BenQ G2420HDBL Monitor – not my greatest purchase


SAMSUNG 226BW

Out with the old... (Samsung 226BW)

OK to give it its full title, the BenQ G2420HDBL 24″ Widescreen LED Backlit Monitor, which I bought to replace my 22″ Samsung SM 226BW. The Samsung had been a great monitor and was my first foray into ‘big’ screens. Using it with Windows PCs (yes I was one of them once) and then on my Mac Pro since February 2008, I was really pleased with it. It ticked all the right boxes and gave me many happy hours whiling my life away – it even had real buttons, unlike the somewhat frustrating touch sensitive ones on my 24″ Samsung 2493HM.

Anyway, to cut a long story short the 226BW decided to pack up and it started by flickering for a few seconds after switching on. This became worse until eventually the monitor would be blinking wildly two or three minutes after being turned on so I figured it was on its way out and it was time to replace it. Now this is where I want to have a rant about widescreen… you know, the format that cinema goers have been raving about all these years. My 24″ Samsung 2493HM is my primary monitor and has a proper man-sized resolution of 1920 x 1200, however these days it’s almost impossible to buy a 24″ monitor with that resolution. Why? Because of widescreen. Now I don’t know about you but 85% or more of my time in front of my COMPUTER monitor is spent doing COMPUTER type stuff, you know, email, word processing, surfing the web, etc. When I want to watch movies I go and use my TV. So why must I be forced to have a 1920 x 1080 cinema/TV resolution on my computer?! Those 120 pixels I’ve lost at the bottom of the screen could easily be put to good use for my OS X dock, or my SnowTape window, or my WeatherDock icon, or any number of other useful things. But no, seems that virtually all 24″ computer monitors these days have to come in this wretched cinema/TV resolution. I’d quite happily have a thin black line at the top and bottom of the screen for those few occasions when I do want to watch 1080 line media on my computer, but that doesn’t seem to be the choice any more. To give an example, Overclockers sell no less than eighteen different 24″ monitors, yet only two of them (and the two most expensive ones at that) offer 1900 x 1200 resolution.

...in with the new (BenQ G2420HDBL)

OK rant over, time to choose a 24″ monitor with the obligatory 1920 x 1080 resolution (sorry, off again!). My main requirement is that it had to be VESA compliant as the two monitors on my desk are attached to Ergotron mounts (the Ergotron LX Desk Mount to be precise) rather than using their own stands, and the Ergotron mounts use standard VESA mounting points. Fortunately most monitors do seem to be compliant these days. After much searching I decided to go for the BenQ G2420HDBL because:

  • It was relatively cheap compared to many 24″ screens
  • It uses LED back-lighting which is new technology so it must be good, right?
  • It’s fairly slim & light and is VESA compliant
  • It’s sold by one of my favourite suppliers (Overclockers).

One ‘next day delivery’ later I’m £170 poorer but the proud owner of a new 24″ monitor. My first minor niggle is that the user guide does not tell you how to remove the stub assembly for the stand as it assumes all owners will want to use the desk stand supplied. Even so, it’s fairly easy to work out and within ten minutes of unboxing, the monitor was securely fitted to my Ergotron mount and connected to the Mac. Time to switch on…

Whoaa!! Talk about bright – it’s like these things come out of the factory set up to be used as floodlights!! To cut a long story short, I spend the next hour or more going through various settings trying to get the picture I want and not really getting there. I also spent a long time calibrating it through the Mac, but the end result is… well, disappointing to be honest. It seems the overall picture is a compromise – if you want sensible brightness and contrast levels, then you have to make do with a washed out looking colour palette. If you want vibrant colours, then the picture is just too bright, and the real cruncher is the ‘sharpness’ setting. You can have your fonts soft and ever so slightly fuzzy (Sharpness = 1) or you can have them blotchy and uneven (Sharpness = 5). In the end I’ve settled for a setting of 2 as it seems impossible to get pin sharp black text on a white background, which has never been a problem on any other monitor I’ve owned. To describe the problem, imagine black text printed on ever so slightly absorbent white paper – it ends up ever so slightly blotchy with orange fringing and uneven thickness downstrokes. You have to look closely, but it’s there.

Ergotron LX

Ergotron LX - excellent piece of kit

Of the monitor itself, well it’s pretty slim and light, has a thin gloss black bezel, VGA and DVI-D inputs, and it uses a standard 3-pin ‘kettle’ lead, rather than one of those transformer jobs. There are various picture modes, being – Eco (slightly too bright), sRGB (too dark), Photo (ridiculously bright), Game (also ridiculously bright), Movie (another way too bright one), and Standard which is just about acceptable. Individually you can adjust – brightness, contrast, sharpness, colour (where you can choose from various colour temperature presets), dynamic contrast (not a good idea), H/V position, pixel clock, phase, the various picture modes, on-screen display settings, language and input preferences. It’s all there, and after a short period of time is reasonably intuitive.

