There's been something of a shift in LCD monitor design towards models that look like their larger LCD TV counterparts. It's a shift that the HP L1908w flatly ignores. This is an LCD monitor that looks all the part of a PC monitor, with plenty of thick chunky lines, a minimum of smoothing and absolutely no piano black to be seen anywhere. In many ways it's a refreshing change of pace, but it's also a stark reality check: the L1908w is a budget monitor. While it's definitely possible to get 19-inch displays at prices cheaper than HP's L1908w, you do run the risk of getting a lower quality image.
The L1908w's ordinary design is a solid one that should stand a few knocks. It also has a very solid base that keeps it level. We've seen more than a few monitors that try to look flash with "funky" bases that might catch the eye... just before the monitor topples and it catches the floor.
The L1908w measures in at 446 x 59 x 301 millimetres. It's a widescreen LCD monitor with a top resolution of 1,440 x 900 pixels, and a claimed refresh rate of 5ms. That's not spectacularly fast, and those who live for fast refresh rates (such as many PC gamers) may wish to look elsewhere. For those who just need a monitor for regular computer use, 5ms is certainly fast enough.
There's one significant drawback that you should be aware of with the L1908w -- it comes only with a VGA port. Our review sample came with a VGA cable already in place, but that could have been a function of it being a review unit. Those with DVI-only connectors should probably look elsewhere, or at least ready a DVI-VGA adaptor.
When we first connected the L1908w up to our test PC it quickly performed an automatic calibration and selected the top resolution. To be honest, though, 1,440 x 900 isn't going to tax many systems, and unless you have a particular need for other resolutions, it's probably going to stay on that setting for all of its natural life. The OSD menu is functional rather than pretty, but aside from checking its basic functionality we didn't need to refer to it post initial calibration.
We tested the L1908w both with Displaymate and a variety of real-world computing tasks. For the most part (and bearing in mind the relatively low asking price of the L1908w) it performed adequately. We did notice the L1908w's shallow viewing angles; if you're sitting in front of the L1908w you won't really notice it, but those peering over your shoulder certainly will, the unit's images displaying a larger tendency to wash out than we'd typically like.
There's no denying that HP's attached a price premium to the L1908w, purely because it carries a little HP badge on the side. If you want to buy a cheaper LCD, there are plenty about -- even models larger than 19-inch widescreen if you hunt around a bit. The market for the L1908w is pretty clearly for those who want that brand name certainty more than they do size or other features.