NEC EA231WMi
Simon Baker,  23 December 2009


 

 

 

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Earlier this year, we announced the release of the first 23" model in the market to use IPS panel technology. The NEC EA231WMi attracted a lot of user interest, with more and more people looking for that 'perfect' large screen for their needs. More and more of the larger screen market has been leaning towards IPS panel technology recently, with the first 22" model (Dell 2209WA) being released, and an influx of new 24" models to the market such as the HP LP2475W and Dell U2410.

NEC were quick off the mark to utilise a new 23" IPS panel module which has been recently produced by LG.Display. Other models will surely follow suit, and in fact we have already seen the release of the ViewSonic VP2365wb with this same module in more recent months. For now, we have the NEC EA231WMi in for a full testing, and we will see how this new 23" panel performs, and whether this is a good alternative to some of the new 24" IPS models available.

NEC are taking pride in this screens "green" image, and have fitted the screen with some features such as an 'ECO mode', ambient light sensor and backlight control and even a Carbon footprint meter for tracking carbon savings. The screen also meets the Energy Star 5.0 and TCO 5.0 standards. We'll come on to these features a little later on, but for now let's take a look at the specs:

Size

23"WS

Colour Depth

16.7m, 72% NTSC gamut

Resolution

1920 x 1080

Viewing Angles

178/178

Response Time

14ms

Panel Technology

e-IPS

Contrast Ratio

1000:1 static / 3000:1 dynamic

Interfaces

DVI (HDCP), D-sub, DisplayPort

Brightness

270 cd/m2

Colour

Black bezel, stand and base

Special Features

Tilt, rotate, pivot and height adjustment. USB 2.0 ports x2, 3-step auto brightness (ambient sensor), integrated speakers, 2-step ECO Mode, carbon footprint meter

 


Above: Front view showing height adjustment and underneath edge showing integrated speakers. Click for larger versions

The EA231WMi comes in either a fully black or a fully silver design. We have been sent the black version for testing. The monitor offers a wide range of ergonomic adjustments with a full 110mm height adjustable stand, pivot, rotate and tilt functions. These are all smooth to operate and feel pretty sturdy. When using the rotate feature there is a minor annoyance when rotating back down into landscape mode. The mechanism automaticaly stops when it reaches a certain point, leaving you very almost in landscape mode. However, this seems to 'overshoot' a tiny bit leaving your screen tilting ever so slight upwards to the right. You need to just balance it back out manually to get it level. Just a silly mechanical bug really. Build quality of the screen feels very good and materials are good quality as well. The panel features a normal anti-glare coating rather than any glossy solution.


Above: Showing rotate function into portrait mode and integrated 2 port USB hub on left hand edge

There is an integrated 2 port USB hub on the left hand edge of the screen offering you quick connection for external devices. There's also another 2 ports on the underneath by the video connections....always handy I think. The monitor even features integrated stereo speakers which are nicely hidden underneath the bottom edge of the screen. Might be useful for moderate sound and general 'office' noises. There's also a headphone jack if you need it.


Above: interface connections on the back underside. Click for larger version


Above: Side view and rear view of the screen. Click for larger versions

The back of the screen is also all black in design. There is a useful cable tidy and a separate face plate to connect (not shown above) which helps hide the cables within the stand section. The interfaces for DVI, D-sub and DisplayPort are all tucked discretely out of the way and are easy to access. It's nice to see a DisplayPort connection which is tipped to become the interface of choice over the coming years. Would have perhaps been nice to see a second DVI or some HDMI interfaces though. The cables for all 3 of the provided connections are packaged with the screen.


Above: OSD operational buttons. From left to right this shows ambient light sensor, menu button, directional control joystick, select button, rest/ECO mode buttons

The bezel around the panel is pretty thin all the way round giving it a nice sleak design. The OSD operational buttons are situated in the bottom right hand corner and are very discreet. They are very much out of sight when using the screen normally. The buttons are easy to operate and the OSD itself is very intuitive and easy to navigate with the handy little joystick button. The power LED glows a subtle blue colour when the screen is in use, and orange when in standby. This power LED is very small and unobtrusive and it's brightness can even be controlled via the OSD if you want. The buttons also give you quick access to input via the 'select' button and to the ECO modes.

