First to run the gauntlet is this offering from Acer, and on first impressions the AL2021msâ€™ less conventional design will certainly appeal to those looking for something a little different to sit on their desk. The thin bezel, which measures just under 2cm along the sides and a tad over that across the top, frames the picture rather well. This unobtrusive design feature alone makes the AL2021ms immediately more appealing than, for instance, the Philips Brilliance 200P that we have under review here. In fact, the rounded edges to the bezel give this display an all-round softer look in comparison with other more angular designs on test.
Rather than go for a complete black design like the Iiyama unit, Acer has opted to give the bezel a silver finish â€“ just one of the design aspects that permits the AL2021ms to jump up to the TCOâ€™03 standard. The bezel also houses a pair of 2W speakers that are fed from the 3.5mm line-in jack that youâ€™ll need to connect up to your system. Bear in mind that these speakers, like those found in the Iiyama and Philips units, are simply too small to offer anything even close to the quality youâ€™ll get from a dedicated active speaker set. The usual remedy for this is to plug in a pair of headphones, but alas the Al2021ms comes up short in this area.
As for the rest of the design the AL2021ms can best be described as a bit quirky. Whether or not you like the standâ€™s curved neck or the large oval shaped base is a matter of personal taste, but we did like the two robust hooks for neatly routing the DVI and/or D-SUB signal and power cables around the back. On the downside though, the stand is tilt-only, and the Al2021ms canâ€™t be smoothly swivelled from left to right. The neck also proved to be a little too short which leads to two possible issues for the end user. First, we found that the whole display sat a little low on the desk, and secondly the power and signal ports sit directly above the neck in such a way that when the display is tilted back the cables can be quite heavily compressed.
This alternative design continues with the front panel, which carries five icons, four of which glow a yellow-green when the unit is on. The fifth centre power symbol glows with a blue light or an orange one when in standby. Thankfully, the dark translucent plastic strip that covers these lights subdues them enough to prevent them from becoming a real distraction.
Of course, where there are lights there are usually buttons, but clearly Acer was keen to go for an uncluttered fascia and has mounted five buttons on the underside of the lower part of the bezel, keeping them vertically in line with those glowing icons mentioned earlier. Typically the buttons cover power, a single press auto adjust function, access to the OSD, plus the means to navigate and adjust the settings/volume. There are no direct shortcuts for brightness and contrast though.
In use, the vertically mounted buttons made operating the OSD quite tricky, so initially it took a little tactile fumbling to find the buttons and familiarise oneself with their operation. We did turn off the monitor on a number of occasions when sliding our fingers across the buttons. Worse still was the sensitivity of the buttons. A slow press of a button can often lead to a rapid scrolling through three or four menu items, which got a little frustrating.
Nevertheless, menu navigation wasnâ€™t too bad and was helped along by the clear OSD layout. However, it took a few too many clicks to get to some of the settings. For example, four clicks just to get to the brightness setting before even thinking about adjusting it, is a little too long winded.