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NEC MultiSync E231W review: NEC MultiSync E231W

Games: Because of our intimate familiarity with World of Warcraft (WoW), it remains the best tool for judging color quality and vibrancy in games. We looked at WoW in the NEC MultiSync E231W's Gaming preset and found that the preset delivered a drab and lifeless image compared with the Samsung PX2370. The Gaming preset's contrast was just too high and didn't take advantage of the monitor's capability to produce relatively deep blacks. When we switched to both the Standard and Native color preset, we saw some improvement in the liveliness of the color, especially with the brightness turned up. Still, even with these settings, the color just didn't have the pop of the PX2370. We tried adjusting the color values separately, but couldn't find a setting that was simultaneously accurate and eye-popping.

Photos: The NEC MultiSync E231W's Photo preset displayed photos that looked drab and greenish compared with the lush environments and healthy faces the PX2370 produced. When we adjusted the settings (see below), we saw much improvement in color quality.

Viewing angle: The optimal viewing angle for a monitor is usually directly in front, about a quarter of the way down from the top of the screen. At this angle, you're viewing the colors and gamma as the manufacturer intended. Most monitors are not made to be viewed at any other angle. Depending on the 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 viewed from nonoptimal angles, making for inaccurate color representation. The NEC MultiSync E231W uses a TN panel, and when it is viewed from the sides or bottom, we perceived the screen to darken about 6 inches off from center--typical for a TN.

Recommended settings and use: During general use, we found the Standard preset, with the contrast set to 31.3 percent, to be the NEC MultiSync E231W's optimal picture setting. For movies and photo viewing, what worked best for us was the standard preset with the color set to 2 and the Red attribute set to 100 percent; the Green to 75.5 percent; and Blue to 90. For games, the Standard preset and Color preset set to Native was the best.

As with most TN-based monitors, the NEC MultiSync E231W shouldn't be used if pinpoint accurate color reproduction is required; however, the monitor is great for watching movies, casually viewing photos, and for general use. It's not the best for playing games. If you do have stringent color needs, we suggest you narrow your search to IPS or PVA-based panels only. The more expensive Dell UltraSharp U2711 is a good place to start.

If you require more than the base level of ergonomic options, the NEC is a low-price way to get them all.

Power consumption: The NEC MultiSync E231W achieved the lowest monitor power consumption we've ever seen, earning a good power rating. Its Default/On power draw was 15.3 watts, compared with the Samsung PX2370's 25.01 watts in the same test. The E231W's default state is to have its power saving mode, Eco Mode 1, turned on. Eco Mode 1 caps the brightness at 66 percent; that number that may actually be lower for most buyers, since the ambient light sensor will adjust the brightness to an even lower value. We disabled the sensor to get consistent results during testing. With both monitors' center-point calibrated to 200 candelas per square meter (cd/M2), the E231W drew 22.4 watts, while the PX2370 drew a lower 19.9 watts. This indicates that without its Eco Mode feature, the E231W would have likely have noticeably higher power consumption. Based on our formula, the NEC MultiSync E231W would cost $4.84 per year to run, compared with the Samsung PX2370's $7.65 per year.

Juice box
NEC MultiSync W231W Average watts per hour
On (default luminance) 15.3
On (max luminance) 25.8
On (min luminance) 8.7
Sleep 0.39
Calibrated (200 cd/m2) 22.4
Annual power consumption cost $4.84
Score Good

Brightness in cd/m2
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
NEC MultiSync E231W
HP 2310e
Asus MS238H
Dell ST2420L
Contrast ratio
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
NEC MultiSync E231W
HP 2310e
Dell ST2420L
Samsung PX2370
Asus MS238H

Displaymate performance tests
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Find out more about how we test LCD monitors

Service and support
NEC backs the MultiSync E231W with a solid three-year parts and labor warranty that also covers the backlight. Its toll-free technical support is available weekdays from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT. NEC also offers e-mail and live-chat support. NEC's support Web site is simple to navigate, making the monitor's manual easy to find.

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