HP L2045w Review

DT Recommended Product

Highs

  • Affordable; USB 2.0 hub built-in; beautiful screen
  • 5ms response rate; widescreen display

Rating

Our Score 7.5
User Score 0

Lows

  • 600:1 contrast ratio; wide footprint; DVI cable is not included
The L2045w is a worthy 20.1" LCD monitor for general use, office use and even for mid-level video use.

Summary

When HP released the 20.1″ L2045w widescreen LCD monitor, they categorized it as a business-level LCD monitor. This classification hints that the L2045w is a lower-spec monitor reserved for boring desk jobs and monotonous Office-suite use. HP is seriously underselling their own product. While the L2045w may not rise to the level of professional/studio quality monitors, it certainly stands tall amongst the consumer- and business-level competition with some very desirable features. Find out more about the L2045w’s specs and why it might be right for you.

Features and Design

HP’s new L2045w LCD screen is a cleanly designed monitor that looks good on almost any desk. The black and silver color scheme is very common these days and HP pulls it off quite well. The LCD screen itself has a thin frame which makes the viewable area of the screen look larger and more appealing.

The input controls are located on the front of the screen, dead center on the bottom lip of the frame. Adjusting controls is easy once you get the hang of the multi-function-button setup. It took me about 20 seconds to master the navigation of menus and selection of settings.

The L2045w has a built-in USB 2.0 hub which is something I’m very fond of. The hub’s input is located on the bottom of the screen’s frame, adjacent to the DVI and VGA ports. The two USB device ports are located on the right side of the screen. The ports are recessed about 2 inches from the edge of the frame, which is fine for permanently-attached USB devices, but can be a little awkward for regular use of tiny USB flash drives. (Anecdotally, I had a 20″ Dell LCD monitor with USB ports on the extreme edge of the frame, making it easy to access ports.) Reaching the L2045w’s USB ports may also prove a bit aggravating for users with larger-than-average hands. This minor inconvenience is overshadowed by the fact that I, like many consumers, prefer my LCD screens to have USB ports no matter where they are.

Two great features of the L2045w are the adjustable height and the pivoting screen. The LCD screen can be adjusted as low as 3 inches and as high as 6 3/4 inches from the desk surface. On HP’s website, they mention that the L2045w has a 90-degree pivoting screen. This is a great feature, especially for folks who are regularly pivoting their screen to show coworkers and clients the images on screen, this comes in really handy at hospitals or the local newspaper office. Of course, the “90 degree pivot” means 45 degrees to the left of center and 45 degrees to the right of center.

One major bonus with the L2045w is its ability to switch from every-day Landscape mode to way-cool Portrait mode. This is fantastic for long documents, lengthy websites and, most important in my world, for editing vertically-oriented photos, brochures, etc. It’s such a pleasure to view and edit a full-sized vertical image in Photoshop without having to constantly scroll up and down or to zoom in and out after each edit. Portrait mode solves this problem beautifully.

As noted with Landscape mode, the screen is adjustable in Portrait mode. The bottom of the screen can drop as low as 1″ and can be raised to just over 3 1/2 inches.

Technically speaking, the L2045w gains a few thumbs up and a few sighs. On the positive, the 5ms response time is excellent. The 600:1 contrast ratio is good, but far from great. Frankly, it’s a little embarrassing. One quick look at the comparable monitors shows that contrast ratios range from 700:1 all the way up to 1200:1. I’m not quite sure why this happened, but I think someone in HP’s design team needs their knuckles smacked with a ruler.

A final wag of my finger at the L2045w’s design goes to the oversized base. My Samsung SyncMaster 205BW (also a 20.1″ LCD) has a small round base that measures just under 8 inches across. The base of the L2045w is 14 1/2 inches wide and 9 inches deep! By gum, that’s big! It takes up a lot of desk space, something I have a limited amount of. On a positive note, the center of the base has a tray-like design which is great for keys, an iPod, a small portable hard drive, paper clips, a small picture frame, etc.

This LCD screen has no built-in speakers. HP sells a “Silver Flat Panel Speaker Bar” which easily attaches to the monitor. I can’t/won’t give the lack of built-in speakers any negative attention because speakers that are generally built into LCD screens are crappy anyway. Sound is almost always tinny and worthless. In fact, HP probably saves itself a lot of grief by abstaining from built-in speakers. Friends don’t let friends use built-in speakers!

For some, the best feature will be the price. As of this writing, the base price for the L2045w on hp.com is $279. This is already a good price for such a monitor, but HP has made a very bold move by offering a $20 instant rebate AND a $40 mail-in rebate, dropping the overall purchase price to $219. Of course, prices and discounts are subject to change.

