These are rich times indeed for those in pursuit of a modestly priced but surprisingly effective flat-panel. Following on from the ultra-cheap Asus VH222H comes an even cheaper, and possibly better, screen from BenQ - the BenQ G2220HD.
The two are broadly similar in terms of specifications, but there are significant differences - the most obvious of which can be discerned at a moment's glance. Whereas the Asus had a rather old-fashioned styling that (in places) tended towards the blocky, the BenQ G2220HD is a far more chic display. Its subtle curves may not be the final word in LCD styling, but, in contrast to the Asus, you wouldn't guess it was the cheapest 21.5in display ever sighted in the reviews section of PC Advisor.
The BenQ G2220HD doesn't survive a physical inspection unscatched, however. Unlike the Asus, there's no HDMI port. A quick converter will take care of this matter, obviously, and you do get both RGB and DVI, but it's still a feather that we have to pluck from the BenQ's cap.
The menu system is visual and reasonably easy to navigate, although the buttons are hidden away on the underneath of the BenQ G2220HD's display, and it's not always easy to hit the right one. As on the Asus, you do have a choice of different colour modes, and these can be accessed at the touch of the button (although there's no way of telling which button).
It's nice, though, to have the versatility - if you're often switching from text-work to gaming or photo work, for example, you'll be glad of the dedicated button. There are also one or two typos which we hope BenQ will eradicate before the BenQ G2220HD hits the stores - the screen refers to 'singals' rather than signals, for example.
It's become almost mandatory for new screens to come with full HD 16:9 support, and a good thing too. The BenQ G2220HD doesn't disappoint, with its 1920x1080 resolution just the ticket for HD cinephiles. The manufacturer's quoted 1000:1 contrast ratio is on a par with those of more expensive screens. And while we can't see much to justify the claims that hardware tweaks can boost this figure to 40,000:1, we suspect few users will be disappointed with the amount of colour that gushes from the BenQ G2220HD. The brightness rating of 300cd/m2 is pleasing although, again, no more then standard these days.
What's most surprising about today's screens is how vivid and colourful most of them are. The BenQ G2220HD is, like the Asus, flush with colour. If anything, it's even more extravagant, with images suffused with a variety of radiant hues. But it's not just graphics that work well with the BenQ. Its text output (in the right mode) is clean and easy on the eye - before writing this review, we spent over a fortnight working on close-up text with this flat-panel, and rarely did we feel like swapping it for the far more expensive 24in model we had sitting by the side of the desk.
Viewing angles are always an issue with cheaper LCDs, and you'll have to sit slap-bang in front of the BenQ G2220HD for the best picture. However, since you're typically looking at a price of £200 and upwards if you're to avoid this fate, we won't quibble too much. A height-adjustable stand (or a merely taller one) might have helped but, again, you have to expect compromises.