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ASUS ML248H 24” Monitor Review

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AkG

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Buying a large PC monitor which is powered by a high-end IPS or MVA panel is unfortunately an impossibility for many consumers. These leading edge products are simply far too expensive; especially when you consider less expensive TN-based panels of a comparable size can be bought at a fraction of the price. Granted, there are some monitors like the ASUS PA246Q which sport extremely high quality panels and won’t break the bank but for budget conscious buyers, TN is the way to go.

ASUS has a quickly expanding stable of monitors of which quite a few are geared towards offering an good combination of price, performance and sleek design. The new ML248H (not to be confused with the ML249H which is designed around an MVA panel) fits into this category quite well. This 16:9, 24” TN panel based monitor boasts some extremely impressive features such as a backlit LED panel, a razor thin frame, 2ms Gray to Gray response times and a three year warranty.

Unfortunately, the ML248H doesn’t sport the 120Hz refresh rate many gamers are looking for but its price of under $200 is definitely aggressive enough to catch some attention. This is actually a heck of a lot less than some other LED based 24” monitors and actually brings it quite close to CCFL prices.

With that being said, there are many 24” TN panels which retail for less than this; thanks to the fact that older CCFL-based prices have dropped significantly in the recent years. So is the ML248H good enough to sway us away from slightly more frugal options? Let’s find out.


 
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AkG

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Specifications

Specifications








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AkG

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A Closer Look at the ASUS ML248H

A Closer Look at the ASUS ML248H



With its pearl white back and ultra glossy black front there is no denying this panel is meant to be as good looking when turned off and just sitting on your desk as it is when you are actually using it. This coupled with its downright waifish thickness and thin bezel does lend the Asus ML248 an air elegance which is heavy on the “less is more” minimalist end of the spectrum.


This blend of ascetics and a minimalist approach continues on to its lack of physical buttons. Judging from past experiences, we’re not fond lovers of touch based sensor “buttons” since they lack the necessary tactile feedback of more conventional units. However, in the case of the ML248H they work surprisingly well.

While there is still no tactile response from them, they are positioned far enough away from each other that accidentally pressing the wrong one is unlikely. This coupled with a fairly fast response rate to your input makes for a pretty much painless setup.



While the minimalist nature of the buttons on the front is more than adequate, the port selection on this monitor is slim at best. There is a VGA port, a single HDMI 1.3 input, a 3.5MM stereo “headphone” jack and the power port. Unfortunately, DVI, DisplayPort, a USB hub and even multi-card reader are MIA. While having only two inputs is on the low side of the spectrum, Asus includes a HDMI to DVI adapter cable making this a minor issue at best. Accessing these inputs is also extremely easy due to their positioning but the straight-style connectors do tend to detract from the overall look of the ML248H.


The dual ring stand setup may look great and is quite easy to install but it does come with a number of limitations. First of all, its inclusion and the sleek back of the ML248H means ASUS has decided to forgo the usual VESA mounting holes. This won’t be an issue for many but it limits this monitor’s adaptability in certain scenarios.


The other issue we encountered with the stand is the limited amount of adjustability it allows. The ML248H sits quite low to begin with (which may not be an issue for some people) and that dual ring stand doesn’t allow for an ounce of height adjustment. All it can do is tilt from +20° to -5° and rotate 20° to the left and right.
 
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AkG

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Menu Layout & Observations

Menu Layout & Observations


Before we get too deep into this section, we should mention that many of ASUS’ monitors carry the same type of menu layout. It is both user friendly and straightforward on the ML248H while including quite of few of the “extras” we have seen on much more expensive models like the PA246Q.


Automatic dynamic contrast adjustment is a complete pain in the butt most of the time since it rarely allows for a consistent image from one scene to the next so we prefer to turn it off. However, ASUS deserves credit for disabling ASCR (or Asus Smart Contrast Ratio) by default.