 
Above: OSD menu showing DV mode presets available

The OSD offers a good range of options as well. As well as all the usual brightness, contrast etc controls, there is the ECO mode menu, auto brightness, DV Mode, 6 colour mode presets, volume, aspect ratio control and a few other general options. More on the interesting features later on.


Above: OSD menu showing colour preset modes and further 'tools' menu

One of the main marketing points of the EA231WMi is its low power consumption. The specifications state that there are 43W power consumption during normal operation, dropping down to 28W when using the ECO mode, and even further to only 0.45W when in power saving / standby mode.


Colour Accuracy, Black Depth and Contrast

he NEC EA231WMi utilises an e-IPS panel, capable of producing 16.7 million colours. Unlike many modern displays, the screen uses standard CCFL backlighting and offers a colour gamut covering 72% of the NTSC colour space, approximately the same as the sRGB space. For those who are wary of extended gamuts and only want to work with sRGB content, this is an important thing to note.

An important thing to consider for most users is how a screen will perform out of the box and with some basic manual adjustments. Since most users won't have access to hardware colorimeter tools, it is important to understand how the screen is going to perform in terms of colour accuracy for the average user. I restored my graphics card to default settings and set it to its standard profile. The EA231WMi was tested at default factory settings using the DVI interface, and analysed using LaCie's Blue Eye Pro colorimeter and their accompanying software suite.

Default settings of the screen were as follows:

Monitor OSD Option

Default Settings

Brightness

100

Contrast

50

Preset RGB mode

Native

DV Mode

Standard

Important - ECO Mode and Auto Brightness

off


NEC EA231WMi - Default Factory Settings

 

Default Settings

luminance (cd/m2)

209

Black Point (cd/m2)

0.24

Contrast Ratio

871:1

 

It's important to note that although all other OSD were left at default settings for this "out of the box" test, I did disable the ECO mode and Auto Brightness control as they dynamically control the backlight which I did not want happening during the reporting process.

 

Many of our readers will be familiar with the above results graphs and diagrams but in case you are not, I'll talk through each of them here. On the left you have a CIE Diagram which represents the colour space being produced by the monitor. This is often referred to as the gamut, and here you can see that the monitors colour space pretty much covers the colour space represented by the sRGB reference. It doesn't quite match, as the monitor cannot quite reach the green shades from the sRGB reference, and red shades are a little too wide. However, you can tell from this diagram that the monitor is only using a standard CCFL backlighting system, rather than any extended gamut technologies such as W-CCFL or LED. There are a mixture of opinions on the wide gamut debate, but all you need to know about with this display is that it offers a standard gamut and you need to determine if that is going to be suitable for your uses. I would thoroughly recommend a read of this article over at X-bit Labs, which covers the pros and cons well.

 

Beneath this are the results of the screens gamma which is recorded at 2.3, only being very slightly out (3%) from the target gamma of 2.2, the default for computer monitors. Colour temperature is also recorded here at 5817k, not too far out (11%) from the target of 6500k which is the  colour temperature of daylight. Luminance however is quite considerably out from the target of 120 cd/m2, which is the recommended setting for an LCD screen in normal lighting conditions, and the reference point we use in all our reviews. At 209 cd/m2 it is an overly bright default setting (+74%), although nowhere near as bright as some screens which can reach up to around 500 cd/m2! It should be noted that the default factory setting for brightness in the OSD is 100%, and so this is really the maximum brightness one can expect from the screen. It's not quite up to the full 270 cd/m2 which is specified by the manufacturer, but it should be more than adequate for use in a whole range of different lighting conditions. The OSD affords a very good control over the backlight intensity and therefore screen luminance (more on this later), so you can at least tone the brightness down as a starting point if you want to get nearer to 120 cd/m2. Black depth was also recorded at a very respectable  0.24 cd/m2, and gave us a very decent contrast ratio of 871:1 out of the box. This is a very good result for an IPS panel and is better than the default results of the HP LP2475W (793:1) and Dell U2410 (633:1), both of which feature the new generation of IPS technology, in a 24" size. Apart from the luminance which is a little high, these results were pleasing from the EA213WMi.

 

Testing with the colorimeter revealed the graph on the right hand side above, showing DeltaE (dE 94) values across 16 shades. As a reminder, the lower these bars down the Y-axis, the better, in terms of colour accuracy. For reference, LaCie describe the DeltaE readings as:

  • If DeltaE >3, the color displayed is significantly different from the theoretical one, meaning that the difference will be perceptible to the viewer.

