With that rant out the way, let’s take a look at the PW191’s controls. The buttons or lack thereof is explained by a set of five backlit, touch-sensitive switches. These glow with a bright orange in use and cunningly dim down afterwards. Getting them to work, however, is another matter. The ones on this unit were so temperamental that I lost patience trying to invoke any changes. The on/off button is also situated perfectly for accidental operation when adjusting the tilt and height or when pivoting the PW191.
Touching “menu” enters the OSD and the submenus, and the middle two switches are for adjustment and scrolling while also doubling up as shortcuts to the volume and brightness. The “S” button is for exiting menus as well as selecting from five modes that make use of the panel’s so-called SPLENDID Video Enhancement Technology. These include Standard mode, Scenery mode (boost in contrast and brightness), Game mode (saturation boost), Night View mode (enhancing detail in dark scenes) and Theater mode (sharpness, contrast and colour optimisation during playback).
In all honesty these are a bit of a gimmick, and only have a subtle affect. I prefer to use the user controls to tweak the picture and Asus has ensured that all the typical settings (brightness, contrast, source selection, etc) are available. You can also choose from colour temperatures sRGB, warm, cool and normal, adjust the RGB levels independently, tweak the sharpness and the saturation, and even select from three skin tones settings (reddish, yellowish, and natural). One option that is missing is the ability to rotate the OSD when you’ve pivoted the display. Making adjustments in an up-ended OSD always feels a little awkward.
Whether or not you'll use any of these modes is debatable, but I have to say the PW191’s picture looks best when the all the Standard/Normal options are selected. Surprisingly, the sRGB mode looked rather inaccurate.
In tests, the PW191 was an average performer. Don’t be fooled by the glossy optical filter and the way it makes colour look punchy. The colours in my sample movie clips actually looked very unnatural. Blotchy patches of red and green can be seen dancing around the faces of actors and actresses and the overall look was marred by a pinkish tinge. Playback was also noisy. I even compared the PW191 to another monitor (the NEC MultiSync 20WGX2) and was surprised at how much better the movies looked. I recommend watching movies or playing games in a darkened room – the reflections are just too noticeable otherwise. Furthermore, in the standard landscape orientation, viewing angles were relatively narrow and a clear colour shift from green to pink can be seen when raising and lowering your eye-level through about 20cm. As for the Displaymate results, these were so so. Lowlight and highlight compression was evident in both the colour scales and greyscales tests, but mid-range greys were smoothly ramped with little sign of any banding.
With all aspects considered the PW191 is a reasonable attempt by Asus to break into the widescreen LCD market. I do like the design and functionality of the stand and some I know will love the glossy black bezel. There’s been no skimping on the inputs and there’s a good selection of adjustments. Asus also states a one year "Zero Bright Dot" warranty. However, picture quality is not quite up there with the best and Asus needs to address the problem with the touch-sensitive controls.
A functional stand and an interesting design do not make up for mediocre picture quality. At £310 there’s a strong argument for purchasing a 20in 1,680 x 1,050 widescreen LCD instead.