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Asus VH242H 23.6" Widescreen LCD Monitor
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Date: Mar 10, 2009
Section:Graphics/Sound
Author: Daniel A. Begun
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Introduction and Specifications


With Asus's recent Blitzkrieg of inexpensive Eee PC netbooks and nettops, it might be easy forget that Asus also manufactures a full bevy of components and peripherals from motherboards to graphics cards to networking products. Asus also makes LCD displays, ranging in size from 17-inches on up to 26-inches, which cover a wide swath of feature sets and needs from the budget user to the graphics professional.

One of Asus' recently released displays is the Asus VH242H 23.6-inch widescreen LCD Monitor. The "V" in the product name indicates that it is a "value" model--in other words, it is a budget display. But even with a budget price tag of $249 and using inexpensive thin-film-transistor twisted-nematic (TFT-TN) display technology, the VH242H offers features and performance that you would expect from more-expensive displays. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find many 24-inch or 23.6-inch LCD display at this price point.

Where the VH242H finds places to cut corners is with its lack of an integrated USB hub and a monitor stand that doesn't swivel or offer any height adjustments. But the monitor does include integrated, stereo speakers, as well as separate video inputs for DVI-D, VGA, and HDMI 1.1. Adding to its value, the HDMI input is HDCP compliant, so you can use the VH242H to display protected HD content.



 
Asus VH242H 23.6" Widescreen LCD Monitor
Specifications and Features
 

Panel
Pixel Pitch
Color Saturation
Native Resolution
Brightness (Max)
Static Contrast Ratio
Dynamic Contrast Ratio
Colors
Viewing Angle (CR=10)
Response Time
Analog Signal Frequency
Digital Signal Frequency
Video Inputs
Audio jacks
Stereo Speakers
Power Consumption
Power Saving Mode
Chassis Color
Security
Tilt
VESA Wall Mounting:
Phys. Dimension (WxHxD)
Net Weight (Est.)
Gross Weight (Est.)
Accessories

23.6" (16:9 aspect ratio) TFT-TN
0.272mm
72% (NTSC)
1920x1080
300 cd/m2
1000:1
20000:1
16.7 million
170°(H)/160°(V)
5 ms (Tr+Tf) grey-to-grey
31.469-79.976KHz(H)/56-75Hz(V)
31.5-67.5KHz(H)/50-60Hz(V)
DVI-D; VGA (D-Sub); HDMI 1.1 (HDCP)
Line-in; Headphone out; S/PDIF out
2Wx2 stereo RMS
<55W
<2W
Piano Black
Kensington lock
-5° to ~+20° 
100x100mm
562.04x220x416.02mm
5.8 kg
8.2 kg
DVI cable; VGA cable; audio cable; power cord; Quick start guide; support CD; warranty card
 

MSRP: $249



The VH242H's 1920x1080 native resolution and true 16:9 aspect ratio are well suited for viewing widescreen, HD content. Its 5ms (gray-to-gray) response time, 1000:1 static contrast ratio, and 300:1cd/m2 maximum brightness don't quite measure up with the specs of higher-end displays, but they are still respectable. The VH242H comes with both DVI and VGA cables, but it doesn't come with an HDMI cable unfortunately.
 
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Design, Build Quality, & Connectivity


With a glossy black bezel--which Asus refers to as "Piano Black"--the VH242H is rather sleek looking. It has a minimalist design with only a few markings on the bottom bezel: a dark gray HDMI logo on the left side, a shiny Asus logo in the middle, and dark gray markings on the right for the display's controls. While the dark gray markings contribute to the display's streamlined look and are not a visible distraction when viewing the display, they are difficult to see. Under subdued lighting conditions, you might find yourself struggling to see the control button's markings--except for the power button, however, which is bright orange. Some might find the orange power button a detraction to an otherwise smart-looking design, while others will appreciate the ability to easily locate the power button even in darkened rooms.

