Asus tries not to do 'ordinary'. We've seen laptops with external displays, ruggedised ultra-mobile PCs, and now the company that brought you the Lamborghini laptop is bringing you the scratch-proof monitor.
We're not sure how many monitors are in mortal danger of violent scratching, but the LS201's reinforced glass panel is a reassuring addition if nothing else. It's made from sapphire-crystal, a material (allegedly) so resistant to scratches, and so tough, our Asus rep dared us to throw a punch at it.
Is it the perfect tool for stressed executives that are prone to lashing out at inanimate objects. Or is it a pointless marketing gimmick that needs to be exposed?
The LS201 looks the part. You'll almost certainly fall for the glossy black bezel, orange and blue LEDs, and beam with pride at the 'red dot design award' sticker at the bottom left. Once you've ripped that off, you'll marvel at the base section, which is particularly striking. The inner circumference is lined with LEDs that glow blue when the monitor is in use and amber when it's in standby mode.
The fat lower bezel makes the LS201 look squarish -- as if it has a 4:3 aspect ratio. It's actually widescreen though, as indicated by the 1,440x1,050-pixel resolution. It has a 2,000:1 contrast ratio, a brightness level of 300cd/m2, 5ms response time, plus DVI and D-Sub ports, all of which is par for the course on a 20-inch display. Thoughtfully, Asus includes both DVI and D-Sub cables in the box.
The LS201 uses a glossy coating. Asus says it's "scratch-proof", so it's ideal if you have unruly children who are likely to cause accidental damage. It offers substantially better protection against accidental damage than an ordinary monitor, but you should read exactly how tough we thought it was later in this review.
In the all-important question of image quality, the LS201 is average. Its glossy coating and high contrast make it ideal for watching movies on, and it looks good during everyday use. Provided you aren't actively looking to find problems with it, the LS201 is absolutely fine.
The LS201's biggest boon is supposed to be its strength. It's adorned with stickers that say it's scratch-proof, so we challenged it to a catfight -- fingernails and all. It survived our initial onslaught, much to Asus' delight. But then its reps took it one step further and dared us to punch it.
We're always keen to test products to their limits, so we didn't hesitate in giving it the ultimate benchmark -- a series of unrelenting jabs with our fists.
The first time we hit it, the puncher was wearing a ring and the screen scratched. Asus laughed this off, sent us a replacement LS201, and told us to go easy with the rings. When we punched that one, sans ring, it, too, was damaged -- the impact had dislodged a tiny bit of unidentified fluff behind the sapphire-crystal panel. Verdict: the LS201 is not scratch-proof, or at the very least not CNET.co.uk-proof.
Asus's 'Splendid' technology makes an appearance in the LS201 (yes, it really is called 'Splendid'), but its function is pointless. Asus describes it as a 'breathtaking innovation', but hyperbole aside, it's essentially a system that lets you switch between pre-set video display modes.
A dedicated Splendid button lets you cycle between Scenery, Standard, Theatre, Game and Night view modes, but all of them except Standard completely ruin the image accuracy. Pretty much every colour looks completely different to how it should -- orange appears as yellow, for example, and purple looks like pink.
Even in Standard mode, the LS201's colour reproduction is sub-par. It seemingly finds it difficult to tell the difference between neighbouring hues, so things like blues and purples look extremely similar. If you're involved in colour-critical jobs, like image editing, you're better off looking elsewhere. Even movie-goers should be wary: the monitor loses a lot of detail in dark scenes, so you may be left confused about what went on in that crucial bit of the film.
Don't expect much in the way of extras on the LS201. There's no USB hub, no ability to pivot or raise the display, no memory card reader and no HDCP compliance -- so it can't show movies from copy-protected, high-definition discs.
The LS201 isn't great. It's not scratch-proof -- at least not in our extreme tests. Neither does it offer great image quality. If you're after a stylish-looking 20-inch monitor, you're better off with the LG Black Jewel.
The LS201 does offer better protection than an ordinary monitor, but so what? We'd rather it had decent image quality than average-at-best protection.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Kate Macefield