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Acer B243PWL 24” Professional Monitor Review

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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The current display market is an interesting place where there’s currently a blurring of the lines between professional and enthusiasts products. Both consumer niches typically want to avoid the picture quality sacrifices integrated into lower quality TN-based panels and companies have begun to listen. In essence, these are finicky and fickle customers who are hard to please since they know precisely what they want, how much they are willing to pay and base their purchasing decisions solely on the overall value of a monitor. Acer’s latest entry into this highly competitive marketplace is the 24” B243PWL, a monitor that is firmly targeted towards professionals…but that doesn’t necessarily mean enthusiasts and gamers shout ignore it.

The Acer B243PWL is a reasonably priced, 24” 16:10 / 1920 x 1200 IPS-based monitor that’s been designed from the ground up to cater to the business consumer’s needs. In the past we have looked at a handful of business orientated displays and while some were extremely impressive, others were less so. The trick to succeeding in this product space is to incorporate a wide ranging feature set with ease of use and acceptable performance.

Many of the monitors we mentioned above also used IPS panels with LED backlighting and the B243PWL is no different. The reason for this is straightforward: CCFL backlighting is on its way out and LED-based IPS panels are gaining market dominance due to their combination of excellent performance and low power consumption. LED designs also boast simplified engineering sp prices have also declined for manufacturers and end users alike.

On the surface of things, the B243PWL does tick all of the right boxes. Acer equipped it with a brightness of 300 nits, professional-oriented 1920x1200 resolution and an almost unbelievable contrast ratio of 100,000,000:1. It even goes a step further by being one of the few monitors on the market that has EPEAT Gold certification, guaranteeing efficiency and the use of green products throughout the manufacturing process. This is especially important for companies that are looking to reduce their overall environmental impact.

The reasonable price we mentioned previously comes to about $280 depending on where you look. This is quite impressive since most companies typically slap an ultra high price point onto their enterprise / professional products. It is also backed up by a comprehensive three year global warranty which is part for the course in this higher end market segment.

 
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SKYMTL

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A Closer Look at the Acer B243PWL

A Closer Look at the Acer B243PWL



The Acer B243PWL is first and foremost a business class monitor and the overall appearance does reflect this conservative, somewhat utilitarian philosophy. While some may consider its black on black design to be a touch bland when compared against the Asus ProArt or even Dell U2410, the overall aesthetics are more than good enough for its intended niche. While it may lack clear Lucite fascia, red racing stripes and other sundries a rich black monitor will seamlessly blend into nearly any business or home environment.


If you are interested in a flashy, attention getting IPS based monitorm the B243PWL is not the monitor for you. If however, you are like most business consumers and don’t need a display to be an expression of your ‘inner being’, ‘enhance your zen’ or similar flighty ideals then the all black aesthetics of the Acer B243PWL should fit the bill perfectly.


Anyone interested in an ultra slim monitor will be disappointed as well. As with most business grade IPS monitors, the B243PWL is downright thick but the sharp angulations on its back do have a tendency to minimize this rather chunky design and make it appear thinner than it really is. With that being said, when compared against many older professional-grade monitors the B243PWL looks positively svelte.

As an added benefit, the excess housing depth has allowed Acer to include an impressive number of ventilation slits to let hot air passively escape. This should keep the robust internals cooler and reduce the chances of heat related damage. The large number of slits also gives the integrated speakers a chance to sound better – or at least be less masked - than what we’re used to in this price range of the professional market.


While a robust design is nice, one of the features we most like to see on any business oriented monitor is physical buttons and this monitor delivers. Simply put, physical buttons make setup and configuration a lot easier than it would be if the B243PWL used a button-less interface. Unfortunately, the six buttons are a grouped slightly too close together and as a result they are a bit on the small side. Further compounding things is the fact that every button –with the exception of Power- are the exact same shape and require you to look closely to see what each is for. This coupled with their rather cheap ‘plasticky’ feel does take away from our delight in seeing a straightforward interface.


