Rarely do you see a 22-inch display float near the price points of superior 24-inch panels. It’s just unheard of, for a smaller display would have to offer some kind of fantastic upgrade over what we typically find in this size classification to be worth the additional cost.
How about an extra dimension?
Zalman’s ZM-M220W is the company’s first 3D display and it’s every bit as expensive as some of the best midrange monitors we’ve tested. We appreciate Zalman’s attempt at breaking through the fourth wall using a 3D technology that’s far cheaper than what we’ve seen on similar displays. But we would still trade this extra dimension for a better-looking picture in a heartbeat.
We’re pleased to see the ZM-M220W reproduce an extreme amount of detail when increasingly darker shades of gray are arrayed against a solid black background. The display’s precision on its darker grayscales even rivals those of some of the best monitors we’ve tested, including monitors of different sizes and panel types. But this excellence falls apart on the opposite end of the spectrum, as the ZM-M220W’s ability to produce lighter grayscales against a white background is less impressive than even some standard 22-inch displays. Compared to the similarly priced Samsung 254T 24-inch LCD (with its S-PVA panel), Zalman’s display gets whooped in overall grayscale detail.
While we saw no outstanding defects in our gaming tests, save for the aforementioned detail loss and general image paleness, we did see a good amount of banding in real-world color gradients. These dark lines of compression ruin the smoothness of gradients, and they extend into the white values of an 85-shade gradient on our DisplayMate tests. This is worse than what we normally find with banding, as these lines usually tend to pop out in the darker grayscales of a 128- or 256-shade gradient.
The ZM-M220W also has trouble producing lighter shades of red, blue, and green hues against a white background. This weakness in coloration sets the ZM-M220W slightly below the quality of Envision’s G2219w1(our favorite 22-inch screen) and well behind the 254T in our real-world tests. The ZM-M220W's inability to produce accurate representations of light grayscales and color results in diminished detail and vibrancy in still images, games, and movies. This is especially noticeable on skintones, which appear washed out and powdery, and on elements that demand vivid coloration, like the huge flames of BioShock’s opening scene. And don’t even think about using the ZM-M220W’s included display presets to improve the picture: the gaming, movie, and sports modes each destroy anything you’re looking at to varying degrees of oversaturation, discoloration, and detail loss.
As for the monitor’s 3D prowess, the ZM-M220W is able to produce accurate 3D imagery using Nvidia’s Stereoscopic drivers on only a smattering of games (Steam downloads not included; you have to install the game from a CD for the drivers to work their magic). Built into the drivers is a list of options and verdicts for 3D compatibility across a wide range of gaming titles. It’s quite inaccurate. Oblivion is rated a two on the three-level compatibility scale. The game is nevertheless unplayable no matter how much you use the drivers’ hotkeys to adjust the stereo separation of the images.
We fared far better in a three-dimensional romp through Gears of War, but the 3D effect still comes with a fatal flaw. Aiming accuracy takes hit in first-person shooter titles due to the display’s split-crosshair effect. The drivers attempt to make up for this with a “laser sighting” feature that overlays a neon targeting crosshair onto the game. It does a better job at helping you pinpoint where you’re aiming, but it’s an ugly substitution.
A similar stereoscopic deficiency permeates real-time strategy titles. These have a tendency to slap the HUD in the foreground as a 2D layer riding on top of the 3D action setting. It looks awkward, but not as awkward as the 3D units you’re controlling. Unit names are split and very difficult to read (or directly click on) in World in Conflict as a result of the same stereo separation effect mentioned earlier. Fixing this issue is a compromise: dial down the settings to improve the quality and the 3D effect is lessened.
We wish other manufacturers would take a gander at the ZM-M220W, but not for its extra dimension. This display is one of the few 22-inch displays we’ve ever tested that allows you to pivot, swivel, and tilt the panel just like a higher-priced 24-inch panel. It’s unfortunate that this exceptional feature is balanced out by the ZM-M220W’s paltry list of connection inputs: DVI and VGA, with no support for any other video connections, USB inputs, or media readers. The display’s included speakers are equally anemic. Their audio quality is poor enough due to their size. But since they’re rear-facing, you never quite get the accurate stereo reproduction that two front-facing speakers would provide.
Three dimensional monitors are as much of a niche as physics cards and PC wind simulators. Even if we never used this added feature and just considered the ZM-M220W for what it is, we’d be looking at an overpriced and underperforming 22-inch display. For the ZM-M220W’s price, we’d much prefer to have a monitor that delivers an awesome picture in a mere two dimensions.
Great at reproducing dark grayscales, 3D imaging a neat effect (at first), some of the best ergonomics we've seen
3D effect more bust than boom for most games, ample amount of banding, poor color saturation, few connection options