HP ZR22w review of 21.5″ IPS Monitor

HP ZR22w 21.5" IPS monitor

I have now been using this monitor for 2 months, and got it mainly to replace my ageing sony vaio laptop.

Rather than simply get another laptop I decided to get a “separates” system as my laptop spent 100% of its time on my coffee table and was not really ever used as a portable device.

Initially I decided to replace it with another laptop, a Lenovo Thinkpad T500 from the Linux Emporium.   These machines are made to a very high standard, but seem let down by the quality of the screen.   The screen seemed a lot brighter at the bottom than at the top.   Much as I liked the build quality of the T500, I decided that I wanted something with a better screen so I sent it back.   They refunded me in full with no fuss which I was pleased about.

I then decided to do some research into different types of display and discovered that the Thinkpad T500 and about 99.9% of all laptops use a screen technology called “TN Panel”.    This type of screen has the advantage of being very cheap to produce but has a lot of disadvantages.   One of the main problems with TN panel screens is that small changes in viewing angle affect the colour of the image being viewed.   This is worse in the vertical plane.    Another problem with TN panel technology is that it is only capable of displaying 6 bit colour so they cannot accurately display “true colour”.

The problem with consumer buyers is that they buy mainly based on price and specification, and TN panel technology certainly has impressive figures to quote.   “2ms response time” and “50000:1 contrast” are often used to market TN panel screens.

Anyway I decide to go to PC World to look at different displays and as expected the TN panel rules supreme here.    There is however one exception to this rule and that is the Apple Imac.   It is obvious that the screen on the Imac is VERY different from all the other screens as the colours seem much more accurate and there is none of the strange colour shift that other screens have.

The Imac comes in 2 sizes, being 21.5″ @ 1920×1080 and 27″ @ 2560×1440.   I decide that I want the 21.5″ imac and am almost ready to get out my credit card, but decide to check out what they cost online.

While checking out prices I come across a site called TFT Central which explains useful information about screen technology.   The main alternative to TN panel is IPS or “in plane switching”.   Until recently you would be needing to spend a LOT of money to get an IPS panel, but prices have now come down and you will generally pay about 1.5x to 2x the price of a TN panel in order to have IPS.

The apple imac range all use IPS panels but there are some disadvantages with the “all in one” type PC.   The imac range only has the option of a “glossy” screen and this has some disadvantages as it will show reflections.   An advantage of a glossy screen is that there is no matte filter to produce a “grainy” or “sparkle” effect.   People seem to either “love or hate” glossy screens!    Another disadvantage of an “all in one” imac is that for the price of about £1k the spec is not great.    This base model has only “onboard” graphics and only has a core2 duo processor and for this price I would expect more, but you are paying for the apple “coolness” factor I guess.

Anyway, a bit more research establishes that there is an “affordable” IPS monitor made by Dell called the 2209wa.   It is an E-IPS screen of 22″ but has a rather limited resolution of just 1680 x 1050.

It seems that 1920 x 1080 (and 1920 x 1200)  is rapidly becoming the “standard” resolution for monitors so I was not bowled over by having to have a “legacy” resolution on a new screen!    The 2209wa was released back at the start of 2009 when HD monitors were rarer.

Luckily HP were about to release a pair of new IPS screens in 21.5″ and 24″ so I was very interested in the ZR22w as I wanted a smaller screen with a finer dot pitch.     It was not really until the end of April 2010 that they became available for purchase in the UK and I was one of the first to buy this screen.

DNUK D500 Deskcube (back)
DNUK D500 Deskcube (front)

I decided to order a compact “desk cube” PC to go with this screen and the Deskcube D500 from DNUK was the model I decided on.   As I use my PC in the living room I did not want a bulky “tower” case so this PC seemed ideal.    It is based on the Antec NSK1380 case and I chose the Phenom II 905e quad core processor, and Nvidia GT240 graphics card (512mb ram) and 4gb of system ram.   It is a very quiet and compact system, ideal for a living room and far quieter than 90% of laptops!

Now that I have been using the ZR22w monitor for 2 months I can say that it’s an ideal monitor for someone who needs a compact monitor for photo editing and watching 1080p movies.    I have not really tried it for gaming as this system is not designed for gaming but I’d imagine it would be good. The anti glare coating takes a bit of getting used to as it adds some “grain”, but I prefer this to apple’s “glossy” coating.    The controls are very good and allow R, G & B channels to be indiviually set on a scale of 0-255.   (I reduced blue channel from 255 to 221 as prefer warmer colour balance).    I set brightness @ 70% and contrast @ 75% for good overall balance.    The stand is very good with plastic coated metal base, which allows height, tilt, swivel and rotate (portrait) options.   I always use the lowest position but it will go about 10cm higher if required.

All in all very little to fault in fact. Some people do not like “IPS Glow” or “white glow” that you get at edges of screen when viewing dark areas off centre, but this is a small price to pay for superb colour rendition that IPS screens are famous for.