  

The VH242H's bezel is less than 1-inch thick on the top and sides, and about 1-inch thick on the bottom. The VH242H's body is about 3-inches thick at its deepest part. The VH242H's 9-inch base is a no-frills affair, as it does not swivel and it does not have any height adjustments. It does a good job, however, of holding the monitor steady. When the display is set to a zero degree tilt, the VH242H sits about 16.5-inches high. The stand pivots down only about 5 degrees and pivots up about 20 degrees, and the only cable-management feature is a round cavity located on the back of the removable stand.

   

The backside the monitor has a black-matte finish, and includes four mount points for a 100x100mm VESA wall mount. All of the VH242H's ports are located on a downward-facing section of the right side of the display (when facing the back of the monitor), and include HMDI, DVI-D, VGA, audio line-in, headphone-out, and SPDIF out. Those who frequently switch between speakers and headphones might find the out-of-the-way location of the headphone jack an inconvenience. The AC jack in is on the left of the monitor's backside, as is a Kensington lock slot. The VH242H's stereo speakers are located on the top of the backside of the display and project the sound upward.

   

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Controls and OSD Usage


The VH242H has six control buttons, which are laid-out alongside the bottom-right edge of the front bezel. These are physical buttons (as opposed to touch-sensitive buttons) that emit a noticeable click with each press. Most of the buttons perform multiple functions depending on which particular menu is being accessed, the primary functions of the six buttons, from left to right, are:

  • "Splendid" mode
  • Volume control
  • Menu control
  • Brightness control
  • Video input selector
  • Power on/off



We found that navigating the on-screen menu system took some getting used to, as it did not feel intuitive. To the right of the power button is an LED power indicator that glows blue when the monitor is on and amber when the monitor is in standby mode.

 
Asus VH242H OSD (On Screen Display)
"Splendid" color
 

   

   

Different types of content can sometimes benefit from different display settings. The VH242H covers many of these content-viewing scenarios with its five "Splendid" preset viewing modes, each optimized for the different viewing scenarios. The Splendid modes can be accessed by cycling through them via the Splendid mode button on the front bezel or through the OSD menu. The included Quick Start Guide is very terse and does not give an explanation of what each mode does. The electronic User Guide, found on the bundled CD, gives very brief descriptions of which viewing scenarios each mode is best suited for. In addition to the default "Standard" mode, the other four preset Splendid viewing modes are:
  • Scenery Mode: This mode is meant to bring out more details from photographs by increasing the brightness.
  • Theater Mode: Designed for watching movies, this mode increases the sharpness and contrast of the image.
  • Game Mode: This mode increases the color saturation so as to make the colors in games more vibrant.
  • Night View Mode: The mode is designed to make dark images more visible, such as dark scenes in games and movies.
We were less than impressed with the viewing enhancements offered for most of the Splendid modes. That said, it is important to note that this can be very subjective--when it comes to viewing images, what appeals to one person may not look good to another. We actually found that the Standard Mode was more than adequate for almost all viewing scenarios. Theater Mode, however, did positively add to the viewing experience when watching movies on the display in a dark room--colors felt more saturated and the blacks appeared even darker. While we felt Game Mode didn't add much to games that took place in bright or outdoor environments, games that had scenes that were indoors and that especially had dark locations benefited from Game Mode by bringing out objects hidden in the shadows. The monitor's Sharpness and Saturation menu options are not available when the monitor is set in Standard Mode--they can only be adjusted when using one of the four optional Splendid modes.

In addition to the Splendid Modes, the display also includes three presets for adjusting how the monitor displays skin tones: Reddish, Natural, and Yellowish. While the Skin Tone presets worked as advertised, we're suspect as to how useful they really are. A user who requires this level of color correction is likely to use a higher-end or professional-grade display that has more granular control over the various color and image settings. We suspect that most users will likely either ignore the Skin Tone settings entirely or play with them for a while and then wind up leaving it set to Natural.

