Three-quarters of the way through our product-testing regimen, we saw HP’s unremarkable 23-inch display headed toward a verdict of 6 or 7. It has a couple of nice features—as well as a couple of odd omissions—but at that point we hadn’t encountered anything that would set it apart from the crowd either way. But then we came to the Extreme Grayscale phase of the DisplayMate benchmark and our eyes just about popped out of their sockets.
This test renders extremes in the grayscale, beginning with boxes of increasingly intense shades of gray displayed on black and then white backgrounds. The w2338h had no problems passing the first half of this test, and it performed as expected when we cycled through shades of blue, red, and magenta. But the monitor proved incapable of differentiating between any of the high-intensity shades of green displayed on a fully saturated green background. What should have been cyan boxes on a cyan background showed up as yellow, and what should have been yellow boxes on a yellow background were rendered green, instead.
The HP w2338h's stand is one of the features we do like. It tilts and swivels, or you can remove it entirely to mount the display on the wall.
We suppose we could attribute the w2338h’s poor performance to the fact that it’s based on an LCD panel that’s capable of delivering only six-bit color depth, and that it uses frame-rate control to simulate the production of 16-plus million colors; but we’ve seen a number of six-bit/FRC panels that didn’t exhibit the same problems we saw with this monitor. The monitor’s color gamut is limited to 72 percent of the NTSC color space, but that’s not unusual, either.
The rest of this monitor’s shortcomings seem minor by comparison, but we’re very critical of its mirror-like nature. We found ourselves perpetually distracted by specular reflections whenever there was a source of bright light behind our chair—including daylight passing through windows in an adjacent room. This was much less of an issue when we darkened the room and the only source of light was above the monitor, but those are restrictions we’re not willing to put up with. And while we welcome the presence of an HDMI port, we were surprised to discover that the monitor has a VGA port as well, but no DVI port. Adding insult to injury, HP doesn’t pack an HDMI cable in the box. VGA and analog audio cables are included, however, so you won’t be left completely high and dry when you bring the monitor home. Come on, HP, if you’re going to leave a cable out of the deal, why not omit the one that no one will use anyway?
The w2338h performed surprisingly well in our Blu-ray test, especially when it came to the many scenes in Watchmen that unfold in deep shadows. But the built-in speakers are so underpowered that we couldn’t hear much of the dialog even when we cranked the dinky 2-watt amp to its maximum output. We encountered the same problem while playing the dialog-rich Fallout 3. The audio issue wouldn’t be as much of a problem if there was a headphone jack that you could plug headphones or powered speakers into, but there isn’t one.
If you’re in the market for an inexpensive monitor, there are plenty to be had. Don’t settle for this one.
Very good black levels; removable stand tilts and swivels; controls are easy to use.
Yellow Matter Custard
No DVI port; no headphone jack; egregious color-tracking errors; specular reflections.