According to Asus, the V in the VW266H’s rather convoluted model name stands for value, and the company delivers accordingly by serving up 25.5 inches of screen, full 1920 x 1200 resolution, and built-in audio with an MSRP of only $400. On paper, it’s a budget monitor buyer’s dream. On the desktop, it’s pretty close. Though not perfect, the VW266H manages to juggle multiple priorities – including price – quite effectively, making it one of the most practical monitors in its size class.
Features and Design
Asus hasn’t taken any dramatic stylistic departures with the VW266H, which sports the same piano black style bezel and rounded edges as many of its competitors, accented only with a strip of silver along its bottom edge where the buttons have been inset. It looks clean, though, and unlike many devices that pick up the piano-black finish these days, you don’t have to touch it, so it stays smudge-free.
The grooved circular monitor stand reminded us of a 45rpm record. Though it feels cheap due to its light weight, you wouldn’t notice after planting the monitor on top, and it actually does an admirable job of keeping screen wobble on the mammoth 25.5-inch screen to a minimum. Our main complaint would be the usual inadequacy of budget stands – it only pivots up and down, and offers no height extension. Due to the size of the screen, you really wouldn’t need to boost it far to begin with, but having the ability is a definite ergonomic boon that this monitor lacks. It does have a VESA mount, though, in case you’re inclined to put it on a monitor boom or wall mount it.
If it puts out a high-def video signal, you can connect it to this monitor. The VW266H includes HDMI, DVI, VGA and component video inputs, meaning all the usual suspects should hook up without any awkward adapters. You won’t find two of any single jack, but the monitor should still serve double duty as a TV and computer display just fine, if you’re creative with the hookups (using DVI for the computer and HDMI for the cable box, for instance.)
As for audio, there’s a stereo line-in jack for hooking up computer audio, as well as a headphone jack and an S/PDIF audio output, which seems rather out of place but certainly doesn’t hurt.
Asus caters to the majority of consumers by including both DVI and VGA cables in the box with the monitor, as well as an audio cable double-ended with mini stereo connectors for sending computer audio to the monitor speakers.
Sound quality from the built-in speakers took us completely off guard: it’s surprisingly good. We’re not talking about a replacement for your $150 Klipsch setup here, but office users and occasional music listeners will definitely find them adequate. Volume from the little drivers defied the humble 6-watt (combined) rating, and though some muddiness shows up at higher levels, they’re listenable at max volume, throwing just enough sound to bring complaints to your office cube or dorm room. Bass is not a strong point, but it’s also no worse than most other desktop speakers, and could certainly be considered fine for a set of cans singing out the top of a monitor. For more conscientious listeners, Asus also includes a headphone jack, though its awkward location in the back of the monitor makes it a bear to connect and disconnect from.
Though the VW266H offers no shortage of features for tweaking, its menu system takes some expertise and practice to really master for quick changes. Nothing is quite as obvious as it should be: you’ll have to actually concentrate on which buttons to press and read the on-screen cues the first few times through it in order to navigate effectively. Some adjustments also take too long: You can reach the volume adjustment with only one button press, but the monitor ticks through 100 levels of volume so slowly that your ears will be blown out by the time you finally get it to the right level. (Fortunately, easy access to volume in most programs mostly negates this particular annoyance.)
Asus VW226H Menus
Out of the box, the VW266H shows potential, but doesn’t immediately impress. Most of Asus’ “Splendid” settings (scenery, standard, theater, game, night view) veer too far to one extreme to be usable. Scenery, for instance, is so overblown with contrast that every image takes on a radioactive glow, and theater saturates everything in an unnatural bluish cast.
However, after playing with the monitor’s standard settings, we were able to coax a bright, well-balanced image with natural colors out of the standard setting. If you’re willing to spend some time adjusting the monitor settings to your own preference, it’s a very capable display that just comes a little “overamped” out of the box. After tweaking, we enjoyed lush greens at Leeds Castle, vibrant tropical sunsets, and brilliant cityscapes with exceptional clarity.
The monitor’s advertised 2ms gray-to-gray response time also shined through in gaming scenarios and for watching movies, where action scenes appeared blur-free and crisp. Not even the frantic trailers for the new The Fast and the Furious or G.I. Joe movies tripped it up.
If there’s one aspect of display quality that actually disappointed us, it might be viewing angle. With the monitor ideally positioned, minute head movements produced fairly pronounced differences in image quality, especially when moving up and down. While manageable when seated at a desk, we would have a hard time using one as a TV for this reason.
For the $400 price tag, it’s hard to argue with the combination of performance and features that Asus has produced with the VW266H. Those seeking a sizable plot of screen real estate without the associated price tag will likely find it offers exactly that, without many sacrifices. Image quality can’t rival monitors at twice the price that uses different (and more expensive) types of LCD panels, and the monitor stand could use some more adjustments, but otherwise, it leaves little to be desired. The audio, especially, makes a surprisingly effective addition to the monitor that will save less picky consumers from having to buy another pair of speakers and eliminate desk clutter. Put this one on the short list when it’s time to pick up a bigger screen.
- Surprisingly capable built-in speakers
- Clear image quality, after adjustment
- Blur-free motion
- Every HD connector imaginable
- Monitor stand lacks adjustment
- Viewing angle
- Clunky menu system