  • If DeltaE <2, LaCie considers the calibration a success; there remains a slight difference, but it is barely undetectable.

  • If DeltaE < 1, the color fidelity is excellent.

 

As you can see, the default results of the EA231WMi were actually pretty good. Average dE was an impressive 2.7 and was pretty much only let down by the poor blue tone accuracy which reached up to 12.2 on the dE scale. Overall default colour accuracy was good, again better than the HP and Dell screens which were a little disappointing out of the box. Colours did not feel too uneven to the naked eye, and because the screen is only a standard gamut the reds and greens were not 'neon' like you can see on some extended gamut models.

 

 


NEC EA231WMi - sRGB Preset Mode

 

Default Settings

luminance (cd/m2)

214

Black Point (cd/m2)

0.25

Contrast Ratio

856

 

The user manual for the EA231WMi states "sRGB mode dramatically improves the colour fidelity in the desktop environment by a single standard RGB colour space. With this colour supported environment, the operator could easily and confidently communicate colour without further colour management overhead in the most common situations". I left all other settings as they were, but within the RGB menu I switched to the preset mode for sRGB to test it.

 

 

There is no access to the individual red, green and blue controls within this preset (nor in the default 'Native' preset) and so if you want that level of control you would need to use one of the other preset modes. Those other modes (1, 2, 3 and 5) are preset initially at colour temperaturtes  of 9300, 8200, 7500 and 5000k respectively but can be altered through the RGB channel control if you want. For the purposes of this test, I wanted to see if the sRGB preset (labelled also as 6500k colour temperature) offered any better performance than the 'Native' preset.

 

From the above results you can see that nothing really varies compared with the default 'Native' mode when you look at the gamma, colour temperature and luminance. The monitors colour space is also the same, and so although this is an sRGB preset mode, it doesn't actually bring you anywhere nearer to the full sRGB colour space reference. Some models with extended gamuts will offer an sRGB emulation mode which does bring the colour space more in line with this reference, but the NEC EA231WMi doesn't change anything in that regard with this preset.

 

What does appear to change, and for the better, is the colour fidelity of the screen. Average dE was now improved to 1.8 overall which offers some very impressive colour accuracy considering this is all without calibration! Max dE was reduced from 12.2 in Native preset down to 5.3, again with blue shades letting the overall score down a little. This preset does offer some better results than the Native mode, so worth using if you don't do anything else for some better colour accuracy. Again, combine this with a brightness control adjustment (~45% should do it) and you have a good starting point.

 

 

Calibration Results

 


NEC EA231WMi - Calibrated Settings Native Mode

Monitor OSD Option

Adjusted Setting

Brightness

50

Contrast

50

Preset RGB Mode

Native

 

Calibrated Settings

luminance (cd/m2)

115

Black Point (cd/m2)

0.15

Contrast Ratio

767:1

I switched back to the Native preset for the calibration in the first instance and it produced some excellent results. The monitor does not feature any hardware LUT adjustment as with some other higher end NEC models such as the 2490WUXi. Instead, the calibration process guides you through several OSD adjustments before completing a software calibration of the graphics card LUT and production of an ICC profile for activation and colour matching between devices.

Gamma was corrected to 2.2 and colour temperature was almost spot on at 6545k now. Luminance was very close to the target setting of 120 cd/m2, and I'm sure with some more slight tweaking of the brightness control (and recalibrations) you can get this spot on. For the purposes of this, it was not signifcant and only 4% out from the target. Black depth was an excellent 0.15 cd/m2 as well, the best result from an IPS panel we have tested and beating many TN Film and VA panels as well. Contrast ratio was again a very respectable 767:1.

There was also a very positive improvement in colour accuracy, with average dE now down to 0.2 and maximum only at 0.5. Colour accuracy would be described by LaCie as excellent here and a very good result as you would hope from a high end modern IPS panel. Testing the screen with a series of colour gradients showed smooth transitions between shades and no sign of any banding of colours either horizontally or vertically.

You can find our calibrated OSD settings and saved ICC profile in our database if you want to give it a try on your EA231WMi. Please note that results may vary.

