NEC has a clear focus on eco-savings with its new E231W, a 23-inch LED-backlit screen that is aimed at office environments due both to these benefits and to a flexible, adjustable stand. When coupled with a rather minimalist matt-black design we’d be inclined to agree about the target market, but there appear to be enough environmental settings and solid enough specifications to suggest that, on paper at least, it’d be a good all-rounder.
The display comes with a small but stable circular stand that must be screwed into the rather innovatively designed back-plate. This offers height adjustment up to 110mm, full 90-degree rotation to use the screen in portrait mode, a 90-degree swivel movement and 20-degree tilt. We were impressed by the smooth and stable range of movement on offer and, unlike many rivals of this type, there’s very little “wobble” or fine-tuning needed to achieve the orientation required.
A choice of DVI-D, VGA and DisplayPort inputs are available and though it’s a little disappointing not to see an HDMI interface here, we’re not overly surprised considering the target market. The native HD resolution of 1920 x 1080 is pretty standard these days, as is the 1,000:1 (25,000:1 dynamic) contrast ratio and 5ms response time. We were also impressed, initially at least, by the wide range of environmental settings available through the on-screen display, which are complemented by auto-brightness and eco-modes and offer quite a large degree of control.
Unfortunately we found some of these to be quite ineffective: the auto-brightness mode in particular, which uses an ambient light-sensor built into the bezel, often proved a distraction as it appeared to rather sluggishly react to changes in light levels and overcompensated more often than not, resulting in an image that was at times far too dark to use comfortably.
The eco-mode settings are far better however, and with 50 percent savings allegedly available compared to TFT displays, they are a big plus-point for the environmentally-conscious. In addition to this, an eco-mode savings tools is available through the on-screen display to show current carbon and cost savings made using the eco-mode, an informative if largely redundant additional benefit.
In attempting to judge overall performance using the DV environment settings provided we were fairly uninspired though, and struggled to establish vibrant colour levels despite combining this with manual tweaking when available. It’s difficult, though not impossible, to establish an optimum image with the E231W and it would be fair to conclude that those looking to utilise this sort of benefit for varied environments (gaming, photo-editing and internet use, for example) will find it to be quite a frustrating experience.
On the upside, the refresh rate is pretty good and we saw no signs of ghosting or blur during fast-moving scenes in games or video playback, and contrast-ratio adjustment proved effective at establishing deep blacks and subtle shades.
While performance will obviously be key for many users looking to invest in a new display, it’s the other advantages on offer from the E231W that will prove to be the deciding factor in a purchase. Those looking for a display for general Windows use rather than a flexible all-rounder, who can see benefit from the adjustable nature of the display and who like to keep one eye on eco-savings may find these drawbacks to be worth paying for. However, we can’t help but feel disappointed that NEC didn’t back up these significant advantages with more effective all-round performance.
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