Let's get this out of the way right off the bat. If you're looking for a thin, LED-based display with a penchant for the glamorous, you'll want to go with the Samsung SyncMaster XL2370. While the 24-inch Acer S243HL shares many of the same attributes as the Samsung--ultrathin panel, LED backlight, $300 price--the Acer unfortunately falters is performance. The Acer S243HL has one of the worst contrast ratios we've seen. And thanks to its high black level, its color accuracy left much to be desired. Lastly, since it includes two HDMI connections and no DVI connection, most people will need to invest in a DVI-to-HDMI cable to connect to their computers. The S243HL does have a nice aesthetic; it's just too bad it doesn't have the performance to match.
Design and features
The 24-inch Acer S243HL is a 16:9 aspect ratio monitor with a conventional-looking panel and a uniquely designed footstand. The L-shaped footstand is 12.2 inches wide at its widest and has a depth of 7.4 inches. At its narrowest, the stand is 6.3-inches wide. The wide section of the stand is matte gray and extends to the right to include the onscreen display button array. Thanks to the L-shaped nature of the display, it's wobbly when knocked from the sides. The back of the panel is smooth, black matte color, and relatively flat.
The panel measures 0.6 inches in depth and comes in at 22.4 inches in full width, a thin depth measurement and identical to the Samsung SyncMaster XL2370's depth and 22.4 inch width. The screen bezel measures 0.7 inch on all sides, and the screen itself has a slightly frosty matte finish. The bottom of the display's bezel is about 3.5 inches above the desktop. Unfortunately, the screen height isn't adjustable and there isn't a screen rotation or pivot option for portrait mode. The Acer screen's capability to tilt back 15 degrees is the only included ergonomic feature.
The Acer has two HDMI ports and one VGA port. However, it doesn't have a DVI port, meaning that most people will need to buy an HDMI-to-DVI cable to connect the monitor to their desktop. All connections are on the back of the foot stand and face backward, as TV connections do. This placement makes each connection easy to access.
The OSD array is aligned vertically on the front of the footstand and includes the power button, a left and right button, as well as a menu, AUTO and 'e' (preset shortcut) buttons. Each button is clearly labeled, but they probably won't be legible if you are calibrating the monitor in a dark room. To the left of the OSD array are the built-in speakers. Underneath the buttons is a blue glowing LED that adds a cool aesthetic, especially in the dark.
The OSD includes five presets: User, Text, Standard, Graphics, and Movie. It also includes controls for brightness, contrast, color temperature, and has the capability to change the red, green, and blue values individually.
The Acer S243HL's 16:9 aspect ratio supports a "Full HD" 1,920x1,080-pixel native resolution. This continues the trend of more and more monitor vendors moving toward 16:9 from 16:10 because high-definition content--in particular 1080p movies--can fit onto a 1,920x1,080-pixel screen in full-screen mode without stretching the image.
Pixel-response rate: 2ms
Contrast ratio: Dynamic Contrast Ratio: 8,000,000:1
Connectivity: (2) HDMI, VGA
HDCP compliant? Yes
Included video cables? HDMI, VGA
Brightness: 250 cd/m2
Panel Type: TN
We tested the Acer S243HL with its HDMI connection via our own HDMI-to-DVI cord. The display posted a composite score of 83 on CNET Labs' DisplayMate-based performance tests, coming in much lower than the Samsung SyncMaster XL2370's 96 score. The S243HL's performance was plagued with color problems. In our Color Tracking test, which uses several shades of gray squares, we noticed that the squares had a green tint instead of the expected, and preferred, pure gray.
We also noticed that the display has a difficult time displaying true black. No LCD monitor we've tested has been able to achieve perfect black, but the S243HL doesn't come close. Its black looks more like a dark gray, especially compared side-by-side with the XL2370. This S243HL's high black level adversely affects the display's colors. So, colors that should look full and have some pop to them instead look drab and dismal. We saw this exemplified in most of our DisplayMate color tests. Also, in our Dark Screen tests, we saw backlight bleeding and clouding on the S243HL, and its entire screen seems illuminated slightly.
The S243HL achieved a brightness score of 217 candelas per square meter (cd/m2) and an incredibly low contrast ratio of 238:1. This low contrast was because, in our tests, the display's black was way above normal levels. If black can be represented by 0.0 (the absence of light), using the ANSI Contrast screen we were seeing numbers as high as 0.7, depending on the section of the screen we looked at. In comparison, the Samsung SyncMaster XL2370 only got as high as 0.33. The XL2370 posted a brightness score of 344 cd/m2 and contrast ratio of 1,008:1.
We used the S243HL's Movie preset to check out "Kill Bill Vol. 1" on DVD and a number of 1080p movie files from Microsoft's WMV HD Showcase. We also looked at the same movies on Samsung's XL2370. In both Kill Bill and in the 1080p movies, we found that the XL2370 had consistently brighter colors than the S243HL. For example, in a skiing scene the snow along the mountain as well as flesh tones looked greenish compared with the XL2370's representation, which looked more natural. This isn't an egregious difference, but it's one that's noticeable when looking carefully with both displays side by side.