 

 


NEC EA231WMi - Calibrated Settings sRGB Mode

Monitor OSD Option

Adjusted Setting

Brightness

50

Contrast

50

Preset RGB Mode

sRGB

 

Calibrated Settings

luminance (cd/m2)

113

Black Point (cd/m2)

0.15

Contrast Ratio

753:1

 

The sRGB preset mode seemed to give us better default colour accuracy than the Native mode, and so I wanted to check if the calibration results were still as good. Unfortunuately it seems that the sRGB mode did not allow the colorimeter to produce results as impressive as in the Native preset. I ran through the process several times, but it was not possible to correct the colour accuracy any further than above. Gamma, colour temperature and luminance were still corrected to the same degree as in the Native mode, but average dE was only 1.1 and with a maximum of 3.9. Colour accuracy was still good, and improved from the default sRGB preset mode. It just didn't match the performance of the calibrated Native mode with grey shades letting it down a little.

 

If you want the best results with a colorimeter, use the Native mode. If you aren't really making any changes other than in the OSD, the sRGB preset does offer some slightly better default performance than the Native mode.

 

 

 

Above gives a comparison of the default and calibration colour accuracy of several competing screens and recently tested models. As you can see, the default colour rendering of the EA231WMi was very good in comparison with the other models. At average dE of 2.7 it was a little behind the NEC 2490WUXi (2.3) but this can be excused since the latter is a screen aimed very much at the professional market and colour enthusiasts. Once calibrated the EA231WMi was actually our joint best performer out of all the screens we have tested! It matched the previous defending champion, the NEC 2490WUXi with an average calibrated dE of 0.2 and a maximum of 0.5. Excellent performance again from NEC here, even without a hardware LUT calibration and 12-bit internal processing.

 

 

The above also gives a comparison of the calibrated black depth of the same screens. Here, the EA231WMi only lost out very narrowly to the HP LP2275W. Consdering the NEC is using an IPS panel, and the HP is using a Samsung S-PVA panel (well known for their excellent black depth and contrast ratios), this was a very good performance.

 

No complaints at all about the NEC EA231WMi's performance in terms of colour accuracy or black depth / contrast.

 

 


Contrast Stability

I wanted to see how much variance there was in the screens contrast as we adjusted the monitor setting for brightness. In theory, brightness and contrast are two independent parameters, and good contrast is a requirement regardless of the brightness adjustment. Unfortunately, such is not the case in practice. We recorded the screens luminance and black depth at various OSD brightness settings, and calculated the contrast ratio from there. All other monitor and graphics card settings were left at default. It should be noted that we used the BasICColor calibration software here to record these, and so luminance at default settings varies a little from the LaCie Blue Eye Pro report.

OSD Brightness

Luminance
(cd/m2)

Black Point (cd/m2)

Contrast Ratio ( x:1)

100

211

0.25

843

90

201

0.23

876

80

185

0.21

882

70

163

0.19

857

60

145

0.17

853

50

128

0.15

853

40

110

0.13

849

30

92

0.11

838

20

74

0.09

819

10

55

0.06

918

0

36

0.04

891

The results of this were pleasing. The monitors brightness setting gave you a very good control over the luminance of the screen through the control of the backlight intensity. Maximum luminance was recorded at 211 cd/m2 when set at 100% which was a little way off the specified 270 cd/m2 maximum brightness. However, whether you would ever really need to use the screen at anything higher is probably unlikely. Even at maximum brightness, the black depth was a decent 0.25 cd/m2, and contrast ratio a very impressive 843:1.

Adjusting the brightness control in the OSD allowed you to adjust the luminance of the screen all the way down to only 36 cd/m2! A setting of around 40 - 50% should give you a good level of around 120 cd/m2 which is recommended for LCD screens in normal lighting conditions. As you would hope, black depth decreased as you lowered brightness, down to a very very low 0.04 cd/m2 which matches the performance of the S-PVA HP LP2275W. Contrast ratio remained pretty level across these adjustments as you would hope, ranging between 838:1 and 918:1.

The results were plotted on the above graph to show the contrast ratio as you adjust the brightness control. Optimum contrast was at around 10% brightness level, but this is probably too dark for normal every day use.

 


Dynamic Contrast

Dynamic contrast ratios are becoming more and more common nowadays. They usually operate by offering a dynamic control of the panels backlighting unit, which is adjusted automatically by the screen depending on the content being viewed. So in darker images, the backlight intensity is reduced to bring out the darker detail and improve black depth. In lighter images, the intensity is increased to achieve the opposite. The dynamic contrast ratio (DCR) figure is then calculated as the ratio between the maximum luminance and minimum black depth.

