The 24-inch widescreen monitor market is a competitive one. BenQ's latest effort, the FP241W is up against a number of other well-known products, but its claims to be the world's first monitor with 1080p support and an HDMI port make it a compelling proposition.
There are few things more satisfying than plonking a 24-inch monitor on your desk -- their sheer size and presence makes you feel as if you've caught up with the Jones's and left them choking in your dust. The FP241W is one of the best-looking 24-inchers we've seen -- its thin bezel and shallow arch-shaped base are easy on the eye, plus it's very easy to assemble straight out of the box, taking just a few seconds to connect the screen section to the stand.
There's an embossed BenQ logo at the bottom-left corner and a couple of stickers at the top right, which you'll want to remove unless you're some sort of chav. BenQ certainly wouldn't mind the removal of these stickers -- the company has opted out of installing front-facing buttons in order to keep the appearance as clean as possible. The FP241W's buttons have been positioned on the right edge of the monitor facing the right. Unfortunately this makes it difficult to know which buttons serve which purpose -- you'll need to crane your neck to the right, or do a lot of guessing until you get used to the layout.
There are eight buttons in total. The power button is sensibly positioned away from the remainder of the buttons to help avoid accidental powering down. Below that is the selector button, which doubles up as a picture-in-picture (PIP) activator. Below this are the up and down navigation buttons, then a menu/exit button which activates and deactivates the on-screen menu. Finally there is the input switch, the auto adjust button and the 'mode' buttons.
The latter switches the display between multiple pre-set screen configurations consisting of Standard, Movie, Dynamic and Photo. Each mode optimises the contrast, brightness and colour settings to best suit the task at hand. Like all top screens, the FP241W has a swivel and tilt capability. This lets you spin the screen 180 degrees between landscape and portrait orientations. The latter can be useful for viewing long documents that require a lot of scrolling.
BenQ has supplied a good number of inputs on the FP241W. Most notably there's an HDCP-compliant (high-bandwidth copy protection) HDMI connector, but you'll also find DVI, D-Sub, S-Video, composite and component video. The monitor also has an integrated USB hub with two ports, which can come in very handy.
Picture quality was excellent on the FP241W. Unlike some monitors which use 6-bit panels (usually the ones that quote ridiculously low 2ms response times), this offering uses an 8-bit panel which can display a full 16.7 million colours at the expense of a slightly slower response time. Here they're 6ms grey-to-grey and 16ms on-off, which isn't bad at all.
Though the response times aren't as quick as those on other screens, we found the FP241W absolutely fine when playing games and fast-moving video -- there's little or no evidence of ghosting. What's more, the image quality was for the most part exceptional. Colour reproduction was spot on across the spectrum, and it was a joy to use whether watching high-definition movies or image editing.
The FP241W is difficult to criticise -- there's simply not a lot wrong with it. There are some small gripes, such as the fact that the menu buttons are on the side of the monitor instead of at the front where you can actually see them. And the fact that the menu button is positioned in the middle of the OSD button group, making it hard to single out, but these are things you can get used to over time.
One other criticism was that the screen has slight difficulty rendering near-black tones. Near-black appear to be the same as total black, so there's an occasional loss of detail in dark scenes. The screen is also extremely bright -- hop out of bed to check a last minute email (you loser) and its 500cd/m2 brightness will sear your retina into submission.
Our final gripe would be the method of height adjustment, which is carried out by pressing a button on the rear of the stand. The button is extremely difficult to press, and it can actually be quite painful. Luckily you won't have to adjust it too often unless, of course, the monitor has multiple users with different height preferences.
We can't fault the BenQ FP241W. It's good value for money, has great image quality and is stylish to look at. If you're in the market for a 24-inch widescreen monitor that supports 1080p 'Full HD' and has an HDCP-enabled HDMI port, it's very difficult to beat.