The Asus PW201 fits into the former category and is arguably Asus' most stylish and feature-rich TFT screen to date.
The Asus PW201's design is one of its strongest points. When we first received the product, we blogged somewhat jokingly that its thick, shiny black bezel, glossy screen and metallic base looked slightly as if they'd been covered in Vaseline.
The overall aesthetic is similar to that of most flat-panel televisions, although the circular shape of the PW201's base gives it away as a PC monitor. The rear of the screen looks very attractive, thanks to a large circular plinth bearing the Asus logo, and there's no sign of the ugly overabundance of vents seen on most monitors.
The PW201's screen has a lot going for it. It's 20 inches wide across the diagonal and runs in a 16:10 widescreen aspect ratio -- making it ideal for users who enjoy viewing movies and panoramic photos. Asus has chosen to cover the screen with its Color Shine coating, which makes it very reflective. This can be hugely annoying if the screen itself faces a window or other light source as you'll see just as much unwanted reflection as you will of your documents. The benefit of this coating is that it makes colours appear stronger and gives increased contrast -- which is perfect for movies.
The PW201 has some clever image processing that Asus says improves the quality of its pictures. The most significant of these is the SPLENDID Video Intelligence Technology. Asus says this evaluates individual pixels in every frame and adjusts the colours, brightness, contrast and sharpness in smaller regions without affecting the whole picture.
We can't attest to whether it's actually doing this in reality, but in practice the PW201's movie playback was commendable and colours appeared warmer and more vivid than on screens that lack a glossy coating. Manually adjusting the properties of the image is very straightforward too. Pressing the monitor's touch-sensitive control buttons brings up an easy-to-follow on-screen display through which you can alter the SPLENDID presets. Scenery, Standard, Theatre, Game and Night View presets are all available.
The PW201's base and hinge allow the screen to be pivoted in a horizontal and vertical orientation. Vertical orientations could come in handy when scrolling through long word processor or Web documents. Finally, there's a 1.3-megapixel webcam for video conferencing or taking self-portraits. This, we believe, is designed to be rotated 180 degrees, but the mechanism for doing so isn't very smooth -- it almost felt like it was about to break when we tried to rotate it.
The PW201's glossy screen is a strength, but it's also a weakness. Its presence renders the screen unusable as a serious graphics editing monitor, as the colour hue and contrast levels it produces are rarely faithful representations of what the real image should look like.
The monitor's touch-sensitive control buttons are a nice touch, but they present problems. We regularly pressed buttons accidentally when adjusting the position of the monitor or moving it into portrait mode. The power button was the most prone to accidental touching. This is a huge annoyance, as you have to wait several seconds before you're able to switch the screen back on.
For all its ports, the PW201 lacks one key input -- HDMI. With many graphics cards now migrating to HDMI inputs, we'd expect to see it feature on Asus' flagship 20-inch TFT.
The Asus PW201 is difficult to find fault with. It has a lot going for it -- particularly its ability to accept inputs from a wide number of devices. Its image quality is very good, and although it isn't suitable for image-editing professionals, it's ideal for watching movies on. Despite all this, we find it difficult to recommend wholeheartedly due to its high price.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide