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AOC Aire Black E2243FWK LED Monitor Review
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Date: May 26, 2011
Section:Misc
Author: Paul Lilly
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Introduction
We don't typically start off an article by waxing historic on a company's brand, but unless you're really plugged into the technology circuit, and have been for a while, there's a good chance you're unfamiliar with AOC. Punch the letters 'AOC' into Google and they're not even the first entry, not at the time of this writing anyway (the No. 1 spot belongs to Age of Conan). But if you're looking to save a buck -- and with gas prices soaring to obscene heights, who isn't? -- then do yourself a favor and get acquainted with the company formerly known as Admiral Overseas Corporation.


Originally founded here in the States (Chicago, Illinois), AOC International now operates out of Taiwan and ships monitors, TVs, and even all-in-one PCs to over 115 countries worldwide, including the United States. Incidentally, AOC was the first manufacturer of color televisions for export. AOC's most recent addition to its product portfolio is the Aire Black LED monitor line. Featuring a razor-thin profile and an attractive glossy-black finish, these new monitors are aimed at business professionals and home users looking for an affordable display that doesn't look cheap. The one we're looking at today is AOC's 22-inch model (E2243FWK, $149), though the Aire Black series also comes in 20-inch (E2043FK, $129) and 23-inch (E2343FK, $179) SKUs, all of which carry budget price tags. How is it that AOC can launch an LED monitor line at such a low cost? Let's find out.

AOC E2243FWK 22-inch LED Monitor
Specifications & Features

Display Size
21.5" Widescreen
Resolution
1920x1080
Aspect Ratio     
16:9
Brightness
250 cd/m2 
Contrast Ratio 
50,000,000:1 (dynamic)
Response Time
5ms
Viewing Angle
170 degrees (Horizontal), 160 degrees (Vertical)
Display Type
TFT Active Matrix
Connectors
D-Sub, DVI-D with HDCP
Power Consumption 
25W (Max), 0.1W (Standby)
Speakers
No
Stand
Tilt
I/O Ports None
Dimensions (with stand)
21.8" x 14.99" x 9.25". (WxHxD) 
Weight
5.5 lbs (Net), 11.9 lbs (Gross)
Included Accessories

Power cord, VGA cable, setup guide
Warranty
3 Years Parts and Labor, 1 Year LCD Panel


The Aire Black line comes with a built-in VESA stand that locks into place and can be mounted on a wall by pushing a button and folding it back. It doesn't require any assembly, and this, AOC says, makes "the monitor a helpful solution for businesses that require visual displays but have limited space." Duly noted.



What you won't find with the Aire Black series is an IPS panel. AOC instead uses a TN panel with LED backlighting, which is one of the reasons they're so affordable. The lack of an IPS panel isn't surprising, considering there aren't many displays that utilize both an IPS panel and LED backlighting.
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Design
There are several benefits to buying an LCD display with LED backlighting. One of these is that the picture is supposed to be brighter and better looking, though this can be negated by a poor quality panel. Another benefit is lower power consumption, which not only earns you brownie points with Mother Nature, but also brings with it less heat. But for some, the biggest reason to shop an LED display is for the thin profile.



How thin is the AOC E2243FWK? If this were an actress, her name would be Lara Flynn Boyle, only a lot more attractive. If you prefer raw numbers, the E2243FWK measures just 12.9mm thin, which is just a little thicker than Apple's second generation iPad tablet (8.8mm), and exactly the same thickness as Motorola's Xoom. That's right, AOC constructed a monitor that's roughly the same thickness as a tablet you carry around with you.

If you want to mount the E2243FWK on a wall, the base flips all the way back with the press of a button. This means it will stick out a little more than if the base was removable, but will still sit nearly flush with the wall.



The E2243FWK's ultra-thin frame and glossy piano black finish adds up to a gorgeous looking display that makes many other LCD monitors look pudgy and plain by comparison. We also dig the relatively slim bezel, which measures about 11/16th of an inch. But while we appreciate the form, we're not sold on the function of AOC's design. There are no height, swivel, or pivot adjustments, just a little bit of tilt. Even for an entry-level display, the ergonomics are sparse.

Also missing from the Aire Black series are value added features, like a USB hub, media card reader, or built-in speakers. By leaving out these accoutrements, AOC was able to keep costs and physical dimensions to a minimum, which is fine if all you're looking for is the display itself.



Baby got back! For what it's worth, the entire backside of the E2243FWK is also glossy, which will either be a non-factor if you place it in front of a wall (or mounted to one), or will require frequent rubdowns with a lint-free cloth if you keep it on the edge of your desk in an open office environment.




AOC doesn't include a ton of connectivity ports on the E2243FWK, but it does come with the essentials, including a DVI-D port (with HDCP), Analog RGB D-sub, and of course the power connector. AOC supplies a power cable and VGA cable.
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Calibration & Controls
¿Habla Español? Français? English? AOC's on screen display (OSD) controls have you covered with 14 different languages to choose from. Unless you only understand Klingon, there's a good chance the E2243FWK speaks your native tongue.



AOC wins style points for implementing touch sensitive buttons on the base, but loses brownie points for functionality. Once the gee-whiz factor wears off, you're left with a second-rate input system that, while it looks and feels high tech, is a second rate solution that doesn't offer the same comfort as physical buttons. The E2243FWK includes five touch-sensitive buttons that all glow blue when you run your finger across any of one of them, but as has been our experience with other touch input solutions, we found these to be a little janky. They're great when they work, but oftentimes you'll find yourself repeatedly mashing a button trying to get it to register.

