ASUS' monitor trail has been a pleasing one to watch -- with each iteration it learns and improves on the previous generation's mistakes, showing not only that it's watching and listening, but that it's dedicated to taking on the heavyweights of the industry.
The PG221 takes its design cues from the earlier PG191, the first in ASUS' "gaming" range. We'd kindly like to submit that piano black designs are past their use-by date, as we're tired of the police station's worth of fingerprints that turn up. To any vendor that reads this: please stop making products in piano black.
A thin blue LED lights up the touch button control panel at the bottom of the monitor. It's a nice touch, and those who are annoyed by it can turn it off easily enough. If you change the audio presets, it cycles from blue, to red, green, pink or orange, depending on the preset.
All the settings are controlled by touch sensitive buttons, which react well and are easy to use. It feels a bit weird if you're used to tactile feedback, but the adjustment period isn't too harsh -- just like the piano black finish though, you should expect greasy digit juice. A row of red LEDs in the middle can be tapped to bring up volume control, and then slid Star Trek-transporter-style to the left to lower the volume or to the right to increase. Double tapping at the far right will increase the sound to 100%, on the left will mute it and in the middle hits the perfect 50%. One major gripe is that it isn't immediately apparent what the volume control is -- the LEDs certainly don't change to match the volume level, and so it just looks like decoration, leaving us to feebly fondle the up and down buttons wondering where the control actually was. The fact that the slider can also be used to adjust other properties once in respective menus confuses things further.
The subwoofer extends out the neck of the screen like a cylindrical cyst, the satellite speakers sitting on either side of the controls. These are hooked up through a 3.5mm jack that is unfortunately attached to a VGA cable, another 3.5mm cable for a microphone passthrough and USB cable for the three port hub/webcam. Much cable clutter could be cleared by separating this mutant cable monstrosity. A big, needless cable connects the subwoofer to the speakers, creating more clutter and a possible catching problem. Since the whole monitor is one unit, we can't see why the need for this cable exists -- potentially for removing bass altogether when roomies are sensitive to noise, but then surely a menu item would suffice?
The aforementioned USB ports are on the left side of the monitor beneath the SRS TruSurround button, which attempts to fake out the ears that 2.1 sound is, well, surround sound. Also on this side are headphone and microphone passthrough ports, so your headset's cables don't have to stretch too far.
A 1.3-megapixel webcam is embedded along the top of the screen, and can be easily rotated on a vertical axis to match the height you're after. The monitor's stand can also be rotated, and the panel itself tilted, however that's it as far as comfort adjustments go.
Unusual for a 22-inch monitor, the ASUS features component, composite and s-video inputs, usually more common on 24-inch monitors and above. It also allows you to switch to "music" mode, where there is no video input, but the 3.5mm jack remains active, allowing you to keep streaming stuff off the PC, or more likely a nearby portable audio player.
The menu is well laid out, but quite laggy and combined with the lack of tactile response from the buttons can make navigation quite a chore.