Wide-screen LCD monitors of the same dimensions can vary greatly in price and features, which makes comparison shopping a necessary step. For example, the Dell P2210 may be found online for $100 cheaper than the NEC MultiSync EA221WM (the subject of this review), but the NEC offers four-way ergonomic support, including screen height adjustment, 360-degree panel swiveling, pivot, and tilt. Also, it has slightly better movie and gaming performance than the P2210 and includes built-in speakers and a headphone jack. However, the NEC has a fairly large carbon footprint, compared with the P2210, and no HDMI connection. Obviously, the NEC isn't the end-all be-all in this comparison, so if price is a concern, we'd recommend the P2210, which has most of the same features besides the built-in sound. On the other hand, if solid performance in a feature-rich package is what you're after, the NEC will suit you nicely.
Design and features
The 22-inch NEC MultiSync EA221WM is plainly designed, with a black matte finish. The bezel measures a short 0.6-inch on the right and left sides, while the panel is 1.3 inches deep. Once you add in the back of the display, which houses the connection options and ventilation system and extends another 1.4 inches, the full monitor depth comes to about 2.85 inches. (By comparison, most 22-inch models we've tested have a total depth of about 3 inches.) The panel measures 19.8 inches wide, which is average for a monitor of this screen size.
The NEC MultiSync EA221WM also comes with a circular footstand that measures 4.25 inches in diameter and lets you adjust the height of the display by up to 4.35 inches; when adjusted to its lowest, the distance from the bottom of the bezel to the desktop is about 2 inches. At its lowest height, we saw only minimal wobbling when we knocked it from the sides; however, with the panel height extended to its fullest, the wobbling got noticeably more violent. The panel also pivots to the left 90 degrees--useful if you prefer portrait mode--and it swivels 360 degrees and tilts back about 25 degrees. The stand can be removed and the display mounted to the wall, VESA-style, though you'll have to supply your own mount. Also, on the upper back of the panel is a groove that acts as a useful carrying handle.
NEC includes DVI and VGA as connection options on this monitor, and while the VGA cable is easy to access, the DVI is a bit too close to the stand; we found that our knuckles rubbed it whenever connecting the DVI. Unfortunately, there is no HDMI connection, which is a mainstay on most monitors. However, the unit includes four USB downstream ports--two each on the left edge and backside of the panel--as well as one upstream USB connection on the back next to the VGA port. There are also two downward-facing speakers are built into either side of the panel near the bottom, and the left speaker includes a headphone jack on its side. The back of the stand incorporates two easily accessible cable routers.
The onscreen display button array is located on the bottom right of the bezel, just left of the power button, and includes three buttons--Menu, Select, and Reset/DV Mode--and one "joystick" for navigation. Pressing Menu gives you access to controls for brightness, contrast, color temperature, individual RGB adjusting, auto off, and speaker volume. Also, there's an Eco Mode that caps the brightness at 60 percent when turned on. The DV Mode includes five different presets: Standard, Text, Movie, Gaming, and Photo. Switching through these simply adjusts the brightness to be appropriate for the task at hand. The select button lets you switch from DVI to VGA and the Reset/DV mode button acts as a shortcut to the different presets. The small nub-like joystick made navigating the OSD fairly painless. The stick has four directions, letting you cycle through selections with relative ease, although the NEC's OSD is still not as elegant as that of the Dell P2210.
The NEC MultiSync EA221WM's 16:10 aspect ratio has a 1,680x1,050 native resolution. The 16:9 monitor trend currently sweeping the market has given many smaller monitors higher resolutions than they were capable of at 16:10. For example, a 22-incher (or 21.5) with a 16:9 aspect ratio has a potential native resolution of 1,920x1,080 pixels. It's disappointing that NEC did not include 16:9 here because high-definition content--in particular 1080p movies--can fit onto a 1,920x1,080-pixel screen without distorting the image.
Resolution: 1,680x1,050 pixels
Pixel-response rate: 5ms
Contrast ratio: 1,000:1
Connectivity: DVI, VGA
HDCP compliant? Yes
Included video cables? DVI, VGA
Backlight type: CCFL
Panel type: TN
Aspect Ratio: 16:10
We tested the NEC MultiSync EA221WM with its DVI connection. The display posted a composite score of 91 on CNET Labs' DisplayMate-based performance tests. We compared it with the 22-inch Dell P2210, which scored an 87. Our grayscale tests evaluate a monitor's capability to distinguish dark gray from black as well as its capability to display the every shade of gray between black and white. While the P2210 had trouble distinguishing dark gray from black, the EA221WM had no such problems, getting near perfect scores in our grayscales tests.
In our color ramping tests, which checks for color banding, the EA221WM performed only slightly better than the P2210, suggesting that while both monitors could have color banding issues in certain apps, the NEC is less likely to do so.
The NEC MultiSync EA221WM achieved a brightness score of 241 candelas per square meter (cd/m2)--right in keeping with NEC's claimed 250 cd/m2 max. The Dell P2210 achieved a higher brightness with 259 cd/m2, but missed Dell's claimed 300 cd/m2 by a wider margin. On our dark screen test, both monitors exhibited significant backlight bleed through on the top and bottom edges of the displays.
Our "Kill Bill Vol. 1" DVD ghosting test yielded minimal ghosting on both the NEC and Dell. We played the movie in each monitor's respective "Movie" preset. The NEC's movie preset proved too bright and we preferred using the standard mode since the black level was lower and the colors more full. While the Dell's movie mode displayed the movie well, the colors were not as full and the black level wasn't as low as the NEC in standard mode.