Once upon a time, CRT monitors ruled the land. They were big, they were bulky, and you could easily throw your back out if you ignored your chiropractor's advice to bend at the knees and keep your chin up, when picking up heavy objects. Back in the day, a 19-inch CRT weighed around 40 pounds and dominated your computer desk with all that junk in the trunk. But like everything else in the realm of technology, computer displays evolved.
First came LCDs, and then LCD displays sporting an LED backlight like the S2330 Ultra Slim monitor that Dell sent us. One of the main advantages to using an LED backlight is it takes up less room than the cold cathode fluorescent lamp (CCFL) type backlight found in a regular LCD monitor. That's one of the reasons why computer monitors -- and televisions -- are thinner than ever. For Dell, the S2330 Ultra Slim monitor is the company's thinnest panel ever. We're talking Mary-Kate Olsen thin, only better looking and presumably not plagued with issues. Don't confuse that to mean the S2330MX is the slimmest monitor on the planet, though at less than 0.4 inches at its thinnest point (and up to 1.19 inches at its thickest), it's certainly flatter than the majority of monitors out there and is the thinnest display we've yet reviewed. But is there more to this display than bragging rights over the size of the panel?
So long as you're not turned off by a Twisted Nematic (TN) panel, the S2330MX sports a promising spec sheet. It supports a Full HD resolution (1920x1080), a 2ms response time, and is capable of 82 percent of the color gamut, or so Dell claims. The S2330MX isn't going to threaten a professional grade IPS panel, but it does have the makings of a solid all-around workhorse in a space friendly frame that would be ideal for a college dorm, cramped home office or stylish boardroom setting.
One thing we'd like to see become standard with all monitor bundles is the inclusion of a lint free cloth, particularly if the panel features a glossy design like the S2330MX. Unfortunately, Dell doesn't toss any into the box, but the OEM does include everything else you could possibly need.
Packed in the box you'll find:
Having reviewed some big and burly monitors in the past few months, we cleared the room of pets and any objects that might get in the way while doing that dance you do when trying to lift something heavy out of a cramped cardboard box. Our quick cleanup of the surrounding area was completely unnecessary, and the first thing that struck us about the S2330MX was its weight. At less than 8.3 pounds, it's lighter than some notebooks (and certainly thinner).
As we mentioned above, Dell went the high gloss route, so be prepared to spend some time wiping away finger smudges and dust, both of which show up on the bezel and circular base. On the plus side, it looks attractive, and there isn't a whole lot of bezel to begin with. We measured the bezel at 2/3rds of an inch on the sides and back, and 1 and 3/8 inches on the bottom.
Missing from the S2330MX are extraneous add-ons, like a USB hub, media card, and/or built-in speakers. These are all necessary tradeoffs in order to build a panel this thin, at least without having to jack up the price.
Part of the space saving design lies within the compact base. From edge-to-edge, we measured the diameter at a more than manageable 7.5 inches, give or take an eight of an inch (that's a little over 19 centimeters for the rank and file of the metric system).
The stand provides sufficient tilt (4 degrees forward, 21 degrees backward) whether you like to slouch in your computer chair or sit up straight like statue. However, hulking giants take note, you can't adjust the height, so you better be rocking an adjustable chair if you want to sit eye level with the display. Pivot isn't supported either.
It almost seems sacrilegious to stack an Apple iPad 2 tablet on top of a Dell monitor most people will end up pairing with a Windows-based PC, but hey, it offers a sense of scale and, along with our Motorola Droid X2 smartphone, it puts the panel's slim size into perspective. Heck, if Dell had integrated a dial-pad into the S2330MX, we could have been fooled into thinking this was a next generation smartphone with the way screen sizes keep increasing.
How do you build a panel this thin and still include input connectors? You don't, and that's why there's a small area towards the bottom of the back that sticks out about half an inch. Does that mean Dell is fudging the numbers? Not as far as we're concerned. The OEM clearly labels the depth at 1.19-inches, which takes into account this back protrusion. And even with the small bulge, the S2330MX appears super slim and maintains a graceful aesthetic.
From left to right, you'll find a Kensington security port, power connector, DVI-D with HDCP (cable included), and VGA (cable included). Dell also tosses in a DVI-to-HDMI adapter in case you want to hook up your gaming console, Blu-ray player, notebook, and so forth.
|Calibration & Controls|
If you don't feel like mucking with onscreen display (OSD) controls, Dell provides several preset profiles so you can take the lazy man's route. These include Standard, Multimedia, Movie, Games, Text, Warm, and Cool. In most instances, you'll want to leave the preset on Standard, though we were fairly impressed with the Cool setting, which didn't introduce so much blue tint that it looks like a Smurf barfed all over the pixels (you're welcome for the visual).
Dell positions the touch-sensitive OSD controls in the lower right corner of the display. We found them to be responsive overall, but like touch-sensitive buttons, they tend act snobbish and ignore your finger strokes from time to time. We remain preferential to physical buttons for this very reason.
After spending a few minutes getting acquainted with the OSD layout, we found navigation to be a mostly frustration free experience. It's not the slickest OSD we've ever played with, but far from the worst. Arrows appear on screen above the buttons to help guide you through the menus, and in doing so, you'll find configuration options for brightness, contrast, sharpness, colors. and more.
You'll also notice an energy meter in the top right corner of the onscreen menu. It's a nice thought in theory, and fits right in with Dell's extensive green computing efforts, but most users will find the meter of little value and/or interest.
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.
As this is a Twisted Nematic (TN) displayed, we're not expecting IPS-like performance, though that doesn't mean TN panels earn a free pass for lazy performance. For the most part, it wasn't an issue with the S2330MX. The panel displayed excellent geometry and pixel tracking, and black levels were above average, though not without some backlight bleeding slightly throughout.
The LED backlight is capable of producing a bright image, and we found the white level performance slightly saturated at the high end. Color tracking was mostly good with solid uniformity, though performance was a little shaky at the darker end of the spectrum. Most users won't ever notice in real-world use, save for professional photographers, who shouldn't be shopping a TN panel in the first place.
One issue we had with the S2330MX is viewing angle. Performance drops as you tile the monitor, and we noticed that even when viewing the panel straight on, the sides appeared darker until we strafed towards either end. Again, it's not something most users will pick up on, but it is noticeable when putting the panel through its paces.
We already mentioned that professional photographers will want to invest in a higher end display, but what about your average photo junkie? Well, our test photos were bright courtesy of the LED, and the S2330MX does well with different colors. As we've seen on other TN panels, however, photos sometimes appear washed out, at least when compared to higher end displays.
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 and movies. Torturous, we know, but hey, you guys are worth every minute of our entertainment.
Cowboys and Aliens @ 1080P
Watching a movie on a 23-inch panel isn't quite the same as firing up a Blu-ray on a large screen TV, but the S2330MX provides enough real estate that you can get away with watching flicks on your PC. In our real world tests, video clips were well lit, but not super crisp. It also suffered when scenes turned dark.
Dell rates the S2330MX as having a 2ms response, and on paper, that sounds impressive, In practice, we noticed a bit of streaking from time to time. It wasn't overly distracting, but if you're looking for it, you'll find it. Otherwise, the S2330MX handled our game tests without issue.