monitors

BenQ VW2235H Review

This elegantly-designed monitor from BenQ is pretty to look at, and boasts great contrast to boot.

$245.62 at Amazon
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Meet the BenQ VW2235H, a 2013 display with a penchant for purity. Previously, I had pegged BenQ for a function-over-form manufacturer of niche gaming monitors, but the VW2235H is an entirely different animal. This 22-inch, 1080p display is minimalist, elegant, and specifically poised to function alongside an Apple MacBook Pro or MacBook Air.

At an MSRP of $179, the BenQ VW2235H is priced fairly. However, potential buyers should be aware that this monitor is geared more towards an attractive design than it is core screen performance. While easy to use and pretty to look at, only one of this BenQ's pre-set picture modes offers good color accuracy. If you don't need it for Photoshop, however, it's a very pleasant product—and capable of an impressive contrast ratio.

The Looks

The white chassis and mini mountains create a unique design.

The most immediately striking aspect of this monitor's appearance is its color—or lack thereof. The BenQ VW2235H is entirely white, from screen to stand. The artistic alabaster hue makes for an attractive, minimalist product. It's a handsome display—more than a few co-workers felt the need to stop and take a closer look at it.

The BenQ VW2235H is entirely white, from screen to stand.

Avoiding traditional button layouts, the VW2235H uses a series of small bumps along its right-most bezel to offer users control over the display. This setup is right in line with the monitor's design mantra, keeping the screen as free from textual or utility-based embellishment as possible. Around back, a sparse number of input ports are offered: VGA, DVI, and HDMI. There's also the ubiquitous Kensington lock slot.

Besides its coloration, the VW2235H has two other build attributes that make it stand out from the crowd. The first is its positioning: The stand branches up to the panel closer to the right side than the left, where most monitors are centered upon their stands. This choice was probably made to allow room for the second eccentricity, a small spherical cutout in the stand. According to BenQ, this cutout can be used to hold common desk litter such as thumb tacks. It also comes with a molded green... thing. It's apparently based off of mountains, and serves to hold "your phone or cards."

Whether or not you think a small section of green, mountain-based thing-holders adds or detracts from the monitor's otherwise white-washed design, it's definitely unique to BenQ. To the company's credit, the holder does make for a faithful clamp, holding your phone in landscape positioning.

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The Experience

Deceptively simple to use.

The BenQ VW2235H is very simple. Assembly doesn't even call for a screwdriver. The base attaches to the panel neck and is held in place via a hand screw. After that, you just plug in your source (VGA, DVI, or HDMI) and get a-monitorin'. In the box with the panel and stand is a VGA cable and a driver disc.

You could essentially have this product set up and working as intended in ten minutes.

Pressing any of the five control dots that stack vertically along the right bezel brings up the monitor's menu. It's as simple and cleaned-up as the rest of the product, which adds to the feeling of Apple-like austerity and minimalism. You could essentially have this product set up and working as intended in as little as ten minutes. The VW2235H is a breath of fresh air compared to the complexity oft encountered when using very high-end machines.

In fact, I'm using the BenQ to write the very review you're reading. In a word, it's... pleasant. There's nothing really mind-blowing about this product, but it's attractive in the way that fresh-fallen snow is attractive—unblemished and uniform. There are a number of Picture modes to choose from, attempting to suit numerous cases of use: Standard, Movie, Game, Photo, sRGB, Reading, Eco, M-Book, and User.

Standard mode is the monitor's default display setting when first booted up. It's a decently bright setting, giving off about 263 nits of luminance. This setting is poised for general use, such as in an office or living room with standard lighting. Movie mode is warmer in temperature; right now, it actually looks kind of pink. It's still plenty bright at about 250 nits, which strikes me as odd. Usually, movie or theater modes are quite a bit dimmer. Game mode is, judging from its name, meant to be optimized for playing computer or console games. This one is notably less pink, and employs less "hold" on pixels than the previous modes.

This BenQ is not the most ideal gaming monitor—but it could be worse.

After briefly running Portal on this BenQ, I can safely say that it's not the most ideal gaming monitor—but it could be worse, too. Colors look a little too saturated, and its response time—listed at 6ms—seems to actually be a tad slower than that. There's also a bizarre edge-blur around smaller objects when in Game mode, which emits about 260 nits of light.

game-mode-blur.jpg
In Game mode, smaller icons (like Gmail's tabbed letters) emit a weird, ugly blur of color.

Other modes—namely sRGB, Reading, and M-Book—offer a gentler picture, with less light output and more natural-looking colors. sRGB attempts to set the monitor to traditional calibrated settings, hitting about 120 nits and adhering as faithfully as possible to the sRGB color gamut. Reading dims the screen noticeably, almost as though BenQ is mimicking the appearance of a first- or second-generation Amazon Kindle. It takes on a yellowish tint, but still manages to make reading a little easier.

Overall, using the menu to cycle through picture modes or adjust settings is easy and intuitive. The BenQ VW2235H manages to be fairly complex on the inside, while maintaining a cool, laid-back exterior.

The Picture

Not the best, but totally acceptable

Our main testing points for monitors are contrast ratio, response time, and color accuracy. For many monitors, especially those geared towards professionals in the graphic design field, hyper-accurate color production is a must. Well, the BenQ VW2235H is not one of those monitors. Its design aesthetic is definitely a main selling point for it—yet we found its performance to be acceptable for general use, too.

Green is especially oversaturated, which masks subtler details.

The VW2235H tested with decently accurate colors, though not in every picture mode. The sRGB picture mode offered the most accurate color production, though a few hues were still oversaturated. This does cause a bit of an imbalance in the picture—green is especially oversaturated, which masks subtler details. Plenty of consumers may enjoy this look, though. In most picture modes, colors are very vivid and rich, adding to the monitor's performance in brighter areas. In dimmer rooms, however, this may cause some eye strain.

I was especially impressed by this monitor's contrast ratio. Usually, general-use monitors like this one test with mediocre black levels, as they simply need to be bright enough to combat basic lighting. The VW2235H is plenty bright, but also offers users the added bonus of a deep black level, which is going to make film content and video games look that much better.

Speaking of video games—you could definitely do some gaming on this monitor, but it's not going to have you winning StarCraft championships. Its 6 ms response time isn't the fastest in the world, but it could be worse, too. Overall, this performance is right in line with what we expected, and is great considering the monitor's price.

The Verdict

A beautiful monitor at a low price

There are only a sparse few 22-inch monitors on the market for less than $100, and most of them can be summed up with one word: Meh. The BenQ VW2235H, at $179, is actually offering users a lot of value.

First, it's designed beautifully. While some of its eccentricities may not be entirely groundbreaking, the unblemished white chassis makes for a sleek, eye-catching product. This monitor would look great on a receptionist's desk or displaying alongside Apple's white Mac Mini. Most people are probably going to buy this for its looks, anyway, and they wouldn't be wrong to do so.

Secondly, from a performance perspective, the VW2235H is certainly no worse than a slew of its similarly-priced peers. While it tends to oversaturate colors, it can be reigned into acceptable levels in sRGB mode, and its other modes offer enough luminance variety that you could use it in almost any room comfortably. We also tested a downright awesome contrast ratio, considering performance is not this product's first foot forward.

You could do a lot worse for $179. If you've been looking for something that's affordable and uniquely stylish without sacrificing basic performance, the BenQ VW2235H is for you.

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