As you can see, the input options are fairly average for its price class and market niche. In fact, the inputs on this monitor are almost identical to that of the Dell U2312HM and Dell U2412M: single DVI, DisplayPort, and VGA ports with a pair of USB 2.0 ports and a single 3.5mm stereo input jack. HDMI is conspicuous by its absence, but we wouldn’t expect that on a professional-oriented monitor anyways.


The base and stand also reflect the business class philosophy quite nicely. On first blush the square shaped stand and utilitarian post configuration the do look rather large, clumsy and inelegant but this large square base does create an exceptionally stable platform for the B243PWL.


As with all serious business grade devices this stand allows for portrait and landscape modes, 110mm of height adjustment and 70 degrees of left/ right swivel with 20 degrees (-5 to 15) of tilt. The amount of swivel and pitch is a touch low, but taken as a whole these capabilities should allow most consumers to find the perfect viewing angle and one-up many other similarly priced monitors.


The top of this base isn’t quite flat and slopes gently towards the front where there is a well designed– if shallow – lipped edge where you can store USB thumb drives, pens and other items that always seem to accumulate in a working environment. The post’s rear also contains a simple to use cable holder that will help with the clutter normally associated with most workspaces.


Unfortunately, while the overall appearance and design does lend itself well to the business environment, some smaller touches are rather obvious by their absence. For instance there are no included USB ports on tht Acer B243PWL’s bezel. This is a minor annoyance at best, but it does put this monitor at a slight disadvantage as bezel mounted USB ports are rather beneficial to most business clientele.
 

SKYMTL

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Menu Layout & Observations

Menu Layout & Observations



Business class monitors’ OSD menu systems usually fall into one of two widely different camps: simple, easy to use menu systems and more complex but ultra customizable layouts. The Acer B243PWL’s On Screen Display’s menu falls firmly into the former category rather than the latter but don’t even think for a second that it isn’t fully capable. To be perfectly candid, this is the fastest, easiest and most intuitive to use OSD we have ever seen. No matter your skill level you will quickly figure out the various options and be able to tweak them since there are almost any hidden sub menus and everything needed for adjustments is found with a click or two.


Unfortunately, the highly simplified nature of Acer’s OSD comes with one major downside: a real lack of advanced options. In order to fit everything into such a streamlined configuration, many features have been left out in the rain. For example, to tweak the Gamma setting you will need to resort to software based solutions as the B243PWL is incapable of providing this crucial ability.

Missing gamma adjustments is fairly common and we don’t really mind this absence since most integrated and discrete graphics solutions have it already integrated into their driver / software stack. However, the absence of certain advanced adjustments did somewhat detract from the overall positive experience we had with this OSD. It is one thing to remove some advanced features, it is another to severely curtail the number of options like Acer did. For all intents and purposes the only thing this OSD allows you do control can be broken down into four broad areas: select a preconfigured option, change the brightness level, change the contrast level and modify the R/G/B settings.


On the positive side, the main OSD may only have three pre-configured options – Warm, Cool and User – but the eColor Management option page contains another five: User, Eco, Standard, Graphic, and Movie modes. However, the “User” mode does overlap with the main OSD’s “User” option and thus making the grand total of pre-configured options seven instead of eight. Between all these pre-configured modes, most consumers will find an option that suits their basic needs fairly well.

Unfortunately, the old adage “There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch” is in full effect. While the B243PWL is indeed boasts one of the most user friendly OSDs we have ever used, it will leave advanced users craving more. Only being able to control brightness, contrast and R/G/B levels within the custom profile is not an optimal scenario for some of this monitor’s intended market. This also tends to limit the IPS panel’s abilities and by extension limit its appeal to business consumers rather than a broader range of professionals.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Messages
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Image Quality (Uniformity / Gamma)

Image Quality (Uniformity / Gamma)


Calibrated Settings

Please remember that the settings below have been calibrated for our specific environment and your viewing conditions may differ from ours.

Mode: User Control
Brightness: 10%

All other settings left at standard defaults.

Notes:
- All tests done at default settings at 120 cd/m2.
- Unless otherwise noted, the tests were carried out via DVI.



