Sling an iPod over your shoulder at your local PC superstore and odds are you'll take out a couple of 22-inch monitors with TN+film LCD panels. Ubiquitous isn't the word.
But while the huge range of brands offering 22 inchers gives the impression of choice, the reality is that they're all rather samey. Once you've seen one TN panel with washed out colours, limited contrast and mediocre viewing angles, well, the next 30 or so suddenly look much less interesting.
Admittedly, TN technology has made significant strides over the past 12 months. But there's still no getting away from the fact that it's the poor man's panel. For proper image quality, you need a pukka panel and that means one of two basic technologies: vertical alignment (VA) or in-plane switching (IPS). Problem is, while those panel types are widely available in large, high end displays, they're becoming increasing rare down in the mass market 22-inch trenches.
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The explanation, of course, is cost. TN panels are much cheaper to manufacture. Most buyers, meanwhile, choose monitors based on a handful of rather rudimentary metrics. Essentially, it boils down to price and panel size. According to a number of manufacturers we have spoken to recently, the mass market just isn't willing to pay extra for a premium panel.
Consequently, the vast majority of 22-inch monitors we've seen over the past 18 months have been based on the same old TN technology. It's with some excitement, therefore, that we introduce NEC's latest 22-incher, the MultiSync P221W. Joy of joys, this monitor is based on a modern S-PVA panel and hence boasts some extremely impressive core specifications, including an extended colour space and very wide viewing angles.
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It does, however, come at a price. At around £425, the MultiSync P221W is not only getting on for three times the price of a typical 22-inch TN monitor. It's also in the same ball park as a number of very solid 24-inch models with PVA panel. What's more, the mass market is moving to the 16:9 aspect ratio and full-HD 1,920 x 1,080 resolution. That leaves NEC's new premium 22 incher at an immediate disadvantage in terms of desktop real estate and pixel density thanks to its traditional 16:10 aspect and 1,680 x 1,050 pixel grid. It had better be extremely good.