Subjective image quality
Any hopes the VLED221wm might blow away every other TN 22-incher on the market vanish the moment you fire it up. In standard TN style, the default image quality is typically watery and lacking in contrast.
Knock the gamma down a notch or two and the overall look and feel is much improved. Indeed, thus adjusted it's a pretty pleasingly vibrant and punchy panel. Is it any better than a CCFL TN panel? Subjectively, there's not a great deal in it, but we'd just give the VLED221wm the nod for its marginally superior colour saturation. It does have a little more pizzazz than your average 22-inch TN.
That said, it hardly screams “advanced LED technology”. Even a trained eye would struggle to spot that there was anything out of the ordinary providing the backlighting without being informed first.
As for our subjective take on this monitor's pixel response, well, during window jostling on the desktop it's clearly less snappy than we would expect for a 5ms TN monitor. Likewise, in games and movies, it is slightly more susceptible to blurring than the vast majority of 22-inch monitors, even if it's probably still quick enough to satisfy most users.
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Another aspect of the LED backlight that disappoints involves the dynamic contrast technology. One of the really irritating aspects of most dynamic contrast technologies is the sluggish manner in which CCFL tubes appear to respond. It's extremely distracting to watch the backlight slowly increase in intensity after an abrupt change in the image from dark to bright when watching a movie or playing a game.
In the past, we had assumed that was a function of the slow response times of CCFL tubes. Since LEDs are renowned for their instant-on capability (LEDs are increasingly used in car brake lights for just this reason), we were hoping to see a much speedier performance from the VLED221wm's dynamic contrast implementation. Sadly, that's not what it delivers. It's every bit as slovenly as a typical CCFL monitor. We can only assume the monitor's electronics are to blame.
Making matters worse, it can't be switched off. That can be a real pain during dark scenes in games and movies. The opening night time sequence of Crysis: Warhead
is a case is point. With the backlight dialled down extremely low by the dynamic contrast circuitry, it's bloody hard to see what is going on so an option to turn the dynamic contrast off is a must in our view.
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Finally, on a more positive note, the viewing angles do deserve some praise, at least by TN standards. Outright colour stability may not be all that spectacular off-centre, but black tone inversion is resisted admirably. That's arguably more important and helps to prevent the screen from washing out when watching movies.
We had high hopes for this monitor, but unfortunately few/if any were met. Most of all, in this particular implementation, the benefits of LED technology are rather tough to spot. For static image quality, a decent PVA or IPS panel with a CCFL backlight still gives clearly superior results to the VLED221wm's TN-plus-LED combination.
This leaves it in a pretty tricky position because, if we ignore its price for a moment, the Viewsonic VLED221wm is certainly one of the better 22-inch TN screens currently available. It's more vibrant and satisfying than the average dull and dingy budget competitor.
But is it worth twice as much as a conventional 22 incher? In the end, the answer has to be no. It has too many flaws, including relatively poor pixel response and the poorly implemented and non-switchable dynamic contrast technology, and there are too few benefits of the LED backlight, for that.
Nevertheless, we still think Viewsonic deserves kudos for giving it a go with affordable LED technology. That's a lot more than can be said for most monitor makers, who tend to be a pretty conservative and unadventurous bunch. Indeed, the VLED221wm is apparently selling well. Despite its flaws, it's probably just about innovative enough to deserve to do so.
- Image Quality