Product Acer T231H multi-touch monitor
Specifications 23-inch TFT display, 1920x1,080 resolution, 16:9 aspect, 2ms response time, 80,000:1 contrast ratio, VGA, DVI, HDMI connectivity, 563x395x82mm, 6kg
DESPITE MICROSOFT making a big song and dance about Windows 7's built-in multi-touch shenanigans, manufacturers haven't exactly been falling over themselves to release new touch-based hardware. Indeed, Acer's new T213H is one of just a handful of multi-touch screen available, aiming to persuade you to ditch that archaic keyboard and mouse combo.
It's nice to see Acer hasn't cut corners in designing the display. The T231 is a 23-inch model that offers a 16:9 aspect ratio at 1920x1080 resolution, a 2ms response time, 80,000:1 contrast ratio and a range of connectivity that includes VGA, DVI and HDMI. There's also a USB port to connect it to a PC to enable the all-important touch controls. However, there are some operating system requirements that must be fulfilled to make the most of its versatility.
Windows XP and Vista users will not be able to make full use of the touch-sensitive features, while Windows 7 starter and Home Basic recognise only single-touch actions. Windows 7 Ultimate, Enterprise, Professional and Home Premium offer full support for multi-touch, so one of these is a must considering the price of the display. Provided you can fulfil these requirements, setup is straightforward. The monitor is detected automatically once connected to a computer, and configuration is performed through an icon that appears in the system tray.
A number of gestures are set up by default, and you can expect to perform actions such as scrolling through web-pages and documents by moving a finger up and down on-screen, flipping through pages or photos by moving left or right, rotating images by drawing an arc between a thumb and finger and zooming in and out by using two-fingered pinch or spread movements. It's also possible to configure up to four diagonal movement controls to initiate common functions such as copy and paste, execute commands or open applications. While basic, the configuration tools are easy to work through, and it's fairly quick to set up new commands or get a refresher on the available defaults.
While we were generally comfortable with the design and build of the T231, there are some sacrifices to be made with a display that prioritises touch-screen operation. The screen has a very wide tilt angle of up to 60 degrees that allows it to be positioned at a low angle on a desk so that you're looking down at the screen rather than towards it, a position at which touch-sensitive controls feel more comfortable.
In order to do this Acer has built two angled feet at the front of the display and an adjustable stand at the back. While this works well in offering a stable platform on which to prod and poke without affecting stability, it does sit quite low on a desk as a result and there's no height adjustment to change this. It's also very glossy and, while this contributes towards impressive image quality that includes vibrant colours and deep blacks, it does accumulate fingerprints in quite a short time. And, if you're sitting near a window on a sunny day, glare can affect visibility. However, provided you get enough use out of the touch controls, these grievances should be easy to live with.
In terms of performance we were fairly pleased by the overall touch-screen experience, even though it inevitably takes some getting used to. Applications that lend themselves to this form of control, such as browsing photos, flicking through web pages and pseudo-analogue applications that might usually be handled with a scroll wheel on a mouse, feel natural, responsive and easy to handle. Typing on the virtual keyboard is no substitute for the real thing, however, and there is a tendency to try and 'over-use' the display for tasks that are far more straightforward on conventional controls by fiddling with the sensitivity and fine-tuning. Unsurprisingly, at no point during testing did we reach a decision to ditch our mouse and keys entirely.
The T231H performs very well as a general use screen, where a range of preset modes allow you to switch quickly between graphics, movies and text viewing to optimise the display for specific environments. Overall, we found these to be quite effective. There are some issues with colour balance, banding and backlight bleed along the top and bottom edges, but these aren't serious enough to undermine its capabilities.
Despite its impressive performance, the T231H is rather expensive and the almost inevitable conclusion here is that good use will need to be made of the touch-screen controls to warrant paying the extra money. If this isn't a problem, you'll find it has an effective combination of features without really excelling in any particular area.
If you're in the market for a touch-screen display for a specific purpose, the T231H is worth considering and will also function well as a general use display. However, it's very expensive and those simply looking to try out touch-screen controls for general applications would be better to hold off for now and opt for a cheaper screen that offers more solid performance in key areas. µ
Solid and flexible design, touch-screen controls work well, easy to configure and use.
Some image-quality issues, sits very low on the desk, limited range of touch-related applications available at present.
Considerably more expensive than standard displays.