The Acer B243PWL is first and foremost an entry level business class monitor and its performance attributes reflect this. As befitting any IPS based monitor, the overall picture quality is very good and easily better than any TN based monitor. However, this particular panel’s capabilities just aren't a match for those of a professional grade monitor such as the Asus ProArt PA246Q or Dell U2410. On the positive side, with a maximum output of 333 cd/m2, this monitor is capable of being extremely bright while still providing adjustability down to a more precise 120cd/m2. This combination makes it adaptable for a wide range of lighting environments.


Panel Uniformity


In a perfect world a screen’s brightness output would be equal throughout the entire panel. This is not a perfect world, but the lower the variation the less chances you will notice overly bright or dark sections on the screen. For the consumer LCD marketplace a variance of 10% is our gold standard but anything below 15% can be considered excellent as we doubt anyone will notice a -7.5 to +7.5 variation. A variation above 15% but below 24% can be considered adequate, but anything above this does not meet our basic minimum standards.


With its center point set to 120 cd/m2, the B243PWL displays a moderate panel variance of 16% or a full 6% better than what our Dell U2410 exhibited. Ironically though, a variance of 16% is worse than what our business orientated TN based Dell P2412H achieved in the same test. This places Acer's IPS panel firmly in the middle of business pack with neither great nor poor overall variance.

Sadly, while the overall variance is more than adequate, the B243PWL does show a disturbing tendency to have sudden – and massive - shifts in both the vertical and horizontal axis. Even with the ultra crisp nature of an IPS panel, the center right side is noticeably darker than the majority of the screen. The vertical variance – while slightly better than the horizontal – is also noticeable with a 12-13% shift occurring on the right and left sides.


Gamma Performance


Gamma correction is one of the hardest terms to explain. However, for our purposes the gamma correction of any electronics device is how bright or dark an image will be displayed on a screen.

All PC devices now use 2.20 gamma as the default. Any variance from this will result in an image being either underexposed which will create black crush and underexposed shadow detail or washed out with too little black level detail (aka being over-exposed).

While 2.20 is the gold standard, a minor deviation of 0.10 will in all likelihood never be noticed by anyone other than professional photographers. Higher levels of deflection however will be noticed by just about everyone.



Unlike the mediocre showing in our panel uniformity test, the Acer B243PWL's gamma spectrum is surprisingly accurate. To be perfectly candid a difference of only 0.02 off the required 2.20 is not going to be noticeable to anyone. Only the most obsessive / compulsive consumers will feel it necessary to tweak the gamma levels. This makes the Acer B243PWL one of the elite few which can be used out of the box without any gamma correction required.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Colour Saturation Levels / Default RGB Levels

Colour Saturation Levels


While there are numerous colors the human eye can’t “see”, the human color space confined to three primary colors and combinations thereof. To make things easier for manufactures (and not waste resources displaying colors we can’t see) a color space was mathematically described and while various models do exist, the CIE RGB color space is the de facto standard.

In the below image, the dark triangle which isn’t highlighted is the sRGB color space while the overall CIE color space is displayed as the background colors. Meanwhile, the white triangle with highlighted color represents the results of what a given monitor can display. No monitor can display the entire CIE color spectrum but a good monitor should be able to display the sRGB spectrum of possible colors as this is usually used as the standard for image encoding.

A monitor which uses the “wide color gamut” moniker can display more than the sRGB spectrum and is considered primarily for professional use. If a monitor cannot cover off the entire sRGB triangle, the resulting image will appear “off” to an observer. The end result is a picture displayed on the panel which won’t be as rich, vibrant or as correct as it should be.



Since this is a business orientated IPS monitor, it comes as no surprise that the overall colour gamut of Acer's B243PWL is impressively wide. Much like the gamma results, this color gamut may not be the absolute widest we have ever seen but it surpasses nearly every other monitor on the market, save for a few products that tend to be much more expensive. However, with all that being said, the B243PWL does ever so slightly miss hitting the red corner of the CIE color spectrum and tends to gravitate towards green.


Default RGB Levels


An LCD or LCD LED backlit panel relies on accurately blending Red, Green and Blue pixel clusters to create an overall image so closer to each of these colours is to a “perfect” 100 output, the better and more accurate the default colors will be.

