Philips Brilliance 230W5VS
The enormous Philips Brilliance 230W5VS has a screen so big that if it were a portal into another dimension, you could climb right through it without touching the silver-colored plastic bezel that surrounds it. Billed as a 23-inch display, the 230W5VS's screen has a huge 19.5-by-12.18-inch viewable area, big enough to accommodate with aplomb two full letter-size documents, a couple of big spreadsheets, or a host of smaller-size windows.
For productivity back here on planet Earth, increased amounts of screen real estate can translate into increased work efficiency, but whether that alone justifies the 230W5VS's big price tag is debatable. To sweeten the deal, Philips adds a built-in universal media-card reader, embedded speakers, and three downstream USB 2.0 ports. Concealed behind a removable side panel, there's an S-Video port and both composite and component-audio and component-video input connectors.
The 230W5VS's card reader and the two-slot USB hub are hidden behind a smoky, dark-plastic cover in the center of the display's bottom bezel, which is nearly three inches wide (the top and side bezels are about one inch wide). The cover on the unit we tested failed to open smoothly; it habitually snagged halfway, slowing down access to the SmartMedia, the MultiMediaCard, the SecureDigital, the Memory Stick, the Memory Stick Pro, the Micro Drive, the Types I and II CompactFlash card readers, and the USB ports. Immediately above this area, which Philips overenthusiastically labels a Multimedia Center, is a seven-button panel for controlling the speaker volume, setting the brightness levels, auto-adjusting the screen's size and position, selecting the signal input, and launching a picture-in-picture (PIP) window. The 230W5VS's PIP window comes in three sizes (3 by 5 inches, 4 by 6 inches, and 5 by 8 inches) and can be positioned virtually anywhere within the screen, making it easy to keep one eye on a TV or a video feed while simultaneously attending to other tasks. Keep in mind that you'll pay less for multimedia extras on a slightly smaller display, such as the 21-inch Planar PX212M or the 20.1-inch HP L2035.
The Philips 230W5VS has two signal input ports--one DVI-I and one VGA (cables included)--as well as DVI-I and D-Sub audio inputs, a headphone jack, and an AC power port. A plastic cord-collecting device above the display's base does its best to contain the cables, though it's flimsy and ill-fitting.
Like other wide-screen LCDs we've seen recently, the Philips 230W5VS cannot be raised or lowered, nor is it completely wobble-free. The 230W5VS limits its adjustability to swiveling 175 degrees to the left and the right on its round, lazy-Susan-style stand and tilting forward 5 degrees and back 20 degrees. Unfortunately, limited adjustability seems to be the norm among the really big displays we've seen so far, though the HP L2335 bucks the trend by offering an extendable neck and screen pivot options (check back in early October for the full review of the L2335).
Overall, the Philips 230W5VS performed well in our DisplayMate image-quality tests. Running at its native resolution of 1,920x1,200, the 230W5VS produced text that was comfortably legible but not completely razor sharp. Colors looked bright and rich, as did both dark blacks and bright whites. Like many LCDs, the Philips 230W5VS couldn't perfectly re-create a grayscale gradient on CNET Labs' image-quality tests without minor color tracking errors, such as tinting the white end of the gradient with a yellowish hue. When looking at a black screen, we noticed that the corners weren't as dark as the rest of the screen. While we think this flaw is noticeable, it may not bother many users much.