The NEC MultiSync EX231W is a 23in widescreen display, built for business applications but with a slim profile

We see many a cheap LCD panel in the PC Advisor lab, offering full-HD resolution for sometimes little over £100. So what’s the point of spending almost three times that for a similar spec from a name brand?

In the case of NEC, you’re buying into a brand that specialises in supplying industry with dependable products, backed up with long warranties and good after-sales support.

NEC is a more business-focused display maker, and build quality tends to be higher, just as styling is more conservative. The EX231W here is an unusually lightweight model, yet features the quality of construction that suggests this is a product built to last.

But unusually for NEC, and despite the high price, this panel is using cheaper twisted-nematic (TN) display technology. Colour reproduction is not as good as premium panels using, for example, IPS technology.

One way around limited colour quality is to use more dithering in order to smooth out banding, or colour gradients. It’s a technique often used in digital signal processing, essentially adding noise to the signal in order to linearise resolution when bit-depth is limited.

In display technology, a little dithering can make a 6-bit per pixel TN panel have a colour spread that looks like 8-bit.

On LCD panels this can result in a sparkly, silvery effect, evident in pure whites, for example. And sure enough, there is a patina of silveriness visible on the screen when you look carefully.

More troubling for some eyes, black text can look a little smeared and coloured in fast scrolling. But overall image quality was found to be good, with decent viewing angles too. As you move your head off-axis,    the screen darkens and colours fade, but it is still basically viewable.

Conservative styling in panel design means you’re not troubled by the current fashion for high-gloss plastics or reflective shiny screens. That, and the nicely slim 14mm matt bezel lends the EX231W a timeless style that’s highly practical too.

The panel itself is very slim in depth, aided here by the use of edge- rather than true back-lighting. And the other concession to slim down the screen is the use of an external power supply, a modest power block as big as a netbook charger.

On-screen display (OSD) controls are found in the bottom right corner of the bezel - touch-sensitive areas that allow swift and easy adjustment of image settings.

One of those is Human Sensing, which can read when you’re sat in front of the screen, dimming the screen when you step away for a few minutes. This benefits from some adjustment: we found it initially didn’t sense our presence when we were still working at the screen and would dim regardless until we lowered the threshold level.

Other modes include Eco, the default, which knocks down screen brightness to lower levels.

As you’d expect of a professional monitor, height is full adjustable on the pillar stand, and you can also easily rotate the screen 90º for portrait use. It feels a little wobbly when adjusting, but because the panel is so light it does stay put after adjustment.

A neatly fitted USB port on the screen top, with rubber bung, is a useful touch for attaching a webcam.

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NEC MultiSync EX231W: Specs

  • 23in LCD display
  • 1920 x 1080
  • W-LED TN technology
  • 0.265mm pixel pitch
  • 250cdm2 brightness
  • 1000:1 contrast ratio
  • 5ms response time
  • 1 x DVI-I, 1 x DisplayPort
  • 17W typical power consumption
  • height adjustable stand with 180º swivel
  • 540 x 318 x 48mm without stand
  • 4.1kg
  • 3-year warranty
  • 23in LCD display
  • 1920 x 1080
  • W-LED TN technology
  • 0.265mm pixel pitch
  • 250cdm2 brightness
  • 1000:1 contrast ratio
  • 5ms response time
  • 1 x DVI-I, 1 x DisplayPort
  • 17W typical power consumption
  • height adjustable stand with 180º swivel
  • 540 x 318 x 48mm without stand
  • 4.1kg
  • 3-year warranty

OUR VERDICT

Image quality is not quite up to NEC’s usual high standards, but build quality, style and control features may make up for that, to provide a lightweight but well-designed widescreen monitor for the modern office.

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