These features tend to work to varying degrees, some working not very well at all, some being very 'stuttery' and some working as advertised. Their true usefulness is argueable I suppose, since many users don't even like the feature, and it's only real application is for video and possibly the odd game. Anyway, we've tested the DCR on the EA231WMi here for you:

 

Calibrated Settings, Dynamic DV Mode

luminance Max (cd/m2)

199

Black Point Minimum (cd/m2)

0.06

Dynamic Contrast Ratio

3312:1

Finally, a screen which offers a decent dynamic contrast ratio feature and an accurate quoted spec! You can observe the screen controlling the intensity of the backlight via the OSD brightness control, and when switching between a dark and a light screen you can see this control ranging from 10% (as a minimum) up to 93% (as a maximum). This in turn impacts the luminance and black point and gives a considerable range between the two. We already know from the contrast stability tests that the contrast should remain pretty static no matter what the brightness setting, so you know you are maintaining a good static contrast level of around 850:1 throughout the range of adjustments from 10 - 93% brightness. The adjustment to cover this whole range takes around 30 seconds as it's a gradual change rather thahn any stuttering steps or very fast changes which would look too distracting in real use. So it does quite a good job really. Overall a DCR of 3312:1 is produced, even a little better than the advertised 3000:1.

 


Viewing Angles



Above: Viewing angles shown from front and side, and  from above and below. Click for larger images

Viewing angles of the NEC EA231WMi are very good, as you would expect from a screen based on an e-IPS panel. Vertically and horizontally there are very wide fields of view with a small contrast shift only really becoming noticeable from a fairly wide angle of about 45. The panel is free from any off-centre contrast shift which you see from VA matrices, and this is why IPS technology is so highly regarded in the colour enthusiast and professional space. It is also free of the very noticeable contrast and colour tone shifts you see from TN Film panels vertically.

The technology really does offer the best viewing angles in the market at the moment, and there's no complaints about the EA231WMi here. Blacks also remain very consistent from even wide angles, and the screen is free from any obvious purple tint which you can sometimes see from S-IPS panels when viewed from this position. There is a slight white glow from an angle when viewing a black screen, but nothing too bad and better than some other models we have tested.

 


Panel Uniformity

Measurements of the screens luminance were taken at 35 points across the panel on a pure white background. The measurements were taken using BasICColor's calibration software package, combined with the LaCie Blue Eye Pro colorimeter. The above uniformity diagram shows the difference, as a percentage, between the luminance recorded at each point on the screen, as compared with the reference point of a calibrated 120 cd/m2. This is the desired level of luminance for an LCD screen in normal lighting conditions, and  the below shows the variance in the luminance across the screen compared with this point. It is worth noting that panel uniformity can vary from one screen to another, and can depend on manufacturing lines, screen transport and other local factors. This is only a guide of the uniformity of the sample screen we have for review.

As you can see from the above, the uniformity of the panel was quite variable. For the most part, the screen remained within -10% of the reference luminance of 120 cd/m2 but was a little darker on probably around 60% of the screen in total. Towards the left hand side, the luminance dropped even more, with the lowest reading being only 99 cd/m2 in the top left hand corner (-21% difference). Overall, I would say the panel uniformity in this test was only average, and not as good as some of the other models we have tested in this kind of size.


Above: All black screen in a darkened room. Click for larger version


As usual we also tested the screen with an all black image and in a darkened room. A camera was used to capture the result. There were a few areas of uneveness noticeable to the naked eye, and these were picked up by our camera too. The most obvious, and disappointing, was the obvious backlight leakage from all 4 corners of the screen. This is clearly visible in the image above (although a bit exagerated) and is a shame to see on a modern screen like this. In practice, this could well prove distracting in some uses. This is obviously only a sample of 1 unit, and so results are likely to vary depending on stock, build quality, shipping etc. If you get a model with bad leakage, an RMA is probably possible.

I could not detect any obvious or distracting colour 'tinting' or problems with uniformity in this regard which was pleasing.

 


Office and Windows Use

The NEC is the first 16:9 format screen we've tested actually, and so a 1920 x 1080 resolution is new to us here. The 23" screen size and high resolution were very pleasant for office working, and although you do lose a bit of height vertically compared with a 1920 x 1200 screen, it was nothing too bad. Image quality was very crisp and sharp using the DVI interface, and although D-sub (VGA) was also very good, it was not quite as sharp on text I didn't think.

