Refreshing Monitors: Power Savings, Productivity Gains

Power Savings, Productivity Gains

It’s time for refreshing monitors. Newer flat panels are larger, run cooler and are more efficient than older models and CRTs, and can help keep operating expenses down. Pitch the benefits of input versatility, color accuracy and low prices, and flat-panels will be flying off your shelves. The CRN Test Center looked at new panels from Acer, HP, Lenovo and NEC, judging look and feel, features and display quality using images at

Two LCD technologies were in play: Twisted Nematic, or TN, is a typical choice for gamers for its low cost and fast response time, and In-Plane Switching, or IPS, which is often the choice of creative types for its color accuracy. And there were several nice surprises. Check out our findings.

Lenovo ThinkVision L2251x

The Lenovo ThinkVision L2251x is a 22-inch TN display with analog and digital inputs listing at $299. This no-nonsense unit is about as versatile as they come, with VGA, DisplayPort (cable included) and USB host (cable included), and four device ports, a built-in Webcam and a tilt/swivel/pivot stand. This unit consumes just 17 watts when fully operational. At its maximum resolution of 1,680 x 1,050, the 6-bit with HiFRC ThinkVision performed exceedingly well in tests, particularly in the gradient test, where it displayed no visible banding. It also performed well in the inversion test, exhibiting no pixel lag or artifacts. The Lenovo ThinkVision L2251x is covered by a three-year warranty.


The 30-inch ZR30W from Hewlett-Packard is a digital-only unit with DisplayPort and DVI-D (dual-link) inputs (one each, with cables), plus one USB host port and two device ports. The 10-bit panel delivered all black levels from 1 to 255 and white saturation was nearly as good. In the gradient test, there was absolutely no visible banding; the inversion test displayed no artifacts or pixel lag. The ZR is big, standing at least 20 inches high, 27 1/4 inches across and 11 inches deep. But the 28-pound unit tilts and swivels easily on its stand. Power consumption was relatively high at 126 watts, but sinks to just 1 watt in standby mode. The unit never climbed much above room temperature.

NEC PA271w

Another 10-bit IPS panel is the MultiSync PA271w from NEC Display Solutions. Replacing the company's 90 series, this 27-inch beauty turned in perfect performance in the gradient test, with absolutely no banding. For $1,399 list, the digital-only unit also includes a KVM switch that automatically shares a keyboard and mouse between two video sources. Ports include two DVI-D and one DisplayPort. Other tricks include the ability to split the screen's 2,560-x-1,440 into two distinct color spaces, and its on-screen display (shown) puts labels near the monitor's physical controls, all but eliminating wrong navigation. The compact unit consumes 68 watts (1 watt in standby mode) and is covered by a four-year warranty.


The remarkably thin 27-inch Acer S273HL BMII consumes just 30 watts, has a physical footprint of less than 8 square inches and uses no mercury or other harmful substances anywhere in its design. Introduced in September, the S273HL accepts digital and analog signals via one VGA and two HDMI ports that are integrated into its base, which is iMac-like for its curved aluminum pedestal. One cable is included for each signal type. Also in the base is a stereo input and speaker that’s fine for an office but not for the office party. Despite its 6-bit TN panel, Acer performed well in the gradient test, but fell short in tests of white saturation and inversion. Price: $470 street.