On the plus side, AOC affords plenty of customization options in each of its seven menus, including Luminance, Image Setup, Color Temp., Color Boost, Picture Boost, OSD Setup, and Extra. Two additional options allow you to Reset back to factory settings, and Exit the menu. Navigating takes a little bit of getting used to, as it does with any monitor, though we never quite felt that jumping around was particularly intuitive, in part because as soon as you get yourself into a rhythm, the touch buttons stop responding.



To make things easier, AOC offers a couple of apps with the included CD. One of these is AOC's i-Menu software. This lets you control the OSD options using a keyboard and mouse, assuming you get it to work. Even though we had installed the supplied driver, the i-Menu utility refused to recognize the E2243FWK on our testbed using Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit.

The other piece of software is AOC's Screen+ utility. What this does is let you manage multiple windows in up to four panes, each one automatically resized when you drop them into a pane. You can accomplish the same thing using Windows as you normally would by manually resizing and moving things around, which essentially limits the usefulness of such a utility. Where it might be more useful is in multi-monitor setups, which AOC says is fully supported. We also ran into a bit of trouble using the utility using a 64-bit version of Windows 7. Browser windows would refuse to lock into place, an anomaly that didn't occur when using a 32-bit version of Windows.

Calibration (DisplayMate)
Menus and Options


DisplayMate Test Screens

We're now using DisplayMate for Windows (www.displaymate.com) as part of our monitor evaluation process. DisplayMate's smorgasbord of tests allow us to root out potential problems areas, such as geometry distortion and color inaccuracies, to name just two.

Not many pitchers are capable of hitting a homerun, and likewise, we didn't expect the E2243FWK with its TN panel to knock one out of the park during our DisplayMate run. And it didn't, though it did perform pretty well overall, particularly for the price. We didn't notice any geometry issues, the panel didn't exhibit any backlight bleeding, and the LED backlight shines bright. White and black level testing turned in average results, with less than smooth transitions at the extreme end of each spectrum, and the same held true for grayscale testing. The E2234FWK also ran into a bit of trouble in DisplayMate's Moire test, in which there was noticeable interference in the form of flickering.



Running through DisplayMate's suite of photos and our own collection of images, the E2243FWK produced bright and clean reproductions that should satisfy most home users. However, professional graphics artists and those invested heavily into photography, whether as a career or a serious hobby, will want to save up for a professional monitor with an IPS panel. While we were mostly pleased with the E2243FWk's performance, compared to professional displays, images didn't 'pop' and appeared a bit dull. That's not to say AOC's monitor looked bad, it just didn't punch us in the gut and knock us out of our chair.
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Subjective Analysis
While DisplayMate lays out a monitor's performance in black and white (and blue and green and red and...), we also take into consideration a subjective analysis. After all, you're not purchasing a monitor to view test patterns for hours on end. To see how the E2243FWK performs in the real world, we viewed a series of high definition movies and fired up a few games. Torturous, we know, but hey, you guys are worth every minute of our entertainment.
Subjective Tests
HD Movie Playback and Gaming 


Pirates of the Caribbean 4 @ 1080P

Playing back a collection of high definition movies revealed the same things that DisplayMate did, which is that the E2243FWK produces excellent brightness and good looking images overall, but slightly dull colors. This isn't something that's going to bother the average user, and even some power users, but if you're accustomed to higher end panels, you will notice a difference. Don't mistake that to mean you can't watch movies on the E2243FWK, because it will likely look better than whatever budget LCD monitor you're replacing.


Dirt 2

Game testing was more of the same, in that the E2243FWK produced bright environments with good color reproduction, but not as crisp or sharp as higher end displays. We didn't notice any ghosting, and because the E2243FWK sports a native 1920x1080 screen resolution, you're not going to need a top-end videocard to drive this thing.
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Conclusion
Performance Summary: Summarizing the performance of AOC's E2243FWK display really boils down to expectations. Armed with a TN panel, the E2243FWK struggles in areas where IPS displays excel, and that's to be expected out of a $150 monitor. Colors appeared somewhat dull compared to some of the higher end displays we've evaluated in the past few months, and it had trouble discerning white and black levels at extreme ends of the spectrum. On the flip-side, the E2243FWK carries a poor man's price tag and offers white collar performance. The LED backlight keeps things bright, it doesn't suffer from ghosting (not that we noticed, anyway), and color tracking was mostly accurate, certainly better than what you expect in this price range.

 


 

 

Whether or not you should consider the E2243FWK depends on what you're looking for (doesn't it always?). Penny pinchers hoping to score a brightly lit display that looks gorgeous and doesn't take up much space are the best candidates. We love the glossy piano black finish, and even though it's prone to picking up finger prints, there isn't much bezel on this ultra-thin display for that to be a legitimate concern.

But you don't offer an LED monitor at a budget price tag without making a few concessions. The E2243FWK doesn't come with a USB hub or speakers, the latter of which won't be an issue if you actually care about audio anyway. There's no DisplayPort or HDMI port, and while you will find a DVI-D port, you'll have to supply your own cable (AOC only includes a D-Sub cable). AOC also skimped on the base, paying more attention to its touch-sensitive controls and leaving out features like height and pivot adjustments; you're only able tilt the E2243FWK, and not by much.

If you can live with the drawbacks, the E2243FWK is a cost effective solution that looks sleek, produces bright images, and won't dominate your desk.

  

  

  • LED backlight shines bright
  • Razor thin panel is no thicker than Motorola's Xoom tablet
  • Lots of OSD controls
  • Sleek and sexy design
  • Price
  • Touch-sensitive controls don't always register
  • No height or pivot options
  • No DisplayPort or HDMI
  • Colors don't 'pop'

 




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