ThinkBoxly is the personal developer blog of Lucas Chasteen, author, programmer, artist, and always learning. Read more

Thursday, October 23, 2014

HP Pavilion 22/25bw – Great for the eyes and wallet (Review)

In recent years it seems monitor product announcements and reviews have grown increasingly rare. Occasionally at events like CES we’ll see a company or two bring an interesting display with them, but these are typically ultra-widescreen or ultra-HD affairs that don’t make it to market—at least, not in a timely fashion or at a consumer price level. In the meantime more and more devices are coming with integrated screens, meaning you settle for whatever you get and don’t really consider the display separately from the rest of the product. But on the desktop PC side of technology, monitors remain a very important investment for everyone to make, whether you’re into creative productivity or gaming or really anything else. While the monitor we’re here to take a look at today is by no means the best and fanciest out on the market (and it doesn’t claim to be), all things considered HP has struck a pretty great balance with the Pavilion 22bw/25bw, addressing a wide variety of needs in a single, affordable package.

The HP 22bw and 25bw are 21.5″ and 25″ IPS, LED-lit displays. Connectivity is somewhat limited at just one VGA, one DVI, and one HDMI port, but considering at this point DisplayPort and alternatives like Thunderbolt are hardly commonplace most will not have any problem finding a workable connection. Both monitors operate at a native resolution of 1920×1080 and 60hz (though that can be bumped up to 75hz or 2k at 60hz, neither of which are recommended) and have a response time of 7ms. While that last figure might make the gamer crowd cringe, this is still a worthy purchase no matter your use-case, especially considering you can currently find the 21″ variant retailing for just $150-180 depending on where you look, or tack on another $100 for the 25″ model. In general it’s not worth purchasing a monitor based on its response time alone, as different manufacturers measure response time differently and really anything below 8ms is completely acceptable. This is the kind of number that is easy to ‘cheat’ on or misrepresent to look better than it is (seriously, see how your monitor stacks up in reality with this test). No matter how you slice it the Pavilion 22/25bw falls on the wrong side of the standard 5ms, but we’re talking 2ms difference. I played 10+ hours of high-speed FPS games and scored first place plenty of times, so I think it’s fair to say that lag is not a problem, here.

The monitors won’t slow you down in real life, either. HP has gone with an external power supply on this one, saving a lot of weight and bulk on the monitors themselves and making them a couple of the lightest of their size I’ve ever picked up. While the non-standard mounting system is regrettable for anyone wanting to put these on VESA-compliant wall or multi-monitor stands, the smaller mount design on the Pavilion shaves off even more flab for the ultimate slim form factor, and the included stand actually looks pretty decent and feels very sturdy despite being two plastic pieces. Bezel on the monitor itself is also nice, with only a slim edge on the top and sides that sits flush with the screen. The bottom bears much more substance to contain an HP logo and OSD controls and whatever else is going on internally, but even so the display’s presence feels slighter than most. Sure, these days everyone seems to be pushing for ‘edgeless’, but if you can live with a little plastic showing, you’ll have no problems, here.

But enough about all the externals, let’s talk about the screen itself. As previously mentioned, this is a full 1080p IPS, LED-lit screen—and that really is lit. Seriously, you could use these things outside with no problems. For my own usage I found myself most comfortable with a brightness setting in the lower 20s, and that’s in a moderately day-lit room. And even at that I found I could look at the screen from any direction and still see the image without a hint of color distortion. HP claims a 178-degree viewing angle, and they weren’t kidding. Considering we’re talking a 5,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio, that’s a lot of colors to preserve. In fact, if I have any complaint about the monitors, it’s that they’re almost too colorful. Coming from a normal LCD display, you’ll find that many things don’t look like you remembered or expect them to. Grays may take on a subtle hue of one shade or another, but adjusting your settings to compensate isn’t always the best choice. The given color may not truly be gray to begin with, but it always looked that way on lower-quality tech. That being said, chances are you will need to adjust your monitor settings to get the most accurate color and contrast settings, and HP provides a couple methods of doing this. First is the OSD, or on-screen display, that is satisfactorily in-depth and relatively easy to navigate thanks to the monitor’s numerous hardware buttons. The other option is the packaged driver and tuner software that allows the user to adjust their monitor settings via a desktop application that some might find more user-friendly. While it basically succeeds as the tool it is meant to be, I found that ultimately I was happier with the settings I chose over the OSD manually than trying to work with the software.

Once I settled on a configuration, however, the experience has been a delight ever since. There were absolutely 0 dead pixels on the unit I received, and the bright, colorful IPS tech makes everything else literally pale by comparison. If I didn’t know better I’d say it’s more than 1080p—it just looks that much sharper and clearer than a run-of-the-mill LCD display. On the one hand it would be easy to dismiss and say it doesn’t bring anything new to the table—no 120hz, no 3D, no 4k, no true 1ms response time—but it doesn’t need to. There are other options out there for enthusiasts, but if you’re just on the market for a solid everyday workhorse you can hardly go wrong here, and your wallet will thank you later. HP isn’t typically the brand I think of when I think of PC monitors, but I will definitely be thinking better of that trend in the future. As someone who uses a desktop monitor for a wide variety of tasks the Pavilion 22bw/25bw is not only sufficient, but considering its price point truly shines.