TAIWANESE PC manufacturer Asus doesn't just make netbooks, in fact it's been making a wide range of PC components for years, including LCD monitors such as the MS236H.
Clearly Asus has decided that since monitors now take pride of place on most people's desks they should stop with all this conformity nonsense and start looking the part. With this in mind, the company has developed its Designo MS Series LCD displays, of which the MS236H is a member.
The MS236H is the 23-inch model in the series, which includes other sizes ranging from 20 to 23.6-inches. All feature a contrast ratio of 50,000:1, maximum brightness of 250cd/m2 and grey-to-grey response time of 2ms.
Clearly a lot of thought has gone into the chassis. The subtle edges and disappearing touch-sensitive buttons make the unit very attractive, although we would have preferred a slightly smaller bezel along the sides to help minimise the gap when using two together side by side.
The LED touch-sensor buttons provide the usual collection of controls for the screen such as brightness, contrast and a few pre-set profiles and they disappear out of sight after a few seconds. This looks very good, but does mean that when you need to make an adjustment in low light conditions you're left stabbing vaguely at the bottom on the screen until they light up again.
At just 16.5mm thick, the display is impressively thin, which it managed to accomplish by using a laptop style external power supply and an 'interesting' stand which we'll discuss in a bit.
Where the entire series does fall short is in the lack of connectors. The MS236H has a single HDMI port and a D-Sub VGA port, so your connection options are quite severely limited. The complete lack of a DVI port means that even just having a PC and a console or similar device is impossible without either constantly plugging and unplugging cables or relegating the PC to connecting to the VGA port. Thankfully, the unit does ship with a DVI to HDMI cable, so you won't need to buy a converter as well.
Presumably to help keep the size and weight down, Asus opted not to embed speakers into the monitor, but there is a headphone and audio out jack on the back if you want to use that to grab the audio coming over HDMI. Similarly there are no USB ports, unlike on some competing monitors.
What truly makes the Designo series stand out, or not as the case may be, is the 'unique spherical ring stand featuring Ergo-Fit Technology'. What the marketing spin means is that rather than a traditional foot and column seen in most monitors, the screen leans back on a rather odd plastic circle. While the design certainly has some artistic cachet, it just isn't particularly practical for several reasons. First, it means that there is no height adjustment; instead you have to adjust the monitor's tilt angle, which we found ourselves doing constantly in order to get the best view. Second, the ring stand juts out from the back of the screen and moves slightly when tilting the unit, which can be precarious if you're trying to keep the monitor as far back as possible, for instance on a narrow desk.
The native resolution of 1920x1080 is pretty standard for a 23-inch display, but this being a high-end version we would have preferred to see this bumped up to 1920x1200, although as we said it's pretty unusual for a screen of this size to support that resolution.
The display itself is somewhere just above average. The colour gamut only covers around three quarters of the NTSC spectrum, but they are bright and images are sharp, although the odd viewing angle caused by the way the screen reclines on its stand means that we found it prone to banding issues. The fast response time meant that games and high definition media looked very smooth with no trailing or ghosting that we could see. While the results were perfectly satisfactory, we were expecting something a bit more impressive from a display that's clearly designed to be a high-end product.
The environmentally conscious, or simply those hoping to save on their power bill, will definitely be impressed by this range. We're not sure if making the power supply an external unit has anything to do with it, but the MS236H draws remarkably little power compared to similarly sized displays. While a similarly sized LCD display lit by CCFLs draws around 40W during operation, our tests showed the Asus display using only a bit more than half that with the power draw hovering around an impressive 25W.
At around £230 the MS236H is not outrageously expensive, but it is priced towards the top of the 23-inch market.
Asus has achieved its goal of creating a very attractive series of monitors in the Asus Designo MS range, but there are too many shortfalls to justify the price tag. The lack of adjustability caused by the spherical stand is simply too much of a hindrance, combined with the shortage of connectors and the average display highlight that function has been sacrificed for form. µ
Attractive design, fast response time, low power draw.
No height adjustment, only HDMI and D-Sub connectors.
Display too average for the price, no speakers or USB ports.