The Red, Green and Blue levels can be set independently; they are hidden in a sub-menu and can only be accessed by jumping through a few hoops. It is logically placed in the “Colors” menu but its then necessary to navigate to “Color Temp” and enable User Mode in order to adjust the individual RGB levels of this panel. As we will go over in the next section, you really will need to tweak these settings in order to properly calibrate the ML248H’s colour profile.


Unfortunately, it seems that Asus carried over some of the menu flaws the higher end PA246Q suffered from. Even though there are six different preset modes to choose from, each of these does not allow for complete fine grain control over the panel. For example the “standard” mode does not allow the saturation levels to be changed and selecting sRGB means a lack of RGB controls.

These are minor annoyances at best and each mode does give you more than adequate levels of control for specific situations. More to the point, there should be at least one mode which will fit one’s needs.
 
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AkG

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Viewing Conditions / 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: Standard
Brightness: 52
Colour mode: User
Red: 94
Green: 89
Blue: 97

All other settings left at standard defaults.

Note: all tests done at default settings.


Image Quality (Uniformity / Gamma)


The Asus ML248H is rated for a maximum output of 250 CD/m2 and in testing we found it to have a real world maximum of 243.2 cd/m2. While this is slightly lower than its rating, this difference s well within our margin of error. An intensity of 243+ nits is still is more than enough for any user and in fact is much, much more than the 120 -140 which we consider optimum for most scenarios.

The intensity level does vary from one mode to another but the most commonly used Standard Mode is set to a whopping 200.4 by default. Luckily, lowering the brightness level of this panel is extremely easy and it took lowering the brightness level to 52 to get to the 120 cd/m2 gold standard.



It seems that as with most TN panels the Asus ML248H does suffer uneven panel uniformity. With the center of the panel set to 120 nits the variance ranged from 4% above to 12% below. A sixteen percent delta isn’t all that great but is still not as extreme as it first sounds, considering the PA246Q suffered from 20% variance. However, the sudden changes from lower levels to higher may be seen as hot spots or clouding.


Gamma Performance




While the panel uniformity of the Asus ML248H is only mediocre, one area where it really suffers is the default gamma setting. 1.81 is not even remotely close to 2.2 but this can be adjusted to a more acceptable level.

Contrast ratio is another area where this monitor falls a bit flat. With Dynamic Contrast turned off, the Asus ML248H’s real contrast ratio is a mere 120.6:1 which really isn’t all that good in this day and age.
 
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AkG

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Colour Saturation Levels / Default RGB Levels

Colour Saturation Levels




With the ASUS ML248H’s reset to factory defaults, the panel exhibits a reasonably good ability to hit most of the viewable colour spectrum. While the red is a shade on the subtle side, both the green and blue are close to what you would like to see in a TN based panel. With that being said, this is still a TN based monitor and thus phrases like “wide colour gamut” are not going to be part of the ML248H’s lexicon.


Default RGB Levels



Measuring the R/G/B levels using our SpyderPro and HC-FR program, we found the colours to be slightly off from where we would want them to be but still much better than the measured values of the lone Samsung monitor. In a perfect world all three of the RGB values would have a 100/100/100 rating and while there isn’t any noticeable colour shift towards a certain end of the spectrum, the colours actually do balance each other off to some extent and thus create the illusion of a nonbiased panel.

It is our opinion, unless you require perfect colors a professional colour calibration is not an absolute necessity to get this panel close to an optimal colour pallet. All that’s needed in addition to the excellent OSD is a simple online calibration site and you’ll be off to the races in no time at all.
 
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AkG

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Gaming Performance / Movie Performance

Gaming Performance



Pre Calibration

As you can see, the completely off gamma does give everything a horribly washed out appearance prior to calibration. This is because we were viewing a game which was gamma corrected to 2.2 at a gamma of basically 1.8.

As mentioned previously, calibration is not a difficult task on this monitor and even just “eye balling” it with the help of free online color calibration pages will result in much improved results. On the positive side, even with only the gamma correction modified the gaming experience was simply excellent as the ML248H does have reasonable colour accuracy performance. The difference between perfect and out of the box colours was noticeable from time to time, but only when we were actually looking for slightly “off” colours.