The ergonomics of the screen are very impressive, with a good height, tilt, pivot and rotate function available. If you want, you can rotate the screen to portrait mode for reading documents, but at this size I think it's a little impractical and useless personally.

For the energy-concious of us out there, the OSD offers an option to access the screen's "ECO Mode". This has 3 options for "off" and then modes 1 and 2. Mode 1 enters you into the Auto Brightness setting 3, which in turn allows for automatic adjustment of the brightness (backlight intensity) depending on the ambient lighting conditions and white content displayed on the screen. This alters the brightness control of the screen within the range of 0 - 50% and trying to keep within the Energy Star measurement standards for power consumption. Mode 2 does the same, but aims to reduce power consumption overall by 30%, as compared with the maximum brightness setting you're using. Again, the brightness is adjusted automatically depending on ambient lighting conditions and content, and always aiming to cut power use by about 30%. Both modes also show you a "carbon footprint" indicator within the 'brightness' menu giving you a % value for comparative purposes. You can also operate the auto brightness feature separately with options for 'off', and then adjustment based on ambient light, white content or both. This is quite a handy feature I think and I've always quite liked the auto brightness control, certainly when working in varying ambient lighting conditions. Nice to see this included.

There are no preset modes within the DV Mode menu for 'text' or 'internet' so you will need to stick with a calibrated (or at least brightness adjusted) standard mode and perhaps utilise the auto brightness feature as well if you like.

 


Responsiveness and Gaming

The NEC EA231WMi was tested using the chase test in PixPerAn, a good bit of software for trying to quantify differences in real terms responsiveness between monitors. As a reminder, a series of pictures are taken on the highest shutter speed and compared. The images below show the best case example on the left hand side, and the worst case example on the right hand side. This should only be used as a rough guide to comparative responsiveness but is handy as a way of keeping a constant test of each screen.


14ms LG.Display e-IPS


6ms G2G LG.Display H-IPS


6ms G2G LG.Display H-IPS


6ms G2G Samsung S-PVA


It's a bit of a break from the norm to be honest, but NEC have listed their EA231WMi with a very modest response time of 14ms. There is no grey to grey (G2G) number quoted, and on first glance it would suggest that the panel is not using any form of response time compensation technology (RTC). To be fair, this isn't NEC's spec, rather it is the response time of the LM230WF2 panel from LG.Display which they have manufactured and that has been used in this screen.

Above you will see a comparison of the observed response time performance in a test environment. It helps to give a comparative view of responsiveness of the screen against some of the main competitors. In the moving car test, you can see an obvious blur to the image even with the naked eye. The movement is not as smooth and sharp as on some of the other models such as the HP LP2475W and Dell U2410. You can see this quite easily if you look closely, and it is captured in the images above where you will see a more pronounced blur image behind the moving car. Compared with the heavily overdriven 6ms G2G H-IPS panels of the LP2475W and U2410, the EA231WMi does fall a little behind. It's not a bad performer, but not quite as fast as other models in this size range I don't think.

While the response time is quoted at 14ms, and indicative of a non overdriven panel, the performance does suggest some degree of RTC is perhaps being used still. Without it altogether, you would normally see a more obvious ghost image behind the moving car, and we've seen this on several non-RTC screens where it is far more noticeable than anything here. I expect the panel is using some degree of RTC, but nowhere near as agressively as on the 6ms G2G panels in the other H-IPS based models. They have however stuck with the modest 14ms figure, either because it gives a more accurate comparative view of the screens performance compared with other competing models (which it seems to do), or because perhaps the ISO black > white response time is actually the fastest transition here, despite the RTC and so they've stuck with that number rather than a G2G figure. Either way, it appears to me like it's being used to a small degree, but not nearly as heavily as the other screens. As a result, there are no signs of RTC artefacts, overshoot or white / black trailing which is good.



14ms LG.Display e-IPS

3ms G2G + 120Hz TN Film

I've also provided a comparison against our current reigning champion, the Samsung SM2233RZ, featuring a 3ms G2G TN Film panel and 120Hz refresh technology. You'll see the NEC is somewhat slower than the Samsung as you would expect.

I'll make a note here that the screen does feature a hardware based aspect ratio control, with options for "full" and "aspect" available. There isn't a 1:1 pixel mapping feature though which some people like to use.

