NEC MultiSync E231W review: NEC MultiSync E231W

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MSRP: $229.00

The Good The NEC MultiSync E231W has full ergonomic support, a robust and useful OSD, and all at a relatively low price for the package.

The Bad The NEC MultiSync E231W's performance in games lags behind the best 23-inchers, and its aesthetics are uninspiring. Also, its preset setting are disappointing, necessitating some calibration.

The Bottom Line The NEC MultiSync E231W offers a lot of features for a relatively low price.

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7.3 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 9
  • Performance 7
  • Support 8

The NEC Multisync E231W offers an abundance of features for the relatively low price of $300. While playing games, its colors left a lot to be desired and many of its preset settings were disappointing, necessitating some detailed calibrating on our part. Those shortcomings are made up for by its full ergonomic support, a robust OSD with some useful features, and its aforementioned $300 price tag. It's difficult to find a well-performing 23-incher with full ergo support, but NEC found a way to offer this one at a competitive price.

Design and features
At first glance, the 23-inch NEC E231W looks a lot like its cousin the , with a black, matte finish and semi-angular corners. The initial depth of the panel is a fairly deep 1.25 inches, followed by another 1.5 inches, including the connection options and ventilation system. This brings the full depth to 2.75 inches. The right and left sides of the bezel are a small 0.75 inch in width.

With the panel adjusted to its lowest depth, the distance from the bottom of the bezel to the desktop is about 2.1 inches and 6.5 inches from its highest. The full width of the display is 21.6 inches, which is a hair smaller than the Samsung PX2370. The circular foot stand measures 8.6 inches in diameter and when knocked from the sides, the panel topples quite easily when adjusted to its highest height, though not so much from its lowest.

Ergonomic options include a 10-degree back tilt, panel swiveling, pivot, and the aforementioned 4.4-inch height adjustment. Connection options include DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort. The connections face downward and would be a pain to reach if not for the pivot and height adjustment features, which help to make accessing the connections a less apoplectic experience. That said, we still prefer it when connections face outward. On the upper middle back of the display is a built-in carrying space with enough room for even the largest hands to carry the monitor comfortably. At the bottom of the stand is a cord organizer.

In the lower-right-hand corner of the bezel resides the OSD array and the power button, all aligned horizontally. The power button sits on the far right, highlighted by a blue LED. The array consists of four buttons: Menu, Select, Reset/Eco mode, and a small joy "nub," used to navigate through the menu.

OSD options consist of Brightness, Contrast, and an Auto Brightness mode. The Auto Brightness control can be set to react to ambient light so that it adjusts the monitor's brightness in accordance with how much light is in the room. Conversely, its White Image setting lowers the brightness if a white image, like a word doc, is on screen. This saves on power and diminishes eye strain. The OSD has six base presets: Standard, Text, Movie, Photo, Gaming, and Dynamic, each of which adjusts the brightness, contrast, and color temperature to be appropriate to the task at hand. There are also six color temperature presets, including 9,300K, User, 7,500K, SRGB (at 6,500K), 5,000K, and Native. Each color preset allows you to adjust the red, green, and blue values individually, as long as the base preset remains at Standard.

Other options include Eco Modes 1 and 2, which cap the brightness to 80 and 40 percent, respectfully, automatically saving on power. Another power-conscious feature is the carbon footprint meter, showing you what your current carbon footprint is for the monitor in percentages. Additionally, the OSD includes a mode that estimates how much the monitor's current power consumption is costing you. (Its estimates are in dollars, but it provides five additional currency options.)

Navigating the OSD proved to be a mostly painless process, especially using the joy "knob." Also, the buttons are distinct enough that you can very successfully navigate the OSD from within a dark room.

Design highlights:
Connectivity: HDMI, DVI, DisplayPort
Ergonomic options: 10-degree back tilt, swivel, height adjustment, pivot
Resolution: 1,920x1,080 pixels
Aspect ratio: 16:9
Audio: N/A
VESA support: Yes

Feature highlights:
Included video cables? N/A
Backlight: CCFL
Panel type: TN
Screen film: Matte
Number of presets: 6
Overdrive: No
Picture options: Brightness, contrast,
Color controls: RGB controls, color temperature: 9,300K; 6,500K; SRGB
Gamma control: No
Additional features: Carrying handle

DisplayMate performance: We tested the NEC MultiSync E231W through its DVI input, connected to a Windows Vista PC and a DVI cable included with the monitor. The display posted a composite score of 89 on CNET Labs' DisplayMate-based performance tests, which is several points lower than the Samsung PX2370's 96. In our Black Level test, the E231W crushed only very dark grays and was able to just barely display down to a level-two gray, which is two levels above true black. This indicates an optimal black level for the display. In our color-tracking test we didn't see any obvious errors compared with the Samsung PX2370, but there was a very slight red push.

The monitor excelled in our screen uniformity test, showing very little dark patches, indicating a mostly uniform backlight. This carried over to our Dark Screen test, which displayed only trace amounts of backlight breakthrough on the top and bottom middle edges of the screen. Also, in our Motion Bitmaps test we saw slightly more streaking on the E231W than the PX2370 showed; however, this did not carry over to our real-world games and movie tests.

Text: We saw no color problems with black text on a white background. Fonts were visible down to a 6.8 point size.

Movies: We tested the NEC MultiSync E231W in its Movie preset, using the Blu-ray version of "Avatar." The E231W displayed the nighttime scenes in the movie without missing any of the dark detail, like the hair of the Na'vi; however, colors were not as vibrant as on the PX2370, nor was the picture as sharp. The picture seemed to lack an appropriate amount of red, as redheaded characters appeared like brunettes. Overall, colors just didn't have as much pop to them. When we changed the preset and adjusted the red, green, and blue attributes, however, we saw a definite improvement. Check out the Recommended Settings and Use section for more details.

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