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LED-based monitors actually worth their asking price is a recent trend I can easily get behind. Displays such as the Dell S2330MX and the Samsung S23A550H are LED-based, low-priced, and, when push comes to shove, are ultimately worth their low prices.
The HP x2301 is the latest in recent monitor releases following the same thin design paradigm, but does it follow the high-quality trend as well?
Design and features
Removing the specs and features sticker from the top bezel of the HP x2301 revealed quite a handsome monitor, with a glossy piano-black bezel and wide, stylish foot stand. The black bezel measures 0.75 inch wide, but shifts into metallic silver at the bezel's base, where a cylindrical shaft connects the foot stand to the neck of the display. The stand measures 10.1 inches wide by 5.5 inches deep and provides ample stability when the monitor is knocked from the sides, delivering the most stationary LED-based monitor we've yet seen. The foot stand is covered by a cool-looking, green-tinted transparent plate.
The monitor's panel is nearly as thin as the Dell S2330MX's we recently reviewed, making it the third thinnest monitor we've seen, behind the aforementioned Dell and the thinnest of all, the LG Flatron E2290. The glossy motif established in the bezel carries over to the screen, which could double as a dark mirror when powered off.
On top of the foot stand toward the front are five buttons including a power button, which glows with turquoise light. To the left of the power button are, from right to left, the OK button, source button, preset shortcut, and main OSD menu. The source and shortcut buttons also double as up and down navigation buttons. Speaking of which, with the inclusion of the OK button, navigating the OSD is simple, clear, and direct, with a very short learning curve.
The menu has your usual expected menagerie of options, including brightness, contrast, sharpness, RGB color controls, and color temperature options including 5000K, 6500K, and 9200K. Four presets tailored to movies, photo, gaming, and text are featured, as well as a custom preset that allows you to adjust red, green, and blue to your heart's, or at least your eye's, content.
The panel tilts back 10 degrees, but it includes no other ergonomic options; that's not at all surprising for a monitor in its price range. The back of the foot stand houses the old guard of connection options, including VGA, DVI, and HDMI, all of which thankfully face back, making accessing them a piece of cake.
Build quality is about on par with most 23-inch LED-based monitors, feeling somewhat flimsy at the top of the panel, but stronger toward the bottom where the foot stand and panel meet.
|Design and feature highlights|
|Connectivity||VGA, DVI, HDMI|
|Ergonomic options||10-degree back tilt|
|VESA wall-mount support||No|
|Included video cables||DVI, DVI-to-HDMI adapter|
|Number of presets||5|
|Picture options||Brightness, Contrast|
|Color controls||RGB and 2 color temperature options|
We tested the 23-inch HP x2301 through its DVI input, connected to a Windows Vista PC, using our own DVI cable. The display posted a composite score of 89 on CNET Labs' DisplayMate-based performance tests.
The screen is extremely glossy and reflective with seemingly no antiglare coating. Some may prefer the glossiness, though, as it increases the perceived contrast; however, with the monitor turned off, it could easily double as a mirror.
DisplayMate: The HP x2301 visibly displayed dark gray down to a low level of 2 and light gray was visible to the not-quite-as-high-as-we're-accustomed-but-still-good level of 252. Judging from these findings, the display would likely not have much trouble displaying dark detail or confuse white with light colors.
Color performance overall was good, but it was plagued by the nearly impossible-to-escape green hue problem that crops up on many monitors during the color-tracking test. Dialing the green down to 234 helped a lot, but it was still noticeable.
Backlight bleeding was prevalent along the middle bottom and top edges of the screen as well as along the left edge.
Text: It's difficult screw up text on a modern monitor. So we look not only at the text itself, but also the effect of black text on a white background, which can sometimes cause a weird yellowish glow to emanate around the text. On HP x2301, black text on white looked clear, but with a slight tinge of green around it. Also, fonts were clearly visible down to a 6.8-point size.
Movies: We tested the HP x2301 using the Blu-ray version of "Avatar." Sitting right next to the better-performing Samsung PX2370, the x2301's green push was easily noticeable but not to an egregious extent.
The x2301's blacks were deep, thanks to the glossy screen. Still, the PX2370 has a vibrancy and clarity to its screen that few monitors in its price range, including the x2301, can match.
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 toward benefiting its looks. If colors can also pop with fullness and depth, games will usually look great.
For all the times the HP x2301 will blind you with its sunlight-reflecting powers, with games, the glossy screen earns its keep, providing a high contrast and vibrancy. Unfortunately, even after calibration, the green tint, though marginalized, is still noticeable.
To test refresh rate, we used DisplayMate's motion graphics tests and stared at a number of colored blocks as they moved around the screen at various speeds. The size of the streaks produced behind the blocks indicates how the monitor would deal with fast movement in games. While the PX2370 has minimal streaking, we saw noticeably more streaking with the x2301, but not a ridiculous amount. Still, this indicates the x2301 would display more streaking than the PX2370 during fast movement in games.
Photos: Even with green set fairly low, the faces, clothing, and environments still exhibited a faint green hue when directly compared with the Samsung PX2370. We make the direct comparison point because unless you're comparing the display directly with a higher-quality display, you likely won't notice the green tint.
Recommended settings: We used SpectraCal's CalPC to calibrate the HP x2301 for bright-room viewing. The following settings are what the monitor had been adjusted to after calibration.
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 nonoptimal 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 HP x2301 uses a TN panel with no antiglare coating. At its worst, it doubles as a fine, if dark, mirror. Most times, the glossiness isn't much of a problem as long as the screen isn't receiving direct sunlight. When it does, details can be difficult to see, especially in dark scenes.
When that pesky old life-giving star isn't an issue, however, the x2301's viewing angles matches 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 are at their 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 x2301 can be found for as low as $200, so we 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. We'd suggest a more professional IPS-based monitor like the Asus PA246Q for that.
Power consumption: The HP X2301 achieved good power consumption, with a Default/On power draw of 28.2 watts, compared with the PX2370's 25.01 watts in the same test. Fairly close results, but these power consumption contests are usually decided during sleep time.
In our Sleep/Standby test, the x2301 cost 0.76 watt and the PX2370 pulled a lower 0.27 watt.
Based on our formula, the x2301 would cost $8.94 per year to run, compared with the PX2370's $7.65 per year.
|HP x2301||Average watts per hour|
|On (default luminance)||28.2|
|On (max luminance)||28.7|
|On (min luminance)||14.9|
|Calibrated (200 cd/m2)||25.7|
|Annual power consumption cost||$8.94|
Find out more about how we test LCD monitors.
Service and support
HP backs the X2301 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, according to the company, it replies to within an hour.
In the realm of sub-$300 TN monitors, the Samsung PX2370 will likely not be surpassed in screen quality anytime soon. Samsung put its top-of-the-line TN panel in that display, but the company has since realized that most customers didn't really notice the enhanced quality in the PX2370. With its recent S23A550, Samsung included a much cheaper TN panel and, as a result, its performance couldn't match its predecessor.
In other words, the best sub-$300 TN monitor is still the PX2370 and will likely be for some time. However, if you're willing to deal with a display that doesn't perform at the same level, but one that's available at a lower price, the HP x2301 will do nicely. It's a lot like the very good Dell S2330MX, but with a better-designed OSD and native HDMI support.