Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Just Bought An Acer H203H LCD Monitor At Best Buy In Anchorage, And It's Worth The $99.99 Sale Price, Although The Speakers Are Tinny

Back on January 12th, 2010, I bought an E-Machines EL1331-05 desktop computer at the Muldoon Best Buy in Anchorage, and I'm still satisfied with it. However, I was using a VGA-capable Dynex LCD TV as my monitor, and I wanted to start using it as a TV again. So I was waiting for a merchant to sell a name brand 20-inch LCD monitor with built-in speakers for less than $100. And on June 2nd, I struck gold. Best Buy has placed on sale the Acer H203H 20-inch LCD monitor with built-in speakers for $99.99. The sale continues through June 5th. After reading mostly favorable customer reviews on the Best Buy website, I decided to take the plunge. And so far, it's worth the money, although I wouldn't pay more for it.

Here are the pertinent specs:

-- Product Height: 14.5" with stand
-- Product Width: 18.7"
-- Product Weight: 9.4 lbs. with stand
-- Product Depth: 5.6" with stand
-- Screen Size (Measured Diagonally): 20"
-- Maximum Resolution: 1600 x 900
-- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
-- Response Time: 5 ms
-- Brightness: 250cd/m²
-- Contrast Ratio: 50,000:1 dynamic (1000:1 native)
-- Speakers Included: Yes
-- VGA Input: Yes
-- DVI-D Input: No
-- DVI-D with HDCP Input: Yes
-- HDMI Input: No

The unit also included one 6-foot standard VGA cable, one 6-foot DVI-D/HDCP cable (which does me no good since I don't have a compatible card installed on my computer), and one 6-foot audio cable. Also included was a DVD with an instruction manual and driver software.

I plugged the monitor in, turned it on, and shortly thereafter a message saying "Cable Missing" was displayed. This was because I had not hooked up the DVI-D cable. Nevertheless, I then turned on the computer, and shortly thereafter a normal display appeared on the monitor. So far, so good; the colors displayed properly, with no bad spots. But one minor deviation was soon noticeable -- the focus of the characters appeared very slightly blurred, uniformly across the monitor surface.

Not too worry -- the driver software would correct that. So I installed the driver software, and guess what happened? It immediately directed me to go to the Acer website to look for updates. So I did, and downloaded the latest updates. But then when I reloaded the software, it would not allow me to access the controls I needed to adjust the display. The problem: From the troubleshooting page, I found that Acer eDisplay Management is a Windows-based software utility designed for select Acer displays that support the Display Data Channel/Command Interface (DDC/CI) communications channel defined by the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA). Acer eDisplay Management does not function on non-Acer displays (including non-Acer displays that support DDC/CI), and does not function on Acer displays that do not support DDC/CI.

This means that Acer's driver software is primarily compatible only with other Acer computers, thus I have no way to adjust the display using software. There are no adjustment controls on the monitor itself. I intend to contact their technical support to find out if they plan to issue an updated driver with more universal compatibility.

Nevertheless, I didn't remain stuck with a slightly fuzzy display. I went into Control Panel to Adjust Screen Resolution. I found that several of the other choices were available for use. So I got out of the 1024X768 mode, and selected 1152X864 mode. This worked - I now had a clear, sharp display, but with smaller characters. To increase the size of the characters, I accessed View on the top line menu of my browser, selected Zoom, then Zoom In one time. Worked perfectly - I now have a highly satisfactory display.

The speakers are indeed tinny - many consumers identified this as a fault in their reviews. But the only time I use audio is when I'm reviewing videos in the preparation of blog posts, so I don't need high fidelity. But if you're an audiophile, you WON'T find the built-in speakers satisfactory. Visit the Acer website HERE for more information on their products.

The Bottom Line: The Acer H203H LCD monitor is a good buy at $99.99. It is not a good buy at a higher price. I do NOT recommend paying more than $100-$110 for it. It still beat the hell out of those overpriced clearance monitors Wal-Mart recently sold; a similarly-equipped HP monitor went for $129.

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