HP 2311x review: HP 2311x

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The Good The HP 2311x includes the trifecta of connection options, all placed in an easily accessible spot. Don't expect world-beating performance, but for $230 it's quite good and even more impressive currently from Amazon.com for $180.

The Bad The monitor has no ergonomic support beyond tilt, its Movie and Gaming presets are too dark, and it has a plastic-feeling build quality. Some audio options would have been useful.

The Bottom Line The HP 2311x is a great monitor deal, with good performance and a great assortment of connections for its price.

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6.4 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 7
  • Performance 6
  • Support 8

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
Resolution: 1,920x1,080 pixels
Aspect ratio: 16:9
Audio: N/A
VESA wall-mount support: No
Included video cables: DVI, VGA
Backlight: LED
Panel type: TN
Screen film: Matte
Number of presets: 5
Overdrive: No
Picture options: Brightness, Contrast, Sharpness
Color controls: RGB and 3 color temperature options
Gamma control: No
Additional features: N/A

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.

Attribute Setting
Preset Text (or Custom)
Brightness 100
Contrast 48
Color temperature Cool
Color settings R-255