at nearly 1.5 inches thick and the ViewSonic VX2265wm’s panel which measures about 0.5. A thick 0.25-inch strip wraps around the outer edge of the panel, bringing the total panel width to 20.6-inches–slightly wider than average for a monitor of this screen size. The footstand is 13.5-inches wide by 10 inches deep and does a good job keeping the display from wobbling when knocked from the sides. The bottom of the bezel sits about 3.5 inches from the desktop. Unfortunately, this screen height is neither adjustable nor is there a screen rotation or pivot option–which is useful if you want a portrait mode. The capability to tilt the screen back 15 degrees is the only ergonomic feature included.

The ViewSonic VLED221wm’s onscreen display sits above the silver ViewSonic logo in the bottom middle of the bezel. It consists of five buttons aligned horizontally, including the power button highlighted directly in the middle of the array by a blue light emitting diode. While each button is labeled, you can’t see the labels in the dark, making calibrating it in a dark room challenging. Each button is about 1 inch in length and has enough space between them to easily determine by touch where one button ends and the other begins.

The OSD interface is generic and basic, it includes only controls for brightness, contrast, color temperature, and a few OSD-specific controls for position and timing. There are no presets like those that many other monitors include.

The Display includes VGA and DVI connections but it doesn’t have an HDMI connection. It is HDCP-compatible, so you’ll be able to watch HD content on the VLED221wm. Although the DVI and VGA ports are not blocked, they lie deep on the panel’s backside and require an awkwardly low angle to make sure you’re inserting the cable properly.

The ViewSonic VLED221wm is a 16:10 LED backlight-based monitor with a 1,680×1,050-pixel native resolution–typical for a 22-inch model. The competing Gateway HD2201, like most LCDs, uses cold cathode fluorescent tube-based backlights–several fluorescent tubes stretched horizontally across the screen. In contrast, the VLED221wm’s LED screen relies on individual LEDs all over the screen that turn off or on independently, giving the display more precise control over the amount of light coming through the screen. The purported advantages of an LED backlight are better energy efficiency, more accurate color reproduction, a conceivably thinner panel design, and a higher potential brightness level. Unfortunately, the VLED221wm does not take advantage this technology. While its color reproduction is good in movies and games, it’s not a level above a good CCFL-based monitor like the Gateway HD2201. Also, its brightness is lower than most monitors are. We are unable to test energy efficiency as of yet, so how well the VLED221wm holds up to ViewSonic’s power claims are unknown.

Manufacturer’s specifications:
Resolution: 1,680×1,050 pixels
Pixel-response rate: 5ms
Contrast ratio: 1,000:1
Brightness: 250cd/m2
Connectivity: DVI, VGA
HDCP compliant? Yes
Included video cables? DVI
Performance
We tested the ViewSonic VLED221wm with its DVI connection. The display posted a composite score of 86 on CNET Labs’ DisplayMate-based performance tests compared with the 22-inch Gateway HD2201, which also scored an 86. The VLED221wm’s most glaring issue was with color. The display faltered in our Low Saturation Color and 64-256 Intensity Color Ramp tests, which each look for noticeable compression or expansion at the dark and light ends of the scale, as well as a linear dark to light transition. Instead of a linear transition, the VLED221wm was instead, choppy; displaying dark lines where light ones should be.

The ViewSonic VLED221wm posted a brightness score of 245 candelas per square meters (cd/m2), according to our test, which is just less than the 250 cd/m2 maximum claimed by ViewSonic, and significantly lower than the Gateway HD2201’s 289 cd/m2 brightness rating. Our tested contrast rating for the VLED221wm was a bit lower than we expected at 817:1, shy of ViewSonic’s 1,000:1 claim. Bear in mind, however, that the methodology used by most vendors for determining contrast ratio is unknown; you can read about CNET Labs’ methodology here. While the VLED221wm’s tested brightness and contrast ratio are relatively low, this did not translate into bad picture quality.

World of Warcraft on the ViewSonic VLED221wm looked crisp and colorful. WoW looks great on pretty much every monitor we test. Unfortunately, viewing the game from a lower-than-optimal viewing angle made the screen darken to the point that we couldn’t see graphic details of the game–typical of most TN panels and has nothing to do with the game’s performance.

The performance in the “Kill Bill Vol. 1″ DVD on the ViewSonic VLED221wm proved good thanks to the display’s low black level; however, it has a definite red push (where the color red is accentuated more than green or blue) that we were not able to get rid of by changing the color temperature. As a result, some characters’ faces look like they’ve been slapped around a bit, even when they haven’t (yet). Unfortunately, along the bottom of the screen (the bottom black bar of a letterboxed movie) backlight bleed-through can be seen quite clearly. We didn’t notice any streaking or ghosting, and the screen remained sharp for a DVD.

The 1080p Blu-ray version of “House of Flying Daggers” looked good for the same reasons stated above; however, the red push was still as apparent.

We determined through our tests that the best setting for watching games and movies on the ViewSonic VLED221wm is the 9300k color temperature with the contrast set to about one quarter of maximum, and the brightness set to whichever high setting your eyes can take. We settled on maximum brightness.

The built-in speakers located on the bottom of the bezel produce decent sound, but it lacks bass. However, it has enough volume to hear dialogue clearly in a movie as long as you’re not more than about 10 feet away in a normal volume-level room.

The optimal viewing angle for a monitor is usually directly in front, about a quarter of the screen’s distance down from the top. At this angle, you’re viewing the colors and gamma correction as they were intended. Most manufacturers do not make monitors to be viewed at any other angle. Depending on its panel type, picture quality at nonoptimal angles varies. Most monitors use TN panels, which get overly bright or overly dark in parts of the screen when viewed from nonoptimal angles. The ViewSonic VLED221wm uses a TN panel, and when it is viewed from the sides or bottom, the screen appeared to darken only a couple inches off from optimal. Of course, when viewed from the optimal angle, we had no problems.

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The Review Crew
The Review Crew is a group of beat editors, writers, and consultants that have been working together for years. They know just about everything about everything collectively and have published their collective work under the Review Crew brand moniker for almost 20 years.