- Nice stand
- Dynamic touch sensors
- Pixel guarantee
- Poor vertical viewing angles
- No pivot
Alienware is a controversial brand. They often deliver high performing products, but there’s also an accompanying high price tag. One of the ways they try to stand out is through unique styling, and recently the company went through a complete redesign. The new identity is aggressive and futuristic, and the Alienware OptX AW2210 display fits it to a ‘t’. Read on for our full review.
- Display: 21.5 inches
- Resolution: 1920×1080
- Panel technology: TN
- Brightness: 300 cd/m^2
- Response time: 2ms (GTG)
- Viewing angles: 170 degrees / 160 degrees (H/V)
- Gamut: 85% NTSC
- Ratio: 80001:1 (dynamic)
- Inputs: DVI, 2x HDMI, 4x USB2.0, analog audio in and out
The Alienware AW2210 is available with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $299.
Build and Design
It’s worth noting that there have been some rumblings on the internet regarding the price of the AW2210 and some of Dell’s other monitors – namely, the ST2210. People have been saying that the OptX is just a rebadged ST2210 with an extra hundred dollars tacked on to the asking price. This isn’t really fair – I’m not saying the $300 price tag is entirely justified, but the OptX AW2210 does bring a number of features to the table that the other monitor does not. It has a refresh rate that’s two and a half times quicker, it offers a number of menu settings, surprisingly responsive capacitive touch buttons and a nice stand and design. Moreover, since it falls under the OptX brand, it qualifies for Dell’s “Premium Panel Guarantee” – even a single bright pixel warrants an exchange while under warranty.
Alienware’s designs tend to be a love-it-or-hate-it sort of deal – until recently, that meant a curving, futuristic art deco sort of style – glossy, a bit retro. Their new style, however, tosses all of that out the window. In fact, the only similarities between the two designs is their famous alien head logo. The new products are aggressive and masculine, and add a very-high tech feel to each of their lines. While the company recently launched a couple of new desktops, the OptX AW2210 display is the first big product to feature the new style.
Looking at the stand, it’s very well constructed. The unit is built from both metal and plastics, with the almost trapezoidal shield at the bottom featuring glossy plastic, and the stand at the back mixing in some matte black metal. The combination of glossy and matte looks nice, and it feels very solid. The circle in the bottom is where the whole monitor can swivel to the left and right – the monitor itself doesn’t swivel; the stand does. In the rear, the stand has a column that snaps into place in the rear of the display and lets users raise and lower the monitor’s height. The tension in the column is pretty strong, giving a secure feel to the raising and lowering action.
In profile, it feels a little organic, like the monitor was partially grown and not cast. With the articulating hinge at the top and the indentations on the back of the stand, it really does feel like a sci-fi alien prop. The new design does more to convey the Alienware brand than their old monitors ever did, which were a little boring at the best of times. It also matches the new keyboard and desktops very well, if you want every to mesh together on your desk.
There are no physical buttons on the display – instead, Alienware/Dell has replaced them with a series of six capacitive touch sensors. Normally, here’s where I’d start complaining about how much better physical buttons are, with the response, quality, lack of lag, ease of use, etc. I can’t, though, because these work very well. The monitor turns on with a brief touch on the power symbol, and the sensors flash up and down once when it’s powered up. As you reach toward the button area to modify the display’s settings, the bottom one senses the movement and lights up before you reach it, letting you know where it is. After that, the OSD takes over, but I did want to stress how quick and responsive the capacitive touch sensors are – we’ve had monitors in for review where this style of button becomes a weakness, but with the AW2210, it becomes a strength.
In terms of inputs, the new Alienware display probably has you covered, but take care – this thing is all digital. You won’t be able to hook up something with a VGA cable, since the DVI port present is DVI-D, not the DVI-I that incorporates both VGA and DVI inputs. Having said that, there is one DVI port present, and two HDMI ports. The monitor is capable of intelligently switching between the input that is probably active, but if you keep active signals on multiple ports simultaneously – such as a computer and a cable box – you can pick and choose in the menus. There are also four USB2.0 ports that require a regular USB cable to attach the monitor to the computer, and line-in and line-out audio jacks – useful for moving audio streams around and avoiding having to connect speakers all the way down to your computer.
The first thing that has to be said about the monitor’s actual picture quality is that it uses a TN panel. Granted, TN panels have come a long way since their inception, but they still largely can’t hold a candle to competing technologies like VA and IPS when it comes to color reproduction and viewing angles. The AW2210 showcases this fact – its viewing angles are acceptable, but not outstanding; while users probably won’t have any issues, if you need expansive viewing angles, especially vertically, chances are that this is not the monitor for you. It does have other redeeming features, however, like a very bright display and very fast (2ms) refresh rate, which is typically far more important for a gamer playing a fast-paced FPS than the display’s color fidelity.
The backlighting isn’t uniform across the display, but it’s not something you’ll notice when the monitor is filled with a bright and/or colorful picture. The issue comes instead when you try to display a black image on the screen. Then you can see some bleeding across the top. Our monitor also had a dark spot right below the top edge that took up about a third of the screen, then more light filtering through on the rest of the display. While it’s very unlikely that users will keep the backlight at maximum most of the time – it is very bright, after all – if you do, the black levels suffer enough that even with a blank (i.e., black) picture, you’ll have enough light being broadcast to read by.
In the pictures above, the backlight is set at one hundred percent, fifty percent and all the way down to zero, respectively. Even at zero, there was a noticeable amount of backlight bleeding, although it’s hard to see in the photos. All of the lighting was a little worse than these pictures show. Again, though, this is something that absolutely isn’t noticeable when the screen is filled with a desktop picture or other bright colors – even while watching movies or playing a game, I didn’t notice any sort of problems. So while it’s worth pointing out as a criticism, it isn’t worth spending too much time fretting about.
Horizontal viewing angles were easily acceptable; despite being a TN panel, it’s probably not something you’ll need to worry about. Especially a display of this size – since the AW2210 is “only” 21.5 inches instead of 24 or more, you won’t see the color distortions that plague big displays as much.
Vertical viewing angles didn’t fare quite as well, however, and that was a little disappointing. Granted, chances are extremely slim that you’ll be needing excessively wide viewing angles, but there have been times where I’ve wanted to work or use the computer standing up, which means that you’d be looking at the display from a tighter angle. Fortunately, the stand does allow for tilting the monitor back and forth, which will alleviate just about any of the distortion you’d experience in common use.
It’s important to note, though, that this is a gaming-centric monitor. That means that it’s designed to have high refresh rates, low tearing, and an imperceptible input lag – all things that this display possesses. Items like wide viewing angles and high color reproduction become way less important when you’re trying to nail that head shot without getting taken out from the back.