The sleek Acer AL1951B offers a lot: easy-to-access ports, built-in speakers, a headphone jack, and a bright screen with vivid colors--all for $379. Though other 19-inch monitors, such as the LG Flatron L1981Q, offer greater adjustability, they're typically $100 more and cannot match the feature set and the performance of the AL1951B.
The Acer AL1951B has an innovative and attractive design. A slim 0.5-inch black-and-silver bezel surrounds the panel, and the handsome color scheme extends to the large and very stable base. Unlike most LCDs we've seen, the AL1951B has its menu buttons and speaker embedded in the base instead of the bezel. Similarly, the audio and signal inputs connect to the back of the base instead of the back of the panel. This design makes connecting cables much easier and eliminates the need for a cord-corralling device. The drawback: the AL1951B doesn't have room for an internal power converter, so you'll have to make space for a small power brick.
The AL1951B offers very little in the way of adjustability: the screen tilts about 5 degrees forward and 10 degrees back, but its height isn't adjustable, and the panel sits just 3.5 inches above the desktop. Other 19-inch monitors, such as the HP L1940 and the Philips Brilliance 190P6, are more flexible, but you'll pay significantly more for those features.
Arranged conveniently along the back of the AL1951B's base are digital and analog ports as well as an audio input that channels sound to the headphone jack and the 1.5-watt speaker. Like most built-in speakers, these sound weak and tinny.
The AL1951B's five-button control panel is well placed and simple to use. The two middle buttons control speaker volume and double as scrolling arrows when you're using the onscreen menu (OSM). The easy-to-use OSM lets you control the basic brightness and contrast settings as well as color temperature.
The Acer AL1951B turned in an average performance on CNET Labs' DisplayMate-based LCD performance tests. The dark-black text looked crisp and legible, even in small-size fonts. Thanks in part to the AL1951B's CrystalBrite screen coating, colors appeared bright and vivid; however, color scales didn't show much differentiation between shades, especially at the dark end. The AL1951B displayed attractive grayscales, but some tests showed slightly pink and green tints. Uniformity tests revealed the AL1951B's screen to be darker at the top than the bottom.
The Acer AL1951B did pretty well on our DVD-playback and gaming tests. Colors looked bright and bold, and images were nicely detailed. Unfortunately, we noticed areas of distortion, especially in backgrounds, and the black bars on letterboxed movies were full of distracting reflections.
The Acer AL1951B comes with an industry-standard three-year limited parts-and-labor warranty. Toll-free tech support is available Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on weekends from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT. If you call after-hours and leave a detailed message, including your name and phone number, the serial number of your display, and a brief description of the problem, tech support will return your call, often within the hour. Acer's support Web site also offers driver downloads and links to e-mail support.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)