In this case, we have a low tolerance for anything less than perfection since any color shift can be noticeable even to untrained eyes and will require a color correction be applied at the software level to overcome a monitor’s stock output. We do however consider a minor variation of only a few points per color to be acceptable.



In a perfect world, all three of the RGB values would have 100 ratings. Without calibration, neither the Red nor Blue were close to professional caliber with slightly excessive Blue and less than optimal Red coloration. Only the Green’s 101 rating is close enough to not require adjustment. This interesting combination of moderately high Blue with slightly low Red does make for an interesting overall color pallet. Luckily the Acer's excellent menu setup requires only a moderate amount of tweaking to ensure the panel falls within tolerance levels for most consumers' needs.
 

SKYMTL

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Viewing Angles / Contrast Ratio / Power Consumption

Viewing Angles


Unlike CRT displays, the manner in which LCD panels create an image can result in one large weakness: the image can lose contrast when viewed off angle. While we do not recommend watching an LCD at anything besides perfectly straight on, the reality is this cannot always be done.

To help give you a glimpse of what a panel will look like when seen from either above the horizontal or vertical plane we have taken pictures at fairly extreme angles.



While it may not have the widest viewing angles we have seen, Acer's newest monitor displayed results that were decent for an IPS panel and should be more than acceptable for a work environment.

Viewed from both off-vertical and off-horizontal positions, the lack of general panel uniformity doesn’t seem to greatly hinder overall performance. At wide angles the picture quality suffers somewhat but the resulting image is still more than reasonable and far clearer than what a typical TN panel.


Maximum Contrast Ratio


Unlike CRT displays, the manner in which LCD panels create an image can result in one large weakness: the image can lose contrast when viewed off angle. While we do not recommend watching an LCD at anything besides perfectly straight on ,the reality is this cannot always be done.


When compared against TN monitors these results are not merely good but excellent. However, the Acer B243PWL’s numbers don’t compare all that favorably to those of its competitors, at least on paper. Most users won’t see a difference but the performance here is typically lower than the more reasonably priced Dell U2312.



Power Consumption


To obtain the maximum number we set the monitors brightness to 100% and the contrast to 100%. The Calibrated results are taken at 120 cd/m2 with the contrast set to the default level.


Since we had to turn the brightness levels to their lowest setting possible to achieve a well-rounded image, the fairly low calibrated power consumption results were expected. The end result may not be the absolute lowest numbers we have seen, but they are good for an IPS based monitor.

Considering how bright this panel is when set to full intensity, a maximum power draw of only 40 watts is also impressive. Just be aware that the monitor does get warm when left at its highest setting for extended periods of time. It appears that all of those cooling slots in the case design are a necessity, rather than a luxury.
 

SKYMTL

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Gaming Performance

Gaming Performance



Pre-calibration


Post-calibration

As you can see, Acer’s default color profile is noticeably better than most other monitors out there, but the slightly blue tinge with washed out reds can be distracting from time to time. Even though the color pallet is more than tolerable, we still recommend taking the time required to do some basic calibration.


As for the actual gaming experience, we have to remember Acer’s B243PWL is first and foremost a business orientated monitor and isn’t designed to handle the lightning quick motions of today’s gaming environments. This means gaming abilities weren’t high on the list of engineering priorities so we can’t holds its performance here to the high standards normally reserved for gaming-grade TN panels or even higher end IPS units with elevated response times.

When compared against a true gaming monitor such as the Asus VG278H, the Acer B243PWL is understandably outclassed. The crisp and rich color gamut abilities afforded its IPS panel simply cannot compensate for such a overwhelming difference but even when compared against similarly priced IPS based, monitors the B243PWL does make some very minor missteps.


Throughout our standard gaming tests, the only real issue the B243PWL exhibited was a noticeable amount of ghosting thanks to relatively slow response times. We would classify the ghosting as moderate rather than severe, but even outside of fast paced games it could be noticeable. It is more prevalent here than in most other IPS panel we have tested recently.

With that being said, we did appreciate how simple it was to quickly change the default color profile. Speaking of the out-of-box color oddities, blue shift is a common issue with many monitors in this price range so we can’t hold it against Acer’s B243PWL.

