So far the Asus MK241 is a mixed bag of poor adjustability tempered by a reasonably strong feature list, leaving image quality as the deciding factor. Unfortunately for Asus though, this is where things fall apart completely, because when it comes to image quality this monitor is woefully disappointing. Things start off bad with incredibly oversaturated colours that make even a default Windows Vista wallpaper look radioactive. Yes, this can be toned down with a bit of tweaking, but no amount of fiddling with the User setting produces what I would call an acceptable colour palette. A lot of mucking about with the brightness and contrast settings managed to reign things in a little too, but on the whole this screen’s claims of high colour gamut produce a reality that it far from pleasing to the eye.
A result of the oversaturated colours is that detail is lost at the high intensity level, with serious compression evident. I didn’t even have to fire up DisplayMate to see this problem, as simply viewing photographs in Photoshop CS3 showed that areas of highlight were completely blown out with this screen. Also, if I tried to counteract this by dialling the screen back a bit, the result was a loss of detail at the low intensity end, which was already suffering from its own problems.
Talking of problems at the low intensity end, this screen has the worst black level response that I’ve seen in quite some time. First up there is an excessive amount of light bleed evident along the top and bottom, as well as both edges of the screen, but this is only part of the problem. Blacks don’t just look grey, as they do on many mediocre LCD displays, they actually have a brown tinge to them. This means that if you’re watching a movie, the black bars above or below the widescreen image are actually a dirty brown colour.
The poor black levels are highlighted by one of this monitor’s best features – 1:1 pixel mapping. Many monitors have a 1:1 setting in their OSD, but the vast majority of them don’t actually work. Therefore Asus should be congratulated for having a 1:1 implementation that works perfectly. When I connected a Toshiba HD-XE1 HD DVD player to the MK241 and output a 1080p signal, the resulting image showed thin bars top and bottom, since the screen’s native resolution is 1,920 x 1,200 and the incoming signal was 1,920 x 1,080. However, when I played a film I was presented with those dirty brown bars above and below the action, while at the very top and bottom were two thinner bars of a completely different colour. Unfortunately the thin bars at the top and bottom weren’t actually black either due to the excessive light bleed!