In terms of raw specs the 250cd/m2 luminance and a claimed 1000,1 contrast ratio means there’s little to get excited about, but at least this is an 8-bit panel.
To test we spent some time working in portrait mode, as it really is beneficial for working on a document such as say, this review. It’s also ideal for viewing web sites – not least TrustedReviews.com.
It’s not ideal for photo work however, as it shows up the limitations of the TN panel quite clearly, with colour shift affecting images when you view them straight on. In regular landscape mode this would be vertical colour shift, but in portrait mode it's horizontal and you have to move to the side to see the images as they should be.
In landscape mode, we’d characterise the image quality as good. The steps in the Lagom contrast test were all visible, but only when we turned down the contrast settings a few notches from the default. The tricky black level test was negotiated successfully, with all levels visible, while greyscale transitions were smooth. The response time is listed as 5ms, and in the Lagom test it was noticeably better than other displays we have seen – not that this screen is aimed at gamers. That said we did, naturally, give TrackMania nations a run and found no appreciable issue in terms of smoothness. However, when it comes to colour this isn’t the punchiest or boldest monitor around.
Overall, colours are fairly realistic on the NEC, though the issues with viewing angles meant that the on reds the tone seemed to alter depending on the height of the screen. The ease with which you can change the angle of the display mitigates this to some degree, but we could not recommend this screen for colour-critical work.
That’s not to say the EX231W isn’t a high-quality monitor, only that it cannot escape the fact that it’s TN based. Text was never less than sharp and clear – this is a display that will be easy on the eyes for long periods. Feed it a diet of office documents and general web browsing and it’s in its comfort zone, while the company CFO will certainly appreciate the heavy focus on energy saving.
Unfortunately, its initial purchase price is rather high. For £60 less you can get the BenQ V2410T, which might not be as slim, stylish or well-connected, but does offer the same basic features (full adjustability and an LED-backlit, Full HD screen). Meanwhile, Samsung's SyncMaster F2380 throws a superior cPVA panel into the mix, and if you don't require adjustability, the MVA-based VW2420H offers better image quality again. Most importantly, both these latter alternatives are around £200 or less, making the premium NEC charges difficult to justify unless you prefer form over substance.
Despite being based on a TN panel, NEC’s MultiSync EX231W continues the company’s reputation for high quality monitors. It doesn’t sport a wealth of connectivity options and it’s not the most vivid image around, but for everyday use, this is a well-designed and slender display with solid image quality. If only it were priced lower it would enjoy broader appeal.