Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
- Great image quality, Portrait view, Stylish design
- Some minor noise problems, Webcam buggy, Speakers make it a little large
The ASUS PW201 is a great entertainment display for both video games and movies, although the webcam is buggy.
Price$ 999.00 (AUD)
ASUS' PW201 is a great looking widescreen monitor. Its image quality is excellent, with only minor noise aberrations detracting from the otherwise crisp, sharp picture, and it offers both a built in webcam and the ability to rotate and view the desktop in portrait mode. Our only real issue with this monitor is the extremely buggy webcam software.
As with any high-end monitor, the primary concern is image quality. ASUS do not disappoint in this regard, with the 20in, 1680 x 1050 pixel PW201 exhibiting excellent results in almost all of our tests. When running Displaymate Video Edition, we noticed some minor noise in our greyscale charts which did detract from the quality of the image. However aside from that our pictures were clean and sharp, with no aberrations visible either when playing games or viewing movie content. Edges were well rendered and text was clear, with no visible stepping and only very minor pixel fluctuations that were small enough to be virtually invisible.
There was a little backlight bleeding noticeable around the edges, particularly running along the bottom, but this is only evident when the screen is showing extremely dark material and isn't as bad as we've seen on some other units. The PW201 has a fairly standard brightness rating of 350cd/m, but we were impressed by the 800:1 contrast ratio. Our test footage showed excellent differentiation between areas of light and dark, and overall, the PW201's handling of high contrast material was some of the best we've seen. With an 8ms response time, it also exhibited very little visible ghosting or streaking during our gaming tests, making it a great all purpose entertainment display for movies and video games.
This is further enhanced by the included speakers, which are a nice addition, even if they aren't particularly stunning. They will suffice for a small office, but their volume isn't quite high enough for a bigger room. Their balance tends towards bright, with a noticeable flatness in the bass. For those who don't place a high priority on audio quality they will suffice, but we'd strongly recommend using a pair of third party speakers or headphones with the PW201.
The speakers are connected via a standard pair of RCA ports, although there is also a 3.5mm stereo jack. With regards to video inputs, the PW201 is well specified, with DVI, D-Sub and Component all available. This is great as it means that not only can you have one or two computers plugged in, but the component port also allows a DVD player, set top box or games console to be connected, letting it easily double as a second television.
The monitor's design is quite stylish, although from an aesthetic point of view we'd rather the speakers were a little smaller. Despite only being a 20in unit, the PW201 has similar dimensions to several 24in models we've seen recently, measuring 560mm x 496mm x 280mm. The thick, gloss black bezel looks good, but is just too chunky for our tastes. It is however made even more sophisticated by the hidden controls, which are essentially just touch sensitive pads that illuminate when the monitor is powered up. They look great, and help keep the simplistic, smooth aesthetic, however we found them quite unresponsive, and struggled to navigate the internal menu with any sort of speed. We did quite like the rest of the monitor's structure, with a metal arm that allows it to both be moved upwards or downwards and tilted forward and back.
Of course the other nifty thing about this monitor is the aforementioned ability to rotate it from a landscape to a portrait view. To do this you have to install ASUS' proprietary Pivot software, but this is a quick process and the software is intuitive, simply adding options to rotate your display when you right click on you desktop. Being that it is already a widescreen monitor, flipping it around results in an extremely stretched display, with reverse dimensions of 1050x1680. We found it a little disorienting at first, having to actually move our head up and down to get a full view of what is on screen. However it does have some very practical applications for programmers who like to view long strips of code all at once. We also found it useful for editing long word documents and it is perfect for desktop publishing. It does however also have some limitations, most notably; we couldn't get most games to run in the reverse resolution, even when customising their configuration files to run in 1050x1680. They operated fine on the PC with the monitor oriented regularly, but as soon as we flipped it we received errors. This only applied to games using DirectX, we had no issues with basic Windows games like solitaire.
In case you didn't think the PW201 had enough features yet, it also boasts a 1.3 megapixel webcam. However this was one area which left us a little disappointed. Theoretically you should simply have to install the drivers and plug the webcam in using the provided all-in-one USB, audio and VGA cable, however in practice this proved fruitless. On our desktop PC we simply got a black screen, and were unable to capture either video or still images. After a lot of uninstalling, driver updating and machine changing, we still had no luck. A few visits to the official ASUS support forum confirmed this is quite a widespread problem, with many people posting identical experiences. ASUS recently released a new driver that has helped some people, but we could not get it to work even then.
Overall the ASUS PW201 is a great entertainment display. While the speakers aren't particularly impressive and the webcam is buggy to say the least, the image quality, multitide of connections and the ability to rotate it to portrait mode make the PW201 a great product.
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