Post Calibration


With the colours and gamma tweaked the end result is actually very impressive. While the colour depth offered by this panel is not as good as the Asus PA246Q we recently reviewed, it is still more than enough to make nearly any game “pop”. Also, since this is an ultra fast TN based panel with a 2ms Gray to Gray response rate we had absolutely no issues with regards to ghosting, lag or anything else of this nature.


Movie Performance





When watching movies the overall experience with the ML248H was enjoyable…or at least once calibration was completed. With that being said, the out of the box “movie experience” did leave a lot to be desired due to the incorrect default gamma setting coupled with a radically incorrect brightness level. Scenes which should be dark and almost claustrophobic were lacking that visceral punch and even mundane things such as fireballs simply looked washed out and wrong.

By just correcting the gamma the experience really was like night and day. The colors were more than accurate enough out of the box for most movies and it is only when you come across a movie which adds an “artistic” colour filter that things may look at bit off. This is because while there is no noticeable tinge the colour are still off a touch and if you double up on this bias - via a movie with a far from neutral colour pallet - the end result will be even more exaggerated than what the director intended it to be.
 
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AkG

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Viewing Angles / Power Consumption

Viewing Angles




When it came to viewing angles we were not surprised by the somewhat lackluster showing as the Asus ML248H uses a TN-based panel. As with all TN panels, the intensity and uniformity of the picture does tend get worse the more extreme the angle. With that being said, the ML248H’s performance here is significantly better than most other budget-friendly monitors but it still pales in comparison to MVA and IPS units.


Power Consumption




If you are looking for an efficient monitor, the ML248H really seems to be a great choice thanks to its LED backlighting. When set to maximum backlight and brightness intensity we measured a peak power draw of only 23 watts. Even better still, when set to a more reasonable 120 nits the power draw was an incredible 16 watts.
 
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AkG

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Conclusion

Conclusion


While the ASUS ML248H isn’t a slam dunk success like the larger, more expensive IPS-totting PA246Q it still has a long list of attributes that will surely appeal to its intended market. Its combination of white and glossy black is certainly eye catching and the clever touch sensitive controls built into the bezel are surprisingly intuitive. The ML284H also has one of the best On Screen Display menu layouts on the market which will definitely come in handy since you’ll definitely want to tone down the out of box defaults ASAP.

In real world usage, there is no getting around the fact that ASUS has equipped this monitor with an extremely fast panel that features more than adequate -for most users at least- color reproduction out of the box. This is especially noteworthy considering the plethora of price conscious TN panels which boast 2ms response times but fall flat on their faces when in certain key areas like color accuracy. Finding the necessities for gaming alongside good picture quality on a 24” monitor in the sub-$300 price range is becoming next to impossible but the ML248H delivers on both counts. Granted, the gamma and brightness were off by a wide margin but these can be easily corrected.

Alongside the fairly glowing praise we still find certain areas where the ML248H falls a bit flat; some of which stem from the use of a TN panel while others lie in the design decisions which ASUS took. Like it or not, even a properly calibrated TN-based monitor will likely never look as good as similarly sized products using MVA or IPS technology. Normally this wouldn’t cause too much of an issue considering the astronomical cost of higher end monitors but ASUS may have outdone themselves by giving the ML249H -which sports a 24” MVA panel- a price that’s only $30 more than the ML248H. Other things like a base that puts form over function and an overly glossy bezel also detract from an otherwise great experience.

If you are in the market for a 16:9 24” panel which has a host of great features and some downright impressive power consumption numbers but doesn’t break the bank, the Asus ML248H deserves to be on your short list. Just be ready to spend a couple minutes correcting the brightness and gamma levels before you judge your new purchase.


Pros:

- Good looks
- Fast response rate
- Reasonably accurate out of the box colour accuracy
- Great OSD
- Very low power consumption
- Very attractive price


Cons:

- Low contrast ratio with ASCR disabled
- 16:9 not 16:10
- Ring stand is not height adjustable
- Limited color gamut
- Less than optimal brightness uniformity
- Glossy black front bezel is a finger print and dust magnet


 
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