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When considering a new purchase, the importance of price can't be understated. Just attaching a low sticker price to a product can make something not even on your radar suddenly become a must-have. If, like me, you were a Steam customer during the holiday, you'll know exactly what I mean.
For large purchases, however, functionality takes precedence over price. At least for me it does. I've just been burned too many times going with the cheaper alternative only to be unsatisfied by the experience it provided me.
The HP 2311x got a lot of attention on CNET last year from you guys when Amazon.com started selling it for $180. It's since dropped even lower. I imagine it's not just the price that intrigued potential buyers, but also the range of connection options.
So, is the HP 2311x a great monitor, or simply great for its price?
Design and features
Smooth and clean are fair words to describe the HP 2311x's overall aesthetic. Running my fingers along the back of the monitor yielded a feeling akin to lying between soft, high-thread-count sheets. Well, maybe not that smooth, but it did feel nice. Still, the build quality also felt hollow, plasticky, and, well, kind of cheap. But hey, smooth.
Also, why every monitor isn't designed with back-facing connections laid out in an easily accessible manner baffles me to no end, but I'm incredibly thankful this one is. The 2311x's support of HDMI, DVI, and VGA connections is a welcome surprise given its low price. DisplayPort would have been an exciting bonus, though.
While not the 2311x isn't gimped on connections, ergonomic support is another story. Ergo options are limited to a 25-degree back tilt, with no swivel, pivot, or height adjustment.
The right and left sides of the bezel measure 0.9 inch and the full panel is 21.9 inches wide, with the bottom of the panel being 2.7 inches from the desktop. The foot stand measures 10.6 inches wide by 6.2 inches deep and provides great stability for the monitor, as knocking it from the sides yielded nary one wobble.
For anyone familiar with HP's OSD (onscreen display) design, you won't find any surprises here. Brightness, Contrast, and Sharpness are present. Also included are five presets: Movie, Gaming, Text, Photo, and Custom. Unfortunately, on our model, it seems as if the Text preset got switched with Custom, as it's the only preset that allowed color customization.
Speaking of color, three color temperature options are included: Warm, Cool, and Normal (somewhere in between warm and cool). RGB color controls are also included, allowing for fine-tuning of red, green, and blue.
The OSD is located in the lower right corner and consists of four horizontally aligned buttons, with small white icons along the bezel denoting each button's function. The far left button activates the menu and Up, Down, and Enter buttons round out the array. Navigating the menu proved a straightforward endeavor.
|Design and feature highlights|
|Connectivity:||HDMI, DVI, VGA|
|Ergonomic options:||25-degree back tilt|
|VESA wall-mount support:||No|
|Included video cables:||DVI, VGA|
|Number of presets:||5|
|Picture options:||Brightness, Contrast, Sharpness|
|Color controls:||RGB and 3 color temperature options|
I tested the HP 2311x through its DVI input, connected to a Windows Vista PC with the included DVI cable. The display posted a composite score of 91 on CNET Labs' DisplayMate-based performance tests.
The merits of antiglare (AG) screen coating are much debated these days. Some viewers prefer the coating not be applied at all, while others favor only a limited amount. And others are completely indifferent. AG coating doesn't adversely affect a monitor's quality, and its merits or lack thereof are strictly a question of preference.
That said, there is a light AG coating on the HP 2311x's screen, reducing potential reflections while keeping some of the pop that glossy screens enjoy. A full glossy display can increase the perceived contrast of a monitor screen--which some people prefer--but can also be difficult to see in direct sunlight.
DisplayMate: The 2311x displayed light gray up to level 253. Level 255 is considered white and every level between it and 1 is a variation of gray. Once calibrated, the monitor could not distinguish between 255 and 254; matching the white-level saturation performance of the Samsung PX2370, which also topped out at 253. The 2311x's performance here indicates the display will likely not be prone to washing out light colors. As for dark gray, the 2311x displayed down to level 2 while still maintaining a very deep black, pointing to the display being capable of a very low black level.
The monitor struggled in many of our color-scaling tests, which evaluate the monitor's ability to smoothly display different shades of various colors. The 2311x yielded plenty of color abnormalities in these tests, exemplified by unwanted jumps and inconsistencies in the scales, instead of displaying them in a smooth and linear fashion.
In our Dark Screen test, the monitor showed obvious clouding on the left bottom edge, but overall wasn't that bad. The 2311x's lack of light bleeding however likely has something to do with its low overall luminance.
Text: Black text on white looked clear, without any obvious color tint problems. Fonts were clearly visible down to a 6.8 size.
