Wayne Thorp will speak at the 2015 AAII Investor Conference this fall; go to www.aaii.com/conference for more details.
27-inch LED monitor with wide viewing angles and customizable height, swivel and pivot settings.
A month ago I reviewed the AOC Q2963PM UltraWide LED monitor. While there were a few annoying quirks with its software, I was generally pleased with the image quality and amount of display “real estate.” Interestingly enough, however, the week after the review ran, a roughly three-inch square patch of LEDs burned out, leaving a discolored area on the screen that stuck out like a missing front tooth. Luckily, right around that same time a new monitor arrived from HP for me to try out: the EliteDisplay E271i 27-inch LED backlit monitor. I was very interested to see how these two monitors compared with one another.
Measured diagonally, the E271i isn’t quite as large as the AOC monitor, at 27 inches versus 29 inches. However, the screen itself is over two inches taller than the AOC, giving it an overall larger total viewing area (312.5 square inches versus 295.9 square inches). Similar to the AOC, the stand of the E271i isn’t much larger than those found on smaller monitors, so the actual footprint of the monitor isn’t much more. The monitor itself, despite having nearly 6% more viewing area, weighs 30% less—at 10.8 pounds—than the AOC UltraWide. With the stand attached, the full setup weighs just below 17 pounds, compared to almost 23 pounds for the AOC monitor.
The EliteDisplay E271i’s screen is encased in a matte-black frame with a uniform 0.75-inch bezel all the way around. The screen itself is anti-glare, which is nice when you are using the monitor in an area where there is light coming from behind you. This makes viewing in bright situations very easy on the eyes.
On the front bottom-right of the monitor are five buttons—menu, minus “-”, plus “+”/input, Ok/Auto and Power/Power LED. The buttons are slightly more intuitive than the AOC UltraWide: You press the menu button and use the +/- buttons to navigate the menus and adjust various display variable levels. The menu labels were intuitive and navigating through them with the +/- buttons was easy. The monitor includes the typical display settings such as contrast, color, horizontal/vertical position and sharpness.
On the right side of the monitor are two integrated USB 2.0 ports, a feature that was lacking from the AOC UltraWide. On the back of the EliteDisplay you’ll find the power plug port as well as video ports—VGA (analog), DVI-D and DisplayPort. I was rather surprised, however, by the lack of an HDMI port, which is usually found in consumer-oriented displays.
In my review of the AOC UltraWide, I made mention of its base’s limited tilt range and lack of swivel. With the HP EliteDisplay’s base, you can position the monitor in almost any way imaginable (a bit of a stretch, but not far off). You can tilt the screen forward and backward from -5 degrees to +30 degrees, raise the screen as much as six inches to the desired height and even rotate the screen 90 degrees to portrait position if you want to. In addition, the base can swivel a full 360 degrees. Of all the monitors I have ever used, the EliteDisplay easily offers the greatest range of adjustments.
Setting up the E271i was quick and easy. After connecting the power source to the bottom of the monitor, I connected it to my HP Folio 13. However, this required an additional adapter that I had to provide, since my Ultrabook doesn’t have a VGA port and the monitor does not have a native HDMI port. Make sure that any computer you plan on connecting this monitor to has VGA, DVI-D or DisplayPort inputs. Otherwise, you will need an adapter.
Windows 7 automatically recognized the monitor, something it wasn’t able to do with the AOC UltraWide, and automatically adjusted to its native 1920 × 1080 resolution. I installed HP’s Display Assistant software, which comes on a CD with the monitor, as well as the HP driver. According to HP, the Display Assistant software allows you to personalize your workspace with resizable screen partitions and have separate regions of the screen devoted to specific documents or programs. However, since I was using an adapter to connect the monitor to my Ultrabook, the necessary communications between the monitor and the software couldn’t take place. Similar to the AOC UltraWide, I feel I am missing out on some key features of the EliteDisplay and consequently not getting the full experience.
With the highly adjustable stand, I found that viewing on the E271i was extremely pleasant. I was able to raise the screen so it was basically at eye level, meaning I didn’t have to look down like I usually do with other monitors. What I had a hard time adjusting to was the fact that my desktop icons look so much bigger at 1920 x 1080 resolution on the 27-inch display than they do at the same resolution on a smaller screen. I like to keep a very clean and sparse desktop, so the larger icons gave my desktop a “cluttered” look (at least in my mind). For people with failing eyesight, this is probably a welcome adjustment.
The EliteDisplay E271i utilizes In-Plane Switching (IPS) technology, in contrast to TN-Film (Twisted Nematic Film) based technology. In short, TN-F is what made LCD technology a commercial reality by making it affordable to the masses. However, TN-F cannot replicate true 24-bit color (16.7 million colors) since it can only handle six bits per color. To get around this, TN-F simulates 16.7 million colors by blending adjacent pixels to make different color shades. The only problem with TN-F displays is that they have a viewing angle in the range of 160 degrees to 170 degrees. The In-Plane Switching technology found in the EliteDisplay allows for accurate 16.7 million colors, which helps in design or high-end video work. When you touch an IPS display such as the EliteDisplay, there is also no warping of the on-screen colors, unlike when you touch a typical TN-F display. With the E271i, the IPS technology gives you a wider 178-degree horizontal and vertical viewing angle.
While the E271i isn’t as wide as the AOC, at 27 inches there is still plenty of space to view multiple windows simultaneously with ease. I am writing this review with the Word program window open, viewing the document at 100%, as well as a Web browser window to allow me to research the monitor. Since the EliteDisplay is taller than the AOC, you can easily have windows tiled on the screen without any problems. I would have liked to have seen the screen partitions offered by the Display Assistant software in action to see how that improved the viewing of multiple windows at once.
The monitor has a 16:9 aspect ratio, which is typical on most wide-screen displays these days (the AOC UltraWide was an exception with its 21:9 aspect ratio). With the ISP technology, I found video to be the clearest and crispest I have ever seen on a monitor.
Lastly, the E271i is EnergyStar qualified.
As I have said in the past in my reviews, the true mark of greatness for a product is whether or not I would continue using it once my review is finished. The HP EliteDisplay E271i is one such product. While it is geared toward the business marketplace, its $349 price makes it consumer-friendly given its display size (especially considering that the AOC Q2963PM UltraWide retails for $450 to $500). I was a bit frustrated by not being able to get the Display Assistant to work properly, which was a product of not having a computer with a DVI-D or DisplayPort connector. Be sure you have one of these ports on your PC (or an analog VGA connector), or be sure to have the necessary adapter.
For people who are constantly using multiple programs at once or working on multiple documents at the same time, the increased image area compared to a typical 19-inch to 22-inch monitor cannot be underestimated.
Lastly, the amazing color and clarity the IPS technology delivers makes this monitor something to consider for those who do a lot of design or video work with their computer.