Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
- Stylish design, built-in webcam speakers and microphone, good contrast
- Glossy reflective screen can be extremely problematic, touch-sensitive controls can be fiddly, viewing angles not perfect
While Dell's stylish 22in Crystal monitor will appeal to fashion-conscious users and those after a display with multimedia capabilities, the extremely reflective glass coating makes it irritating to use under normal lighting conditions.
Price$ 1,599.00 (AUD)
Encased in glass and featuring four built-in speakers, Dell's latest 22in monitor is in sharp contrast to the plain Dell units of the past. It also packs in a webcam and microphone, making it a useful tool for multimedia conferencing. The image quality is fairly good, but there are a few design flaws that detract from the user experience.
By far the worst of these is the glossy finish. As the panel is entirely shrouded in glass, it is extremely reflective—to the point of being extremely annoying. With any remotely dark screen, even the light grey background of Microsoft Word for example, you can quite clearly see yourself and everything going on around you. We found this made testing difficult. The reflection routinely obscured certain areas of the screen and it made film sequences particularly difficult to watch. Dell really should have considered this and made the glass simply the bezel. It is a big problem in regular lighting conditions.
Aside from that issue, the Crystal was a very pleasant monitor to use. Its image quality is in line with previous Dell units; that is to say, it's impressive. While the contrast ratio is only quoted at 2000:1 dynamic, it performed well in our DisplayMate Video Edition tests. There was great definition between the blocks in the contrast intensity ramps. There was a little detail lost towards the dark end of the scale, but it was fairly minimal.
Colour balance was quite good, with a slightly softer look. Reds and blues were quite strongly saturated, but other shades were a little more laid back. We found white looked a little dull. However, this was using the default settings, which can be tweaked using the calibration options.
Blacks were fairly deep, although not as dark as we've seen on some other units; there were minor hints of backlight bleeding at times. Text and edges, however, were sharp and crisp. There was some minor ghosting in our software tests—perhaps a little more than we'd expect from the 2ms response time. Most gamers will still be happy with the performance. Unfortunately, the 160-degree viewing angles are a little disappointing, and we noticed some yellow colour shift at odd angles.
However, this unit isn't just about the panel itself. As mentioned it also packs in a host of multimedia options. First up, we tested the four speakers, which performed as expected. They aren't going to satisfy any music lover or serious gamer, as their sound is treble heavy and quite tinny thanks to a complete lack of bass. They are adequate for voice conferencing or general computer use.
The webcam operated very well. Its image was clear and crisp, and it captured motion very well. The microphone picked up our voice clearly from several meters away. Overall, we were satisfied with the media functionality for web conferencing or basic browsing and desktop functions, but you'll still want a good set of speakers or headphones for proper media and games use.
Aesthetically, the Crystal is impressive. While some may not like the slightly gaudy design, it definitely has a stylish, modern look that will appeal to fashion-conscious users. The touch-sensitive buttons are very cool. While most of them were responsive, we struggled a little with the menu key, which often required three or four taps to find the sweet spot.
The usual array of connectivity options is available, including DVI and D-Sub. However, users should note they run off a break-out cable rather than using traditional connections on the monitor itself.
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