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Asus PG221 review: ASUS PG221

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The monitor is bogged down with a bunch of pointless presets for both video and audio -- setting these to "standard" easily nets the best results. An equaliser is available for the sound, and for best results you should spend some time tweaking in here, not to mention adjusting the subwoofer volume. SRS TSXT is available, which attempts to create "phantom" speakers around the two supplied speakers -- a sort of virtual surround sound. It does a decent job, although it's entirely up to the listener as to whether they find the effect pleasant -- either way it can be switched on or off with a simple press of a button.

Pleasingly, 1080p worked over both component and DVI, the image scaling to fit the smaller native resolution. Not so pleasingly, the aspect options on component are Full (stretched to fullscreen), 4:3 (stretched), Panorama (presumably 16:10, stretched) and Zoom (er, zoomed).

Using DVI opens up a 1:1 option, however it would have been nice to see this on the analogue inputs as well. Testing an Xbox 360 (component) and a PS3 (HDMI to DVI), 1080i flat out looked the best we've seen on a PC monitor, hinting that ASUS has spent some time with deinterlacing filters. The glossy coating on the screen helps improve the image as well, and ASUS seems to have found a nice balance between reflectivity and colour enhancement.

The PG221 blitzed through the DisplayMate tests, capable of defining levels 4 to 254 on the greyscale tests (in which 255 definable shades are shown). Gradient ramps were acceptable (so long as no presets were used), gaming was excellent, and movies were the bomb.

It's not all praise -- vertical viewing angles could be better, and there was noticeable light bleed from the left, right, and top of the screen. As usual this only really raises its ugly head during dark scenes, yet it's distracting and surprising to see on a monitor in this price range.

Bowers and Wilkins they're not, but the speakers are better than expected -- they don't handle high dynamics too well at full volume, intentionally deadening the curve so as not to blow out the speakers, buzz or clip the sound, but the subwoofer fills in the tonal void left by most monitor speakers, and after some tweaking in the equaliser things sound well balanced and definition is acceptable. If you're not an audiophile, these speakers will suit most gamers, providing they're willing to give up 5.1 sound (hah!). The rest of us will stick with our Logitech Z5500-Ds.

The retail price of AU$799 might cause some to cough in disbelief as well -- but at the time of writing you can find it on the streets for around AU$100 less. While there are some short comings and the huge array of additional "features" piled on may annoy purists, we still can't help but like the ASUS PG221. Still at this price, it's almost worth going that extra mile and getting a monitor that can do 1920 x 1200 and 1:1 scaling over component, for that proper high definition experience.

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