As expected, the release of Windows 8 has sparked an uptick in touch-screen monitor production, and these interactive monitors are finally beginning to hit the shelves. So far we’ve reviewed (or are in the process of reviewing) a handful of 22 and 23-inch touchscreens, with more on the way. The Planar Helium PCT2785 represents the first big-screen touch-screen monitor to hit PC Labs since the Win 8 launch, and it’s also the first we’ve seen to use 20-point touch technology. This massive monitor uses a 27-inch MVA (Multi-domain Vertical Alignment) panel, a technology known for high native contrast ratios (5,000:1 in this case), rich color reproduction, and relatively wide viewing angles. It offers plenty of ports and is equipped with a built-in webcam and a versatile stand. However, its grayscale performance is only middling and you can make out faint vertical lines when viewing a very light background.
Design and Features
The Helium looks like a tablet on steroids. The 1,920-by-1,080 resolution panel and its thick (1.2 inch) black bezels sit beneath a sheet of edge-to-edge glass. A webcam and microphone array is embedded in the top bezel, and a shiny Planar logo is attached to the bottom. A touch-sensitive power button and four touch-function buttons are positioned along the lower right side and two 3-watt speakers are built in to the rear of the cabinet. The speakers are relatively loud and full sounding; they don’t pump out booming bass but they do provide enough bottom to keep from sounding tinny.
The matte black cabinet is 1.95 inches thick and weighs in at a hefty 19.5 pounds. The black metal stand that folds out from the rear of the cabinet has a tilt range of 15 degrees to 70 degrees and allows you to lay the panel flat on a desktop surface. There are four VESA mounting holes on the back of the cabinet for mounting the monitor on a wall or in a kiosk. While the Helium meets the criteria for Windows 8 certification, which includes five-point (or more) touch capabilities and an unencumbered bezel design, it is awaiting final confirmation at the time of this writing.
Video and I/O ports are plentiful but hard to reach. At the rear of the cabinet you’ll find DisplayPort, and HDMI digital video inputs, a VGA (analog) video input, headphone and audio-in jacks, and three USB 2.0 ports (one upstream, two downstream). The ports are all down-facing and can be difficult to reach when the monitor is mounted on a wall. Additionally, there aren’t any side-mounted USB ports, but that is by design. The Helium was developed with an eye toward retail and public use. where having the ability to plug in thumb drives is not always advisable. A few USB 3.0 ports would be welcome here, however.
Picture settings include brightness, contrast, color temperature, and four picture modes (Standard, Game, Cinema, Text). There’s an auto-adjust mode for use with an analog (VGA) signal as well as sharpness, clock, phase, and position controls. Audio settings include volume and mute.
Planar covers the Helium with a three-year parts and labor warranty featuring a two-day advanced replacement policy. Included in the box are HDMI, VGA, USB, and audio cables, cleaning cloth, a stylus, and a user guide.
The Helium uses projected capacitive touch technology, which is made up of rows and columns of wire (a grid) that, when current is applied, creates an electrostatic field. Pressing any area of the grid causes a break in the field that is measured, and that measurement is used to track touches. Most touch-screen monitors use five- or 10-point technology (i.e., the panel can track five or 10 points of contact), but the Helium can track up to 20 points. As a result it is an extremely responsive touch-screen, offering accurate swiping and gesturing and making it easy to enter text via the Windows 8 onscreen keyboard.
The downside to using 20-point touch technology on such a large screen is that it requires a lot of wires, and you can actually see the grid when the background image is bright white or a very light blue. Granted, the effect is faint and you have to look hard to see the horizontal lines, but the vertical wires are noticeable, although you do get used to them after a while. You can minimize the effect by lowering the brightness level, however.
When not being pressed into service as a touch-screen, the Helium makes for an excellent movie screen, with wide viewing angles. The MVA panel delivered strong, well-saturated colors and natural looking skin tones while displaying the BBC production on Planet Earth on Blu-ray disc. It did a decent job of displaying almost all of the various shades of gray from the DisplayMate 64-Step Grayscale test with the exception of the lightest and darkest shades, which were compressed and hard to differentiate from their preceding shades. Small text was very well defined and easy to read, even at 5.3 points (the smallest font on the Scaled Fonts test).
The Helium required 50 watts of power during testing with power saving (ECO mode) disabled. That’s quite a bit more than the HP Pavilion 27xi (22 watts) and the Dell S2740L (21 watts), both of which are 27-inch monitors. The Helium’s ECO 2 mode brings power consumption down to 39 watts while maintaining a good brightness level, and you can cut that down to around 26 watts by switching to ECO 3, but the picture is too dim.
If you require a big-screen monitor with excellent touch responsiveness and solid color quality the Planar Helium PCT2785 is definitely worth considering. Its 27-inch MVA panel offers wide viewing angles and crisp text reproduction, and there are plenty of ports available to accommodate multiple input sources and external peripherals. The capacitive wire issue will likely go unnoticed unless you’re constantly looking at a white or very light background, but it does exist and may be distracting for some. If you don’t require such a large screen and want to save a few hundred dollars, our Editors’ Choice for touch-screen monitors, the Acer T232HL, is an IPS monitor offering great touch response, rich colors, and USB 3.0 connectivity.
Compare the Planar Helium PCT2785 with several other monitors side by side.
More monitor reviews:
|Native Resolution||1920 x 1080|
|Supported Video Formats||1080p|
|PC Interfaces||Analog VGA, HDMI, DisplayPort|
|Diagonal Screen Size||27 inches|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc