Dell's gamer-friendly Alienware brand is extending its reach to include monitors, and the 21.5-inch widescreen 1080p OptX AW2210 ($300 as of November 11, 2009) serves up a lot to like: solid image quality, accessible and comprehensive built-in menus, and an exterior design that stands out from the generally conservative competition.
On the other hand, $300 is a lot to pay these days for a 21.5-inch monitor, especially when you consider that Dell itself offers LCDs that rival the AW2210 in quality and cost less. The Dell SX2210, for example, has a panel that's identical to the Alienware 2210's, but trades in the design and the touch-sensitive menu controls for a Webcam, face-recognition software, and a retail price of $220. (Then again, the Dell SX2210t monitor restores the multitouch and face-recognition features but jacks the price up to $469.)
Evidently the company applied that extra $80 to the Alienware monitor's aesthetics. The OptX 2210 is black, bold, and sexy from top to bottom, with a slim profile and a big plastic base that looks like Batman's boomerang. The LCD also looks heavier than it actually is, which is both a plus and a minus: On the one hand, it's easier to tote around (what fun is an Alienware display if you don't get to show it off?); but on the other, the monitor's stability is iffy. The OptX 2210 didn't move while I was typing up this review, but it did move around significantly more than my other display (a Dell 1907FPc) when I was playing a game.
The monitor's design keeps the ports from showing, which is nice when you're looking at it, but inconvenient when you're trying to plug things in to it. Four USB 2.0 ports, two HDMI ports, a DVI-D port, and line-in and line-out audio jacks--all vertically oriented behind the monitor--are difficult to access. On the plus side, the swivel, tilt, and height of the display are easy to adjust.
The OptX 2210's aesthetic appeal extends to its impressive built-in menu controls. I've never been a fan of touch-sensitive buttons because I'm somewhat ham-handed and I hate not being able to find the spot I'm looking for. But I had no problems with this display's menu controls, which worked well and looked cool. The main menu button even detects your hand's proximity and lights up before you touch it.
Once you reach the menus, you'll encounter five preset configurations (Standard, Multimedia, Game, Warm, and Cool) for adjusting various display settings. You get an extra spot for introducing a user-defined custom preset, as well, along with manual options if the presets don't do it for you. Though you probably won't be stepping through these very often, the tweak-friendliness is still a nice touch.
PC World Test Center image evaluations are still pending (we'll add them to this review as soon as they're ready), but I put the OptX 2210 through its paces with a PlayStation 3 and Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. To my eyes, the monitor performed excellently. I tend to be a stickler about input lag issues, but I didn't notice any problems with response time, ghosting, or any other problems commonly associated with monitor-overdrive functions in the past. I also didn't notice any benefit of using the Gaming preset configuration, which merely to turn the brightness and color warmth down a notch from the Standard preset.
One edge that the OptX 2210 has over its less-expensive Dell cousin is the Premium Panel Guarantee, which is more stringent than the standard Dell three-year limited warranty: If you find a single bright or stuck pixel, you can exchange the monitor for a brand-new one. (Many monitor warranties won't promise you a replacement unit unless the number of dead or stuck pixels reaches a certain threshold.) The default warranty lasts for three years, though you can purchase a four-year warranty for $40 or a five-year one for $60.
Though $300 is a lot to pay for a 21.5-inch monitor, the Alienware OptX AW2210 display has plenty of virtues to justify the price, and the extra warranty coverage ensures that you can enjoy your investment at maximum visual quality. Stop by our monitor reviews page or our Monitor Buying Guide to see what other models fall into your price range.
This story, "Product review: Alienware OptX AW2210 21.5-Inch LCD Monitor" was originally published by PCWorld.
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