Review: 3 power-sipping monitors

3 power-sipping monitors lower energy bills

Can you have a great monitor that also scrimps on electricity -- and helps the environment? We test three 27-in. power-saving displays to find out.

Review

3 power-sipping monitors

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Ironically, though, the Philips turned out to be the highest power user of the three -- probably because of the overhead required to keep the PowerSensor active and ready to restart the display. All told, using my assumptions that it was used for 10 hours a day for every business day and that electricity costs 12 cents per kilowatt-hour, the display had an estimated annual operating expenses of $10.20.

How well it worked

In the front, the Philips monitor has a control for fine-tuning the PowerSensor along with others for turning the display on and off and working with the screen's menu. A large bluish-green LED shows that the display is turned on. There are also buttons for adjusting the brightness level and selecting the company's SmartImage feature.

SmartImage optimizes the display's contrast to suit what you're looking at. It has preset modes for Office, Photo, Movie, Game or Economy (which reduces its brightness by two-thirds). There's also an adjustment for the screen's color temperature with six settings available between 5,000K and 11,500K.

With the ability to deliver 221 candelas per square meter, the Philips monitor delivered rich blues and sharp yellows, but the display's greens were too light and its reds appeared dull. Its ability to show video was very good -- clear and smooth with no frame drops.

Loading the included Smart Control Premiere app (Windows PCs only) provides a deeper level of customization. It has the ability to change the screen's black level and adjust the gamma settings. A big bonus is that it has a series of test images that you can use to calibrate the display.

Other features

While the AOC and Dell monitors have built-in speakers, the Philips lacks speakers, webcam, microphone and USB ports. In other words, it is a display and nothing more -- rather unusual in today's market.

Its collection of input ports are oriented vertically rather than the AOC display's more convenient horizontal ports. The Philips has one DisplayPort, one DVI and one VGA port, but no HDMI port. As a result, I used its DVI input with an HDMI adapter.

The Philips does offer the best stand of the trio. With little effort, the display can be tilted forward 5 degrees and back by up to 20 degrees; it can also be raised or lowered by 6.3 in. and swiveled to the right or left by up to 140 degrees.

The entire display can also be easily rotated from landscape to portrait. This is useful if you want to work with a long document or a vertically oriented website without continually scrolling. The monitor's software reorients the image after the screen is rotated.

After pressing a button in the back, you can remove the display from the stand, revealing its VESA mounting holes. This allows it to be used with a third-party stand or mounting hardware.

Bottom line

The Philips display comes with a three-year warranty and starts at a retail price of about $260, between the cheaper AOC monitor and the better equipped Dell display. While I love the display's ability to sense when I'm working and when I'm someplace else -- and the well-constructed stand -- the Philips really needs some further refinement and power reduction before it's ready for my office.

Conclusions

After using each of these three monitors for several weeks, I would love an amalgam of the three that is built around the Philips adaptable stand, the AOC's power-saving abilities and the Dell's bright screen.

That said, the PowerSensor feature on the Philips 271S4LPYEB is impressive and works well, but it uses too much electricity to be of much use.

I love that the AOC E2752VH doesn't use a watt when it's asleep. At $240, it is also the cheapest to get and use, but that's not enough compensation for having the least bright monitor of the three.

The Dell UltraSharp 27 UZ2715H may not have the fastest display panel, but it is fine for business work and is the best equipped and brightest of the three -- and uses a reasonable amount of power. I wish that the stand were more adaptable, but no other screen here does so much.

How we tested

To see how these 27-in. monitors compare, I set each up in my office for at least a week as my primary display. I used each of them to write emails, edit text, create spreadsheets, watch videos, nose around on the Web and work with interactive online programs.

After unpacking and putting each together, I spent some time measuring and investigating how each stand can tilt, raise or rotate the screen. Then I looked over the display's ports, speakers, microphone and webcam. I looked at the monitor's controls and tried out the device's features.

Then I connected each of the monitors to an iPad Mini (with an HDMI adapter), a Toshiba Radius P-55W notebook and a Nexus 7 phone (connecting via a Chromecast receiver). Each screen was able to work with each source; since the Philips display lacks an HDMI port, I used its DVI port with an HDMI-to-DVI adapter.

I next measured each screen's brightness with a Minolta LM-1 light meter using a white image in a darkened room. After measuring the light level at nine locations, I averaged them and converted the result to candelas per square meter. I then displayed a standard set of color bars and compared the three displays using an Orei HD104 four-way video distribution amplifier and a Toshiba Radius computer as the source.

To see how these monitors save power, I looked into their power conservation settings and software. I checked out how flexible the setting was for putting the display to sleep and measured how much electricity each monitor used with a Kill a Watt power meter.

Using the average U.S. price of 12 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity, I estimated of how much it might cost to operate each monitor, based on the assumption that it was used for 10 hours a day over the work year (250 days) and was asleep for the rest of the time.

*Based on 10 hours a day per business day and 12 cents per kilowatt hour.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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