The VH242H also includes specific color temperature settings such as Cool, Normal, and Warm, as well as the ability to make separate adjustments to each of the Red, Blue, and Green (RGB) color settings. The VH242H also includes what Asus calls its ASUS Smart Contrast Ratio (ASCR) technology, which Asus claims "amplifies the [dynamic] contrast ratio up to an astounding 20000:1." When we enabled ASCR we did notice a significant increase in both contrast and brightness. Curiously, ACSR is off by default and it is not automatically enabled by any of the Splendid modes--ACSR must be turned on manually. Many of the VH242H's advanced settings, such as ASCR, Saturation, and Skin Tone, are not available when the monitor is set in Standard Mode.
 
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Everest - Image Quality Testing


 
Image Quality Testing with Everest Ultimate Edition
Details: http://www.lavalys.com
 
EVEREST Ultimate Edition is a popular system diagnostics and benchmarking solution for enthusiasts PC users, based on the award-winning EVEREST Technology. During system optimizations and tweaking it provides essential system and overclock information, advanced hardware monitoring and diagnostics capabilities to check the effects of the applied settings. Complete software, operating system and security information makes EVEREST Ultimate Edition a comprehensive system diagnostics tool that offers a total of 100 pages of information about your PC.

We put the Asus VH242H through some color and text reading diagnostics using Everest Ultimate Edition from Lavalys. Everest's Monitor Diagnostics provide a few key test patterns that allow us to evaluate various aspects, such as color accuracy and uniformity.  We ran through all of the screens, and captured a few that had points of interest.

   

   

A sample of the screen diagnostics available with Lavalys' Everest Ultimate Edition

We ran the Everest's monitor diagnostics test with the VH242H set to its factory defaults as well as with a few tweaked settings to optimize the display. The VH242H performed well on nearly all of the tests. It did a great job on the grid and text reproduction tests, producing clear and sharp patterns and text. The MK241H also did well on most of the solid color, color gradient, and color palette tests. It also performed well on the white, gray, and black fill tests. We were especially impressed with how well the monitor was able to display dark blacks without any noticeable light spillover from the backlight.

The monitor was not perfect, however. At its default settings, the VH242H's contrast was set a bit too low--on the Brightness/Contrast Calibration Test, the two darkest black targets (0.4% and 1.6%) were not discernable from the completely black background. Increasing the contrast slightly, fixed this. A moiré pattern was noticeable on the dots test; and the moiré pattern got even worse on the vertical and horizontal lines tests. It is important to note, however, this is a common malady that impacts many LCDs. We were able to diminish the moiré patterns by reducing the VH242H's sharpness setting; but this was at the expense of creating a rather blurred image on the display. Additionally, the MK241H didn't make it out of all of the solid color tests screens completely unscathed: The orange, white, and gray solid-fill screens suffered from an uneven hue across the screen. Viewing angle and viewing distance did impact where the unevenness occurred, but no matter where we viewed the display from, we were unable to see an even hue across the display.

Our sample unit did not suffer from any dead pixels or subpixels. As the VH242H is one of Asus's Value-level displays, it is not eligible for Asus's Zero Bright Pixel Defect (ZBD) policy. Asus's
warranty page states that "by ISO 13406-2 standards, ASUS conforms to the acceptance spot level which lie between 3 to 5 defective bright/dark pixels." Within the three-year warranty period of the VH242H, Asus will replace the panel if it has more than three permanently-on bright pixels or more than five permanently-off dark pixels.


 
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Subjective Analysis


Test patterns like those offered by Everest can be extremely useful for gauging a monitor's ability and also for calibration purposes. This is especially useful to people who need their monitor to be perfectly calibrated for work with publishing and photography. However, most people don't purchase a monitor exclusively for "work" so we'll look at some real-world tests with high definition video content  and high-resolution games next, to give you and idea of how well the monitor stands up to "play".

