Review: Two new 22-in. LCDs offer great views

Two new displays from Envision and Lenovo offer good-quality video for desktops that can't handle larger monitors.

Let's be honest: We'd all like to wake up one morning and find a monster display on our desks. However, assuming you can find one that's affordable, your desk may simply refuse to cooperate -- it just won't expand (or clean off) enough to allow you to stick 28-plus inches of flat-panel LCD in the space once occupied by a 17-in. display.

But what if you could find yourself with capable 1,680-by-1,050- or even 1,920-by-1,200-pixel resolutions -- in just 22 inches of space? That's what Envision and Lenovo Group Ltd. are offering with their E218c1 and ThinkVision L220x Wide LCDs, respectively.

At $500, Lenovo's ThinkVision L220x Wide display doesn't qualify as a budget item, but it represents amazingly accurate visual technology and carries a host of ergonomic features to custom-tune it to your desktop environment. Envision's E218c1 ($330) is a more of the run-of-the-mill consumer monitor, but it's augmented with integrated camera, speakers, and a microphone.

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Although both are HD-compatible, neither has an HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) port. As a result, if you want to use these displays for HD output, you'll need to either have an HD tuner or DVD player installed with your PC, or find an HDMI-to-DVI conversion cable to attach an external HD device to the monitor.

I tested the metrics of both of these displays using DisplayMate Technologies Corp.'s DisplayMate software. I also put in hours of ad hoc testing using DVDs, live television and games.

Envision E218c1

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Envision's E218c1 22-in. LCD monitor is really a multimedia display in every sense of the word -- it offers integrated speakers, a microphone and a webcam.

Envision E218c1

The Envision E218c1

Even at 16.5 lb., the monitor is well balanced enough and has a rigid enough pedestal to allow you to easily flip it over to install the cables. The display offers a variety of connections for Video Graphics Array (D-sub), Digital Visual Interface (compliant with High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection), audio, headphones and an external microphone. There is also a three-port Universal Serial Bus hub. The camera and microphone need to be connected to your computer via a USB connection; the display's swivel and height adjustment let you aim the camera.

Although Envison provides a hard-copy owner's manual, you probably won't need it. The front-mounted on-screen display (OSD) buttons are labeled clearly, and the functions are logical. The only real setup involved (beyond physically making the connections) is for the included microphone/camera application, which offers a small on-screen display showing you what the camera sees, and a Record button to start the process. There are also adjustments available for resolution, brightness and contrast.

I had no complaints about the built-in echo-canceling microphone -- it captured my voice with as little distortion as could be expected. The webcam is a different matter -- the E218c1 offers only a 1.3-megapixel camera, which is rather meager considering that even cell phones are starting to offer 5 megapixels and better. As a result, the output can be described as something from the low end of the YouTube barrel. You can get an honest 30 frames per second (fps) out of it, but that drops precipitously as you increase the image resolution.

The display has a native 1,680-by-1,050-pixel resolution. According to many high-definition purists, who demand a minimum resolution of 1,920 by 1,200, that should remove it from the HD arena. Envision disagrees and states that the monitor is 720p/1080i-compatible.

I found that graphics were generally fine, but overall contrast (at a 700-to-1 contrast ratio) and brightness (at 300 cd/m2) were not as good as with Lenovo's more expensive display. Colors rendered well, but again, they were not as vivid as I found with Lenovo's display.

The only real problem I found, based on the DisplayMate series of tests, was a loss of detail at the lower boundaries of gray and the upper regions of white. It's a just a bit more severe than I'd prefer for a consumer-grade monitor, but not serious enough to be a deal-breaker.

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