 


Input Lag

As usual I tested the screen in clone mode with a CRT to determine the level of input lag. This is something which can put off some gamers and is a delay between graphics card and monitor output. By hooking up a CRT you can show that  the LCD lags behind somewhat, which can affect users in some situations where they rely on the screen image being as fast as their inputs (e.g. fast FPS shooting games). Often, input lag is very low and probably wouldn't represent too much of a problem in real terms. The results from the tests are below:

While the EA231WMi might not be the fastest in terms of pixel responsiveness, it does offer a very low input lag figure from our tests. Average input lag was only 8.8ms, with only the odd delay of up to 20ms in some cases. There is no "through" mode or equivalent here either which other models sometimes implement to bypass certain circuitry to reduce input lag. Even without it, the EA231WMi offers the same average input lag as the NEC 24WMGX3 in fact when the 'through mode' is used. The screen is also a bit faster than the HP LP2475W (25ms average) and Dell U2410 (14.4ms average - game mode enabled). A good performance here from the NEC, and no real issue for any gamers with this kind if low input lag.

 


Movies and Video

The following summarises the NEC EA231WMi's performance in video applications:

  • 23" screen size suitable for movie viewing, but some larger screens are becoming more readily available nowadays

  • 1920 x 1080 resolution is good for HD content, and can support a true 1080p resolution (1920 x 1080) as well

  • 16:9 format specifically geared towards movies and video as opposed to traditional 16:10 screens, and so viewing some movies without black borders is a bonus

  • Panel uniformity is average and there is some rather noticeable backlight leakage on our sample unit in the 4 corners. This could prove distracting in every day use, particularly in darker movie scenes. At least being 16:9, there will be less need for borders on movies and so you don't notice the uniformity issues as much without a pure black block of colour.

  • Black depth is very good, meaning detail in darker scenes is not lost. Very good contrast ratio as well, especially for an IPS panel

  • There is a 'movie' preset in the DV mode menu which seems to have the odd result of making text very sharp, too much so in fact. The brightness is also increased a little compared with our calibrated standard setting. In practice, the sharpness 'boost' doesn't really offer any improvement compared with normal mode in movies and video. Not sure if the movie preset is worthwhile really.

  • Dynamic Contrast mode is actually very effective and reaches the specified 3000:1 easily. It operates smoothly and might be useful to those who like this technology.

  • 3 interface options with DVI, D-sub and DisplayPort. The latter is not widely used at the moment, but is set to become a popular standard by the sounds of it. Good for future proofing and use with external devices. Would have been nice to see HDMI I think though.

  • HDCP encryption support for protected content is included

  • Speakers are built in for some general sound, nothing too heavy duty

  • Pretty good response time helping to avoid blurring and ghosting in fast paced scenes

  • Good ergonomic adjustments for getting that perfect height and angle for viewing from a distance

 


Comparison vs. the Dell U2410 and HP LP2475W

I know people are going to ask this question, so I'll try and answer it now - "how does the EA231WMi compare with the Dell U2410 and HP LP2475W?" I've included a little table summarising all 3 screens side by side based on the testing we have carried out and on my opinions. Each screen will have either a ranking or the actual measurement shown. Where they are ranked, it is from 1st to 3rd place where applicable in each category and colour coordinated red, amber and green. I'll try and explain my reasoning as well here:

  • Approximate price - The NEC is around 120 cheaper than the other two models. It's only 1" smaller but still carries a full 1080 HD resolution. This is a significant difference to anyone surely?

  • Features - This was hard to separate really so I've tied them all in this category. The NEC may not have as many USB ports, PiP, PbP or 12-bit internal colour LUT's, but it does offer an ambient light sensor, ECO mode, a workable DCR and integrated speakers.

  • Interfaces - the NEC definitely loses out here as there's no HDMI, composite, component and S-video like on the other two. If you want to be able to connect many external devices then you may want to consider how you will connect them, and whether there is enough choice on the NEC. It would have been nice to see more options on the NEC, but presumably the cost would have been increased significantly so they have been omitted.

  • sRGB colour support - Obviously the NEC has a good edge here since it's a standard gamut screen anyway. If you are wanting to work only in the sRGB colour space, the standard backlighting here is probably more suited. The Dell does feature a fairly decent sRGB emulation mode at least, and the HP's emulation doesn't seem to work at all!