So, would I recommend one of these to my friends or would I buy one again with the benefit of hindsight? Simple answer – No. It’s the lack of being able to get crisp black text on a balanced white background and realistic colours all at the same time that puts me off. If you want a middle of the road, cheap(ish) 24″ widescreen (bah!) monitor, then you may be happy with this BenQ model. Personally I’d only give it a 6 or 7 out of 10. Maybe, just maybe I’ll get the picture to just how I want it with a bit more fiddling, trouble is – seems a lot of effort to get something that should come naturally to any half-decent LCD screen these days.

ADDENDUM

BenQ Issue CloseupIt’s very difficult to reproduce a monitor problem so your readers can see what you’re talking about, but I’ve had a go. Using Skitch I have taken a screen grab of an entry in one of my Twitter feeds where you can see the end of the word ‘football’ (no I’m not a fan!). It’s not perfect but it does demonstrate what I mean when I say that text appears muddy and uneven on the BenQ monitor. Enlarged, the final two letters of the word should look identical but they don’t. The first ‘l’ is much more clear and well defined, while the second ‘l’ looks smudged and slightly darker. Note that I am running the BenQ monitor at its native resolution of 1920 x 1080 so there should be no scaling going on.

You can clearly see from the enlargement that the second ‘l’ is a lot less distinct than the first.

One could argue that it’s down to the nVidia graphics card in my early 2008 Mac Pro, however it’s safe to say that no other monitor that I’ve plugged in to this Mac has had the same problem and that includes both my Samsung 22″ and 24″ monitors, plus a Samsung 20″ monitor I tried. All had pin sharp text. Also, what I’m seeing is a horizontal distortion of the text even though the horizontal resolution of the two monitors I’m using right now is the same, i.e. 1920. The final ‘proof of the pudding’ so to speak is that when I drag the Twitter window from the BenQ monitor across to my Samsung monitor, the text is clear, sharp and even on the latter.

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15 Responses

  1. […] I need both monitors and arms, when I come across a review like Robin’s “BenQ G2420HDBL Monitor – not my greatest purchase” out on his Macbitz blog, I’m interested. It’s always good to pay attention […]

  2. Sadly I have the same issue with this monitor. The text is blotchy. I found your blog after trying to google a solution. Sounds like the only solution is to get rid of it, and get a better monitor.

  3. Thanks for the post, I was looking for the sharp setting myself. On my Mac I find a sharp setting of 4 seems best. This monitor is OK but not great, I prefer my 3 year old Samsung 24 inch. The controls aren’t that easy to use either, the Menu and Enter buttons are a bit confusing.

  4. msot computer monitors these days are already using LCD technology and some are LED-LCD “-`

  5. Posting a screen capture to prove the quality of a monitor… Oh my…

  6. Yeah, like, posting a screenshot does not show the quality of the monitor at all.

    To prove that you can take a screenshot of the monitor turned off, the screenshot will be identical….

  7. I did say “It’s very difficult to reproduce a monitor problem so your readers can see what you’re talking about,”, so I posted a picture for readers to make of it what they will.

    Short of inviting readers round to my house to look at the monitor, and compare it side-by-side with two other monitors I have, there’s not much else I can do. At the end of the day this is a low-profile personal blog where I relate my experiences for others to ponder if they wish. It’s not an ideal medium for some things (like monitor screen shots – as I’m learning) and it’s not going to dent BenQ’s sales.

  8. I had a similar problem with a monitor i bought until I switched off MagicAngle. A stupid feature on Samsung monitors for stupid people that don’t want their monitor facing them.

  9. Just looking at my new purchase right now. I have a 2010 MBP connected via DVI and I was shocked to find now setting to turn off the sharpening. It’s either blurry, or artificially sharpened. No 1:1 pixel mapping, or at least no 1:1 pixel mapping without ‘enhancement.

    And the colours are definitely washed out compared to the MBP screen. It’s like the saturation is at 80% of ‘normal’. Not happy, but what was I expecting for £150?

  10. I was considering buying this monitor, but because of this blog am looking elsewhere. Just a thought as to solving your screenshot issue: You could just take a picture of your screen with a good camera (assuming you have one) which should show any screen errors clearly.

  11. Hey geniuses! If you press the auto button on the screen, the text becomes as sharp as a knife.

  12. Just, STOP! First of all, the BenQ monitor is just excellent. The solution for problem with ‘text’ is to set the monitor refresh rate to 59 Hz, not 60. Than restart the computer and turn off/turn on the monitor and you will see the difference! Also, if you are using a VGA out, do a Auto Adjust. The monitor is cheap. A very nice look. Excellent with the games and moovies. Great for online reading and surfing. 5ms response rate is just great. I Love it!

  13. I have to strongly disagree with this article. I’ve got the same monitor, and for the price it’s great.

  14. I was terribly disappointed witg the colours of this monitor (I tend to turn down the brightness), and of course the headless 1080 pixels vertically (I was not aware of the big difference ti 1200). The monitor was cheap though, but now I’m going for a 1920×1200 with extended gamut. I think Asus PA246Q could be worth the money. Or a bit cheaper, the Dell U2412M.

  15. Hiya,
    I own this monitor (I actually quite like it, but that’s beside the point), and I’m thinking of getting a separate stand. Since, as you say, the manual doesn’t detail how to mount it, could you share what you figured out? It looks to me like you have to unscrew the built-in desk stand?

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