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NEC MultiSync P221W review: NEC MultiSync P221W

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MSRP: $505.00

The Good The NEC MultiSync P221W has wide viewing angles, a robust and easy-to-navigate onscreen display, accurate colors, and several useful ergonomic options.

The Bad The NEC MultiSync P221W has a fairly high asking price, and no extra video or USB connections

The Bottom Line The NEC MultiSync P221W has some of the most accurate colors we've seen, but it is light on features.

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7.6 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 5
  • Performance 8
  • Support 8

The $490 22-inch NEC MultiSync P221W is a great performing alternative to super high-end and superexpensive professional monitors such as the $1,450 Eizo ColorEdge CG222W. The NEC has wide viewing angles, a robust and easy-to-use onscreen display, accurate colors, and several useful ergonomic options. However, it only includes DVI, VGA, and S-Video connection options with no extras such as USB ports or card readers. This is where the Dell UltraSharp 2408WFP steps in. Dell recently lowered the price of the monitor to $550, only $60 more than the NEC. Also, the Dell monitor includes a larger screen and many more connection options. Its performance isn't quite as good (especially in color accuracy) as the NEC, but it makes up for its higher price with its feature count. So, if color accuracy is what you desire, the P221W is one of the best monitors for it. However, you may be disappointed by its feature list.

Design and features
The NEC MultiSync P221W has a black chassis with a matte finish that is slightly rounded on its corners. The bezel measures a short 0.6 inch long on all sides. The panel is a long 2.2 inches deep (in comparison, most 22-inch models we've tested have a panel depth of more than an inch); however, the back of the display--which houses the backlight, connection options, and ventilation system--extends another 1.3 inches, bringing the full monitor depth to about 3.5 inches. The panel width measures 19.8 inches long--slightly shorter than average for a monitor of this screen size. The surface of the screen is a slightly frosted and with a smooth matte finish.

The monitor's triangular footstand measures 10.6 inches in width, with a depth of 9.2 inches. The display weighs a fairly solid 18.28 pounds, which is not nearly as heavy as the Eizo ColorEdge CG222W that tipped the scales at 24 pounds. Although the P221W's relatively narrow footstand denies it the kind of unflinching stability of the Eizo, it is still quite stable, especially with the screen height is at its lowest setting. With the screen height raised fully to 6.1 inches, the monitor is more susceptible to wobbling. With the screen height at its lowest, the distance from the bottom of the bezel to the desktop is 2.8 inches.

The panel pivots to the left 90 degrees--useful if you prefer portrait mode. It swivels nearly 360 degrees and tilts back about 25 degrees. Also, the panel can easily be removed from the stand and then mounted (VESA-style) on the wall. There's a groove at the top back of the panel that acts as a carrying handle. Taking the too easily removable panel off the back of the stand reveals several vertically aligned hooks for organizing cables.

The NEC display includes DVI, VGA, and S-Video as video connection options; unfortunately, neither USB nor additional video connections are included. Also, there isn't an HDMI connection, which is a mainstay on most monitors. However, since NEC is pushing the MultiSync toward graphics professionals, we're not too surprised by the omission since there is no benefit to using HDMI over DVI in professional graphics applications. Accessing the connections proved fairly easy as they rest to the right of the stand; however, pivoting the display makes access a lot easier.

The onscreen display button array is located in the lower right-hand corner of the bezel and includes four buttons aligned horizontally and three vertically. Pressing the Menu button brings up the OSD in the middle of the screen. The menu includes not only controls for the usual brightness and contrast, but also an Eco mode that caps the brightness at 75 percent and 50 percent. Also, it has an Auto brightness setting that uses the monitor's built-in light sensor to automatically adjust the brightness based on the amount of ambient light in the room. Finally, with black level you can adjust the display's level of black without affecting its backlight level. With few vendors including this option in the last few years, we'd thought we'd never see it again. We're glad to be proven wrong and hope more vendors include black level adjustment in the future.

The NEC provides four color temperature selections: 5,000K; 7,500K; 8,200K; and 9,300K; as well as a 6,500K sRGB option. Four preset options are also available including Native; Programmable; Option 1, which sets the white point to clear base; and Option 2, which sets the white point to Blue base. Professional photographers covet the latter presets. Navigating the OSD was simple because the menu button labels that pop up on screen, adjacent to each button once it's pressed.

The NEC MultiSync P221W's 16:10 aspect ratio has a 1,680x1,050-pixel native resolution. The 16:9 monitor trend currently sweeping the market has given many smaller monitors higher resolutions than they were capable of at a 16:10 aspect. A 22-inch (or 21.5-inch) model, with a 16:9 aspect ratio now has a potential high definition, native resolution of 1,920x1,080 pixels as opposed to 1,680x1,050 pixels. We understand that those buying the NEC monitor would have little use for HD resolutions though, as it is geared toward graphics professionals.

Manufacturer's specifications:
Resolution: 1,680x1,050 pixels
Pixel-response rate: 8ms
Contrast ratio: 1,000:1
Brightness: 300cd/m2
Connectivity: DVIx2
HDCP compliant? Yes
Included video cables? DVI
Backlight type: CCFL
Panel type: S-PVA
Aspect Ratio: 16:10

We tested the MultiSync P221W with its DVI connection. The display posted a composite score of 94 on CNET Labs' DisplayMate-based performance tests. We compared it with the 22-inch HP LP2275w and Eizo ColorEdge CG222W, which had scores of 91 and 95 respectively. The P221W scored well in most of our color tests; however, it faltered in the 256-step Intensity Color Ramp test where we saw plenty of color tint problems and a rough transition from light to dark colors. On our black screen test, we noticed minimal backlight bleed through.

The NEC P221W achieved a brightness score of 223 candelas per square meter (cd/m2)--lower than NEC's claimed 300 cd/m2 max. The LP2275 with its brightness of 283 cd/m2 came just a few points less than HP's claimed 300 cd/m2 max. The NEC's brightness score was lower than we expected, yet bright images never looked drab. We used the P221W's sRGB and 8,200K preset to check out "Kill Bill Vol. 1" on DVD and a number of 1080p movie files from Microsoft's WMV HD Showcase. Movies on the NEC looked great thanks to the display's deep blacks and high contrast.

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