  • Extended gamut support - The HP and Dell are both using extended colour gamut backlighting, whereas the NEC is limited to only sRGB / 72% NTSC. If you want to work with extended colour spaces, the NEC is not for you.

  • Panel Uniformity - The HP takes the crown here being pretty good from what we saw. The Dell has some leakage issues and the NEC has some rather obvious backlight leakage from the corners. Results may vary, but this is based on the review samples we have looked at

  • Office and Windows - I've tied them all here as well. The Dell and HP are arguably a little better due to the extended vertical resolution as compared with the NEC, but the NEC does feature a pretty handy ambient light sensor and ECO modes bringing it back level in my view

  • Viewing angles - nothing to separate them here really

  • Movies Overall - I've tied them all here as well I'm afraid. It was hard to separate and there are pros and cons of each of them really. The NEC is in a more natural 16:9 format, has a slightly better black depth and a workable DCR. The integrated speakers also give a slight edge here compared with the others. On the flip side, the HP and Dell are a little larger, and have more interface options. Tough call here

  • Responsiveness - The Dell and HP are very close, but I've given the slight edge to the Dell as it doesn't have as many RTC artefacts and dark trailing as the HP does. The NEC is a little slower than them both sadly

  • Input lag - pretty good all round really, but the NEC takes the 1st place here at 8.8ms, with the Dell (game mode) at 14.4ms and the HP at 25ms average.

  • Colour accuracy Default - Out of the box, the NEC offers the most accurate colours, improved even more when switching to the sRGB preset. Neither the Dell or HP offered particularly good colour accuracy at default settings or with preset modes, and need some decent calibration really to get the most out of them. This can cause further problems due to the extended gamut where oversaturation of reds and greens can be common.

  • Colour accuracy calibrated - The NEC is actually our joint best screen in this regard with average dE of only 0.2 and maximum of 0.5 once calibrated. It ties with the NEC 2490WUXi, and is marginally better than the Dell at 0.2 average but 0.7 max. The HP achieved 0.3 average and 0.5 max. Very close in this regard, but the NEC just takes the lead slightly

  • Black depth - Again, very close but the NEC just takes the lead at 0.15 cd/m2, with the HP at 0.17 and the Dell at 0.22 cd/m2 respectively. All very good for IPS panels, but the NEC just takes the lead

  • Static Contrast Ratio - as a static number, the NEC again takes the slight lead at 767:1 (calibrated) vs. 541:1 on the Dell and 694:1 on the HP.

  • Dynamic Contrast Ratio - The NEC actually features a DCR which works as advertised and works well. The Dell has one, but it doesn't seem to do much, and the HP doesn't have one at all.

So is the EA231WMi better than the LP2475W and U2410? - I hate to cop out, but I'd have to say "yes, but only in some areas"....(see below)

 


Conclusion

Overall the NEC fairs very well I think and comes out top in many of the comparisons with its popular rivals, the Dell U2410 and HP LP2475W. It offers superior performance in some areas, but doesn't have it all and has a few disappointing drawbacks though in my opinion. The lack of some interface options like HDMI is a shame I think and you're a bit limited with what the EA231WMi offers here. There's no extended gamut if you want to work with extended colour spaces and responsiveness is not quite up to modern standards unfortunately. The panel uniformity is fairly poor as well, and from what I've read this seems to be a fairly common problem at the moment. This could well vary from stock to stock and improve with future revisions but it's a quality control issue which is a little disappointing.

Having said all this, the screen offers a very competitive price and some of the best performance we have seen when it comes to colour accuracy, black depth and contrast. Even though pixel responsiveness is a little slow, the input lag is very good and so this screen should still be fine for many gamers. Viewing angles, office application and movies are all very good thanks to the IPS panel technology and performance of the panel. All in all, it is a very keenly priced screen with some very good performance across the board. A 1080 HD resolution screen with an e-IPS panel at this price is well worth a look, and although it lacks a few extra features you will see from some more expensive competing models, I still feel it's an excellent screen.
 

Pros

Cons

Very keenly priced compared with competing 24" models

Some quality control issues with panel uniformity and backlight leakage

Excellent colour accuracy, black depth and contrast

Limited interface options, and no HDMI

Low input lag and decent enough responsiveness

Responsiveness not quite in keeping with other modern screens

Further reading: Testfreaks

 

 

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