Movies: I tested the HP 2311x using the Blu-ray version of "Avatar." The Movie preset provides a great experience, displaying a high contrast and vibrant look with rich colors and some of the deepest blacks I've ever seen on a monitor. In fact, they're too deep. You see, the Movie preset turns on Dynamic Contrast and this unfortunately crushes dark detail.
A great example of this in "Avatar" is when Jake meets the leader of the Na'vi tribe at night. The tribe leader's hair is full of dark braids, but when Dynamic Contrast is on, the detail of the braids can't be seen. Switching to the Text preset and pumping up the contrast revealed more braids, but it also ruined the cinematic, high-contrast look.
If you can deal with missing dark detail in scenes, the Movie preset does a good job of providing a movielike feel. If seeing every detail is important to you, I found the following settings work best.
|Preset||Text (or Custom)|
Games: When evaluating the look of games on a monitor, the two most important features to consider are vibrancy and color. If the monitor can display games with a bright and vibrant cleanness, this goes a long way. If colors also pop with fullness and depth, games can usually look great.
Star Wars: The Old Republic on the HP 2311x in the Gaming preset had high vibrancy with colors that popped suitably. However, like the Movie preset, Gaming turns on Dynamic Contrast, and again dark detail is lost.
To get a more balanced presentation, try the following settings:
|Preset||Text (or Custom)|
To test refresh rate, I used DisplayMate's motion graphics tests and stared at a number of colored blocks as they moved around the screen at various speeds. The 2311x displayed noticeably less streaking than the Samsung SyncMaster PX2370 during the test.
Photos: For faces and light-colored hair, the 2311x's colors sometimes dip ever so slightly into a greenish hue compared with the PX2370, but the bright colors of clothing and environments pop vibrantly. Luckily, the colors can be adjusted, and I found the following settings best for viewing photos.
|Preset||Text (or Custom)|
Recommended settings: I used SpectraCal's CalPC to calibrate the HP 2311x for bright-room viewing. The following settings are what the monitor was adjusted to after calibration.
For general use, these are the best settings; however, for more specific tasks like movies and gaming, check out those respective sections for my recommended settings.
Viewing angle: The optimal viewing angle for a monitor is usually from directly in front, about a quarter of the screen's distance down from the top. At this angle, you're viewing colors as the manufacturer intended. Most monitors aren't designed to be viewed at any other angle. Depending on the monitor's panel type, picture quality at suboptimal angles varies. Most monitors use TN panels, which get overly bright or overly dark in parts of the screen when not viewed from optimal angles.
The 2311x uses a TN panel and its viewing angles match other TN monitors in that colors begin to shift when viewing from about 6 to 7 inches to the left or right. As always with TN panels, the above and below viewing angles are the worst offenders. From these angles, graphic or text detail is at its most difficult to see.
This is typical of the vast majority of TN panels, though, as it's one of the limitations of the technology. It's also the reason the HP 2311x can be found for as low as $180, so I can't knock it (or other TN-based monitors) too hard based on this. Just understand you likely won't be creating art for the next great Web site with this one. I'd suggest a more professional IPS-based monitor like the Asus PA246Q for that.
Power consumption: The HP 2311x achieved good power consumption, with a Default/On power draw of 24.9 watts. The Samsung SyncMaster PX2370 drew a similar 25.01 watts in the same test.
In our Sleep/Standby test, the HP 2311x drew 0.59 watt and the PX2370 pulled a lower 0.29 watt. Based on our formula, the 2311x would incur virtually the same cost as the PX2370, with a per-year pull of $7.84 per year, compared with the PX2370's $7.65 per year.
|HP 2311x||Average watts per hour|
|On (default luminance)||24.9|
|On (max luminance)||26.4|
|On (min luminance)||11.8|
|Calibrated (200 cd/m2)||15.6|
|Annual power consumption cost||$7.84|
Find out more about how we test LCD monitors.
Service and support
Hewlett-Packard backs the 2311x with a three-year limited parts and labor warranty that covers the backlight--the same great deal other vendors, such as Dell, provide. HP includes free shipping labels and in-home service, as well as support through its 24-7 toll-free number. Just be aware that the free service ends after one year and HP will charge you after that. HP's Web site offers Web chat and e-mail support that the company says it replies to within an hour.
The HP 2311x offers a good package for its price. With three popular and useful connection options, good overall performance, and plenty of color customization, it's a pretty good deal at $230. The fact that it can currently be found for $180 makes it even more appealing and worthier of your dollar. Just be sure you don't need something more than a basic monitor.