HP L2045w
Image Courtesy of HP

Setup and Use

Setting up the HP L2045w LCD monitor was dirt simple. When opening the product packaging, I saw that the monitor was protected by soft, fitted foam blocks. After removing the LCD screen from the foam, the first thing I noticed was that the monitor is already assembled. I’ve purchased dozens of LCD screens in my time, and I’ve become accustomed to connecting the base to the body of the screen. In the case of the L2045w, it took me less than 8 seconds to remove it from the box and have it set up on my desk. Plugging in the power cord took just a moment longer.

While I was happily impressed with the easy setup, I was largely disappointed by the fact that HP did not include a DVI cable with this monitor. A VGA cable was included, but that’s like buying a new computer and getting a complimentary modem cable. Boo. DVI cables are so cheap these days, the fact that HP didn’t include one makes HP look too cheap to please its customers. I repeat and affirm my previous “boo” to HP skimping on a simple DVI cable.

As soon as I plugged in my own quality DVI cable (which I got from eBay for $4.00) to the L2045w, I connected it to my MacBook Pro. Within seconds, I had the MacBook Pro running two screens thanks to its ample 256MB video card.

Initial impressions were that of complete satisfaction. No dead pixels. Vibrant colors. Clarity was just as good as I’d hoped for. At the native (and maximum) resolution of 1680×1050 pixels, the screen looked great.

I opened up a few programs to test out the screen. Word documents looked sharp and as close to perfect as possible. Icons and screen fonts were flawless. Websites looked just as good on the L2045w as they did on my MacBook Pro screen and my Samsung SyncMaster 205BW LCD screen.

When opening images in iPhoto, they were as sharp and clean as I’d expected. I did notice, however, that images opened in Photoshop CS2 and CS3-beta looked slightly washed out on the L2045w when compared to the same image on the native MacBook Pro screen. After tweaking both the monitor’s display settings and Photoshop’s color profiles, I was able to bring the test images to a near parity. Of course, images did not resolve to absolute perfection of colors between the native screen and the L2045w, but this is a common issue with any multiple monitor setup using non-identical monitors. For single monitor systems, this will not be an issue at all.

I also tested the L2045w monitor with a Sony Vaio VGN-T350P laptop using the VGA video port. Windows XP instantly recognized the L2045w, however XP’s automatic configuration was for the wrong screen resolution – 1280×1024 – which is not even a native screen res for a widescreen LCD such as the L2045w. After manually adjusting the screen resolution to 1680×1050, the screen looked great. The Sony Vaio’s 128MB shared video card was able to provide the 20.1″ LCD with awesome video and stills.

As a dedicated and solo LCD screen for any desktop system, the L2045w will most likely be more than sufficient for most uses. Folks who need high-end monitors for video production projects will likely never consider any of the mid/business range LCDs for their needs, and that’s fine. Those professionals who need absolute perfection and who’ll gladly pay for that comfort should stick to their high-end systems and peripherals. For the rest of us, the L2045w is a monitor worthy of some attention.

HP L2045w
The HP L2045w and Apple MacBook Pro

HP L2045w
The HP L2045w in Portrait Mode

DVD Playback Results

I tested several DVDs with the L2045w to see how well it would fare in the non-business scope of use. The results were nearly identical whether I was using OS X or Windows XP – DVD playback at 1:1 resolution was nearly perfect. There were no noticeable artifacts, no slow transitions from black to white or from color to color. Video from a dedicated 256MB video card and a shared video card looked equally pleasing.

The only times I noticed flaws in video playback were when I pushed the video to 2x native resolution or to full screen. Of course, the dimensions of a widescreen DVD video are approximately 850×360. When pushing this super-clean picture up to 1680 pixels wide, pixilation and loss of clarity occurs. This is not a problem with the monitor or the video card – it’s a DVD encoding issue that will be evident on any screen.

In an abbreviated opinion, the L2045w is a very good screen to watch DVDs on.

Conclusion

The L2045w is a worthy 20.1″ LCD monitor for general use, office use and even for mid-level video use. It offers 5ms refresh rates (as fast as most LCD screens come these days), a wonderful 1680×1050 resolution and bright, crisp colors. The screen pivots 90 degrees and tilts forward and back. The screen also converts from Landscape to Portrait mode, something that is very much appreciated by many Photoshop users. The overall performance of the L2045w is very positive. While HP made a few lame-o gaffes with the L2045w (Sasquatch-like footprint, 600:1 contrast ratio and lack of included DVI cable), the fact is that the L2045w is a very good monitor that will please most users. Price is another valid selling point. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly LCD screen and wouldn’t mind being very pleasantly surprised with features, give the L2045w some serious consideration.

Pros:

• Absolutely affordable
• Widescreen
• USB 2.0 hub built in
• Rotates to Landscape & Portrait modes
• VGA & DVI inputs
• Height and viewing angle adjustable
• 5ms response time

Cons:

• Yesteryear 600:1 contrast ratio
• Unnecessarily wide footprint
• DVI cable not included