 
Asus VH242H: Subjective Tests
HD Movie Playback, Gaming, and General Use
 
HD Movie Playback: We watched a number of DVDs and HD video clips to see how the VH242H handles video playback. Even at the factory defaults in Standard Mode, the display did a very good job at movie playback. Colors were rich, motion was smooth, and the blacks were dark. Switching over to Theater Mode saturated the colors a bit more and slightly darkened the scene--a handy setting to have when viewing movies in a dark room.
 

Gaming Test: To see how the VH242H handled some fast-paced gaming, we played a few rounds of Call of Duty 4. This game is especially taxing on monitors for three reasons: First, the game involves fast-paced action that often has objects moving very quickly across the screen, which tests the monitor's response time. Second, the game has many dark maps where details can easily be lost among the shadows, which could easily cost you your virtual life. Lastly, the dark environments are broken up by bright flashes of gunfire and explosions, which cause high-contrast situations that easily reveal ghosting and blurring.

Even though the VH242H's 5ms response time is not quite as fast as higher-end displays, it still did a great job of keeping up with everything the game could throw at it: We didn't see any ghosting or blurring. We found that Standard Mode was more than adequate for most scenes in the game. That said, we did switch over to Game Mode when the game took us to dark locales to take advantage of the mode's increased contrast.
 

General Usage: We used the VH242H for a number of weeks as a stand-alone monitor, a second display for a laptop, and even as an additional display for an iMac. We did everything from the above mentioned-game playing and movie watching to surfing the Web, writing e-mails, video editing, and image editing in Photoshop. The display more than met the needs of these tasks, and once again we felt that the default settings were good enough for most of our needs. When we used Photoshop, however, we had to tweak the color temperature settings a bit. Also, when we used the VH242H as a secondary display we also needed to adjust the color settings in order to get the colors of the two displays to match as close as possible.
 

Speaker Quality: We had the speakers cranking at a surprisingly high volume. But, the audio-quality lacked any significant bass response and audio started to clip once the volume got too high. We wouldn't count on these speakers as our primary source for listening to music, movies, or for gaming, but they do just fine for casual use, such as for watching YouTube videos.
 
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Summary & Conclusion


Performance Summary: Even though the VH242H includes a number of different image-quality presets for various content-type viewing scenarios, we found that most of the time the monitor's default settings were sufficient. That's not to say that tweaking the settings didn't moderately improve the image quality under some circumstances, but that is typically true for most monitors. In our opinion, most of the Splendid preset modes add little value, and the user looking to make appropriate tweaks is better off using the more advanced color temperature, sharpness, and saturation settings. Unfortunately, the sharpness and saturation settings are not user accessible when the display is in Standard Mode--the mode we preferred to use most of the time.





The $249 price tag of the VH242H is well below that of most other 24-inch or 23.6-inch LCD monitors. What makes this even more remarkable is that the VH242H includes features that aren't always found on more expensive displays, such as an HDCP-compliant HDMI connection and built-in stereo speakers. The HDCP-compliant HDMI connection means that not only could we play copy-protected HD content from our PC, but we could also hook up a Blu-ray player, DVR, or PS3 directly to the display via HDMI if we wanted to.

Overall, the VH242H is a solid, inexpensive monitor that displays great-looking images. It includes a number of features that we could probably do without, but often such features are personal preference--one user's cast-away feature or item is another's treasure sometimes. Regardless, you are going to be very hard pressed to find a quality 24-inch or 23.6-inch LCD monitor that comes close to the Asus VH242H's combination of performance, features, and price.





  • Inexpensive
  • Great Image Quality
  • HDMI, DVDI-D, and VGA inputs
  • HDCP compliant

  • Control Button Labels Hard to See
  • Built-in Speakers Are No Replacement for Stand-Alone Speakers
  • Stand Does Not Swivel
  • Display is Not Height-adjustable



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