The included speakers are decent for integrated units but they won’t replace a standalone sound system. They are adequate for more mundane day to day tasks such as Skype and even multimedia presentations, but don’t expect to receive rich, vibrant soundstage.


The ultra crisp detail and wide colour gamut abilities do help to alleviate some of the ghosting issue and the end result is still fairly decent, albeit somewhat distracting in most games. However, in most RTS or empire building titles, the amount of screen real estate this 1920x1200 monitor offers will allow it to outdistance 1080P offerings.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Movie / Multimedia Performance

Movie / Multimedia Performance



Pre-calibration


Post-calibration

Gaming may not be one of the Acer B243PWL’s strengths but it provided an excellent experience when viewing other forms of media. The default color profile did make for interesting and slightly “artistic” image reproduction but the effect was more than tolerable. We would still take the time to correct this issue, but it doesn’t present as a game-stopping problem, like certain monitors we have looked at in the past. Many movies come with ‘off’ color profiles to begin with so the Acer’s tended to bend in throughout many situations.


As with gaming scenarios, the integrated speakers will be adequate in a pinch for short presentations and similar business related scenarios but that’s about it. Movies lost a lot of their punch thanks to the rather limited abilities of the small drivers integrated into the lower bezel but that is understandable since there isn’t much room here for larger speakers.


Believe it or not, the amount of ghosting this display exhibits doesn’t cause an issue within movies and will never be as apparent as it was within games. Even in fast action scenarios most movies simply don’t highlight moderate ghosting issues like games do. The ghosting was obvious from time to time, but for the most part it was neither a major distraction nor overly annoying. The fact of the matter is most movies are filmed at 24 frames per second (42ms), so having a response time three times faster than this makes for generally adequate performance. With all that said, if you are interested in ultra fast sporting events – such as hockey –, or even movies which have a lot of high speed action, then this monitor wouldn’t be our first choice.
 

SKYMTL

HardwareCanuck Review Editor
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Joined
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Messages
13,264
Location
Montreal
Non-Colorimeter Tweaking and Results

Non-Colorimeter Tweaking and Results


In a perfect world either every monitor would come factory calibrated to perfection or every single consumer would own a decent colorimeter. We don’t live in such a world and as such most consumers simply use the old Mark 1 Mod 0 eyeball to fix any imperfections with the stock colors of their new monitor.

In order to gauge how easy this is to do for a given monitor we have included a new set of tests. These tests will be carried out before any of our standard tests and will consist of us using a combination of the free online LCD Monitor Test Images (found here LCD monitor test images) and then if necessary the free Hex2Bit Monitor Calibration Wizard (found here Hex2Bit - Software by Mike Walters). The goal of these tests is to not only gauge how easy it is to accurately calibrate a given monitor using only the onboard monitor tools, but to see how closely we can come to what a Spyder3 Elite can do.


To obtain these results we did the following
- used “user control” mode
- ensured dynamic contrast was off
- adjusted the brightness to 80 (which resulted in a 117 cd/m2)
- lowered Red to 32
- lowered Green to 29
- lowered Blue to 28
- All other settings left to default levels






In grand total took us about 22 minutes to get a correct color profile for the Acer B243PWL. This is longer than most monitors we have looked at but the end results do speak for themselves. Acer has created a monitor that –when tweaked- can provide extremely accurate colors without consuming loads of electricity.

While it did take longer than expected to properly compensate for the lackluster default color profile, the combination of a simplified on screen display and physical buttons had for a fairly hassle and annoyance free experience. We were surprised by the need to keep the brightness setting so high to attain close-to-reference results, but due to the ultra low RGB levels we settled on, anything below 80% brightness resulted in an extremely dim image.

The only issue - besides the pesky anemic red levels and elevated blue levels - was the buttons being too small and grouped too close together for comfort. Anyone with slightly larger fingers will occasionally hit an incorrect button causing the menu options to jump around a bit.

It may not be quick a monitor to manually calibrate, but the Acer B243PWL is still eons better than any product which relies on a ‘touch-less’ interface.
 

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